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Sandblasted: U.S. team finishes third at Motocross of Nations

October 01, 2012

Justin Barcia was the U.S. team's rookie, and he stepped up to be the most competitive member on the track despite a few minor faults. The result of his first race encounter with Belgium's Ken de Dyker is evident in this photo, which shows several broken spokes.

After a cool and damp day of qualifying on Saturday, the 2012 FIM Motocross of Nations in Lommel, Belgium, kicked off under sunny and warm conditions. The sun did not shine equally on all country's teams, however, and this time it was U.S. team that stood in the shadows, as both Germany and Belgium beat the U.S. riders consistently all weekend.

With the United States underdogs heading into a race on a track quite different than anything they see on the U.S. National circuit, the team's third-place overall finish must be seen as a victory by some -- although the riders were clearly expecting more.

Team Germany grabbed its first ever win in 66 attempts with the team of Marcus Schiffer, Max Nagl and Ken Roczen.

U.S. Team Captain Ryan Dungey had an off-day and appeared to struggle with the conditions all day. He went 7-9 in his two races.

Moto 1: MX1 and MX2

Following a short warm-up session, the United State's Ryan Dungey and Blake Baggett represented the stars and stripes with the No. 1 and No. 2 plates on the starting line for the first of three motos for the day. Italy's multi-time world champion Antonio Cairoli snagged the holeshot and proceeded to check out, though, as the Lommel local ripped around his backyard track on a higher level than anyone else.

Moving into and settling in second place after a battle with Germany's Max Nagl was the single standout by a French rider all day as Gautier Paulin nailed down second by the checkers. Another local, Belgium's Clement Desalle, battled with Germany's Ken Roczen for fourth before the young MX2 rider backed off and took a solid fifth and top MX2 finish.

U.S. team rider Dungey struggled the entire race, crashing at least once, as did teammate Baggett. The results for the United States were 7th for Dungey in MX1 and 15th for Baggett in MX2, which put the United States in fourth heading into the second moto, and Germany out in front.

Moto 1 top 10: 1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 34:26.888; 2. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:21.182; 3. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), +0:28.933; 4. Clement Desalle (BEL, Suzuki), +0:38.741; 5. Ken Roczen (GER, KTM), +0:40.180; 6. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +1:05.036; 7. Ryan Dungey (USA, KTM), +1:11.286; 8. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +1:38.040; 9. Marc de Reuver (NED, Kawasaki), +1:42.851; 10. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, KTM), +1:44.824.

Nations top 10: Germany, Belgium, France, USA, Russia, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Ireland, Estonia, Italy.

Newly crowned 250cc National Motocross Champion Blake Baggett also seemed to struggle a bit in the deep, treacherous sand. Baggett seemed a bit more at home and competitive than Dungey did, though, yet still managed only a 15-6 after a crash in his first race.

Moto 2: MX2 and Open

Represented by Justin Barcia and Blake Baggett, the Americans were looking to improve on their first moto's results to remain in the hunt for the overall team win.

It turned out to be a dramatic race, with favorite Jeffrey Herlings getting the holeshot and completely dominating the race, winning by an unbelievable 58 seconds. Behind him, Barcia was sorting himself out toward the front of the pack and ran in second place for a few laps after passing Belgium's Ken de Dyker, then being passed himself by Ken Roczen.

With positions being swapped back and forth, de Dyker and Barcia came together at the end of the signaling area straight-away and Barcia went down, breaking several spokes in his front wheel in the process. While he got up quickly he began to struggle more and more due to the damaged wheel, losing a few positions in the process before finally succumbing to a wheel so out of true that it would no longer spin. After a dramatic and tense move to get into the mechanics' area on the final half-lap, Barcia eventually was able to get back on the track and finish 14th.

Meanwhile, Baggett was quietly putting in an impressive ride from outside the top 10 all the way up to sixth by the checkers.

After this moto, Germany still led the team points with the United States moving into second and France sitting in third.

Moto 2 top 10: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 34:41.619; 2. Tanel Leok (EST, Suzuki), +0:58.141; 3. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), +1:00.358; 4. Ken Roczen (GER, KTM), +1:48.464; 5. Davide Guarneri (ITA, KTM), +2:27.689; 6. Blake Baggett (USA, Kawasaki), -1 lap(s); 7. Marcus Schiffer (GER, Suzuki), -1 lap(s); 8. Todd Waters (AUS, Suzuki), -1 lap(s); 9. Max Anstie (GBR, Honda), -1 lap(s); 10. Xavier Boog (FRA, Kawasaki), -1 lap(s).

Nations top 10: Germany, USA, France, Estonia, Belgium, The Netherlands, Russia, Italy, Great Britain, Australia.

Antonio Cairoli and Ryan Dungey were side-by-side through turn one for the start of the second moto featuring MX1 and MX3.

Moto 3: MX1 and Open

For the grand finale, the stage was set with a group of riders that was sure to bring excitement: Antonio Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings, Ryan Dungey, Justin Barcia, Ken de Dycker, Tanel Leok, Clement Desalle and Gautier Paulin. It was an incredible field of amazing talent from all corners of the world, but once again it was Italy's Cairoli who made short work of the pack by getting out front early and checking out.

The big showdown was to be between Cairoli and self-declared sandmaster Herlings, but the duel was clipped at the start after Herlings went down in a heap with teammate Marc DeReuver in turn one. After getting up nearly last, Herlings charged through the pack Ricky Carmichael-style, making it all the way to second in just a few laps when he began to reel in Cairoli. While he was able to get within a few seconds of the Italian, Cairoli kept him just out of touch and was never challenged for the win.

In the meantime, Barcia was a solid and impressive third for nearly the entire moto where he eventually finished. Dungey, on the other hand, ran as high as second in the opening lap before making a mistake that put him into the signage off the side of the circuit and ultimately ended with a 14th place finish.

Moto 3 top 10: 1. Cairoli, Antonio (ITA, KTM), 35:00.015; 2. Herlings, Jeffrey (NED,KTM), 3.037; 3. Barcia, Justin (USA, HON), 57.823; 4. Leok, Tanel (EST, SUZ), 1:23.257; 5. De Dycker, Ken (BEL, KTM), 1:29.784; 6. Nagl, Maximilian (GER, KTM), 1:37.774; 7. Desalle, Clement (BEL, SUZ), 1:49.089; 8. Paulin, Gautier (FRA, KAW), 1:56.647; 9. Dungey, Ryan (USA, KTM), 2:00.599; 10. Goncalves, Rui (POR, HON), 2:08.575.

Nations top 10: Germany, Belgium, USA, The Netherlands, Italy, France, Estonia, Great Britain, Portugal, Australia.

Undoubtedly one of the top two sand riders in the world, The Netherland's Jeffrey Herlings tore through the pack in both of his motos to remove any doubt of how to ride one of the toughest sand tracks in the world.

The 2012 Motocross of Nations will go down in the history books with a few notable mentions. Primarily, it will be remembered as Germany's first win in the prestigious event's 66-year history. It will also go down as one of the U.S. team's few losses and, although by all accounts it was a respectable effort that landed them on the final podium spot. Certainly not known as sand specialists as many of the other riders were, Dungey, Baggett and Barcia battled with the rest of the world's best and can come home with their heads held high. Looking forward to next year's event at Teutschenthal, Germany, will no doubt fuel the team's determination for the next 363 days.

Team Deutschland was ecstatic with its country's first Motocross of Nations win. L to R: Max Nagl, Marcus Schiffer and Ken Roczen all put in impressive rides in the Lommel sand.

The U.S. team's reaction on the podium could be described with one word: Stunned. L to R: Ryan Dungey, Justin Barcia, Blake Baggett and team manager Roger DeCoster.

Justin Barcia did everything in his power to hold off Herlings' charge in the third moto, but Herlings would have none of it and passed Barcia before setting out after Cairoli in the lead.

Germany's Max Nagl was the only rider to put a chink in Antonio Cairoli's armor all weekend, putting a pass on the ultra-fast Italian world champ and leading him for several laps in one of Saturday's qualifying races.

The U.S. team's Blake Baggett tears off the line for the start of the first race of the day, MX1 and MX2. He finished 14th after at least one crash.

The showdown of the weekend was held for the final race (MX1 and Open) when Antonio Cairoli faced off against his KTM teammate Jeffrey Herlings of The Netherlands. Despite crashing and starting at the back, Herlings caught Cairoli by the halfway point but was unable to get close enough for any pass attempts.

Almost as interesting as the racing is, the crowd at a Motocross of Nations is always a huge attraction. Great Britain's colorful fans are typically declared the winners of the unofficial balloting, though.

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