A perfect day at Hangtown

Stewart, Baggett and Rutledge win titles
By: Jim Stiles/Telegraph Correspondent
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Saturday was a perfect day. Perfect skies, perfect temperature and if you were at Prairie City OHV park watching the 44th annual Hangtown Motocross Classic you witnessed a pair of riders with perfect scores. The 450 class, the top tier of the sport, features top riders such as Ryan Dungey, Brett Metcalfe, Mike Alessi and, after 4 years away from the series and very little time with his new team and motorcycle, the return of James Stewart. In the first of the two motos, David Milsaps took the early lead with Stewart on his fender and Andrew Short in close third. As the pack thinned out through the first few turns, Stewart took over the lead and then settled into his groove. Stewart seemed oblivious to the battles raging behind him and eventually built up a 12-second lead before notching his first win of the 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series. For most of the race Metcalfe, Milsaps and Short would battle for second while Dungey and Alessi rode just behind them waiting to make their move. With just a few laps left Dungey slid into third, but Milsaps was able to protect his second place position to the finish. In the second moto, Alessi took the holeshot with Dungey and Stewart following. Alessi, opened up his lead on lap two while Dungey was busy keeping Stewart off his rear wheel. On the third lap Stewart hit the triple jump, moved inside of Dungey and they passed back and forth until Stewart was able to establish position. Soon afterwards both riders passed Alessi. With clear track in front of him and Dungey hot on his trail, Stewart did what he does best, found his rhythm and opened up a lead. To his credit, Dungey kept Stewart in sight and tried different lines through the heavily rutted track to gain some time, but in the end Stewart was just too perfect. Scoring for this sport is based on combined points from riders placing in the two motos and for the 450 class the top-three overall were Stewart , Dungey and Alessi , who was celebrating his birthday today. After the race a visibly surprised and elated Stewart said, ?This was definitely unexpected, but it?s nice. This was the roughest track I?ve raced on and I was trying to get used to how the bike felt. Overall this felt really good.? The 250 class features smaller, lighter more maneuverable bikes and the throaty growl of the 450s is replaced by the high-performance pitch reminiscent of Indy cars. This class is exciting as riders tend to battle handlebar-to-handlebar even through the curves. In this melee, three riders dominated the day. In the first moto Justin Barcia took the lead followed by Ken Roczen and Ivan Tedesco. Within a few laps Tedesco faded back and Eli Tomac and Blake Baggett began their battle for third. Barcia and Roczen stayed tight while opening up a lead on the rest of the pack, while Baggett and Tomac held off challenges from five other riders. In the last few laps, Baggett took firm control of third and closed the gap on the leaders then late in the last lap got around Barcia and seconds before the finish passed Roczen for the win. The second moto started out with a pileup in the first turn that put Tomac in last place once he got going again. Barcia led again but this time it was Baggett in second with Marvin Musquin and Roczen trailing. Midway through the race Baggett passed Barcia and Roczen slid into third position. Baggett stayed on the throttle to treat the capacity crowd to another perfect double first winner and overall title. Barcia and Roczen placed second and third respectively in both the moto and overall. In the first moto of the women's class last year?s series winner, Ashley Fiolek, took the early lead but spent the first few laps trading off with contender Jessica Patterson. Eventually they would finish the same way they did in the overall 2011 series with Fiolek first, then Patterson, followed by Tarah Gieger in third. The second moto looked like it was about to be a repeat of the first with Patterson leading Fiolek, followed by Meghan Rutledge and Gieger. In the second lap, Fiolek went down in the steep uphill turn 18. Patterson led Rutledge for two laps before she lost traction on a tight turn and went down briefly. The jolt was enough for Rutledge and Gieger to get around her. Patterson was back aboard instantly and later in the race passed Gieger and challenged for the lead. Rutledge, an Australian, held off the attacks and put away her first series win with Patterson in second and Gieger in third. Overall winners were Patterson, Fiolek and Gieger. Local rider Alexah Pearson from Sacramento placed 14th overall.