Analysis: Can Eli Tomac bounces back at Arlington?

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Is the off-road space overreacting to the way in which Eli Tomac has performed across six rounds of 2024 Monster Energy Supercross? Perhaps, but that is indicative of the current landscape. The level’s raised to a point where weaknesses are exposed. There are seven riders who are capable of winning this title – the parity is unprecedented and that means that the smallest of errors are magnified.

Words | Lewis Phillips

The trials and tribulations that Tomac has faced have been well documented. In fact, it is important to just acknowledge that it is quite an achievement that he is on the start line. A ruptured achilles is horrid – the health problem is feared in all walks of life. Does this mean that the sport should celebrate his participation and avoid criticism? Tomac himself has said that the achilles is far ahead of schedule and not a hinderance. It seems like giving him a ‘free pass’ is the complete opposite of what he desires and would be considered an insult. It is business as usual in his mind.

It is so doubtful that his recent performances have sat well, based on that information, and pressure must be mounting as the seventh round of the current season beckons. 17 points is not a massive deficit – it’s significant when one considers that he is not the quickest of the title contenders though. In fact, he is not close to that. Detroit was an anomaly and arm pump was blamed. Glendale was a better indication of his current level and that race was not disastrous, but it was an anonymous performance with no real glimmer of hope.

Anaheim 2 was where the world witnessed what Tomac can do with a clear track. The final fixture at that Triple Crown was proof that he can still perform at his best – there are a lot of pundits who are quick to point to that whenever criticism surfaces. There was more than that one race at Anaheim 2, however, and what occurred before that triumph is most alarming. Tomac started outside of the top ten, was passed by Chase Sexton and was powerless to stop the advances of his competition. The best way to describe it is, similar to Glendale, he was just ‘out there’ and unable to do much.

Ignore the results, the riding in itself is a cause for alarm. There is no indication that he’s about to turn a corner. Perhaps the weekend off has helped him solve some problems and Arlington will be the true start to his season? The positive spin on this discussion point is that 17 points is not the end of the world, as mentioned above, so all is not lost. This just puts additional emphasis on this weekend’s race though. It’s weird to state that Tomac has to podium in Arlington, but that is required in order to maintain some sort of hold over his competitors.

Enough rounds have passed where there is now no doubt that his rivals do not fear him as much as years gone by. “I was learning how he flows and where the kink in the armor could be,” Jett Lawrence said when he recounted his battle with Tomac in Glendale. “It was cool to follow him. Obviously, nowadays he is not the exact same beast that he used to be. It is still Eli Tomac though and it was cool to follow him. I learned from him. I was looking forward to a battle, but I was able to get inside of him and put my head down. I built a safety net and gap.”

What will happen if Arlington is another subpar showing? The pressure will mount heading into Daytona, which will be a must win for him no matter what that championship picture is. If Tomac flounders on that infield then it will be impossible to escape criticism. It is ludicrous to even imagine that! Put simply, these next two weeks are do or die. Note that the halfway point is around the corner and it is clear ‘beast mode’ is needed now more than ever for a multitude of reasons.

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