In total, Tomac failed to finish off the podium in a moto just three times all season, and while he might have conceded the best finishing average in the 450 Class and the most overall podiums to Musquin, the Colorado native definitively proved that winning is paramount. In doing so, he became the first rider since Ricky Carmichael in 2005-2006 to successfully defend his premier class title and earn the distinction of being a back-to-back champion.
The final standings will show that 16 points separated Tomac and Musquin, a total that is actually less than last year’s final sum in what was a considerably tighter championship battle, but 375 of the 527 points Tomac earned this season came from wins. Musquin earned just 125 points from wins, providing a spectacular discrepancy of 250 points. That alone says all you need to know about the 2018 season.
Tomac emphasized repeatedly that he and his team were tested this summer. That defending their title was a challenge. While there is surely truth to that, since motocross is inherently unpredictable with the numerous variables at play, we know that if not for RedBud they would have been on cruise control to hoist the Edison Dye Cup once again. It’s how the entirety of the past two full seasons across both Monster Energy Supercross and the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships have been. More often than not, the only way another rider enjoyed success was at Tomac’s expense.
Over the course of 58 combined races during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Tomac has won half of them with 29 victories. However, he has nothing to show for it in supercross despite all the success he’s enjoyed outdoors. We are now at the point in his career where Tomac can only beat himself. Look no further than the numerous come-from-behind efforts this summer at Glen Helen, Spring Creek and Washougal where he overcame seemingly insurmountable deficits to run away with the win. They’re the kind of demoralizing efforts for a rival that a rider dreams of.
Tomac is at the point where he is the clear favorite every time the gate drops, and if he does what is expected he will more than likely take home the win. Very few riders have had that ability in the 46 years that championships have been on the line in this sport, particularly in recent years. Since Ricky Carmichael hung up his helmet and boots in 2007 only James Stewart and Ryan Villopoto have had managed to earn that level of respect and expectation. Sure, Ryan Dungey was uniquely successful, but that was attributed to his overall consistency rather than his raw speed. Tomac has entered rarified air, and it seems as though we’re only at the beginning of what he will accomplish before his career comes to a close.
Despite the ups and downs, and seemingly endless frustrations Tomac has endured through the last two seasons of Monster Energy Supercross, the confidence he’s gained in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship finally appears as though it’s going to cross over into the winter season. You could see a heightened level of maturity in Tomac when he spoke to the media following the Ironman National, and even more so when he spoke about his acceptance of the invitation to serve as Team Captain of the U.S. team at the Motocross of Nations. He appreciates the success, recognizing that it can be fleeting given how hard he and the other elite riders in the sport work during the week, and is more eager to take advantage of the opportunities that lie before him. There is no doubt that supercross has left a massive chip on his shoulder the past two years, but he knows only he has the ability to change that course, and it feels like Tomac is ready to finally fill the missing piece of his career puzzle. If and when he does, because it’s only a matter of time, the sky is the limit in regards to what kind of legacy he’ll leave on the sport.
Tomac’s relentless approach to being the best in the world can be attributed to his father, John. A legend in his own right, John knows exactly what it’s like to be at the top of the sport, and carrying the weight that comes with the expectation to win. He used that to pave new ground for the sport of mountain bike racing, and became arguably its most influential competitor. He’s effectively passed down that mental toughness and unwavering confidence to Eli, even if it’s meant breaking away from the “norm.”
Unlike virtually every other competitor in the sport who chooses to plant roots in California or Florida, the Tomacs have isolated themselves in the remote area of Cortez, Colorado. The breathtaking landscape has long been a proving ground for mountain bikers, many of which have chosen to take advantage of the high altitude and mountainous terrain to become the best they can be. Now, the Tomacs have successfully transformed this into a world-class locale for motocross training, and it’s not surprising that everything that Eli has achieved thus far in his career has come by creating his own path. He’s never been one to follow the herd, and now he’s poised to be the leader of this generation for a long time.