Notice that this column now has a sponsor? That’s right! Troy Dog joined the Blu Cru and you should too! I have one in my garage right now and I can’t wait to go shred it! Thank you to Yamaha for believing in my ELITE columns on this dirt bike website enough to sponsor me. What a dream come true! BTW: Have you seen the all-new YZ450F? OH. MY. GOODNESS. I can’t wait to test that bad boy.
Does Deegan make the list of most hyped debuts? Spoiler alert: yes, he does. I personally went through the MOST hyped amauteur racers turning pro in this sport and have ranked them in the order that I FEEL is the order they should be ranked in history. I weighted this list on the hype of the riders coming out of Loretta’s (although Cianciarulo and Stew didn’t make their debuts until the following year after their last Loretta’s, which kind of made them more hyped in the long run). You definitely can feel free to disagree with my list, I mean, this is T-DOG’S takes after all.
5.) Haiden Deegan
I can’t believe I’m doing this right now, but yes I do believe Deegan makes this list of most hyped amatuer riders of all-time. We’re in a new age of social media and online hype that no one else on this list even had to deal with. Could you imagine if Alessi had Instagram or a YouTube channel as an amatuer? I believe Deegs makes this list because of his 1.1 million followers on Instagram as well as another 1.1 million on YouTube. He has almost a cult-like following that follows him everywhere and no message board or chatroom is safe. The Loretta’s live chat will forever have someone asking, “What time does Danger Boy race?” Even when he’s not racing. To put this in perspective, Jeremy McGrath, Eli Tomac, Adam Cianciarulo, Jett Lawrence, Ricky Carmichael, ect. do NOT have 1 million followers on IG. Ken Roczen has 1.5 million and Deegan is right on the trail. Even without #claimgate at Loretta’s, this debut is massive. Everybody’s eyes will be on this 16-year-old this weekend, which is just insane to me. Also, he will race Ryder D at Ironman. It’s time!
4.) Ricky Carmichael
Carmichael had such a stellar amateur career that even I’m surprised that I’m ranking him fourth on this list. He graduated from Loretta Lynn’s with 9 championships (added number 10 in 2012) and millions of other amatuer titles to his resume. RC was one of the first amatuer riders I remember seeing inside Motocross Action and Cycle News, which were really the only moto monthly publications back in the day. He went to the finale at Steel City in 1996 and finished eighth overall on his Team Green #768 KX125. Times have definitely changed because nowadays Ricky would have been treated to a factory team with the semi and the media all over him. We all know what happened next.
3.) James Stewart
The hype behind Stew’s pro debut was big and I almost put him at number two on this list. He’s the only rider on this list to make the jump directly to Supercross for his pro debut. James put the finishing touches on an all-time amatuer career with his (then record) 10th and 11th Loretta’s titles in 125 Modified (12-15) and 125 A. In his debut Supercross race he finished second to Travis Preston. That 2002 season spelled out what the rest of Stew’s career would look like, he would either win or crash. Stew went on to elevate the sport and forever change the way that people raced dirt bikes.
2.) Adam Cianciarulo
AC was the most dominant minicycle racer that the sport has ever seen. He racked up 11 championships at the Ranch to tie James Stewart and Mike Alessi in most championships at Loretta’s. However, Cianciarulo finished his amateur career differently. He won all his championships on mini bikes and never raced the event after he left the Ranch in 2012. Leaving some big bike titles on the table. AC was supposed to turn pro at Hangtown in 2013, but ended up with a case of Salmonella instead. He had to wait until Budds Creek, which at that time was only the fifth round in the series. At Budds, AC finished 14-17 for 16th overall, which isn’t bad considering he lost 15 pounds in weight and strength from the Salmonella.
1.) Mike Alessi
The most hyped pro debut in motocross history belongs to #800. After Mike wrapped up his record tying 11th title at Loretta Lynn’s in August of 2004, the Alessi family set their sights on Millville and the 450 class. The Alessi camp was set up with the now infamous “Believe the Hype” t-shirts that had a target on the back. The shirt as well as the comments that Alessi was saying in interviews didn’t sit right with the established players in the 450 class. A rough two motos filled with crashes saw him finish both motos out of the top 25 and 30th overall on the day. Alessi did bounce back at Steel City the following week and landed on the 450 podium with a 5-4 day behind Carmichael (1-1) and Windham (2-3).
Main image: Yamaha