Going Pro: No Two Paths Are The Same

Unless you have been sleeping under a rock like Patrick, you may have heard the news out of the West Coast that Ryder DiFrancesco will be making his pro debut at RedBud next weekend followed up by Millville after that. What does this mean for his Loretta Lynn’s plan? This isn’t a full time leap to the pro ranks yet, more of a test run to see where his speed and fitness are at and since the AMA introduced the 40 point rule a few years back, he can do that without the pressure of going straight to the pros.

The 40 point rule (such as I have named it) means you can race all of the Pro Motocross you would like but if you crest 40 points you are now a real pro motocross racer and no more amateur racing. 

While “Going Pro” is a path that has no direct route, for American motocross it typically means racing a year of “Pro Sport” or “A” class at Loretta Lynn’s to round out your amateur career then head to the next Pro Motocross race the weekend after to make your pro debut. It is a tale as old as time.

But with the latest batch of would be Loretta Lynn’s graduates all forgoing their senior season at the Ranch it has us wondering: Is this just another data point for the trend column or are teams not putting the pressure of the Ranch on the race programs like they used to?

This is not the first time we have seen kids get the call up for Pro Moto prior to competing for what would be their final Loretta Lynn’s event. Take Eli Tomac for instance. He grabbed titles in 250B and Schoolboy 2 in 2009 at Loretta’s, skipped all of Supercross, then showed up on the line at Hangtown in 2010 and waxed the field. He did however proceed to melt down at Freestone the following week and back then, we wondered if he would be the same (lol). 

Before Tomac, it was Justin Barcia who made the leap from the B class straight to the pro ranks in 2009. After that, Loretta Lynn’s phenom Adam Cianciarulo tried his go at skipping A and B classes in 2013 coming off a Supermini to race Budds Creek. 

Prior to Freestone this year, we heard some rumblings of Nick Romano forgoing his final Spring National season to prepare for the full Pro Motocross season. What we didn’t know was that joining Romano would be long time amateur standout Matt LeBlanc. LeBlanc was on a two race test run, similar to Ryder D, but earned his way onto the pro team full time leaving his amateur career behind thus forgoing their final year at The Ranch. 

I am a fan of this move, especially if you are “ready” for the big show. It allows the riders to get settled into their race pace and sort the bike out all summer before jumping into Supercross the following winter. If you are having this conversation with a team then you have already put in an amateur career worth of stellar (or less than) results so why wouldn’t you at least do what Matt LeBlanc did and give it a go. If it works out then stay up and the conversation is a wrap. If you still feel like that last LL title is everything or you need more time to sort the bike out then stay down. This day in age there is no wrong answer, just different answers for different people. 

Thankfully with SX Futures and every kid seemingly having a SX track at their disposal that transition isn’t as gnarly as it was in the past. There was nothing worse than watching kids go pro at Millville in August then watch them get carted off January during SX because they were not ready.

However it is ironic that Ryder DiFrancesco, someone who has been under the spotlight his entire life due to his success at Loretta Lynn’s, may be skipping his final year of the coveted race. Much like Adam Cianciarulo did. I guess on that note, the final two years of his LL career as he was there in 2020 for his Supermini run and now in 2022 for his A class run (potentially). For Mitch Payton and the PC squad, this is when they are able to see their investment turn to reality. 

Below we compiled a list of the last 16 years of 250 MX champions and which way they decided to enter the professional ranks. Broken down by final Loretta’s year and what class they last competed in. 

MX Title Final LL Year/Class 
2006-2008Ryan Villopoto2005 : A Class
2009Ryan Dungey2005 : B Class 
2010Trey Canard 2007 : A Class
2011Dean Wilson2009 : A Class
2012Blake Baggett 2009 : A Class 
2013Eli Tomac 2009 : B Class 
2014Jeremy Martin2011 : B Class 
2015Jeremy Martin2011 : B Class 
2016Cooper Webb2012 : B Class
2017Zach Osborne 2005 : B Class 
2018Aaron Plessinger 2014 : A Class 
2019Adam Cianciarulo 2012 : Supermini 
2020Dylan Ferrandis Never Raced
2021Jett Lawrence 2019 : A Class 

As you can see, the B class jump into the pro’s is not too uncommon. One thing I did find interesting is the gap from final LL year to their first outdoor title. For the A-Class graduates, it seems that their titles came a year or two sooner than the B-Class graduates.

Would you guys like to see another version of this but with the last 16 years of 250 A class/Horizon Award winners? Sound off below!

Written by Jeff Simpson

We met Jeff sleeping in a tent down the street from Loretta Lynn's... with his computer. At that point, we knew he would fit in with us. Then, he then drank all the white claw flavors none of us liked, and that's when we knew it was meant to be. Jeff officially became part of the crew.
We're terrible at asking questions, so we're not exactly sure what Jeff does for a living, but he loves petting his cats and dog, growing his beard, and living in a cornfield in Michigan. Jeff also likes to wear cycling glasses while driving his car and using his cameras. We like Jeff.

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