How tough are motocross riders? We now know Ryan Dungey finished second overall at Thunder Valley with a cracked vertebrae.
The reigning Supercross and motocross champion will miss at least six weeks while he heals up. That ends a long stretch of injury-free dominance in the sport, and while the setback to his title defense is a disappointment to Dungey and the KTM team, it's impossible not to let the mind ponder for a minute just how much incredibly worse it could have been.
According to a KTM news release, Dungey cracked his C6 vertebrae in a crash on the opening lap of the second moto. He then got up, in 19th place, and fought through the field to finish fourth in the moto, giving him a second-place overall finish.
“At the time, we didn’t know about his injury and we were so proud of the way he raced that second moto in Colorado, coming from 19th place all the way to almost finish on the podium,” said Team Manager Roger DeCoster. “But to now know that he accomplished that battling through the pain of a cracked vertebrae shows what an unbelievably tough champion rider he really is.”
The C6 vertebrae is located at the base of the neck. Even a mild injury there can cause specific problems with control of the forearms and wrists — pretty critical for a motorcycle racer. Even worse, of course, severe damage to the spinal cord in the C6 area could have left him mostly paralyzed, perhaps with full use of his arms, but maybe with partial use. That's how fast you can go from dominant success to game over in the brutal sport of motocross.
It's been a week of tough losses in motorcycle racing, from Barcelona to Baja to the Isle of Man. It has also been a week of amazing sights, from Valentino Rossi proving he still has that incredible desire to win to Michael Dunlop breaking the 17-minute barrier on the Mountain Course. Highs and lows. That's what the sport gives us.
Fortunately, Ryan Dungey will heal up and won't join that list of lows.