Arguably the rider with the most momentum heading into the final five rounds of the Luca Oil Pro Motocross championship, Marvin Musquin has won two of the last three races, has a three-race streak of podium finishes and is eyeing points leader Eli Tomac.
After winning back-to-back overalls at WW Ranch and Southwick – in heavy sand and in the most brutal weather conditions faced all year in either Supercross or Motocross – Musquin crashed on Lap 1 of Moto 1 last week at RedBud.
What he did next, defines his season.
It took two track workers to lift the bike from Musquin’s prone body. He restarted the race dead last and then climbed to seventh at the end and minimize the points’ damage.
“Unfortunately that crash cost me a lot in that first moto,” Musquin said. “I rebounded really good in the second moto and finished first, but I lost some points in the championship. So we definitely have to look ahead and focus on ourselves and try to win as many motos and overalls as possible.”
RedBud was eerily familiar.
“It’s happened a couple of times this year where I ended up on the ground early and there’s no way to catch that top six or seven guys,” Musquin said. “There is a gap where you can come back to that spot, but then the gap is too big in front of me.”
Musquin is looking at a chasm that is just as wide in the points standings, although he managed to climb to second on the leaderboard.
“At the beginning of the championship, I was not really doing good,” Musquin said. “I was fighting with myself – with the bike – and at that point I was definitely not looking for the championship. I knew I was losing points. My goal was just to feel good. I just wanted good rhythms.”
Musquin finished sixth overall at Hangtown, was fifth at Thunder Valley and sixth at High Point.
Then something clicked in Jacksonville, Fla. in the inaugural visit to WW Ranch where he won his first Moto of the season in the first race – as well as the overall.
“I was really happy with the last few races,” Musquin said. “Obviously winning two in a row and this weekend (at RedBud) I got third. But the last three races, I won a Moto each weekend, and that’s really important. I makes me happy.”
Sitting fifth in the standings, 37 points behind Tomac after the first four weeks, Musquin had little choice except to go back to basics.
“We went back to some suspension setups that I liked from last year – at this same time of year,” Musquin said. “We race so much Supercross and don’t have much time to get prepared for outdoors. We tried some new setups and new suspensions and obviously practice and going to the races is different. I was not riding really good and feeling awesome, so we went back to stuff I knew before and started to feel more comfortable.
“We are not messing around with anything on the bike I can just focus on the riding and the training.”
More importantly, these portion of the schedule features tracks on which Musquin has already had success. Mental strength and attitude play a key role in riding well. There is also that marriage of track and rider style that makes each individual round unique.
“These are tracks that I like – more demanding and technical – tracks like High Point and Southwick that are really tough,” Musquin said. “You have to have a really good technique and I was applying my technique good and it worked really well.”
And while he did not plan to get off to a slow start, Musquin will not turn down the momentum that has finally arrived.
“Whenever the flow can come, it’s good,” he said. “It was the same as last year. I won at RedBud. I won Southwick and I was good at High Point so it was the same time of the season. I never really planned that. I try my best everytime, but it’s hard on the body after a long Supercross season.”
Tomac has not gone away. Like Musquin, he has struggled only rarely in one of the two motos each week – but never in both. Southwick marked his worst overall finish of third, but even then he podiumed in both mots with a second in Moto 1 and a third in Moto 2. As a result, Musquin has managed to shave only three points off Tomac’s total.
It will be difficult to make up 34 points in the final five rounds. But with 10 motos remaining, Musquin still has his fate in his own hands. Mathematically, he would need to win out if Tomac finished second in every moto, but neither of those two scenarios are likely to occur. If Musquin can finish ahead of Tomac in each race, his odds of winning the championship are good.
“Now I’m starting to look at the championship and making up points,” Tomac said. “Before (the last three weeks) I just wanted to be happy on the bike and happy with the riding and myself. We will have to be very strong if we want to win.
“At RedBud when I passed for the lead and was able to handle those guys, I definitely knew Tomac was somewhere in fourth or third and then I kept a eye on him because he’s got a good lead and you never know if he’s going to ride harder and make up time. It’s important to keep an eye on him because he’s won championships already.”
Last year Musquin was hot at the right time as well. After winning back-to-back at Southwick and RedBud, he swept the podium in the final five rounds. He had only one more overall win – at Unadilla in August – and was not able to catch Tomac for the championship lead.
“I really love Unadilla,” Musquin said. “I won there last year and the year before, so it’s always great to go back to where you had good results before.”