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Analysis: Riola Sardo

The first round of the Internazionali d’Italia series was not quite as exciting as previous years, seeing as the first MXGP round is still three months away, but it was a welcome slice of race action that was made better by the fact that it was actually live streamed. The Italian series is the only European pre-season race that has that and, truthfully, the series would fade into the background without it.

The live stream actually came at a cost this year, as fans were not allowed at Riola Sardo and the promoters needed a way to claw some money back. Viewers were down compared to previous years, because of that, but it seemed that around £5000 was pulled in by the new service. Not too shabby and probably more than they made from the in-person spectators in past years. The on-track action was not too exciting, in all honesty, but there were enough interesting stories with different riders debuting in new colours and some returning from injuries. Let’s dive into some of the most interesting points.

MX1

1st Jorge Prado (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing): Seeing a handful of Grand Prix riders sat behind the starting gate again really got adrenaline running through my veins, then it quickly disappeared when Prado took the holeshot and got to work. That confirmed a fear entering the 2021 FIM Motocross World Championship – Prado could be the one to make this thing boring. Those starts put him in such a good position that he is always going to ensure that his competitors are at a disadvantage. The only way to better that is to be a lot better than him, but then passing him is a challenge in itself.

Romain Febvre did actually look better than him in the early stages of that MX1 moto – he had a faster lap time to boot – but then that did not work out for him in the end. Look, this was a nothing race. It just feels like there is a chance that Prado could be the third or fourth fastest rider at some rounds this term, but his starts will carry him through and ensure that he never gives up too many points. Do you want to know what gets forgotten about too? Prado had a broken femur, broken collarbone and COVID-19 last year. Prado had a rough go.

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Stefano Taglioni

2nd Glenn Coldenhoff (Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP): Speaking of rough times being forgotten, the last time that Glenn Coldenhoff was on a racetrack was a scary situation. It’s great that he is even in a position to ride at this level now, just four months on from that crash, let alone log a strong result! There were so many unknowns with this being the first race since his injury and first race on the YZ450FM. If Riola Sardo had gone poorly, like he had finished sixth or seventh, then it would have been understandable taking the aforementioned changes into consideration. This was an encouraging start. 

3rd Thomas Kjer Olsen (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing): Olsen had a try-out on the FC 450 in the middle of last season, before putting pen to paper with IceOne, and the reports were that he was strong right off the bat. It all sounded so positive. That information eliminated the shock factor from this result. It was actually interesting to talk to Olsen about his off-season prep, because he said this is the first time that he has logged winter laps alone and not had a guy like Thomas Covington or Jed Beaton to push him. There was a bit of mystery about where he would stack up, because of that.

4th Jeremy Van Horebeek (Beta SDM Corse): Everything that Van Horebeek had said about the Beta in January was so clear to the naked eye at Riola Sardo. It looked like he was on a mountain bike! It seemed nimble and easy to manoeuvre in rough conditions – Van Horebeek looked the most comfortable that he has had in a while too. I would be intrigued to see how it performs on hard pack now, especially a hilly track like St. Jean. It has already been said that the raw power is something that needs to be improved, as the Beta is mellower to suit enduro, but expectations have already been exceeded here. This is good. 

5th Alvin Ostlund (JK Racing Yamaha): There was a bit of Ostlund hype in the hours after Riola Sardo, which are words that I never thought I would type. It was a good day that exceeded expectations, but then would you have thought that he would be any further down the order? Beating Alessandro Lupino was impressive, but then the MRT rider had arm pump like Romain Febvre below. I think that Ostlund should beat everyone else, bar those two, because he was a solid MX2 guy. Not too flashy, but solid. Last up to tenth in the Super Final was very impressive though.

6th Romain Febvre (Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team): Riola Sardo was really good for Febvre, in my mind, as he looked faster than Prado at the beginning of the first moto and then won the Super Final. Good, right? Apparently not. Febvre was hammering out motos in Sardinia on Monday, because he was so pissed, so the bar was obviously quite high. Arm pump was why he faded in the first MX1 moto, but that is nothing to be too concerned about. It impacted a lot of other riders out there as well! Something that slipped under the radar is that Febvre actually had COVID-19 in the off-season, so there is that.

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Pascal Haudiquert

MX2

1st Jago Geerts (Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing MX2): Jago Geerts had a quiet day. It was not too flashy and there was nothing to necessarily write home about in a positive or negative manner. It is a shock that he was not more dominant – it was a weak field. Maybe that is a good sign though and he is a bit more in control now? Slicing potatoes may be therapeutic. Speaking of the weaker field, Maxime Renaux dislocated his shoulder in time practice and Thibault Benistant broke his collarbone prior to the race. Difficult start for Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MX2! The Geerts win was a bright spot. 

2nd Nicholas Lapucci (Fantic Factory Maddii Team): I am kind of blasé to Lapucci killing it at the Italian races now. Lapucci does well on the domestic scene, wows people and then that just does not translate to international competition. Rinse and repeat! Is anyone keeping track of how many classes Lapucci has ridden in too? The guy is 22 years old and has ridden in MXGP, MX2, EMX Open and will now hit EMX250. Keeping up with his career is a task in itself. Anyway, that Fantic looked really good and has me wondering whether it will be a clear advantage in EMX this year.

3rd Tim Edberg (Ghidinelli Yamaha): Nice performance from Edberg and one that will help bring him out of the shadows a little – there is no doubt that he is criminally underrated in the EMX250 discussions. In need of proof that this ride was legit? Look at the best lap times from the MX2 riders in their individual moto:

#193

1:48.689

#211

1:48.650

#26

1:50.771

#101

1:48.317

#303

1:52.579

#80

1:51.733

 4th Mattia Guadagnini (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing): Mattia Guadagnini is Mattis Guadagnini. Did he have the fastest lap of the MX2 moto? Yep. Did he have a harsh crash that he was lucky to walk away from? Yep. That should be how his rookie term goes, which is fairly normal. I predict that there will be many flashes of brilliance, a couple of DNFs and not much in between. It is hard to imagine Guadagnini going 8-8 in a quiet ride, you know? The opposite would apply to Benistant, another rookie, who will probably stack points and sit under the radar a lot of the time.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer

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MX Vice Editor || 25