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Shots from Thunder Valley MX Park, Morrison, Colorado

Home Sweet Home, Finally

Jun 032018

Through two rounds of the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship nothing seemed to be able to get in Eli Tomac’s way of victory. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider had opened the season with a pair of convincing 1-1 sweeps, and already held a double-digit lead atop the points. However, there was some definite uncertainty as the championship headed to Thunder Valley Motocross Park for the Thunder Valley National in Colorado.

Tomac has had somewhat of a bitter relationship with his home race ever since he moved into the 450 Class, much like Ryan Villopoto had at Washougal throughout his career. His three starts prior to last Saturday’s race had one highlight, a third in 2016, but also featured a slew of odd and frustrating hiccups, along with the worst crash of his career.

Despite all the ups and downs of his past, the 2018 season has seemed different for Tomac. He’s been noticeably patient, and he’s consistently used the extended length of the motos to his advantage, making a late pass for the lead on several occasions. In fact, Tomac had led just 25 out of 58 total laps through the first two rounds.

When all was said and done on Saturday in the mile-high altitude of the Denver area, Tomac had conquered his Thunder Valley demons, and in turn established a career-best start to the season. The newfound patience once again paid big dividends, and he carried on to yet another 1-1 sweep to move to 6-0 on the season and maintain his undefeated record.

"I've had some funky stuff happen here at Thunder Valley, so I just wanted to leave here with a good result. The lines were a bit off early in the day in practice, but it developed and really came around as the day progressed. Winning my home race in the 450 Class is something I have wanted to do for a long time, and today we were finally able to get the job done."

450 Class Moto 1


Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Justin Barcia put the Monster Army up front to start the opening moto of the day by grabbing the holeshot just ahead of Tomac. The Monster duo opened a gap on the rest of the field, but things came to a halt when officials threw the red flag for a downed rider, which ultimately forced a restart.


When the gate dropped for the second time it was Blake Baggett who emerged with the holeshot, followed by Ken Roczen, who then surged into the lead. Both Barcia and Tomac came away with top-five starts and looked to move forward.


Barcia made a mistake as he looked to pressure Baggett for second and tipped over. While he remounted quickly, the field was so close together he lost several positions. That allowed Tomac to move into third, and then easily get around Baggett for second on the following lap. Once he had Roczen in his sights Tomac really went after the Honda rider, but Roczen was able to fend him off.


The pair of former champions went at it for more than half of the moto, but Tomac was able to get a run on Roczen’s inside just after the finish and make the pass. Once he was in control, the Kawasaki rider opened a gap and went on to take the moto win by 4.7 seconds over Roczen, with Baggett in third. Barcia recovered to finish fifth, while Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Alex Ray followed in 12th.


450 Class Moto 2


Barcia’s prowess out the gate carried into Moto 2 as he became the first rider of 2018 to sweep the holeshots. His early pace gave him an edge over Roczen, who started second, while Tomac settled into third. Unfortunately for Barcia, misfortune struck again as he crashed out of the lead on the third lap of the race. The incident also caused Tomac to have to come to a complete stop in avoidance of Barcia’s bike, which allowed Roczen and Baggett to take over first and second. Tomac followed in third, while Barcia was back going in sixth.


Despite losing some ground to his rivals, Tomac made quick work of Baggett for second and then continued his push to catch Roczen. Much like the first moto, the duo put on a thrilling battle for the lead, with Roczen continually fending off Tomac’s pass attempts. This battle raged on for upwards of 20 minutes before Tomac made the exact same move to seize control of the lead with just over 10 minutes left in the moto.


With a clear track in front of him Tomac laid down blistering lap times to establish a lead that would break into the double digits. He defeated his Thunder Valley demons with a convincing second moto win, more than 11 seconds clear of Roczen in second. Baggett was once again third. Barcia maintained his hold on sixth, while Ray faced adversity en route to a 35th-place finish.


Tomac’s third straight 1-1 outing and 6-0 record to start the season is uncharted territory for the reigning champ, but he couldn’t have asked for a more successful start to his title defense.  He’s just the fourth rider since the championship moved to a two class format to start the season off by winning the first six motos, joining arguably the three most prolific names in the history of the sport – Ricky Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath, and James Stewart.


Tomac also gained even more ground in the championship standings and already has a one-moto advantage on the field, sitting 28 points ahead of Marvin Musquin.


450 Class Results

1. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki (1-1)

2. Ken Roczen, Honda (2-2)

3. Blake Baggett, KTM (3-3)

4. Marvin Musquin, KTM (4-4)

5. Benny Bloss, KTM (6-5)

6. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing (5-6)

15. Alex Ray, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing (12-35)


450 Class Standings

1. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki – 150

2. Marvin Musquin, KTM – 122

3. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing – 104

4. Blake Baggett, KTM – 100

5. Ken Roczen, Honda – 97

21. Alex Ray, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing – 20

250 Class Moto 1


Fresh off his dominant 1-1 performance at Glen Helen, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger entered Thunder Valley with a share of the red plate alongside defending champion Zach Osborne. Unfortunately, neither Plessinger nor Osborne would be factors in the race at Thunder Valley, and neither was able maintain their hold of the red plate when all was said and done.


In Plessinger’s absence, rookie Justin Cooper carried the torch for Monster Energy in the 250 Class. The Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha rider grabbed the holeshot to start Moto 1 and stormed out to the early lead ahead of fellow Monster Energy rider Joey Savatgy, who entered as the defending back-to-back winner at Thunder Valley for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki.


Cooper and Savatgy were able to open a significant gap on the rest of the field and went at one another for more than half of the moto. Savatgy’s veteran experience helped give him the upper hand with just under 10 minutes left in the moto. From there the Kawasaki rider was able to put some distance between himself and Cooper, and he appeared to be on his on his way to a potential third straight Colorado win. Unfortunately for Savatgy, his race came to a halt with just three laps to go when he lost power on his motorcycle and was forced to pull off to the side of the track. His hopes at victory came to a gut-wrenching end.


Cooper assumed control of the lead after Savatgy’s heartbreaking demise and stormed to his first career moto victory by 4.2 seconds over Jeremy Martin. Alex Martin finished third. Plessinger followed in sixth, with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner in seventh and his rookie teammate Garrett Marchbanks in eighth.


250 Class Moto 2


As the field came around the first turn to start Moto 2 it was Alex Martin who earned the holeshot ahead of his brother, Jeremy, and Cooper. However, all eyes were on the side of the track where Savatgy and Osborne came together and ignited a massive crash that took out several riders. Savatgy was able to get going and started in 30th, while the defending champ found himself dead last.


Out front, the Martin brothers started to distance themselves from Cooper and the rest of the field. Cooper soon dropped out of podium position and then battled Forkner for fourth. Plessinger also found his way into this battle, running sixth. Eventually, both Forkner and Plessinger found their way to the lead group.


Jeremy Martin was able to get around his brother just prior to the halfway point of the moto and went on to take the win for a Martin brothers 1-2. Forkner stormed all the way into third to put Monster Energy on the podium, with Plessinger right behind in fourth. Cooper fell to eighth, while Marchbanks was 11th. Savatgy made an impressive climb up to 12th, while Osborne could do no better than 20th.


Martin secured the overall victory, his first of the season, with his brother grabbing the runner-up spot. Cooper captured his first career overall podium result in third, with Forkner narrowly missing out in fourth. Plessinger brought it home in sixth, with Marchbanks ninth. Savatgy’s tough afternoon ended with a 17th-place finish.


Plessinger leads the way for Monster Energy in the championship standings, just eight points out of the lead in second.


250 Class Results

1. Jeremy Martin, Honda (2-1)

2. Alex Martin, KTM (3-2)

3. Justin Cooper, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha (1-8)

4. Austin Forkner, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki (7-3)

5. Jordon Smith, KTM (4-5)

6. Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha (6-4)

9. Garrett Marchbanks, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki (7-10)

17. Joey Savatgy, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki (6-4)


250 Class Standings

1. Jeremy Martin, Honda – 129

2. Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha – 121

3. Alex Martin, KTM – 116

4. Zach Osborne, Husqvarna – 105

5. Justin Cooper, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha – 98

8. Austin Forkner, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki – 75

9. Garrett Marchbanks, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki – 72

11. Joey Savatgy, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki – 68