A wrong tyre selection was enough for Brad Baker's hopes of victory in the fourth running of the Superprestigio to unravel, as the American Flat Track star could do no better than third in Saturday's Superfinal.
Baker had won the event on two previous occasions, and came into the 2016 edition in red-hot form, after triumphing in the 'Open' category by virtue of two wins and a second in the final heats.
A career racing on the dirt has given the 23-year old the ability to analyse the make up of a track, and the required bike set-up for it. Baker had noted the abrasive surface through the day, and felt running a used tyre could affect him in the 16-lap Superfinal. Ultimately it was the wrong choice.
“The main reason is the team and I made a bad tyre choice," said Baker. "The tyre choice was crucial today because the surface was very abrasive and these tyres are very soft, they wear very quick.
“It was a decision to see whether you go with the worn tyre or to go with the new tyre. I hadn't really ridden with a new tyre all day long and with the 16 laps I was going to need a lot of rubber and for it to last until the end.
“It was a bad decision. The tyre that I should have gone with should have had some heat cycles on it. It gets worn in and it stops wearing as fast. You think when the track is so smooth you need a lower profile tyre, like a slick. Marc and his team did very well making the tyre decision.
“They went with one that was more than half way worn out but it had plenty of heat cycles on it and there was less rubber to move around and less rubber to make the tyre softer. So I put the new tyre on and it was only two laps in and I knew the race was done.
“I knew that I could no longer push, could no longer hold my rhythm and basically went into protect mode, thinking, 'I have to stay on the podium'. As a racer that's very disappointing and it's the last thing you want, being in your mind that you can't go any faster and the race is already lost as the set-up you have isn't allowing you to perform to your best. It's unfortunate.”
While clearly disappointed with the result, Baker was philosophical in defeat, knowing that a late decision on which tyre to run aided his quest for victory a year ago. What's more, the recent defeat left him hungry to come back to Europe again in 2017.
“Basically I got outsmarted this year. I believe I outsmarted them with my tyre choice [in 2015]. Marc went with a brand new tyre. I actually bought a tyre off my next-door neighbour in the paddock, one that was a quarter of the way to half way worn out, and it worked perfect.
“This year I decided to go with a new one and it was a bad decision. It is what it is man. It was good for the show and it was good for the story. It's game on for next year, basically.
“Now that Marc beat me it creates a story to come back and push harder. I've always thought that the wolf climbing the hill is always hungrier than the wolf at the top. Now I'm at the bottom, he's at the top. I'm the one chasing him, rather than him chasing me. That gives me extra motivation to come back harder next year.”