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Thunder Valley - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Well, shucks, Joey's back! This is the kind of riding we expected to see at the opening round of the season (we did get a glimpse of this Joey last week, but his mechanical issue in moto two robbed him of a good overall finish). He looked fast, smooth, and mistake-free almost the entire day. Yeah, he did lose a few spots towards the end of moto one, but Austin Forkner and Jeremy Martin were going absolutely all-out at that point while Joey was just riding at a consistent pace. Moto two was where he showed that he had the pace and stamina to win. He may still be quite a ways out of it in the points right now, but with 18 motos left, anything can happen. It looks like the time spent in California between Hangtown and Glen Helen paid off. And I'm glad that the early 2016 Joey Savatgy seems to back. Now let's hope that he can keep in on two wheels and get good starts as the season goes forward so this championship battle becomes even more exciting.

Joey Savatgy.Click photo to change size and caption

The Good Bonus: Alex Martin | 2nd Overall

Big Al definitely had the weekend he was hoping for in Colorado. A moto win where he withstood all kinds of pressure from about 30 different guys, and a great charge in the second moto to secure second overall on the day. It sucks that he couldn't get the overall win, but at least he took a huge bite out of Zach Osborne's points lead as he now sits only nine points back. So, can Alex close in on the #16 and take the red plate away? If Zach has any more bad rounds like Thunder Valley, it is 100% possible. Heck, even if Zach doesn't have another bad round Alex could just straight up beat Zach until the #26 plate turns red. I could see it happening, but he will have to cut out the piss-poor starts if he really wants to maximize his chances of that happening. It's great to get the holeshot and check out one moto, but if you start tenth in the second moto in this class...you ain't winning.

Alex Martin.Click photo to change size and caption

The Bad: Zach Osborne | 5th Overall

I can't really complain about Zach's riding this weekend. He was sick all week, and when you combine that with the high altitude he had to be feeling pretty bad by the end of the day. All things considered, it was a good salvage job, but unfortunately he did lose a nice chunk (over half) of his points lead. The good news is that we have a break next weekend before the series heads to High Point, so he should be able to rest up and get over whatever he's been dealing with. Oh yeah, he's finished second overall at High Point the last two years–and he won a moto last year... So I'd bet a decent amount of money that we'll be seeing him up front in two weeks time.

Mitchell Harrison and Zach Osborne.Click photo to change size and caption

The Ugly: Aaron Plessinger | 15th Overall

I'm not sure if the season could be going any worse for Aaron Plessinger at this point. He looked pretty good in the first moto, but I think he spent a little too much energy battling with Martin, Savatgy, and company because he faded pretty hard towards the end of the moto. The second moto was where the real damage was done, as he was leading until he crashed on the blind side of a jump. The bike was laying right on the downside, so he couldn't run out and get it out of fear of getting hit. It also didn't help that the flaggers were just standing off to the side of the track waving the riders almost right to where his bike was. In what world does that make any sense? They should have stepped out there and directed them to the inside. It was truly frustrating to watch, but I have to admit it was pretty comical to see none other than Nick Wey come save the day when he realized what was going on. He grabbed the flag right out of the dude's hand and went out on track to make sure the remaining riders knew where to go. Falling back to dead last ruined Aaron's chances of salvaging a good result, which sucks, but it also didn't help that he crashed in the first place... Hopefully High Point goes better for A-Aron.

Side note: there is a thread about the flagging incident on the forum here, even DC has chimed in on the subject.

Aaron Plessinger.Click photo to change size and caption

450 Class

The Good: Blake Baggett | 1st Overall

I haven't been this impressed by a ride in a long time. His absolute tear through the pack in the first moto was completely mind-boggling. We didn't get to see most of it on TV, but even watching it on live timing I was almost in awe. He was slicing through the field like a knife through butter. Even when he got up front and was passing the big names it looked incredibly easy. Of course, it may be a little bit easier to slice through the majority of the pack this year due to it not being super-deep, but passing 37 guys (including Eli Tomac and Marvin Musquin) is impressive, regardless. That second moto was pretty crazy, too. His pass on Tomac was insane. Hell, he was a madman in that entire section. He was visibly much faster than everyone else, and he made countless passes there throughout the day. I really, really hope that this is the second coming of the Blake Baggett we saw in 2012 (and saw flashes of in 2014). That could make this championship a whole lot more interesting. Imagine if he claws his way past Tomac and Musquin in the points and wins this thing? It'd be an incredible story and a memorable season. Not to mention it'd be the first title ever for the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS team. Please, Blake, bring that kind of riding to High Point.

Blake Baggett.Click photo to change size and caption

The Good Bonus: Justin Bogle | 4th Overall

Alright, if you say that you had Justin Bogle winning a moto this season, you're lying. No one, and I mean no one, could have predicted this. At one point in the moto I thought that maybe it was Friday night and I was sound asleep dreaming. But nope, it really happened. The craziest thing about his moto win was that he didn't just win by a couple of seconds, he was leading by 12 seconds! Crazy stuff... You just never know what's going to happen in motocross. Also, his series of celebrations on the last lap was one hell of a performance. We got some leg swag, a nac-nac, and a nice turn-down whip. The man has some serious style.

Hey, maybe this'll help him secure a ride with the RCH/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing squad for next year. You'd gotta think it would, right? He showed he has more potential than most of us thought he did, and with the new 2018 bike coming maybe he can be even better next year. C'mon RCH, bring him back.

Justin Bogle.Click photo to change size and caption

The Bad: Eli Tomac | 5th Overall

Yeah, that was...uh...not good. It was Eli Tomac's "home" race this weekend, but let's not kid ourselves by thinking that he has super-awesome recent memories at this place. He did absolutely destroy his shoulders at Thunder Valley in 2015, after all. That's not an excuse, by any means, I'm just saying that just because it's considered his home track doesn't mean he's going to absolutely wax the field, although I will admit most of us expected him to win. He didn't, though, and really he did not look good at all. He did have a tip over in the first moto, but it's not like he was setting an extraordinary pace before then and after it happened he seemed to slowly implode. Maybe he got arm pump (which is likely according to Steve Matthes and our own GuyB), or maybe the tip over rattled his cage a bit. Hell, maybe he just didn't have the pace. But it was pretty weird seeing him fall completely off the back of Marvin Musquin (who came from the high 30s to pass him), and I wasn't sure what to think when he got passed by Justin Barcia late in the race. It was very reminiscent of how he looked in New Jersey after his crash: pretty cautious and not very fast.

Honestly it's looking more and more like whenever Eli crashes when he already has some pressure on him; he isn't able to get back into the same mindset he was in before the crash. I could be wrong, but that's just what it looks like to me. He did look a little better in the second moto, but he still wasn't able to keep pace with Baggett for the majority of the race. He'd have a couple of good laps where he'd gain a second on Baggett, and then he'd have a bad lap where he would lose two or three seconds. In the end it was a very rough day for Eli, but the silver lining is that he only lost two points to Marvin Musquin on the day. Of course, that means the gap is now 17 points...and Blake Baggett is only two points behind Eli. It's gonna be an interesting next few rounds.

Eli Tomac.Click photo to change size and caption

The Ugly: Justin Barcia | 9th Overall

Two good starts, one decent finish and one disappointing finish. It sounds like he got arm pump in the second moto, which is good to hear because that was a very worrisome performance. He went from battling inside the top-three to barely holding onto 12th. But arm pump or not there's no doubt it's been a slow start to the season for Justin. He's shown some flashes of speed, but he hasn't been able to hold it together for the entire race and grab a podium finish. I do, however, think the further east we go the better he's going to get, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see him on the podium after a moto by round six or seven. Plus, he should get more and more motivated as the season goes on since he's in a contract year.

Justin Barcia.Click photo to change size and caption

Words by Grant Dawson
Photos by Steve Giberson