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Analysis: A 450SX Preview

A look ahead at the 450SX title contenders

· 6 minutes read

The deal of the day on 24MX.

Following a tedious off-season that has not included much on-track action at all, the industry is set to come alive in Southern California on Saturday. The first round of the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross series will take place at Angel Stadium, Anaheim, and most are salivating at the prospect of what could happen. What is in store for fans across the world? Well, based on the list of contenders down below, one heck of a battle is going to take place. There is not even a clear-cut favourite at this point!

Jason Anderson

Jason Anderson enters the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross series as the reigning 450SX champion, which is something that no one else in the premier division has ever experienced. Crazy, eh? Will that mean that he experiences more pressure? Will he enter the opening round with a little more swagger and confidence? It is impossible to predict how he will handle his new role, as everyone reacts differently to the weight that the number-one plate carries. There is no past data to work off of either as he has never actually defended a professional championship.

Jason Anderson will try to defend a professional title for the first time. (Husqvarna Motorcycles/Simon Cudby)

This is a very important fact to cling onto: Jason Anderson has actually won the 450SX championship, which means he now knows what to expect and what is needed to manage a title battle across a seventeen-round series. The same cannot be said for Ken Roczen, Marvin Musquin or Eli Tomac. How important is knowledge like that? The season has not even begun, yet two of those riders listed previously have missed some rather important bike time whilst nursing injuries. This thing is going to be a game of survival and that is something that most choose to ignore, hence why Anderson creeps up out of nowhere and surprises everyone.

Marvin Musquin

Marvin Musquin is in a similar spot to Jason Anderson. Although he has had plenty of success in the premier division and missed out on the title by just nine measly points a year ago, he is still looked at as an underdog of sorts and not considered a title favourite. The fact that he spent a bit of time on the couch after damaging his meniscus has obviously not helped his case either. It sounds like that is not too much of an issue though, as he has been back on a bike for a little while now and should be close to one hundred percent when gates drop on Saturday night. Close is the key word there.

This is a unique situation for Marvin Musquin. Typically, he enters round one of Monster Energy Supercross with a handful of races underneath his belt and everyone knows exactly where he is at. That is not the case this time though and, consequently, he is more of an underdog than he was at the beginning of the previous term. Does that mean that it would be a shock to see him clinch the win this weekend? Not necessarily, as there is no doubt that he can put it together on a single day, but most struggle to envision a scenario where he would claim a number-one plate straight up after seventeen rounds of fiery action.

Marvin Musquin is still trying to acquire a premier-class championship (KTM Images/Simon Cudby)

Eli Tomac

Eli Tomac was touted as the next big thing in Monster Energy Supercross and is undoubtedly the favourite, just like he was twelve months ago, but is also the greatest conundrum in the series. It really is baffling that he cannot put this thing together and claim a number-one plate indoors. Will this be the year? There appear to be more questions than answers, once again, as rumours have been running rampant that he fell around the beginning of December and spent some time away from that all-new KX450. The reports have not been confirmed by anyone in an official capacity though, so who knows?

The fact that he is piloting an all-new bike, the 2019 KX450, must be acknowledged, even though that steed has been praised by riders across the globe. Remember what occurred in the first three rounds two seasons ago? Multiple set-up problems left him floundering down at the back of the top ten and battling arm pump. The faults were eventually overcome, and he then reeled off multiple wins, but the fact is he just could not push past those problems and salvage respectable results. Could history repeat itself? The performance he logged at the Monster Energy Cup in October was certainly a sign that there are no issues with that new bike.

Ken Roczen

What a difference a year can make. Ken Roczen was an unknown quantity when gates dropped at Anaheim 1 twelve months ago, yet onlookers still seemed to have lofty expectations. Although that indoor campaign came to a premature end, when he injured his hand at round six, he actually made big strides forward before that that were arguably more impressive than what he did in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. Roczen stood on the box in three of the five events that he completed, something that most seem to forget, and missed the win by a small margin at two of those. Imagine if he comes out at that level or has made steps forward?

There are going to be plenty of eyes fixed on Ken Roczen, as per usual (Honda Racing Corporation)

Now, admittedly, stringing consistent results together across five rounds is not much to shout about when the title fight spans across seventeen rounds. This is the biggest criticism that most have of Ken Roczen. It has been a rocky road since his sophomore term in the premier class. Roczen has finished thirty-four mains out of a possible sixty-eight in the last four years, so that is a problem that must be addressed. It is not like he is just incapable of completing an indoor season, however, as he did just that three seasons ago. Can he do it again?

Justin Barcia

Justin Barcia has exceeded expectations more than any other rider over the last twelve months or so, one could certainly argue, and that all began with a podium finish at Anaheim 1. Expectations are a little higher this time around though. Could this be the term that he fulfils his potential aboard the bigger bike and has a run at a title? There are actually many comparisons that can be drawn between Justin Barcia and the spot that Jason Anderson occupied in the sport twelve months ago. How? Barcia has won mains in the past and proven that he can be consistent, yet most would proclaim that he is just a tick off of the title favourites.

Could that consistency serve him well if he stays inside of the top five for the most part? Sure. After all, it was that path that Jason Anderson took to the title a year ago. The problem is whether he can stay healthy. The races that he did finish indoors last year were great, as he had an average finish of fifth, but he did not even make it to a majority of the events. The hand injury that he had was not exactly his fault and that has to be taken into account, but then he has not completed a 450SX campaign since 2014. The ingredients seem to be there with Monster Energy Yamaha, but it is now a case of putting it all together.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Husqvarna Motorcycles/Simon Cudby

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