Cycle News

Cycle News 2019 Issue 07 February 20

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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VOL. 56 ISSUE 7 FEBRUARY 20, 2019 P113 "tight" and getting arm-pump, or they make an unforced error and fall. But there is a rare breed of racer who thrives under these circumstances. The elite-level champions like Ricky Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Johnson and Ryan Vil- lopoto can control the nerves, rather than having their nerves control them. Even proven winners at the top level of our sport are often running scared even when they win; they have the speed that day, a good start and even the confidence to know they can win, but from lap one through the checkered flag, they're running scared. The elite- level champions—the guys who later had eras named after them—weren't running scared. They were calm, cool and collected as they led and won the bulk of their races and titles. They simply knew they would win ("belief") and were going to do whatever it took to make sure it happened ("will"). And that, in a nutshell, is Cooper Webb. Webb has done this throughout his racing life, from the amateurs through the 250cc class. He had some difficulties in the early days of his 450cc career, but some people tend to forget a few things about this early time on the big bikes: First, he was actually improving really quickly during his first 450cc season in 2017 and had grabbed his first podium finish at round five in Oakland, behind Eli Tomac and Ryan Dungey. Only two races later, he and Dean Wilson collided in midair soon after the start of their heat race and Webb went down, destroying his left shoulder, and that started him down a path of struggling for most of the rest of his two years on the Yamaha factory 450cc team. But he was on the right track even then. And the second thing people forget is that at the end of 2016 as he was going to transition to the 450cc class, he took the number 2 as his permanent number knowing full-well that it was associated with two of the greatest champions in the history of our sport: Jeremy McGrath and Ryan Villopoto. And he wasn't nervous about it. "Ultimately I made the decision just because of how dominant that number's been," Webb said at the time. "I think maybe it adds a bit of pressure, and it makes you feel like you kind of have to live up to it. To me, everything I do is about finding something to motivate me, and I think that's some- thing [the number 2] that through my career will do that." Most guys even at the factory level of our sport would see the weight of a number like that and see it as a potential burden. Webb looked at Jeremy McGrath and Ryan Villopoto and thought, "That's about right for me." That's the same thing Villopoto did when he chose 2. It seemed to work out fine for him, too. Some of us knew what we were looking at when Webb won Anaheim 2 this year. He pres- sured Ken Roczen into a mistake on the final lap of the first main event of the Triple Crown, taking his first-ever win, then immediately followed that with a holeshot and another win, then another good start and a calm race to bring home the overall. He had nerves, but they didn't overwhelm him. Then he went out and did it again a week later in Oakland, made a mistake in the mud at San Diego, then went out and won again in Min- neapolis. This isn't temporary. Now, anything can happen in this sport, that's for sure, so there are unforeseen circumstances that can crop up and derail Webb's season, like injuries, or even another racer catching absolute fire, but the more wins he racks up, the less likely it will be that anybody else will stop him. Despite sharing trainers, factory-level equip- ment, riding gear, and myriad other things with people who are lining up against him, I think Webb has something nobody else has, and it's between his ears. Cooper Webb has arrived, and 2019 may be known in the future as the beginning of the Coo- per Webb era. CN

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