Author: site admin
Category: AMA MX/SX
“Half this game is ninety percent mental.”
– Philadelphia Phillies manager Danny Ozark
In any sport, being mentally ready is as important as being physically ready. This is as true in motorcycle racing as in any other sport, perhaps more so because the rider as an individual plays such a crucial role in determining his or her success.
The examples are liberally sprinkled across all the marque classes of last season. Two of those are both Rossi and Mladin who jumped out to early season leads with decisive victories and then built on that mental advantage throughout the season. Any time a rider can win early in the season, it gives a psychological edge but to win big compounds that advantage exponentially. If a rider can gel with his bike setup, tires and the track, he can pull away while his competitors struggle with their own problems. The trailing rider is then forced to either ride over their head and risk crashing or back off and settle for second place. Either is a crushing mental blow.
Rossi, in particular, has a history of doing this. He wins early races spectacularly, then in subsequent races will stalk his rivals pressuring them into mistakes. One by one, riders like Checa, Biaggi and Gibernau have succombed to that pressure crashing out and losing the mind game as well as the race. By season’s end everyone except Rossi is basically racing for second place.
Mladin, also, plays this game with the skill of a master. His wins at the first two or three stops on the AMA Superbike calender handing him the championship advantage, not just in points but in the head games as well. Mladin also knows how to play the press to strengthen his game, even if it pisses off most of the fans (myself among them). At subsequent rounds, Mat can afford to relax while the other riders have to push harder and harder to regain the lost ground. Near season’s end it just takes one more coup de grace race win for him to burst the confidence bubble of everyone else and take home another championship.
Well, as of this past weekend, you can add Ricky Carmichael to the list of psychological masters. He’s playing mind games with his competitors that would make Hannibal Lector proud. Of the first five races of the AMA Supercross season, he’s won four of them and was on the podium at the first muddy Anaheim race. This past weekend, he threw down a win by more than 20 seconds, a crushing defeat in a season that was originally forecast to have close racing and with a whole pack of guys possible championship winners.
RC’s domination has already slammed the book shut on those rumors. Once possible title contender Kevin Windham has come apart like a cheap suit, having big crashes at three of the five rounds, all while chasing RC. Reigning champ Chad Reed seems to have settled for getting second place, after nearly crashing trying to keep up in San Francisco. In fact, the bulk of the field seemed in awe at Carmichael’s performance at Anaheim III, with other possible race winners failing to impress. McGrath crashed out, Larocco was sixth and Fonseca struggled to fifth. Ricky now has almost two race wins worth of points over Reed in second place. That is nearly game-set-match and we’re not even a third of the way through the season.
[image from Rick Johnson’s Supercross web site.]