In recent years, Chad Reed has experienced the highs and lows of professional racing; he has been at the top of his game, and hit rock bottom, too. Following an awful season in 2013, we all questioned whether the feisty Australian would be able to contend for victories this year. After all, he has had a great career – who would have blamed him for backing it down and collecting top-ten finishes?
However, Chad Reed is only interested in being the best that he can be, evidently. So, at the beginning of the off-season, he set out to improve a few aspects of his program; his bike and fitness were two of the things that needed to be dramatically changed. It was very surprising to hear Chad state that he was out of shape all of last year; as a veteran, you would presume that he knows exactly what is needed in order to succeed. However, for whatever reason, he just did not put in the work off of the bike prior to the 2013 season.
Chad has always been an independent person, especially in recent years. However, following the disappointment that he experienced last year, Reed elected to hire a trainer for the 2014 season, which was seemingly a positive move. The Discount Tire Racing pilot has been one of the strongest riders at the end of the main event thus far this year – Anaheim 2 was a perfect example of this!
Surprisingly, he has really gelled with the new Kawasaki 450f, which no one expected. At the beginning of the off-season, Chad tried every bike that was available to him, before deciding to move forward with Kawasaki. When Reed was last on a green bike, back in 2010, he had a poor relationship with the staff, and hated the bike. Obviously, Reed is more comfortable on the new model, which really is a testament to how much Kawasaki has improved their bikes. If there is one thing that we have learnt about the Australian in the past, it is that he is at his best when he is happy – he seems to be in that place right now.
Of course, it all comes down to speed at the end of the day, and most people were not sure that Chad Reed was going to have that. Chad is not always the quickest rider, hence why he is rarely at the top of the charts during the daytime practice sessions. However, whilst most choose to write him off before the night show, he does produce the goods when the points are on the line, more often than not.
When Chad finished third at the first round of the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross series, a lot of people believed that it was going to be his only podium this year. It seemed most fans were saying: “it is good for the old guy to get one more podium.” Funnily enough, this is the same thing that most were thinking following the Oakland supercross in 2011. However, we all know what transpired following that race; Reed went on to win some more races, and he challenged for more titles. I am certain that very few people expected him to go on and win two rounds later, especially after his ride in Phoenix.
Chad Reed has not had a lot of success at Chase Field (Phoenix) in the past. In fact, Reed has not won at the venue in his career; he seemingly does not gel with the slick Arizona dirt. The ninth was still quite disappointing in comparison to what we have come to expect from him. During his career, a lot of people have jumped on and off of his bandwagon, which is exactly what has happened after each round this year. Following Phoenix, a lot of people lost belief, again, but they were left red-faced just seven days later.
At Anaheim 2, Chad clinched an unlikely main event win, surprisingly. Reed did not seem like the fastest guy during the day, but he stepped it up in the 450SX main event; he got stronger as the race wore on. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he started making passes, and closing on the leaders. The Australian was seemingly quicker than the rest of the field on two specific parts of the track: the whoops and the tabletop section after the first whoops section. Throughout his career, Chad has always been strong in the whoops, so his speed there was not surprising at all.
However, I was shocked at how quickly he managed to find his way around riders like James Stewart and Ken Roczen. When Chad and James were the class of the field back in 2009, the Australian rarely passed Stewart straight up. So, it was very impressive to see him catch and pass his former rival with relative easy – it goes to show how comfortable he was. Chad said that he was really struggling in the section that he passed James in. But, he clearly managed to figure it out, as it looked sped up when he made the pass for the lead; I was speechless!
It is amazing how popular his win was – riders and fans around the world have congratulated Reed, and stated that he is an inspiration to them. Reed has overcome a lot in his career, but rebounding from last year may have been his toughest challenge yet. Obviously the fact that he chose to stick by his own team made his triumph even more special. He could have abandoned his guys and filled a spot beneath the RCH Suzuki awning, and collected millions of dollars in the process. But, he elected to stick by the project that he started, and see it through, despite the stress and worry that comes with that. Honestly, I think many others would have walked away.
So, now, the question that everyone is asking is, can Chad Reed challenge for the title? Well, to be honest, I do not know. If he comes out in Oakland and runs the pace of the leaders yet again, my opinion will change completely. Of course, consistency will be his greatest tool, as it has been for a lot of his career. In fact, he is quite similar to Ryan Dungey. When Chad was fighting with Ricky Carmichael and Stewart for the title a handful of years ago, he did not win the most races, but he was always there in the end because of his consistency. This could be even more valuable this year, with the high level of parity in the premier 450SX class.
In the coming weeks, a lot of fans will be watching Chad Reed closely to see if he can repeat his success. I bet that a large majority of those people want to see the Australian on the box consistently. After all, everyone loves an underdog, and Chad has filled that role perfectly.
Words: Lewis Phillips
Image: James Lissimore