The who’s who of motocross racing are revving up the season this weekend at the 45th Annual Red Bull Hangtown Motocross Classic.
It’s not just any motocross race, but the oldest and one of the most coveted trophies on the 12-race Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship Series. Motocross riders are streaming into Rancho Cordova, Calif., for a chance at a title or even just a top 10 finish.
Just how big is this race? About 175 pro riders will race Saturday and 600 amateur riders are registered to run Thursday and Friday. Among them are seven Lake Tahoe riders: Garrick Topp and Ted Johanson out of Zephyr Cove, Geoff Pruner out of Olympic Village, and Paul Casella, Brian Kuelper, Mike Harrity and Cole Harrity out of South Lake Tahoe.
On Saturday, the pros will hit the track. There will be 75 pro riders in the 450 class, 65 pros in the 250 and 35 pro women riders. All the big names will all be there. Ryan Villopoto, Ryan Dungey, Chad Reed, James Stewart, Andrew Short, Trey Canard, David Millsaps and Mike Alessi make up the largest championship class to ever hit this season opener. For a full breakdown on some of these big names check out Chase Stallon’s spotter guide.
For added excitement, race designers tweaked the track this year. The double jumps will have more air and rice hull was added to the dirt for more traction. The modified course adds new challenges for the riders and brings the race closer to spectators.
Pro practice and time qualifications will be held Saturday morning, starting at 8:15 a.m., followed by opening ceremony at 12:30 p.m. The pro pits will be open and free of charge for all spectators in the morning.
The races will begin after opening ceremonies with two races each for class: 250, 450 and women. The last race of the day, Women’s moto No. 2, is scheduled to end at 6:20 p.m.
For tickets, a full race schedule and a spotter guide breakdown, go to www.hangtownmx.com. Friday tickets are free for 5 and younger, $15 for ages 6-11 and $20 for 12 and older. Saturday tickets are also free for 5 and younger, $20 for ages 6-11 and $40 for 12 and older.
The Hangtown Vet
Name: Mike Harrity
Out of: South Lake Tahoe
Years riding: 35
Years competing in Hangtown Motocross: 12
Highest finish in past years: Fifth overall
What is your most memorable Hangtown moment? They all have great memories, all your friends, fellow competitors, families and extreme weather conditions.
What class will you be competing in this year? 30+, 40+, 50+ 450cc displacement and open class two stroke.
What do you like about this event? It’s the first race of the year and it’s a national/pro event.
Is the Hangtown Motorcross the largest event you compete in? No, it’s one of the largest motocross events, but I have competed in desert races, Hair and Hounds, cross county and enduro’s where thousands of competitors show up with hundreds in each class versus 40-80 in MX heat races.
Given the number of competitors out there, do nerves factor in? Sometimes your nerves are out of control, but once the gate drops it’s all business.
Any superstitions? A clean bike’s a fast bike. Never race a dirty bike.
Do you have any goals in mind for this event? Top three finish in heat race and overall — it’s a goal.
The Hangtown Rookie
Name: Geoff Pruner
Coming from: Olympic Village
Years riding: 5
Years competing in Hangtown Motocross: Never raced it before, but can’t wait.
What class will you be competing in this year? Under 25 c class
What part of this event do you find challenging? Everything about this is a challenge, from the jumps to the heat. It’s always fun, but it takes a lot of commitment just to race at this level.
Is the Hangtown Motorcross the largest event you compete in? Yes, Hangtown will be the largest race I’ve competed in.
Given the number of competitors out there, do nerves factor in? Nerves always factor in — mainly first round jitters. If you don’t get them then there’s something seriously wrong with you (Pruner joked).
Any superstitions? I’ve never really been superstitious. Definitely get a good breakfast in and a nice run early in the a.m.
Do you have any goals in mind for this event? My main goal is top 10. I just want to see how well I can do against a full gate. I’m just going for some points and some epic laps on one of the most famous tracks of the AMA Pro Motocross Championship Series.
“Sometimes your nerves are out of control, but once the gate drops it’s all business.”
— Mike Harrity, South Lake Tahoe rider