How often in sport does the big showdown not live up to the hype? I’d say most of the time – the big fight that goes to a listless decision, the big match that plays out a 0-0 draw, another American des Nations win.
Motocross is not immune, but the Las Vegas finale of the 2011 AMA Supercross season is the exception that proves the rule – it was a belter.
Three men – Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed and Ryan Dungey - came in with a genuine tilt at the crown, with James Stewart waiting in the wings should the three favourites stumble.
But it was Mike Alessi who took the holeshot, ahead of Kevin Windham – Windham seemed fired up and ready to battle for the win, so when Stewart came charging up to join battle, K-Dub refused to yield.
Stewart managed to find his way by eventually, but Windham was on him like a dog on a piece of meat – his tenacity was to cost him, though, as Stewart took a header through the whoops, Windham collecting Stewart’s Yamaha in passing and taking his own soil sample.
The nasty incident put them both out on the post. That left the three championship leaders at the head of the pack with everything to play for.
Villopoto led but was under heavy pressure from Reed – the Australian was ready to fight, battling through into the lead before Villopoto retaliated to recover the top spot as Dungey closed in to join the fun.
But for Villopoto, the whole battle was moot – knowing that his points advantage would allow him to take the title no matter what as long as he finished in the top five, Villopoto backed it off a notch and sensibly reversed out of the battle, the biggest risk at this point coming from either of his two rivals should they tangle with him, accidentally or otherwise.
That left Reed and Dungey battling elbow to elbow for a consolation win, with Reed hanging on to take the chequers by a nose. Villopoto’s third was enough to take the title from Reed with Dungey third in his defence of the crown.
In the East Coast 250f title clash, Justin Barcia sealed the title after series rival Dean Wilson made a woeful start and was unable to climb back through the pack.
Barcia took third after falling whilst in the lead, the podium spot behind Blake Baggett and Ryan Sipes enough to clinch the crown.
The West Coast decider saw contenders Broc Tickle and Eli Tomac, separated by just two points, spent the race battling together through traffic as Ken Roczen ended his US sojourn with a first Supercross win.
Tickel and Tomac were rarely apart, but when they crossed the line, Tickle’s second beat Tomac’s fourth to title glory.
The East/West shootout race, a little redundant what with both championship deciders preceding it, saw Sipes take the win ahead of Cole Seeley and Roczen.