What Really Happened: Washougal National

Up in the Pacific Northwest, a few things are to be expected: Rain, cool weather, and big conifers. At Washougal last weekend, we got one of the three, and cool weather definitely wasn’t one of them. It was freakin’ hot up there this year, people, as the Pac NW is in the grips of the most extreme heat wave that’s ever hit the area. With temps in the mid-90’s in the shade and moderate humidity, combined with virtually no breeze, everyone on hand was bummin’.

The track itself has been part of the AMA National series for many years, and is somewhat of a romantic location because it’s completely unique, mainly because of the beautiful surroundings that the track is engulfed within. Just a few miles uphill from the awesome Columbia River, lying in the shadow of the 11,000′ volcanic peak of Mt. Hood and less than an hour from downtown Portland, Oregon, it’s this great location that’s no doubt lead to much of the trouble that the track owners (the Huffman family – as in Ryan, not Damon) have been dealing with for years with the surrounding neighbors. While the adjacent landowners may not be happy, the region as a whole seems to embrace the race and the town of Washougal is filled with signs welcoming race fans. This year, there were quite a few changes made to the track layout, but thankfully they revolved around keeping the overall flow very similar to what it’s been in the past. Horsepower Hill was still there right after the start, and the first couple of turns remained unchanged. Things got a bit different at the top of the Hill though, with a very rough, rocky and chopped up semi-natural whoops section waiting for the riders when they got to the top. A few big changes were made deeper in the back section too, with a very cool couple of double-options heading down and uphill that lead toward the finish line whoop section (which remained unchanged). The track looked fun and remained tricky, a bit slick, narrow and one-lined in spots, and “romantic” with all of the deep, dark shadows vs. the bright wide open spots. The Huffmans done good – this is one of the few tracks that retains it’s character year after year.

The racing was good, too, and if nothing else certainly produced a few surprises. Let’s see, what was the biggest surprise – was it Clement Desalle or Jason Lawrence? How about Tommy Hahn or Jarred Browne? Maybe Matt Goerke or Blake Wharton? It’s a tough call for sure, but we’ll give the nod to Desalle. Come on, this guy came over from Belgium during a break in the MX GP’s, scrounged up a bike (one of Ryan Clark’s shops’ customer’s bikes, which that customer temporarily donated to the cause), went out and set fastest time in one of the ‘fast guy’ 450 practices and rode to a very solid 3rd place in the first 450 moto. That’s remarkable, and we don’t want to hear about how the field is weak, either. Sure maybe he’d have been more like 5th’ish if the field was replenished, but he wasn’t exactly racing a bunch of slouches and – more importantly – he was within striking distance of both Hahn and Reed for the entire moto. One small mistake, one tip-over by either one of those guys and this relative no-named 19-year old Belgian could’ve won a moto!

And he looked full-on Euro, too, with his UFO gear and other miscellaneous wackiness in the way he rode and his gear. Desalle sported some sort of fluid replenishment system integrated into his neck brace that looked intriguing, but we weren’t able to get a better look at it unfortunately. It was definitely a small bladder of some sort, and just think about how much a couple of quick swigs of water would help on a 95 degree day during a 35 minute moto. Good thinkin’, Clement.

Matt Goerke was notable because he rode an incredibly strong 4th place during the first 450 moto, his best finish ever after just two weeks back at the races following an injury. While waiting for the gate to reload after the sight lap for moto 2, we were standing next to AMA Pro official Dave Dye when Goerke got off his bike and ran up to say “Man, I really have to go to the bathroom!”, to which Dye replied “Great”, only to have Matt get into a little more detail by adding “No, I mean #2!”. Goerke eventually DNF the moto due to these stomach problems, and according to Suzuki City team manager Michael Nasakaitis, had stuff flowing from each end of his body the entire time between motos and just couldn’t continue the race due to the dehydration.

Goerke’s Suzuki City teammate Jarred ‘Jet’ Browne was a bit of a revelation in the 2nd moto, as he moved forward for the duration to end up 5th at the end, and took home the Muscle Milk Recovery Award in the process.

Then there’s Jason Lawrence. JLaw came off the gate decent in moto one and lasted fairly well while running around 6th-7th before fading pretty quickly toward the end to snag a pretty unimpressive 10th in the first moto. Moto two went much better, with a 2nd place start that he was able to hold onto for almost the entire moto before a mercurial charge by Chad Reed pushed him back a notch. He went 10-3 for 3rd overall, which is pretty bizarre in and of itself. Jason quickly exited the podium ceremonies and looked very spent after the moto (although we must add, most everyone did), high-tailing it back to his pits while the fans yelled for his attention.

Another funny thing we noticed at the podium was Pourcel, after he was done spraying the bubbly and the entire crowd was yelling and begging for his goggles, hat, jersey, etc., Christophe very cooly scanned a large section of the crowd, selected the best looking girl out of it, pointed to her, and gave her a nice hug for a photo that her boyfriend took. Then he walked away – it was classic!

Two privateers (well, at least one) got a shot at a factory ride for a day, again. The most notable was Scott Champion, who got a chance to race Josh Hill’s factory YZ450F in Hill’s absence. It was an easy choice for Yamaha, since they were up in Washougal early for the YZ250F press intro and so was Champion, who was test riding for one of the media outlets. He got the nod for the ride based on how he looked that day, but apparently they forgot to consider that Champion isn’t a 450 rider and is also a rookie in AMA Pro racing, so he was sort of doomed for failure. He definitely did not impress with his performance on the track and of course the cards were stacked against him, so this experience will probably lead to nothing more than a great memory for Scott. On the other hand, Kawasaki MX team test rider Ryan Beat got another shot on one of the factory bikes he helps test on by hopping on Ricky Dietrich’s (or was it Tim Ferry’s or Ryan Villopoto’s?) KX450F for a go of it. Beat, who’d be roughly the pace of Champion in the Lites class for the most part, probably wasn’t looking to set the world on fire. In fact, he was testing a few new parts and settings for the team under race conditions, so the results weren’t all that important. The Monster Kawi guys had a bike available because their star replacement for their other riders – Ricky Dietrich – was busy down in Vegas trying to defend his Endurocross crown. Dietrich ended up 2nd in a spectacular race to the wire. Check out www.endurocross.com for more on that one.

There was lots of new 2010 gear on display for the first time at Washougal this year. Typically these debuts happened at Lakewood (and some did this year) or Millville, but the schedule switch-ups meant that this time it happened at Washougal. It also means that the big-gun photographers and videographers were out in force trying to get as many nice shots of the new stuff for upcoming catalogs as possible. We spotted new gear from NoFear, One Industries, Fox Racing and Fly. Who had the coolest stuff? The ONE Ind. stuff was a bit different and very cool, Fox’s was a bit more subdued and less clown-like, and the couple sets of NoFear were definitely sweet, too. SHIFT, TLD and THOR had their new stuff out a few weeks ago (THOR always seems to have new gear out) and with the exception of some truly wacky patterns by SHIFT, all of the 2010 gear looks really good. OK, that’s enough of the fashion roundup from Washougal.

Speaking of TLD, the whole team came out for Washougal (they’ve been on a limited schedule), and these guys continue to make an impact on the 450 class. Jake Moss and Chris Blose have been outstanding in the races they’ve done this year, and this time Moss was really good in moto one, stalking and dropping an ailing Andrew Short to end up 6th. The 2nd moto wasn’t so hot, as Jake’s bike was seen with a massive cable wound up around his wheel. We think he crashed, but not sure – but he didn’t finish the race. The fact that he was credited with 28th spot tells us that only 28 riders finished the race (and a quick peak at the lap chart confirms that) after 37 started it. That means it was a rough day at the track for a lot of AMA Pro riders.

We’ve been hoping to find room to pimp a great thing one of the media members is doing at each national, and here’s our chance. There’s a young bloke named David Bulmer who’s here in the states from jolly old England, working with the Wes Williams crew producing videos. Two years ago, Bulmer came over and bought a cheap (cheap!) motor home and drove to every single National on the schedule – alone – and updated his progress on www.ayearinmx.com. He made a lot of friends and a bit of a name for himself in the process, so after doing an abbreviated version of the same trip last year for several of the GP’s in Europe, he came back this year to do it again. Or, at least something similar, except this time he has a job to do at the same time. A little something extra he’s doing this time is to do a lap of each National track – jogging – to try and raise some money for the Rider Down Foundation and Wings of Life, which both contribute to aid in the recovery of fallen riders. The deal is, a person who would like to help just goes to http://www.ayearinmx.com/09/keepontrack.html and sends a payment to Bulmer’s PayPal account. Sounds like a possible scam, but Bulmer’s about the most trust-worthy guy we’ve met at the races over the past few years, and when he says he plans to send 100% of the proceeds to these organizations after the season finale at Steel City, we believe him. So go send him a few bucks and help a good cause. Oh, and if you’re wondering how long it took him to jog a lap at Washougal, it was 12:56.00.

That oughta do ‘er for Washougal. The series is now in the grips of a two-week hiatus as X-Games gets underway, followed by Loretta Lynn’s. We’ll be back on track with our regular coverage beginning again at Unadilla Valley Sports Center, with race report and What Really Happened, as usual.