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Only a few more days until the Motocross of Nations kicks off at RedBud over here in the good ‘ol USA. Soon enough there won't be any more bench racing, anticipation or yelling about this race. It will all be right there on paper or your computer screen. The cold hard facts about this race is that it is just that, it is one race on one day where anything can happen. Team USA certainly benefitted for many years of bad luck for other countries at this event and then they themselves were hit hard with injuries at more than a few events the last few years.
Here is how I see this race shaking down, I reserve the right to reverse all predictions afterwards and claim I was drugged when I typed this.
1) USA: This is the best team the red, white and blue have sent in years. Eli Tomac is in and coming off two 450MX titles and some USGP wins as well. Justin Barcia had a hell of a year back on a Yamaha, but this time with the factory team. Aaron Plessinger really emerged this year as the guy in 250SX and MX, plus he dominated at this track earlier this year. USA has the best team on paper, they are at home on a track they all know well. It would be a huge upset if they do not win and it says here that there is no upset. It may end up that none of the three win their class but they win the overall. They are that much deeper than every other country in 2018. If the USA guys don't pull this off then I don't know when their winless streak will end.
2) The Netherlands: I cannot see how the Dutch either don't win or at least end up on the podium. The wonder-kid Jeffrey Herlings will either win both his motos or at least go 2-2 behind Tomac. Glenn Coldenhoff didn't have his usual good year in MXGP, but he is a veteran of this race and will ride hard to decent finishes. Justin Barcia at RedBud is a better rider though. If it was Lommel, I would take Glenn. The African-turned-Dutchman Calvin Vlaanderen has had a good year in the MX2 class, but he is not on Plessinger's level. Still, it is a great team and they'll be strong.
3) Belgium: I do not care who Team Belgium send, they are always good at this race. All their riders are solid, they are in shape and something about this race makes them always step up. Go look at Jeremy Van Horebeek's finishes at this race; they are very good no matter what class he rides. Clement Desalle is a tick off the elite guys but is solid and while I do have some questions about Jago Geerts (first one is why would you name your kid Jago?) the Belgians only need one good finish from him.
4) France: Oh my. What has France done? They could have had Gautier Paulin or Romain Febvre with Marvin Musquin and Dylan Ferrandis. That team would challenge the USA and maybe get their fifth win in a row. Instead egos took over, they told Marv he was out then saw Febvre get hurt. Febvre is probably their best rider even though Paulin beat him in the points this year. Musquin told France to beat it and so in steps Jordi Tixier, who has barely raced this year, been hurt a bunch and apparently he and Paulin do not get along. I think Ferrandis is terrific and may win MX2, but Paulin's had an off year, Tixier has not done much and everything is pointing down for the champs.
5) Australia: My sleeper team for this year's Motocross of Nations. Hunter Lawrence did not have the year many thought he would but he will be on a full GEICO bike for this race so he should be better. I do not know much about Mitch Evans but team manager Michael Byrne is stoked on him and I like Byrner, so I'll go with that. Kirk Gibbs is a veteran of this race and has done well before in the wet and dry; he's not hella-fast but he seems like the type of guy to get it done. Watch out for the Aussie's, they will be sneaky good.
Other news and notes about the Motocross of Nations:
– OH CANADA! My home nation has a good team this year. You may remember Kaven Benoit crushing it in Italy a few years ago and, yeah, he got hurt few weeks ago and can't ride this year, but it had been a tough year for him anyways. We have our two national champions in Colton Facciotti and Jess Pettis going and Tyler Medaglia steps in for Benoit. It is a solid team for sure and hopefully a top ten team when they don't have to travel across an ocean. At least it'll be enough to beat the damn Irishmen again, right?
– Great Britain was so good last year, but with Max Anstie not on his game in 2018 and Tommy Searle having another year of injury, they will need Ben Watson to be huge for them…
– Shout out to Tanel Leok for riding for Estonia for what seems like the 76th It is also great to see Ken Roczen back at the Motocross of Nations. Roczen's been so good at this race so many times and even won in back in 2013. Germany could surprise if Max Nagl gets some old-man inspiration on the TM
– Always great for the American fans to see Antonio Cairoli yet again. The Italian has a heart of a lion but he is a bit beat up right now. Still, he will do good and drag Italy near the top five when it is all said and done.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: ConwayMX