The American track of Hangtown symbolises a lot of different things to different people; but all fans can agree on the fact that it represents the beginning of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series, as the series fired into life there this past weekend. There are a few clichés that come with the first round including “you cannot win the title here, but you can lose it” and “we all leave round one with more questions than answers”. So what did I learn from round one of twelve?
Currently, Ryan Villopoto is on point and on another level compared in his competitors.
I honestly thought that Ryan Villopoto was going to struggle at Hangtown. Why? RV missed the entire series last year; so he did not have any settings to fall back on going into the first round this year. Therefore I thought that he would be testing his stuff at Hangtown, and he would settle for a reasonable amount of points. However it was clear that RV really wanted to win and make a statement; he did just that. I would argue that his performance at round one was one of the best performances of his 450 career so far, and he will only get better. I suspect his competitors are searching for some answers to figure out what they have to do to stop Villopoto this weekend.
When was the last time that you saw someone straight up beat Ryan Dungey by more than twenty seconds? It is a rare occurrence, but Ryan Villopoto did that at Hangtown; he began moto one behind Dungey also! Of course the Red Bull KTM rider is going to improve. But Villopoto will also, which is a worrying prospect for Dungey, Stewart and those guys.
James Stewart has entered the title fight with a different mentality to normal.
Intriguingly, James Stewart seemed happier with his third overall this year than he was with the double moto win he secured one year ago. Why? JS7 explained when up on the podium: “I know it is a long season; third place is good and I would be happy with another one.” I did not expect to see Stewart content with giving up the lead in each moto. Maybe Stewart has matured a little bit? Now that he is getting a bit older it seems that crashing hard weighs on his mind more. In the past James has gone into the season with the same sort of plan (to be there every week); but that quickly alters when the gate drops. Will he stick to it this year?
Whilst analysing the lap times from the second moto, it was apparent that his times seemed to drop towards the conclusion of the moto (much more so than the two Ryans). Maybe this was a result of his knee injury and the deteriorating on-track conditions? But he has to make sure his lap times remain consistent if he is going to challenge for wins; you can be sure that the lap times of the top two will not vary too much.
Ken Roczen is prepared for the challenge ahead, much more so than last year.
It is no secret that Ken Roczen struggled last year, hence why I was skeptical when discussing his title chances. However, it is clear that the Roczen that turned up to Hangtown this year is a different guy. Undoubtedly, the fact that Ken knows what to expect from the tracks is a big advantage for him. The German made a huge statement at Hangtown, as he passed his three main competitors (Musquin, Tomac and Baggett) whilst working towards the moto victory. It seems as though some are still concerned that he will struggle when the series reaches really hot venues; but all we can do is wait and see if that will affect him. Right now, he is on point.
Despite the lack of hype, Cooper Webb is more than capable of finishing in the top five.
Cooper Webb has lived in the shadow of his rival, Adam Cianciarulo for much of his amateur career. Hence why AC was going into Hangtown with a lot more hype than Cooper. But after his performance at round one, Webb is considered a contender by most. Whilst the top four were a little out of reach, the Star Racing Yamaha rider is more than capable of running with the rest of the field; he proved this with a fifth in the first professional moto of his career. In my opinion, the pace and intensity may have hit him hard in that second moto. However, he will grow accustomed to that in the coming weeks and claim more top five finishes I believe.
Malcolm Stewart needs to be on a 450f from here on out.
In my honest opinion, Malcolm Stewart has not performed up to par in the last year. But his performance at Hangtown quickly erased his previous struggles; Stewart proved that he has the potential to fight with the riders that are up in the second tier. If you look at his size, it is clear that he needs to be on the 450; his performance at round one proved that. Honestly, I did not expect to see him running down riders like Andrew Short and Dean Wilson, and I am sure not many thought that he would perform on that level either. Although his results of a DNF and a fifteenth do not seem like much on paper, there is definitely potential there that is waiting to be uncovered. Remember, Stewart did not have too long to prepare either; so he is going to keep on getting better moving forward.
The TV schedule is incredibly confusing.
Okay, hands up if you thought that we (in the UK) would be able to watch the second motos live without any issues? Yeah, I thought so too. However, Davey Coombs (the head of MXSports) only found out on Saturday morning that we would not be able to do this; by that point it was too late to make any changes. At the moment they are trying to rectify the issue; but despite this problem the first moto stream was great for the most part. Although we may not get to see the second motos live again on Saturday, lets just appreciate what they are doing in allowing us to see the action for free.
Words by Lewis Phillips