With 17 minutes left in the second-to-last race of the 2017 supercross season, the only thing that appeared to stand between Eli Tomac and his first 450cc championship was time. The 25-year-old Coloradan was three points ahead of defending champion Ryan Dungey in the series standings, and Dungey was behind him on the track. But as Eli rounded what should have been an easy corner, he lost traction, hit the dirt, and watched Dungey blow past him to take the win. A week later, in front of around 40,000 fans in Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium, Eli lost the title to Dungey by a mere five points. It’s not a position he plans to be in again. When the 2018 supercross season begins on January 6, the quiet but fiercely competitive Eli says his goal is simple: “To win the whole deal.”
Eli’s no stranger to the top of the podium. Before he turned 10, he consistently won races at his local motocross tracks in Mancos and Aztec, New Mexico—an impressive feat in a sport in which riders hit speeds of close to 40 mph and launch off jumps for more than 100 feet, all while trying to hang on to a squirrelly, 220-pound, 70-horsepower piece of metal. Eli won his first professional motocross race at age 18, becoming the first rider ever to win his motocross debut. Of course, being the fastest guy on the track doesn’t come without risks. Throughout his seven years as a professional racer, Eli has broken his collarbone, elbow, and arm and suffered countless high-speed crashes, including a brutal one in 2015 at Thunder Valley Motocross Park in Lakewood that resulted in two torn shoulders. But injuries aren’t enough to keep him off the bike, and losing only motivates him to go faster. Following his 2017 supercross defeat, Eli won the 450cc outdoor motocross championship later in the year. “It felt like revenge for me,” he says.
To fans of nonmotorized bike racing, Eli’s success on two wheels isn’t surprising. Eli’s father is Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee John Tomac, who nabbed multiple road racing, cross country, and downhill mountain biking championships throughout the ’80s and ’90s. According to Eli, having a dad who knows how to win races—and train for them—at the professional level is an advantage off the track, too. At the Tomacs’ ranch in Cortez, John serves as Eli’s agent, life coach, and trainer (predictably, there are a lot of long, grueling mountain bike rides involved).
Eli will be relying on the Tomac family fitness program when the 2018 supercross season begins this month to maintain his edge over competitors like former supercross champions Marvin Musquin and Ken Roczen. Roczen’s speed, at least, will be questionable going into the season opener: Last year, the German rider was leading the supercross series until he flew off his bike in midair during a race and dislocated his elbow and wrist. A debilitating injury like that can happen to anyone, anytime, Eli says, which is why his 2018 goals center on staying on the bike, winning consistently, and keeping up with his dad on the mountain bike trails. “He still shreds me on the downhills,” Eli says. Finishing second to Dad during training is one thing. But in a supercross race, the only thing Eli expects to see in front of him is a clear track.
2017: 450cc AMA Motocross Champion
2013: 250cc AMA Motocross Champion
2012: 250cc AMA Supercross Champion