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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

AMA Outdoor Nationals: 125cc Preview

The SX season is almost over, and the clock is ticking down towards the first National at Hangtown May 22. With the 125cc SX Championship already decided on both coasts, the riders are turning their attention to the outdoors. Now that James Stewart has moved up to the 250cc class, the 125cc championship is wide open and there are a lot of contenders in the ring, any one of whom could land the right combo for a knockout (or a championship).

Let’s start with the newly-crowned 125cc SX champs. Grant Langston (Kawasaki) has to be the safe prediction for the 2005 125cc Outdoor title. A former World champion as well as a former 125cc Outdoor champion, Grant has the edge in experience over most of the younger riders in the class. Having just won the 125cc East Coast SX championship, Langston’s confidence will be high as he steps into the outdoor arena.

West Coast 125cc champion Ivan Tedesco (Kawasaki) should be in the mix as well, despite being known as something of a Supercross specialist. Tedesco may have earned back-to-back 125cc West titles, but he is fast outdoors as well, having finished on the Alessi to be in podium (moto, not overall) three times in the 2004 125cc Outdoor season. We don’t expect Tedesco to win the Outdoor title this year, but we are sure to see him on the podium during the season.

There are other riders who can contend for podium finishes, but who probably won’t be in the running for the title: Nate Ramsey (KTM), Josh Hansen (KTM), Billy Laninovich (Honda), and Josh Grant (Honda) all fall into this category. All but Grant have won SX races this season (Grant’s best finish was second), and may be able to win again outdoors. In the end, however, we don’t feel they will be consistently faster than Langston or our other championship contender.

Who is that other contender? We feel that Grant Langston’s strongest challenger will be young Broc Hepler (Suzuki). The 2004 AMA Motocross/Supercross Rookie of the Year was second (behind James Stewart) in both the 125cc East championship and the 125cc Outdoor Championship last year, earning six overall podiums outdoors. Not only is Hepler one of the fastest in the class, he has also shown more consistency than many of his competitors – in the 2004 Outdoor series, he only had 4 finishes outside the top 5 (out of 12 rounds), and only one outside the top ten. Now that Stewart has moved up, Hepler has to be eager to show that he can take race wins and earn his own #1 plate.

Hepler’s Suzuki team-mate Davi Millsaps has the speed to equal any rider in the class, but in 2004 he was extremely inconsistent outdoors. However, Millsaps seems to have reversed this trend somewhat on his way to a third-place finish in this year’s 125cc East championship, and if he carries this momentum into the outdoors he will certainly be dicing with the lead pack at most races.

While we’re talking about fast, young riders, we can’t forget Mike Alessi (KTM). Alessi has yet to race against most of the other racers in this class (at least since turning pro), making it difficult to predict how he will compare. We do know that his third-overall finish in the 250cc class at the 2004 Steel City national shows that he has the speed and endurance to compete outdoors. We expect Alessi to be in the top five fairly consistently, and to have at least some finishes on the podium.

One rider that should never be counted out is Ryan Hughes (Honda). The veteran Southern California racer has twice been a runner-up for the 125cc Outdoor title, and in 2005 he will compete outdoors aboard a privateer Honda CRF250R. Hughes showed that he still has the speed to run with the young guns when he handily beat Josh Grant in the Open Pro class at last weekend’s World Four-Stroke Championships.

Finally, the dark horse. Stephane Roncada (Kawasaki) sat out the supercross season while recovering from some serious health problems stemming from a persistent back injury. Roncada is preparing for the outdoors, however, and in fact we spotted him on Southern California’s 15 freeway early this morning with his practice bike in the truck, undoubtedly on his way to the track. When he is healthy and on his game, Roncada should be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, riders in the 125cc class. Who can forget his battle with James Stewart at Hangtown in 2004, probably the only time all year that Stewart was seriously challenged? We’re sure the rest of the class remembers, and we’re equally sure that they’re hoping Roncada won’t show that kind of speed this year. We hope he will.

In the end, we have to predict that the championship battle will be fought primarily between Grant Langston and Broc Hepler, but that every moto will see a large mix of riders running near the front.

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