Both Tomac and Cooper showed strength in their respective qualifying races on Saturday, with the Coloradan charging through to a second-place finish in the MXGP class and Cooper dominating the MX2 race. Then came the rain and all bets were off as riders were met with challenging conditions on race day. Tomac struck first with a decisive victory in the first moto, which also marked the first of his career at the iconic event. Cooper had a solid finish in that first moto, finishing ninth, and then scored an important fourth-place finish in the second moto to help put the team in a good position. In the final moto, Tomac overcame adversity to finish sixth and secure second overall in the MXGP class. It was a long-awaited return to the top for Team USA, which marked the team’s 23rd victory in 39 appearances, bolstering their position as the winningest team in the event’s history.
“It was a massive deal for us,” Tomac said. “I’m just proud of everyone’s effort, period. Chase (Sexton), Justin, we all put in our great motos and did it in conditions that I felt would be an equalizer, but we still made it happen. It’s also just special for Team USA to do it here. There’s no place like RedBud, and there’s no race like the Motocross of Nations. It’s just been a totally awesome weekend.”
His teammate, Cooper on the Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing YZ250F, echoed his thoughts about the challenge at hand with a mudder on Sunday.
“There was a lot of pressure on us (Team USA) this weekend, and to prevail in these conditions is pretty special for us,” Cooper said. “Mud’s a great equalizer. You don’t really know what’s going to happen, especially with me against the 450s. The mud really robs the power from the 250, so to be able to run with those guys and put in a fourth-place finish was really important for me and, of course, the team.”
The Team USA win adds to Tomac’s momentous season, which saw him win his second career 450SX Championship, his fourth 450MX title, and his first ESPY Award in the Best Athlete, Men’s Action Sports Category. In doing so he became the only rider to achieve all four accomplishments in a single year. While 2022 was an absolute dream year for Tomac, the multi-time champion has numerous achievements thus far in his storied career. So where does this Team USA win rank for him personally?
“It's high on the list,” Tomac said. “It’s hard to put a number on any of these achievements. It’s in its own place. There’s no crowd like this event and the wins just feel different because winning as a team feels different than winning as an individual, so it’s just a different feeling. A good feeling.”
As for Cooper, 2022 has been a roller coaster ride with a rough start to the year that saw the 2021 250SX West Champion sidelined before the supercross season started and unable to defend his crown. The New Yorker put in the work to get back to full fitness and was finally able to get back on a bike in mid-April to start preparations for the Pro Motocross season. However, it was still a long road back with some additional setbacks with an illness during the physically demanding outdoor season. Undeterred, Cooper took home a pair of wins and found his stride towards the end of the season to earn a spot on Team USA. He further made his ascent back to the top at RedBud last weekend, with a standout performance in qualifying and the overall win in the MX2 class with a 9-4 score.
“I really wanted some redemption from 2019,” Cooper explained. “So to put in two solid rides, be the best 250 rider, and give my team the best chance to win was important to me. It’s been 11 years since the last win, so to be on top of my class and be a part of that winning team that ended the drought is really special to me. It’s got to rank right up there with my Supercross Championship.”