It’s that time again! Time for the annual Motocross of Nations prediction column! Okay, look, last year's column could not have gone any worse. Well, I did get the Dutch right in second place so there is that but I had Team USA winning and ended my prediction with this gold nugget: "If the USA guys don't pull this off then I don't know when their winless streak will end."
I stand by that statement. After that abomination of a race by Team USA last year, I have no idea when they are going to get back to the top step of this race. Let's just worry about them getting back on the podium, yeah? I told you in that column that France will pay dearly for leaving Marvin Musquin off the team (spoiler alert: they didn't) but I did say Australia was my sleeper pick of the event and they were winning going into that third moto. By picking USA to win and saying that France wasn't going to make the podium, it was still a garbage column.
With that said, we are back for redemption this year! Here are the official Steve Matthes predictions for the 2019 MXoN coming up this weekend in Assen, Holland.
1) Holland: Yeah I know, pretty boring but I mean, come on! How can any other country be picked to win this race but the hometown one? They haven't suffered any injuries like many of the other countries, the race is in sand where they are so good, they have perhaps the best motocross rider in the world on their team and they almost won last year with just four scores!
I mean, the King of Holland is coming to this race too. Talk about pressure! The only thing that can stop [Jeffrey] Herlings, [Glenn] Coldenhoff and [Calvin] Vlaanderen from winning this thing is an injury to one of the riders that prevents them from racing. Even then they may still win. They are the heavy favorites to bring home their first ever MXoN win and if they pull it off, things could get nutty down at the speedway.
2) USA: Things are breaking right for the red, white and blue to get back on the podium. Namely injuries to some key riders from other countries that will allow the Yanks to do pretty well. Obviously we know from the videos and such that they are all in this year and that will help. The IceOne Husqvarna guys have been a huge help and all three riders need to be commended for the sacrifice that they have made for this race. It's great to see!
I think they have a very good race, but it won't be enough to beat the Dutch. Second would be nothing to be ashamed about, that's for sure. If I see any USA fan slag these guys on social media for not winning, I'm gonna track them down and light their houses on fire. Bravo to the three guys for the work they are putting in.
3) Belgium: I think the Belgians get the last spot on the podium in a bit of an upset. I think if all things were equal we would see France and Great Britain battle this out but they have been hurt by injuries and curious decisions by the French (again). [Jeremy] Van Horebeek has had a nice comeback season on the Honda, [Jago] Geerts is solid and [Kevin] Strijbos, whilst definitely on the backend of his career, is on a factory Yamaha for this race and is good in the sand. They had a bad race last year but they are usually always around the podium and this year won't be any different. Sneaky pick here! I guarantee you Lewis thinks this is nuts but you watch.
4) France: Yes, the winning streak finally ends here. I know, I know… We have counted them out before but losing [Tom] Vialle and [Romain] Febvre will just be too much for them to overcome. I think if you add one of those guys to the team, along with [Gautier] Paulin, then you have a potential second or third place team but I can't embrace [Jordi] Tixier and [Maxime] Renaux doing that well. I just can't! If they win again, it's official: They are the best motocross country in the world forever and ever.
5) Great Britain: The original team of Max Anstie, Ben Watson and Shaun Simpson was great and looked to battle for a runner-up spot. Despite an off year, Simpson is very good in the soft stuff as we all know. Alas, injuries to Anstie and Watson have hurt the Union Jack's but grabbing Ben's brother Nathan [Watson] is a real power move straight out of France's playbook from the MXoN at Matterley Basin. This is the one country I'm the most unsure about because I have no clue about Nathan Watson's motocross skills. He has great in beach races so if there's a sixth gear whooped out straight, we know he'll be great there.
There you have it, the top five countries this weekend in Assen. A few other news and notes about the race:
– Australia would've been great with their original team of Hunter Lawrence, Mitch Evans and Jed Beaton but they have been decimated by injuries.
– The Swiss could've been sneaky good but the [Arnaud] Tonus injury will hurt them for sure. With him, they are top five easy.
– My own country Canada is a sh*t show and coming off a very good RedBud, politics held them back from sending a team. I can't really get into it any more than that because I'll probably smash my laptop but, yeah, way to go Canada.
– I'm looking forward to seeing Jorge Prado ride the 450 this weekend and where he stacks up. After a dominant season in MX2, I want to see where the kid will finish. Same with Tim Gajser, I think the MXGP champ has been cruising a bit since wrapping up the title and it may be hard to pick it back up but you know he'll be sending it.
– Finally, you KNOW Estonia will be top ten again doing the most with the least. They will have star rider Tanel Leok riding for them again for the seventy-third consecutive year. Bravo to the Estonian team, even if they need to do it with a converted Finnish dude [Harri Kullas].
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer