Just when you thought you had it all figured out and the season ink was already drying on the word, “predictable”.
Photo By: James Lissimore
I love times like this. When I sit down to let my stream of conscious flow through my fingertips and I have so many thoughts from the last race darting through my mind that I really don’t know where to begin. I can’t hit on all of them but it’s a great burden to bear because that means there are compelling plot lines at play, which really says a lot following the race where the vast majority of fans were sure that the series had been decided when Ken Roczen disastrously ejected early in Anaheim 2.
The first thing I’m happy to hit on is just how wrong everyone’s instincts were about how this series would change with Ken Roczen’s season-ending crash. I admit it, I too assumed that Ryan Dungey was the shoe-in for this title after that crash. You’d have to be crazy to not expect that to happen. Sorry Ryan, Chad and every other racer out there; it’s not what the fanbase wants but the Ryan’s propensity for balancing consistency and prowess are well deserved. A few things came together to catch us all off guard in Glendale and I think that holds true for a multitude of riders on both the positive and negative sides.
Chad Reed came into Glendale pissed off. Through three rounds he didn’t look like himself, he didn’t resemble any scale of a healthy Chad Reed we have ever seen in his lengthy career. We’ve seen lulls from him before but never floundering which is what I’m sure he felt like the first two rounds. As we seem to have seen since about 2010, when Chad stutters in the results, people begin pronouncing the end of a prolific career and just like clockwork, CR22 shuts them all up with an inspired ride that appears to rise from the ashes of that prematurely-predicted career swan-song. Chad look spry in Glendale. It was so obvious that he was not just taking advantage of the best start he’s seen in 2017, he was putting to use whatever feeling he finally achieved via bike trust and predictability he was clearly missing thus far in the series. Watching him, it wasn’t a sense of “he could do something here”, it was more obvious display of “get the eff out of the way, I’m moving forward… way forward”. Remember years ago when Ping would talk of Chad getting a “Hi Ryan” butt patch? Well, it felt that way again. You just got the sense that Chad was not going to allow Dungey to contend for a pass let alone attempt it.
Chad never got into specifics of what changed so much to finally unearth the feeling he had on the bike in Glendale but he did suggest that the team finally opened their ears and actually listened to and allowed him to make the hardware setup adjustments that he knew in his bones, were necessary for he and the team to get where they all wanted to be.
This brings me to Eli Tomac, who made about the quickest about-face you could possibly imagine in this sport. Some people are claiming the subtraction of Ken Roczen had a real-world affect on Tomac’s focus and confidence which sounds like utter horse-shit to me. I mean really, Eli Tomac is going to cower in the face of ANY competitor? That’s just laughable, don’t get me wrong… I don’t have a clue what could cause such an instantaneous turn around in not only results but his obvious confidence and comfort on the bike. And you know what? I don’t need to burn calories trying to pinpoint it, he and the team won’t dare say it now but after the series or year, they will detail it but for the time being, I’m just going to enjoy the self-evident on-track results of those adjustments.
So what is it about these Factory teams that incline them to think their top dollar rider isn’t worth listening to initially? We’ve all heard the stories of dyne’s, graphs and charts telling one story but the real world “seat of your pants” feeling flying completely in the face of those numbers. Clearly there is a little bit of that going on here with regard to Chad and Eli and their respective teams. I just can’t wrap my head around it. Last I checked, the team hires their rider in the hopes that they will achieve maximum comfort and in turn reach maximum speed and win races and titles. Am I wrong? So why not give the rider just enough rope to hang themselves with at the onset? I’m talking, day one. Put the keys to setup in the hands of the rider and allow them to prove that they either have a grasp on the setup and feeling they are in search of, or they clearly don’t and need to be reeled back in.
I get it, bike setup and chassis balance type things are something many riders don’t have a firm grasp on but Chad Reed is NOT one of those guys. When he talks about what he needs his bike to do, chances are, he has an idea on how to achieve it. How do you NOT listen to that guy? Eli is in a bit of a different boat beginning last year on a completely new bike and personnel surrounding him but it was evident early on and every week thereafter that he was uncomfortable. We heard mumblings of the team not bending to some of his setup requests which is just so illogical to me. I know it’s a completely different machine and you’re never going to get a Kawasaki to feel like a Honda but I’d venture to guess Eli would settle for comfort and predictability as a starting point.
We’ll have to see next week in Oakland if Eli was just lightning in a bottle at Glendale or if this is the real-deal Eli we thought we’d see early in 2016 finally, just showing up a year late to his intended Green inauguration.