Sunday, January 19, 2014

Chad Reed's Win 22 Races In The Making.

Numbers have an ironic way of having far greater influence on sport than they ever should. Take the story of Michael Jordan’s famous number 23 jersey. Jordan returned from a stint in baseball to continue his basketball career with the Chicago Bulls wearing number 45, not number 23 which he wore to 3 consecutive NBA titles. 5 games into his comeback, Jordan had a poor game against the New York Knicks, where one of his opponents suggested after the loss that he ‘no longer had it’. Jordan returned the next night wearing number 23, dominating the Knicks in rampaging style scoring 55 points. He would go on and claim 3 more NBA titles.
Last night at the 3rd round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series, Chad Reed claimed an emotion-fuelled victory 22 races after he won his last. It was a determined ride that saw the veteran charge past the best in the world to breach the chequered flags first.
Chad Reed celebrates at Angel Stadium
The series returned for the second time this year to Anaheim with round 1 having been held at Angel Stadium two weeks earlier. All the big names were on deck, series leader Ken Roczen, defending champion Ryan Villipoto, quickest-qualifier Ryan Dungey, and two-time champions, and now veterans, James Stewart and Chad Reed. Considered the five riders in the mix for the championship, the last two rounds have seen almost all both crash, and lead a race at some point.
The race began with Dungey claiming the hole shot and surpringsly, the whole field navigating their way through the tight first-turn of the Anaheim track. Quickly disposing of the rest of the field, the ‘top 5’ would find themselves holding the corresponding positions, one through five. Dungey and Stewart in first and second, Roczen and Villopoto battling for third and fourth, and Reed, tailing, but seemingly hiding in fifth. The early part of the race would focus on the Roczen-Villopoto battle. Interesting given the unstoppable Villopoto this year let young Roczen use his trainer and train on the same tracks. Roczen, who’s showing blinding speed in his first season in the 450 class, passed his training partner, which set off the aggressive Villopoto who would fight back for his third position.
Dungey had led right up until lap 8, where he crashed on the same corner he went down on earlier in the night. This gave James Stewart the lead and Villapoto second. Stewart had been unlucky last time the AMA Supercross series came to Angel Stadium in Round 1, where he had climbed to the front of the pack and was looking likely to win only to have a heavy fall on a whoops section. Villopoto would continue to charge and eventually on lap 15, in typically aggressive style, he tried to block pass Stewart on a corner only to come off second best. Stewart was lucky not to go down himself with his boot appearing to nearly catch in the forks of his competitor.
With only 5 laps to go, Stewart could be forgiven thinking now he was sure to claim what should have been his two weeks earlier, a maiden race victory for the year. Enter ‘Two-Two Motorsports’ Chad Reed. That’s right, number ‘22’. Seemingly sitting quiet back in fifth earlier in the race, Reed had now watched Dungey eliminate himself from the calculations, rode around Villopoto who was face down in the dirt after smacking into Stewart, and stormed passed Roczen. Reed was now blitzing with pace and confidence aboard his self funded bike and tearing down on Stewart in first. On lap 18, Reed would pass Stewart, in what must have been devastating for the race leader being so close to victory. The Australian would ferociously hammer around the track and take the race win with both hands in the air over the finish line jump. It appeared Reed was destined to win bearing that number 22 race plate in the inspiring race.
Commentators were awash with excitement about the race that had just unfolded and were ecstatic to note how emotional the win would be for Reed. Reed’s story is remarkable given he is in the third year of self-funding his entire race team without the backing of a bike company. Considered impossible by those in the industry just 3 years ago, Reed went solo after being fed up with different agenda’s and restrictions of being on a manufacture-backed race team. Effectively pouring millions of dollars into his racing, the Kurri-Kurri product has taken a massive risk and obviously backs his ability given his age and considering he suffered a season ending ACL tear last year. Claiming his first victory in 728 days was an emotional moment for the Aussie, as he celebrated riding around the track, continually dropping his head showing what it meant. Showing his humility, and value of the sponsorship dollar, he rode to a particular fence advertisement, positioning his bike right next the ‘Discount Tyres’ (his team sponsor) sign for the perfect photo as he celebrated standing a top of the fence in front of 40,682 fans. 
Post race Reed said that it was the levelling assessment of his disappointed son last round where finished back in the field that ignited his determination. “Yeah he told me, Aw man you’re slow”. If the simple words of a 3 year old son are all it took for Reed’s determined win, the AMA Supercross field better look out. Reed was happy for close friend, now veteran, and also two-time champion James Stewart to take second place given his up and down form in recent times, “It was kind of retro, me and him out there, clean racing which was nice, and hopefully we can do that and put us two up on top”. Asked if he was a championship competitor this year, Reed sharply quipped, “Always have been, when I’m riding like this, I’ve always been one. I believe I can be and that’s why I continue to spend millions of dollars racing”. With Reed’s fire now still burning the rest of the series is sure to be hotly contested with the top five in the points standing only separated by 5 points.
Good luck to Reed who moved himself to the other side of the world many years ago to compete against the best in the world. Now he is continuing to beat the Americans as a 31 year old self funded veteran, at their sport.
Chad Reed, number 22.