In just a matter of days the Red Bull FIM Motocross of Nations will get underway at Thunder Valley Raceway in Denver, Colorado, with Team USA coming into the event as a heavy favorite to claim its 21st overall and sixth consecutive victory in this legendary, 64-year-old series. The Yanks will be fielding one of its strongest teams yet with team captain Ryan Dungey - hot off of a record-breaking year - riding the MX1 class, while newly crowned 250 champ Trey Canard will represent the team in the MX2 division. Meanwhile, Mr. Consistency, Andrew Short will hold down the fort in the MX3 class.
Canard and Short are making their first appearances in the des Nations, but the "Team" is scheduled for several team practices where the MXoN-experienced Dungey will no doubt school them on the basics of bringing home a Chamberlain Cup trophy. Of course, you can't forget about the years of knowledge that team manager Roger DeCoster brings to the table, having been involved in all 20 of America's MXoN victories, so all of the assorted nuts and bolts should be accounted for when the gate drops in Colorado.
DeCoster believes the team will benefit from the experience Dungey gained in 2009. "Last year, with Ryan, I felt that he was riding to become one of the main guys in Italy, and I think his performance gave him the confidence to come back this year and start strong," DeCoster said. "I know that this event is important to him, and he will be doing everything he can to put the team in a winning position."
Dungey, Canard and Short should have a decided home field advantage on the mile-high Lakewood course, which is on the outskirts of Denver and is basically where Short grew up. The trio's respective teams, Rockstar Makita Suzuki (Dungey), GEICO Powersports Honda (Canard), and Red Bull Honda Racing (Short), now have five year's worth of experience at the high-elevation track. And if you remember, the first few years at this venue produced plenty of meltdowns and overheated radiators before the teams finally learned how to deal with the thin air and the horsepower-robbing climbs.
And while the Americans look as solid than ever, some of the their main challengers are in various states of disarray. The Italians, last year's runners-up, will be strong, however after having just received the news that he had been selected to the team, David Philippaerts was forced to withdraw from the Colorado event due to a knee injury the 2008 MX1 world champ suffered at the final round of the FIM championships in Italy.
Antonio Cairoli will lead the Italian team into Lakewood, and having just won the MX1 World title, he will no doubt push Dungey in that class at the des Nations. However, the talent drops off after Cairoli, with, at least for now, Davide Guarneri and Alessandro Lupino rounding out the team.
The French team was forced to make a last minute substitution as well after Christophe Pourcel separated his shoulder at the final round of the AMA series at Pala. Filling in for Pourcel will be Gautier Paulin, who scored a race win in the MX2 division of the GP series in Holland. Paulin, however, will be riding the MX1 class at Lakewood, on a YZ450FM, instead of his more familiar 250F. Marvin Musquin will be a strong contender in the MX2 class for the French team, while Xavier Boog will be a challenger as the MX3 entry.
Clement Desalle was impressive en route to a runner-up finish in his guest appearance at this year's Unadilla AMA national, and he will head a strong Belgian team that includes former world champion Steve Ramon and Jeremy Van Horebeek. This team just might be the Yank's stiffest challenge.
Germany will be strong in the MX1 and MX2 classes, with Max Nagl and Ken Roczen entered, although MX3 entry Marcus Schiffer will need to have a good day if they are to have a chance.
Of course, the Aussies have a shot, as well, with Brett Metcalfe, Dean Ferris, Jay Marmont, while New Zealand will bring Josh Coppins, Ben Townley and Brad Groombridge.
Meanwhile, the team from Puerto Rico will feature a couple of AMA regulars: Zach Osborne and Kyle Regal. Christian Ruiz will fill out the team.
USA: Ryan Dungey, Trey Canard, Andrew Short
France: Gautier Paulin, Marvin Musquin, Xavier Boog
Belgium: Steve Ramon, Jeremy Van Horebeek, Clement Desalle
Germany: Max Nagl, Ken Roczen, Marcus Schiffer
Great Britain: Dean Wilson, Jake Nicholls and TBA
Italy: Antonio Cairoli, Davide Guarneri, Alessandro Lupino
Australia: Brett Metcalfe, Dean Ferris, Jay Marmont
Estonia: Tanel Leok, Priit Rätsep, Gert Krestinov
Switzerland: Gregory Wicht, Valentin Guillod, Arnaud Tonus
New Zealand: Josh Coppins, Brad Groombridge, Ben Townley
Spain: Jonathan Barragan, Jose Butron, Carlos Campano
Portugal: Rui Goncalves, Hugo Basaula, Luis Correia
Brazil: Marcello Lima, Cristopher Castro, Antonio Balbi
Ireland: Stuart Edmonds, Martin Barr, Gordon Crockard
Latvia: Ivo Steinbergs, Matiss Karro, Lauris Freibergs
Finland: Toni Eriksson, Harri Kullas, Jon Söderberg
Sweden: Tom Söderström, Fredrik Noren, Alex Eriksson
Russia: Evgeny Bobryshev, Aleksandr Tonkov, Sergey Astaykin
Austria: Matthias Walkner, Pascal Rauchenecker, Günther Schmidinger
Puerto Rico: Christian Ruiz, Zach Osborne, Kyle Regal