Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1990's

Cycle News 1996 04 17

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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A·VIEWFROM.THE.FENCE· . . . .By E JohnSon ric t's been said that motocross is a sport that eats its young. Much like complex athle tic endeavors such as gymnastics, figure skating or diving. motocross generally requires its participants to begin competing at an early age when critical funda ment al skills and timi ng can be learned and developed. A youngster who begins to show promise is then placed into a progra m th at requires them to incessantly train and compete in an effort to deve lop their raw talent. It is a non-stop process. Constantly prepare and progress in hopes of one day making it to the top, which can payoff in the form of money, fame and adulation. Sounds fun and glamorous, doesn 't it? While standing in the frigid, windwhipped infield of the Daytona Internation a l Speedway, I cra ned m y neck to watch Team Yamaha 's Damon Bradshaw put an impressive pass on Team Kawasaki rider Da mon H uffman . I was stoked. Bradshaw was rid ing in that hard-charging, hold-on-and-pray riding style he was renowned for. Damo n was back and he was flying. . By now we have all heard the story of Damon Bradshaw . A kid from North Carolina w ho was b orn into the sport of motocross. He started riding when he was barely out of diapers, and racing shortly thereafter. He progressed quickly, and his family hit the road out of North Carolina to put his immense talen t to th e test. If Damon Bra dshaw was to be noticed, he ~ou ld have to do battle and excel at the major American National Cham pionsh ips, the AMA Loretta Lynn's Amateur National Cha m pionship and the Tex as GNC Internation al. He did . Dam on wo n race after race and people began to take notice. It wasn't long before the factory guys started to come around , offering support. In an effort to tout and pro mote their minicycle program, Yamaha gracefu lly supplie d the Bradshaw clan with bikes, parts, logistical support and mon ey, beginning a relationship that would ultimately last his entire career. Bradshaw was a comp lete "natural" and Yamaha knew it. He progressed qui ckly. After a stellar minicycle career, Bradshaw was bumped up to the rank -and-file 12Scc Interm ediate division. But that wo uld prove to be no problem either. He took to the bigger bikes immed iately and began to string together an impres sive list of yo u th titles. Th e dream of making it int o the fact ory big leagues would soon become reality. Years of co ns ta nt train in g, ri di ng and raci ng were about to payoff. Immediately after a striki n g p er formance at the 1988 AMA Loretta Lynn's Amateur National Championship, Bradshaw wasput on an airp lane and flown to Millville, Minnesota. He was going to compete in his first AMA pr ofessiona l motocross race - as a member of I Team Yamaha . Bradshaw impressed all in atten da nce th at afte rnoon by card ing a strong fourth-place finish (note: the event was w on by the la te Do nny Schmit). Dam on Brad sh aw ha d arrived. He had made it into the upper eche lons of the sport. It had all paid off. The time on the road, the missed boyhood experiences, the time invested and the money spen t were a thing of the past. Brads haw was drafted into the p rofessional leagues and was now looking at a six-figure salary and numerous endorsemen t dea ls. It was a trade-off: a normal childhood for fame and fortune. Damon was now the latest, "this year's model" in a historical progression of ultratalented kids that come along every few years in professional motocross. A rider tha t numerous insiders and enthusiasts were touting as the next Bob Hannah - a hard act to follow. Many felt there would be no stopping the kid from North Carolina - a kid who would soon feel the weight of an en tire motocross na tion upon his shoulders. After shaking down his new Yamahas in a number of Florida and California Winter Series events, Damon Bradshaw took to the 1989 AMA 125cc division in grand fa sh ion . In h is rookie year, Brad shaw would win the AMA 12Scc East Region Supercross Championshi p. In the high ly compe titive 12Scc National Cham pionship Series, Bradshaw woul d miss winnin g the cham pions hip by a mer e thr ee points to Hond a rid er Mi ke Kie drowski. By all acco unts it was a stunning rookie campaign. For the 1990 race season, Dam on Brad shaw was bumped up to the 250cc d ivi si on. Yamaha was th ro w in g their young rider into the deep end, and he was more than ready to swim with the sharks. Bradshaw stunned the collective motocross w orld by w innin g th e season-open ing Anaheim Supercross before 67,000 people. To back it up, he wo n the next week in Houston. After suffering a minor leg injury at the San Diego Superc ross, he wou ld bounce back to win in Pontiac, Charlotte and Los Angeles. The sky was the limit. His potential was boundless. In anoth er year of learning, Bradshaw would finish second in the 1991Supe rcross series to French legend Jean-Michel Bayle. Yamaha was be in g p at ient w it h th eir young star, preparing him for greatness. In 1992, Damon Bradsh aw was prepared to take control of American professional motocross. He had paid his dues, he knew the ins-and -outs of the sport, and he was hungry. Followin g the season-ope ning Orland o Supercross, Bradshaw would go on a tear, winning five events in a row an d ta king a commandi ng lead in the series point stan dings. Going into the season finale at the riot-battered Los Angeles Superc ross (w hich w as push ed b ack a month du e to the civil unres t in Los Ange- les), the championship was for Bradshaw to lose. A third-p lace finish wou ld give him the title. But it all went wrong. The coliseum race turned into a nightmare for Bradshaw. When the gate dropped, Bradshaw came ou t of the first tum towards the head of the field and was in a perfect position to charge to the front. He took a deep breath and set out to execute task at hand. However, nothing would go righ t. Brad shaw could no t get him self to calm down, missing his lines, missing shifts a nd exiting the track on more than one occasion. He was visibly stiff and nervous. Meanwhile, Team Ho nda 's Jeff Stan ton, who was second in the series poin ts, had checked ou t with the lead . As Bradshaw circulated the Los Ange les track, it was obvious that he was in trouble. Secondan d third-place ride rs Mike Kied rowski and Guy Cooper began to pull awa y, as _ Damon continued to struggle. Some 25,000 spectators starred on in stunned silence as the d rama played ou t before them . The championship was slip ping from his grasp. It was heartbr eaking. As the checkered flag flew, Jeff Stanton rolled beneath it, winning the 1992 AMA 250cc Su percross Championship by three points. The damage had been done. Bradshaw rolled back to the Yama ha pits and disappeared in to th e dark recesses of h is box van, stunned and speechless. The d ream had unraveled like the string on a baseball with the cover knocked off. During the off-season, Bradshaw signed the most lucrative contract in professional mo tocross history. Rumored to be worth over $450,000 a year, the agreement would link Brads haw and Yamaha togeth er into the late '90s. Everybody was happy. Bradshaw went into the 1993 se aso n as th e h eavy favori te to d omina te Ame rican mot ocross. However, even the best-laid plans can often go astray. From the drop of the gate at the seas on-o pening round in Orlando, Bradshaw was not up to spee d. Something was missing. His resul ts were incons is te n t and errati c. Th e fir e th at bu rned so brightl y in 1992 was gone. As the season wore on into the spring a nd summer months, the situation turned ugly. Brad shaw was "riding around," po sting on e mediocre result after another. It was quite evident that something was dr astically wrong. To make matters worse, some members of the press had found an axe to grind with Bradshaw, and attacked him in print demanding answers to his lackluster results. As the '93 season neared its conclusion, the tension, controversy and confusion surrounding Dam on Brad shaw was mind-boggling. Something had to give. Questions needed to be answered. On Sep tember 27, 1993, jus t after the Fast Cross Interna tiona l Motocross (held annually in Maggiora, Italy), Damon Bradshaw ann ounced to the motocross world that he was retiring from the spo rt. .The entire worldwide motocross community was shocked . No t only was he walking away from the most lucrative contract in motocross history, he was walking away from a sport to which he had de voted his entire life. What in the hell was going on? After spending nearly his entire life in preparation of a professional career in the sport of motocross, Damon Bradshaw was severely bu rned out. The no n-s top odyssey of rid ing, trainin g, racing an d travelin g had taken its toll on hi m. The constant bashing he was taking in the press probably did not help mat ters. He had enough and just wan ted to return to North Carol ina to decompress. It was n' t the money, it wasn't the fame, it wasn't the disappoin tment - it was burn-out . The same thi ng nu merous professional at hletes, forced to devote their en tire existence . to a sport an d live u nder a microscope, have had to ' face. He was gone and he wasn't coming back. It was a very sad day for the spo rt of motocross, One that forced a few peo ple to wake up and see what .these "kids" are put through. In the Spri ng of 1995, wo rd began to leak out that Bradshaw was contemplating a return to the sport. He had taken some time off and realized that he truly did miss th e sport . O n Su n day, Ma y 28, 1995, Damon Bradshaw returned to professional motocross at one of his favori te venues Mount Morris.Pennsyl van ia. Whil e the wind and rain wreaked havoc on the hillside circuit, an d Bradshaw pulled modest 8-40 mot o scores, he was back and th e 25,000 fans in attendance were very happy abou t it. While Bradsh aw went on to card some very respectable results thr oughout the summer of '95, it was percep tible that he still had some gro und to cover as far as his speed and stamina were concerned. He was not yet a threat to win anything, but the undeniable talen t and speed were still there. It was just a matter of time. When the two-lap signal went up at the 1996 Daytona Supercross, Brad shaw and highly touted supertalent Damon Huffman were still engaged in the bitter feud over second place. As the wind-chilled crowd roared in appreciation, the two-man du el went down to the last lap. Bradshaw nailed all of his lines, kept the throttle pinned to the stops and came away with the position. The crowd, included jaded "I've seen it all" insiders, cheered in ap preciation of Bradshaw's feat. It was quite apparen t that the "Beast from the ast" was back in form . Damon Bradshaw is good for the sport of motocross and he sent out a resounding warning shot at Daytona. He will be a serious threat in 1996. But no matter what happens, it is great to see him back - and enjoying himself. l~ 25 YEARS AGO... Oements took top 500cc Expert honors at the fourth annual Viewfinders GP at Ind ian Dunes in Sou thern California. Ralph and Ge orge Whitney led wire- to-wire in the Sidehack competition. both legs of thi s opening ro und of th e SOOcc World Champion sh ip Motocross Series... Kent Ho werton domi nated 250cc competition at rou nd three of the National Champio nship 12S/250cc Mot ocross Series in Whitney, Texas, a coupl e of days after receiving intraven ous an tibiotics for a serious bacterial infection. "Thank God, our docto r races motocross," said wife Jill Howerto n. "He understands it w as necessary for Kent to ride." resu lting from a first-hea t cras h . Stanton got back in the race, fell whe n his arm gave ou t, t ried to go ano the r lap an d finall y pulled out. Series points leader Jean -Mi ch el Bayle won Sa turd a y ' s main but lost to Damon Brads haw on Sund a y ... Geoff A a ro n h ad a go od weekend in Lucerne Valley, California. Aaron w on rou nd one of th e AM A /NATC N at ion al Ch ampionship Obs erved Tri als Series on Saturday and EI Tria l d e Espana XXI on Sunday... The cover of Cycle News heralded the reb irth of a historic British marque in the form of th e Triumph 1200 T rophy, a sports to u re r fea tu ring a 16-valve, fou r-cylinder 1180cc DOHC water-cooled powerplant. APRIL27,1971 ctor an d mot orsports en th usiast Steve McQ u een shared hi s views with Cycle News. On juvenile delinquency: "Take a 1S-year-old boy and if he wants to be competitive, let him com pete on a bike . If motorcycle manufacturers and the government w ould both donate some th in g, juvenile delinquen cy wou ld drop 75 percent." McQueen said th at motorcycl es w ere hi s secon d-favorite form of relaxation ... Jody Nicholas took his third consecu tive win at th e Ascot Half-Mile in Gard en a, Cali forni a, by no more than three inches. John Hately was second, andGrand National Champi on Ge n e Ro mero fin ished third ... Billy A 1 5YEARS AGO... APRIL 22,1981 ookin g beyond w innin g the KRW Sacram en to Mile, Alex Jorgensen aimed to be a renaissance man of the dirt. " I' m tryi ng to w in at least one Na tio na l in eac h ki n d of even t," Jorge ns en said, h avin g previously ta ke n half-mile and IT wins at Ascot... The hills w ere a live with th e sound o f 500cc eng ines as the Au stri an GP came to Sittend od. Andre Malherbe d om in a ted L 5YEARS AGO... APRIL 24, 1991 efen d ing Supercross Ch amp Jeff Stanton sat ou t most of rounds 10 an d 11 of th e se r ies in Pontia c, Mic higan, with a se para ted shou lder D ...... ..... l-< 0.. -< 63

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