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Rider Profile: Trey Canard -- What's his ceiling?

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While Trey Canard made several Loretta Lynn’s finals in his amateur years, his first notable result was in 2004, in his age 14 season, where he finished 2nd overall in the Mini Sr. class.  You can see from his % Overall graph that Canard didn’t really stand out, compared to the average rider, until that age-14 season.  He followed that up two years later by winning the 125 and 250 B classes, then the year after that by winning the 125 and 250 A classes.  At just short of 17 years old, he then entered the final 4 races in the pro MX Lites season, finishing in an average position of 8.5.

While Trey Canard’s amateur run from age 14 through 17 was remarkable, his first Pro Supercross season was even more amazing.  Entering the 2008 250SX East competition, he won his first 3 races, beating Ryan Villopoto, no less.  Canard slipped a bit as the season went on, but he capped off the season with a win in the final race at St. Louis and managed to win the 250SX East championship.

So in a few years, Canard had won several Loretta Lynn’s championships and a SX Lites title -- just how high was this young rider's ceiling?  Trey Canard was just over 17.5 years old going into the 2008 outdoor motocross Lites season, and following up on his Supercross championship would be a tall order.  Instead of improving on his 2007 MX results, in 2008 he finished slightly worse, on average:

His average finish position dropped from 8.5 to 11.6 and his average finish % dropped from 21% to 29%.  (As we now know and as you can see in the above chart, he would rebound in 2009 and 2010 for his MX Lites results.)  In 2009, Canard went on to the 250SX West season, but he couldn’t repeat his success from 2008, finishing 6th and able to record only one 1st-place finish for the season.  If we’re looking at his track record so far and trying to judge his ceiling, we can compare Canard to the riders he finished behind in that 2009 250SX season: Jake Weimer, Ryan Morais, Justin Brayton, and Chris Blose (I’m excluding Ryan Dungey).

You can build your own comparison
here. Looking at that comparison by age, I think it’s clear that Canard is on a different level than those guys.  Virtually all of Canard’s seasons through age 19 (Canard was 18.5 years old during the 2009 SX season) have been better than any one of the guys who finished ahead of him in the 2009 250SX season.  Based on this, we’d expect Canard to improve in the coming seasons as he reverts back toward the talent that had been apparent up through his age 19 season.

In the ensuing 2009 250MX season, he was off to a good start, improving his average finish to 5.0 (and 12.5%), but after 4 races he broke his wrist and ended his season.  Recovered from the injury, in 2010, Canard’s 250SX West season showed a return to form, as he finished 3rd overall, turning in 2 1st-place finishes.  And in the 2010 MX Lites season, Canard notched 5 1st-place finishes, and managed to win the title outright with a little help from a minor injury to Christophe Pourcel in the season's final race.

In 5 years, Trey Canard had won B-class titles at Loretta’s, A-class titles at Loretta’s, a SX Lites championship, and a MX Lites championship, so it clearly was time for him to make the step up to the larger bikes.  He would enter the 450 class in 2011 and encounter the challenge that all up-and-coming riders have to face: can they translate their success to the upper level?  In the 450SX season, Canard was able to hold his own, including wins in 3 races, and though he finished 5th, that was behind Villopoto, Chad Reed, Dungey, and James Stewart.  If we look at a similar comparison between Canard and the main 2011 MX challengers, we see two things:

One is that (sorry, Canard is a different color (yellow) in this one) Canard now looks a little worse than the group, going through age 18.  Dungey has a weird progression, not really coming on until his age-18 season.  But Canard is clearly below Villopoto and Stewart, which is nothing to be ashamed of.  The other thing is that the four of them really overlap in ages 19, 20, and 21, which I think is a good sign for Canard, in terms of trying to project his future from age 21-onward.

If we zoom in, we can see that Canard is neck-and-neck with Villopoto at 18, 19, and 20, but he starts to fall behind all three after that – we'll get to why.  So at this point, if we only knew what these 4 riders had done through their age-20 seasons, I think I would say that James Stewart had the best profile, with Canard and Villopoto right behind, and Dungey bringing up the rear.

So going in to the 2011 MX season, the field was pretty wide open.  But after one race, in which Canard finished 3rd, Canard broke his femur, effectively ending his season -- he would return later in the season, only to re-break his leg.  Unfortunately, in what may have been his best chance to win a MX title in the upper class, he missed out due to the injury.  

Canard recovered from the broken leg for the 2012 SX season, but he may not have been at full strength in his first couple races as his best finish was 7th.  Whether that played a factor in his next crash we’ll never know, but when Canard came up short on a jump, he was landed on by Ryan Morais, breaking Canard’s back (and Morais injured his own ribs, jaws, and neck).  Canard missed the rest of the Supercross season as well as the entire 2012 outdoor motocross season.  When Canard returned for the 2013 450SX season, he wasn’t quite at the same level, finishing 6th overall and did not put up any race wins, though finished 2nd twice.  And the same was true for the 2013 450MX season, where he finished 4th and had no wins, which is certainly not “bad” considering Villopoto and Dungey finished 1st and 2nd with Justin Barcia comfortably in 3rd.

In 2014 for the Supercross season, injury struck again and Canard only completed 5 races, with 4th-place being his best result in any of those races.  But in the 2014 MX season, Canard stayed relatively healthy and returned to form.  He only had 1 win, but managed to finish 3rd overall, behind Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey, who ran away with #1 and #2 early in the season.  The success wouldn’t sustain all the way through 2015, though.  His 2015 SX season started relatively well, with 2 wins in 11 races, but injury ended his season after that.  And the 2015 MX season was cut short after 4 races, where 3rd was his best finish in those 4 races.  That leaves 2014 as Trey Canard’s best outdoor MX season in the upper class:

And while there was a time when Canard looked like he might be able to run with Dungey, Villopoto, and Stewart, it seems like injuries ruined a big portion of that opportunity.  Even in the beginning of the 2016 SX season he’s missed a couple weeks due to injury.   He’s only 25, so perhaps a long period of being injury-free would allow him to make a run at Dungey and Roczen (or whomever else) in the upcoming 2016 MX season or perhaps 2017.  But pretty soon he’s entering the age where we expect to see decline, as those over 26 usually are on the down side of their career.  So if Trey Canard is never able to truly compete for the #1 spot in a Motocross or Supercross season again, I think we'll look back at what could have been -- which is someone who was primed to compete with the Dungey/Villopoto/Stewart-level riders, but like many others it appears that a serious injury prevented him from reaching his true peak.

Other rider profiles:
Jason Anderson
Eli Tomac

Posted by: SagehenMacGyver47   :::   As always – Feedback welcomed

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