Davi Millsaps (Courtesy Rockstar Energy Racing)

(Courtesy Rockstar Energy Racing)

The 2014 Monster Energy season is just days away and it’s time to take a look at the riders who will be gunning for the FIM World Championship beginning in Anaheim on Saturday night.

With reigning triple champion Ryan Villopoto gunning for his fourth consecutive title, the task will be tough for every competitor to end his reign of dominance. However, with the most talented field in history set to line up on the gate next weekend, there is a large contingent of competitors looking to make their presence felt throughout the 17-race season.

Part of this group consists of three riders who know what it takes to win, but are thin on championship experience. Each really have nothing to lose in laying it all on the line every week this season in hopes to emerging as dark horse hopefuls. Unfortunately, a pair of these riders will be on the shelf once the season begins, but both will be pushing for a return to keep even the slimmest chances alive.

Davi Millsaps

Last year’s championship runner-up was the breakout rider of 2013 and one of the most promising stories for 2014. His Rockstar Energy Racing Team switched from Suzuki to KTM, a move that worked in their favor, and Millsaps was poised to reassert himself at the front of the field.

Unfortunately, Millsaps suffered a knee injury during testing back at the beginning of December and his return is still very much up in the air. With no official announcements or confirmation as to exactly what the injury is, Millsaps has taken it upon himself to keep everyone updated on Twitter and Instagram, most recently saying mere days after the news broke that his injury is a day-to-day process at this point and he’s just waiting for the moment to get prepared for his 2014 debut.

The Rockstar Energy squad has enlisted the services of veteran Ivan Tedesco in Millsaps’ absence, which suggests this could be a long-term injury. While it doesn’t look like he’ll be on the line Saturday night, Millsaps should be back at some point this season and his return will be a welcome one.

Justin Barcia (Courtesy Team Honda Muscle Milk)

Justin Barcia
(Courtesy Team Honda Muscle Milk)

The reigning Rookie of the Year broke through for a pair of victories last season, each convincingly. Barcia ultimately secured fourth in the championship and set a solid foundation for even greater success this season and beyond with Team Honda Muscle Milk.

The key to Barcia’s title hopes rests on his consistency. A year ago Barcia had the speed to be on the podium at every round, but he experienced misfortune on several occasions. If he’s able to stay out of trouble and avoid the inevitable holeshot pileups, Barcia will be a factor all season long. He no doubt learned a lot as a rookie in dealing with the 17-race schedule and extended main events, and will be able to apply that to his advantage once the gate drops on Saturday night. Barcia’s raw speed and flashy style is the ideal combination for success in the technical confines of supercross, proven by his past back-to-back 250SX Eastern Regional titles.

Barcia has to be considered the favorite to join the upper echelon of title contenders this season because he’s healthy, motivated, and has the tools to win.

Trey Canard (Courtesy Team Honda Muscle Milk)

Trey Canard
(Courtesy Team Honda Muscle Milk)

His anticipated return to full-time competition last season was one of the greatest stories of 2013, and it became even more emotional and dramatic when Canard nearly won the opening round in Anaheim. Canard used that as momentum towards a solid campaign in which he finished sixth in the championship with three podium results.

With the injury bug seemingly gone, optimism for Canard leading into 2014 was high with he and Barcia forming arguably the most formidable tandem in the series at Team Honda Muscle Milk. Unfortunately, Canard suffered a broken arm while training over Thanksgiving weekend and is out indefinitely. Honda confirmed that Canard will miss the season opener and likely a few more rounds which essentially ends his chances, but like Millsaps, his return to action will by highly anticipated.

With two on the mend, it looks like it will be just Barcia who will line up alongside Villopoto, Dungey, Stewart, Reed and more next Saturday to kick of the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross season. You can watch the action unfold LIVE on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 10 p.m. ET.

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