Feb 1, 2011

A parking lot of rolling mansions in the ghetto...Oakland Supercross

All throughout the day I was surrounded by wonder and worry gleaming off of any and all riders, fans... especially the working press that do not reside within 180 miles of the stadium. They were all very nervous about the bay area's weather habits. All of my SoCal friends would have the same greeting/reaction towards me, once their mind caught up with their eyes and realized it was me standing in front of them with a camera to my eye. "Holy shit, are you kidding me! I miss you buddy! What's the weather gonna do?" They all say this because in being a "friend" means you know somebody...@ least it does where I come from. They all know that most NorCal raised cowboys have a well honed sense for the weather up in this neck of the woods. And in knowing me, they know that I spend an abundance of time exploring the untamed NorCal coastal mountains and have a knack for the forecast. My answer started to resemble that of the National Weather Service computer generated voice on loop, "30% chance of light drizzle on and off throughout the day, in the evening we will experience heavier showers developing. The really heavy shit won't come down until we're out of here and heading into the bar, by then we won't have a damn thing to be worried about." 

If I'm not mistaken... any of y'all that are reading this wanna see and hear about the Supercross Series 2011 Round #4 in Oakland, CA?
Either that, or your here because you have this lingering thought stirring in your brain of "Who the hell is this freak?"
In answer to both: this is for all of us freaks, who really love what we love...

Things I notice while staggering through the "Pit Area":

Tony Berluti mounts his bike on a stand with the grace of a diving eagle and the precision of a Samurai warrior.

 Reedy has his shit twooooooooooooooo-gether!

H&H / Dodge / ARMA pit is the safest, as well as, the coolest place to hang out. If you can get in, that is... 
"Yeah right, good luck!" ~ KW

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown"

It's a good feeling to get a smile, hug, & hi-5 from an old NorCal friend.

You could probably buy a "nice" condo in Blythe, CA with what's in this photo.

This guy holding the microphone bugs the shit out of everyone for their best stories.
~Editor's Note:    Except for the hi-5er buddy from 2 photos ago...he doesn't dare go near that guy.

Everyone else though.

I love Mandingo Pickles...Like a fat kid loves cake...

Don't smell the fuel that these fire breathing beasts consume for extended periods.

Hondas are badass...

Going out to get more beer, be back soon.

Ok, I can rest at ease knowing that I now have enough fuel in the fridge to at least get me through the "track walk"

Things I notice while staggering through the "Track Walk":

Chauffeured in an off road golf cart type limousine from the semi-truck down to the race track. First class all the way.

Team members help the riders with every option their brains can drum up. They want their warrior succeed in getting his steed around this course in the fastest, safest (sometimes), and most efficient way. They precisely judge every turn, divot, and obstacle trying to squeeze 1/10 of a second out of anywhere they see it possible.

Told ya, he's kinda like a vulture.

The "Track Walk" contains many different people that you would never expect to see on a pile of dirt in a stadium in Oakland. This here is Timmy Weigand AKA: One hell of a great guy! He is an off road racing legend who has been a member of the USA ISDE team & winning Baja 1000 team. I believe he can also do pushups with no hands, but I was intoxicated the last time I thought I witnessed this & I failed to gather any evidence. He has a list of accomplishments that is so long, he bums out overachievers on a daily basis. I'm just gonna sum it up for y'all as..."He's a badass dude."

You will always see Euros at any moto event. How do you know? The Euros at an American Supercross can be spotted as easy as a zebra in a horse show. They just have a Euro look.
 Exhibit: A (photo)
~Editors Note:     Frank (the cute cuddly guy on our far left) is not a Euro, but if you hang with the Euros...well, you're Euro.

The plate is heavy.

This is the man that everyone talks about. Some say he is the fastest to ever ride a dirt bike...
He is definitely not the most consistent, but the flat out fastest. He is expected to win every race he enters and in turn, he carries himself in a way that mirrors his expectations.

The riders with the heavy salaries and contracts hire personal trainers to optimize their bodies to strategically prepare for a long, rough, 17 round season of battles in one of the world's most physically demanding sports. They set up exercise, riding, food, sleep, travel, and probably another half dozen or so charts that break the riders' lives down, piece by piece. This man, Aldon Baker is the most proven, accomplished, & "in demand" personal trainers known to our sport currently.   

Things I notice while staggering through "Practice":

Riders are very particular about how their controls are set up on their bike. They make sure everything is where it supposed to be before they hit the track.  They get nervous and think everything feels out of place...but after 10 minutes of fiddling they end up with the controls right back to where they were when they began...then ride away for practice all content, thinking they actually changed something.

Ryan Morais

Eli Tomac
Joshua Hansen

Remember that really, really fast guy I was talking about? The one who seems to have some sort of allergy to consistency. Well, I thought I'd get a shot of him for y'all to see the speed I was talking about...or the inconsistency. Either way, I was sure that I was going to get a photo of one or another. Just as I spotted him on his first lap of practice,  he gifted me with the inconsistency side of his riding style. As if he realized that I was in need of some material for my story, and I was in a hurry. Well, I didn't get just A photo...I got six.  


James Stewart 

Ivan Tedesco 

Chad Reed

Did I mention Reed is no joke? He gained a grin from me as I captured him absolutely nailing his practice starts! I expected him to be in the middle of my lens when the gates started dropping later in the evening. His machine reminded me of a perfectly tuned top fuel dragster, or one of those jet engine tractor pullers...regardless, the thing sounds like a god damn rocketship.

~Editors Note:  I made a mentally agreed gentleman's bet against myself (1 shot of whiskey) that come the "main event", Reed would be the 1st rider off of the start straight. He & I both lost by a matter of inches. I took the shot of whiskey in honor of his efforts anyway.

Chris Blose

Ryan Villopoto

Nick Wey


Did I mention Reedy looked comfy?

Ryan Dungey...He has 1 thing every other guy here wants.

Things I notice while staggering back through the "Pit Area":

After practice the "Super fans" stagger from the stadium back to the pit area to try and catch one last glimpse of the jockeys they are betting on & to see the bikes & emotional damage of the ones that crashed in practice...before the real racing has even began. These Super fans are usually a few beers deep by now & also could just be running back to the pits because they have decided that this is the right time to ask that very nice, super hot energy drink girl who smiled at him & let him take his picture with her, to marry him.  

Some mechanics only need to make small adjustments, do a visual inspection of the bike, & top the tank off with fuel so potent that it could eat through a plastic cup in 2.74 seconds. 

Some bikes need expensive parts replaced.

And some bikes get almost completely dissembled to change motors and/or shocks just to make it more to the rider's liking, or because somebody screwed up and the bike broke. 
(Damn those Euros have some strong family genes.)

Once the bikes are checked over, riders & mechanics talk about the race & what they will expect out of each other throughout the evenings festivities, or they just make fun of the truck driver until it's race time...this is really easy to do & very entertaining as well.

The #14 ride is loved by most.

 After 6 p.m. the security guards do a sweep of the pit area & kick out everyone who is either not holding a "special" pass or is not a Hell's Angel. These are the times in the pits that I like best, no swerving & weaving trying to dodge fans who are looking everywhere except where they are walking. People who get these "Special" passes either know someone in the industry or they are a hot chick...please don't ask me what the girls do to get that pass.


"The Show"

After searching through a maze of tunnels, alley ways, and elevators I had finally made it to the "press box". Once I had arrived it occurred to me that I had made a big mistake for 3 major reasons. 
First off, this room was filled with media personnel that wanted to watch the racing from high up in this tower behind their laptop computers trying to cram all of this spectacular action into a 1000 word summary...and be the first one of their vicious, cut-throat community to post it at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning. 
Secondly, there was such a small amount of space that these people were tossing dirty looks back and forth for reasons including, just looking at an empty seat next to them, as if you were gonna sit down. A few of these guys were so large that they took up two seats. I would make a suggestion that they should hold two press credentials if they were going to require two seats...but that would just breed contempt. I noticed other such petty reasons as not having enough room to have their favorite tasty energy drink within grasping distance...after all, that is the fuel that would help them get their story out at 1:59 a.m. and beat the other vultures by one minute.  
And the third reason, there was no bar!
What the hell was I thinking? I had to get down to the track and get back to the real action, and fast. Don't these fools know that there would be plenty of time to watch the races on T.V. the next morning, not to mention the coverage is way better than trying to make it out from this vulture's nest they were residing in?
Just then the gate dropped for the first race. I took one photo from the nest then flew the coop. On my way down the thought of my photo I had just captured, along with the concluding evidence from the announcers voice in the stadium loud speaker blaring "the Kawis are up front" made me wonder, what the hell kind of fuel is Kawasaki running in these beast? 

 The Kawasakis are fast!

 Down below, some riders do exercises to warm up.

 Some talk with missed friends about their blessed lives back home.

Some are off alone thinking about how it is "their night" while their mechanics nervously and patiently sit and wait...going over the exact same thoughts as their rider.

 Some people would simply like to have a nice big fluffy coat.

Ok, maybe a pair of running shoes to go along with that coat.

Some just wanna have a great time.

250cc Main Event

Just as the racing was about to begin, the rain started coming down...as I had predicted. The one thing I was confused about is why some of the top race teams had gone through so much preparation and efforts to make sure their rider and machines were absolutely perfect for this main event, as well as, worried about this bay area's moody weather patters all weekend...but they didn't bring a few of the many umbrellas that are sitting in their glorious hauler just 500 yards away. Confusing?

Cole Seely nor his mechanic,  look too pumped about the lack of umbrella situation.

~Editor's note:  Look in his eyes

 Neither does Hansen.

 You can usually look into a rider's eyes (if you have the view) and know if he is going to be up front when exiting the first turn. On this night I captured this "look" for y'all to see.

~Editor's note:   Eli Tomac knows this start is his, way before the gate drops.

Told ya.

I really thought Eli could win this. But he was squaring turns up and riding a tad aggressive for the opening laps of a 15 lap race on a course that had been unridden for long enough to create a nice shiny coat of moisture on top of the soil, from waiting under a blanket made of drizzle and rain showers. 

So down he went, as if he had hit black ice.


This unfortunate event (for Eli) gave way to a Roczen/Hansen/Tickle battle.
Like Tomac, Hansen was going wide in the "sweeper" corner and it was a bit soft and wet. While Roczen would track the inside which was dryer ground.

Editor's note: These are my views and not that of the riders...close maybe, but not their actual thoughts.

194: I'm gonna show this points leader that I mean war!
100: I hope this fool don't think he's come'n in on me...

 194: That axle lug looks like a good bulls eye.
100: He's actually gonna try it?

194: Here axle lug, come to daddy.
100: You might wanna re-think this dude...

 194: You better make way for 194, you loser!
100: Dude, quit looking at my bike.

 194: Take that, American hot shot!
100: Oh no, he didn't...
 194: I will win! Victory, victory, victory!
100: Haha...Dude I'm gonna punt you so hard three turns from now.

Roczen continued to be a threat, now onto Tickle.

But that all changed when he tried out Tomac's wider, wetter line.

From here it turned into a brief Hansen/Tickle battle.

Tickle went on to make the pass stick and put a nice little cushion between himself and the losers. Hansen looked to be riding a bit tight while Tickle seemed a lot more comfy in the slick and rutted conditions. Many factors could be assumed, Maybe they grew up in different weather conditions? Maybe Tickle had more motivation on this particular day? One thing is for sure...It wasn't the umbrella foul up, neither of the top two guys had them on the starting line, and both had forgotten all about them by the finish.

Eli Tomac: 3rd place       Brock Tickle: 1st place      Josh Hansen 2nd place

Tickle quenches his victory thirst.

 You can see that these guys respect one another.

After getting used to winning lately, Hansen was bummed on his 2nd place performance. He must not forget that consistency wins championships.

~Editors note:  Never take your eye off of the main goal Joshua... 

Like that of Apollo Creed, there is no need to see a manager's smile to know the joy he holds in his warrior's victory, all you need to do is look into his eyes. 

Good on you Brock!

450cc Main Event
"The Big Dogs"

While the riders are out on their single parade lap to inspect the course, the mechanics are closely watched by the officials as if they were bouncers at a disco club, ready to grab the arm of anyone who is, or even thinks about touching his VIP border made of red velvet rope. Under heavy surveillance the mechanics meticulously manicure their rider's gate for maximum traction. They pack the soil tight making sure to rob it of any and all, rocks, loose debris, & bumps. 
Andrew Short checks his launching pad closely to make sure his mechanic Frank has put all his efforts into making it a work of art...for he will need a pristine pack job if he wants to be up front, his machine is 100cc short of the rest of the field, which will be noticed mostly, on the start.

 Ivan Tedesco had two bad crashes in practice. Most of you did not see his swollen hand, bruised back, & the doctor's care that I had witnessed. I would not take photos of these painful moments, but I did capture the uncertainty in his face about the outcome of this race. Some of these men are the closest specimens I've ever seen to being a modern day gladiator. Ivan is clearly in pain as he accepts his well cared for race goggles from veteran mechanic Tony Berluti. Tony knows to deliver the goggles, lens side up, to ensure nothing falls inside that can enter the rider's eyes during the event. 


On the start, it looked like Reed#22 would be the man, as I had concluded earlier with the evidence from his flawless practice starts that I had witnessed. 

What I didn't count on was the fact that he had not entered the now slippery first turn with 19 other adrenaline filled racers breathing down his neck, as well as, all that speed his wonderful machine produced to get him there first. Reed came in a tad hot...

In doing so, he took most of the pack with him into his high speed first turn execution. 

Next Millsaps#18 gets on the throttle early hoping to launch in front of everybody. In doing so, he stands up his teammate Brayton#10 a bit and scares the shit out of a handful of other guys.

Villipoto#2 and Dungey#1 seemed to have anticipated the conditions better as they cut inwards onto higher, dryer, common race line (packed down) ground.

This start has now tuned into a four brand battle for the "holeshot" bonus check.

With #22 going wide, #18 going "oh shit", and #1 having to cut the corner sharper (slower) on the inside, #2 gracefully grabs the lead, the check, a clear track, and the pressure of everyone else breathing down his neck.

Everything had changed by the second lap. #2 lost his front end in a corner, and Stewart#7 who was just behind everyone in the 1st corner mayhem, had taken the lead and started to pull away from the pack immediately. 

Now that #7 was off doing his thing, a race started to brew up. Was it going to be #1 going after #22 first?

 Or #2 going after #1 first?

They all started getting closer together. I was praying for a good ol' clean passing battle!

 It seemed as if they were studying the other riders' line choices and technique, Like a cheetah anticipating a gazelle's next move at 70mph.

 They start to prepare for battle, making line adjustments mid-air, when they would hear a predator closing in.

 At this point I was simply singing hallelujah and trying not to piss myself out of pure excitement.  

 It was #1 that attacked first. #22 knows war is upon him as he clears his vision, knowing clean goggles are a must for battle.

 #22 put on a valiant defense but surrendered to #1's relentless attacks. I suspect #22 knows this is a long race and both of them might get beat later on if they use up all of their energy fighting in the first half of the race. 

 #2 started to creep back up towards the #22 and it looked like he might get passed him as well.

 But, he was riding a bit aggressive during this race and in slippery conditions. For his hard efforts, Ryan delivered many costly mistakes, these riding errors kept the #2 off of the podium during this round.

 #1 rode very smoothly. Ryan floats this slick corner with such balance and grace that it reminds me much of the late great Donny Schmit on an ice track.

 Then we got the good ol' #twotwo! This was Chad's night. He knew he belonged on the podium, all day I had taken notice of his confidence...on and off the track, Him & I both had a feeling that he would be smiling, come the trophy presentation. And sure enough, Reed landed himself a cozy little spot in 2nd place after catching back up to Dungey#1. It seemed that #22 had less fatigue during the last few laps of the race. Maybe from hopping through the giant whoop-dee-do's in a few hits instead of skimming the tops while hitting every one? Maybe from not charging too hard in the first half of the race (pacing)? Maybe he had more to fight for on this night? Or maybe it was one of those energy drinks? Whatever the hell it was, Reed in dramatic fashion...passed #1 in the last corner before the checkers for a bigger check, more confidence, and a few more points. Very Savvy... 

 I don't know what to say about James except...Dang! He crashed twice in practice, whacks his head on the ground pretty hard, then comes out and dominates...Dang, he's gnarly!

 When Reed arrives at the podium, the spotlight is on him for the first time this season. He has made it back home, onto the box.

 He is exhausted for the first few moments upon arrival...and has every right to be.

 Then comes the excitement, he starts informing his crew members about the extreme moments of the race, praising them for their hard work, telling how it saved his ass.

Next comes the scramble to get all the proper flare you must wear on the podium, for your sponsors. The riders must now talk with all the media personnel and perform multiple interviews with cameras pointing at them. 

~ Editors note: I believe this would be a much better time for everyone if they had a bar or at minimum some big water troughs full of iced beer at the podium. Just a suggestion...

James knows he's on top.

#7 I got you...
#22 I'm gonna get you...

Chad looked excited while the nice announcer lady was replaying the last corner pass which produced his 2nd place finishing position, which goes together rather nicely with his teams theme.

Dungey was disappointed for letting #22 take him in the last turn before the jackpot. But he was very humble and repeated the same quote I've heard from many a champion..."It is a long series and consistency is key. I just need to be on this box every week."

3rd Ryan Dungey          1st James Stewart         2nd Chad Reed

 Chad's wife and baby meet him after the podium to celebrate the family's rewards from all their hard work. Chad rode with the heart of a man who has mouths to feed.
Good on you #22!

Lars is very proud of his machine and is probably thinking about how meticulous he is going to be this week while rebuilding the complete bike for next week's battle...Or he's thinking about what to wear to the party that will be taking place soon?

James might think his guys are spoiled and they need to wash everything on them this week, as well as, rebuild the bike...so he gives them a good douching of sticky ass, smelly champagne...think of it as a challenge boys.

The team is justified with a win.

For this photo I focused on big James...his son who is usually the main focus, would not be here if it wasn't for this man's sacrifices. With gentle eyes and a soft touch it looks as if #7 is mature enough to graciously thank his father for the commitment in building his career throughout the years.

~ M.C.W.

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