[Features]

The Need for Reed!

1 month ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: Steve Cox, Ryne Swanburg, Cudby

Go on. Tell us you didn’t entertain the idea that Chad Reed was actually going to win that crazy season finale at Las Vegas last weekend. On lap 14, with the top six riders split by just 3 seconds, Reed was the fastest guy on the track and looked as smooth as silk on that Sin City bluegroove. Sure, the duelling Tomac and Dungey had backed the field up, but when Reedy jammed a big don’t-argue on Jason Anderson to move into third, it seemed like the 35-year-old Aussie might just be on track for his 45th career win in the premiere class, and all the record-breaking accolades that come with it. As we noted a few rounds back, it had been two long years since Reed stood on the top step of the box, and that stat alone made the spectre of a Reed win in Vegas all the more significant.
Sadly, Jason Anderson’s next-corner retaliation put Reed off the track and out of contention for a Vegas podium, and the Husqvarnva rider went on to claim his first win of the season – a result he inherited from the Dungey-Tomac high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse for the title. But if the bench racing at your Las Vegas Supercross ‘afterparty’ was anything like ours, much of the post-race talk turned to Reed. Did he have another win in him? Why did he seem to run so hot and cold this season? What’s going on with his Yamaha deal for next year? Will he get a deal? And could the 2017 AUS-X Open this November be Chad Reed’s last ever supercross race?

Of course, Reed is way too media-savvy to buy into any of this speculation for now. So in the meantime, we thought we’d turn back the clock and reflect on a few of Reed’s most memorable wins – the ones that came from the clouds, or against all the odds; the ones that offer an insight into the intensity of the self-belief and competitive spirit that burns inside Chad Reed. No doubt Reedy will also be reflecting on these landmark wins and drawing strength from them as he heads into what’s likely to be his most challenging contact negotiations of his illustrious career.

What follows is an excerpt from Andy Wigan’s Editorial that ran in the March 2014 issue (#41) of Transmoto’s printed magazine…

***

Reed Reinvented

Call me parochial, or accuse me of gushing. But I’m a Chad Reed fan. Always have been. It’s not so much that I envy his ability and copybook style on a motorcycle; it’s the fact I admire his determination, his knack for turning adversity around, and his uncanny ability to reinvent himself. On his journey from an illiterate 16-year-old to Aussie champ, to vice World Motocross Champion, to multiple AMA MX/SX title-winner, to shrewd businessman, to race team owner, to the most prolific podium-placegetter in the sport’s history, the mercurial Chad Reed is a constantly moving target. And even at the ripe ‘old’ age of 31, he’s somehow managed to come back from a disastrous, injury-riddled season to prove that he’s still an AMA SX title contender amid a field that’s arguably the deepest on record.

All of which got me thinking about the past 15 years I’ve watched Reedy race, and my standout memories of the bloke. Of course, there are the obvious ones – his first GP win in Europe in 2001; that historic moto win at Namur in the 2001 MXoN; his winning AMA debut at Indianapolis in 2002; the premier-class AMA SX titles in 2004 and ’08; his come-from-the-clouds AMA MX title in 2009; and those memorable battles with Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart. But the stuff that really stands out in my mind is less obvious. It’s the small things I’ve witnessed that offer an insight into the intensity of the self-belief and competitive spirit that burns inside Chad Reed. Here are just a few of those memories…

In 2008, Chad Reed returned to Australia to race the opening round of the Australasian SuperX – the series he’d partnered up with Global Action Sports to create. Back on a Suzuki for the first time since his 1999 Australian 250cc SX title, Reed was on fire that night in Perth. But he wasn’t just fast. He was smart-fast. He saw things on the track that no one else did – in particular, a huge, technical triple out of a very tight turn. The triple set him up to get through a rhythm section much quicker than everyone else, and it was worth more than a second per lap. As a result, he brained the field in Perth. But, contrary to what many think, Reed’s ability to make that triple wasn’t due to his factory engine and tyres. He’d actually identified how pivotal that section of the track was during afternoon qualifying, and found a way to ‘modify’ the turn prior to the jump to improve its run-up. On each successive lap of qualifying, he’d run right up alongside the tuffblock and use his turned-out ankle to deftly nudge it wider – literally an inch at a time. He did it so subtly that no one noticed. I did, because I happened to be standing on that corner at the time. When he finally relocated the tuffblock enough to try the triple, he hit it. It was poetry in motion; the sort of jump your mind can’t accept is possible. But Reedy only did it twice in practice. He didn’t want to give the game away. Come race-time, however, he nailed it lap after lap, posting lap times that made everyone look silly. That night not only marked the first of three consecutive SuperX titles for Reed; it also laid the foundations for the epic and heated battle with James Stewart during the 2009 AMA SX title chase.

“It’s the small things I’ve witnessed that offer an insight into the intensity of the self-belief and competitive spirit that burns inside Chad Reed.”

A couple of years later, Chad rocked up at the opening round of the 2010 SuperX on a Vodafone-backed Honda. He’d come off the back of a terrible AMA season; when he’d parted company with Kawasaki, suffered from Epstein-Barr virus and lost his good friend, Andrew McFarlane. But in front of his hometown Newcastle crowd, Reed looked better on a bike than he ever had. By winning that race with such an aura of confidence, Reed proved to himself that he still loved the sport and still had what it took to win. And he spoke at length on the podium that night about the fire in his belly and the desire to prove people wrong. Chad is now the first to admit that Newcastle performance in late 2010 was the catalyst behind starting his own race team; to go racing the way he wanted to go racing.

Midway through the 2012 AMA SX series, Reed was on a roll. He narrowly trailed reigning champ, Ryan Villopoto, in the standings, but started to look like he had RV’s measure. And at the Dallas round, where Reed and RV were on another level, Reedy looked like he was running the hectic pace much easier than Villopoto. But, just as he was poised to put a pass on RV, Reed’s front-end dropped through a rhythm section and he had that huge ragdoll crash. With busted vertebrae, knee and ribs, Reed’s season was over. For most Aussies, the 2012 series completely lost its lustre. We were all left to ponder what might have been if Reed had gone on to win that Dallas round, because even RV acknowledged that he’d begun to ride way over his head to keep Reed at bay. It’s now apparent that the injuries from that crash didn’t just affect Chad for the remainder of 2012. They completely derailed his 2013 season, too.

Just as we went to print with this issue, Chad Reed surprised everybody – except himself – by winning Anaheim 2, the third round of the 2014 AMA SX series. It was Reed’s 42nd premier-class victory – the first in 22 starts, and a record-equalling eighth win at Angel Stadium. But the significance of Reed’s A2 performance wasn’t simply that he broke his winless streak. It was how he got the win, and its significance in the big picture of his career. Riding well within himself, Reed methodically moved his way forward from sixth. He took the lead with a couple of laps to go and went on to take what Chad said was the most emotional win of his career. Again, he’d proved to himself – and to all those in the industry who’d turned their back on him – that he wasn’t just some delusional champ past his prime.


This content was originally published in Transmoto’s print magazine in March, 2014 (Issue #41).

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