Pro motocross points leader Ryan Dungey heads the list of riders announced by the American Motorcyclist Association for the U.S. team that will compete at the FIM Motocross of Nations on Sept. 30 in Lommel, Belgium.
The 2012 team will include Red Bull/KTM's Dungey, Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Blake Baggett and GEICO Honda's Justin Barcia. Roger DeCoster will once again manage the team in its hunt for a 23rd Motocross of Nations Championship.
The announcement comes more than a month after the period when the team is usually chosen. DeCoster may have been waiting for the status of four-time winning Team USA member Ryan Villopoto who returned to riding in late July after knee surgery in April. Villopoto never publicly declined but at the Red Bull Amateur National Championships on Aug. 4 he told Cycle News: "I probably could be ready for it, but what could I gain from it? But I could lose a lot. I will most likely not do it but will instead wait for the Monster Cup."
Dungey, current points leader of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship in the 450 class will lead Team USA for the fourth consecutive year in the premier MX1 division. Baggett, current 250 class points leader will ride MX2 as he did in France one year ago. Barcia is the team's only rookie and, while he's a 250 class rider and currently second to Baggett, will jump to the 450 in MX3.
"This is a great team," said DeCoster, who has managed nearly every U.S. team since 1981. "They have proven that they are solid riders, especially in the sand, and the Lommel track is a very deep sand track."
Lommel, deeper and rougher than the Southwick national on the Lucas Oil circuit is the same track where USA won its first Motocross of Nations title in 1981.
"That first team [of Donnie Hansen, Danny LaPorte, Johnny O'Mara and Chuck Sun] was one of the youngest in history, and we are returning with another extremely young team," DeCoster said. "Being on the same track where we won the first time makes it very special."
Team USA will be looking to extend their event win streak to eight, going back to 2005 in France. Overall, Team USA hopes for victory No. 23. Dungey has raced the previous three events on a Suzuki RM-Z 450. Now on a KTM, this will mark the first time that the Austrian brand has appeared on Team USA.
Although he's making a jump in bike size, it won't be Barcia's first time in a major race on a 450. He competed in the final four races of the 2011 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a 450 and scored three podium finishes, including a moto win in the sand at Southwick.
"It's a little bit shocking, really. It's awesome," Barcia said of being chosen over full-time 450 riders such as Mike Alessi and Andrew Short. "I practice on the 450 a lot, and I ride the sand really well. I've matured a lot in the past year, and I'm ready."
The Motocross of Nations finals features teams from 20 countries with each rider competing in two heats for a combined score to determine the overall championship-winning nation. The event emerged in post-war Europe in 1947 and has run uninterrupted since.
With 22 wins the United States is the all-time leader in the Motocross of Nations. Great Britain is second with 16.