Another round is complete. The 2020 Monster Energy Supercross series is properly in motion now, as round two is in the books. St. Louis in Missouri hosted the second event for those in 450SX and 250SX West, which is a debate in itself. A round trip from Anaheim to St. Louis is 4,000 miles on the road! The good news here is that a lot of the 250SX privateers who ventured out there made the show, so there was value.
The bad news is that there were two poor, poor privateers who did not make it in and went all of that way for just three practice sessions. Mark Weishaar was one measly tenth off from entering the night show and therefore bagging the $576 that a 250SX riders gets for finishing last in the LCQ. There were five riders who did not get to race in the 450SX category, as opposed to the fifteen guys who did not make the cut back at Anaheim 1. Chucking St. Louis into the mix so early on was a curveball for so many riders. At least normality is going to be restored this weekend!
It is funny, as MX Vice doing the first six rounds of Monster Energy Supercross is normally pretty easy as all of those are typically based in California. That is where the idea came from! Throwing St. Louis into the mix was even a speed bump for those plans and, truthfully, I did not know what to expect from Missouri. The extent of my St. Louis knowledge goes as far as Chad Reed pulling back a load of points back in 2006, Ryan Villopoto crashing out in 2010 and lapper-gate with Reed three years ago. Put simply, there was nothing that was of too much use as far as preparing for a trip out there.
After jumping onto Google to find out what to expect and seeing that USA Today had St. Louis listed as the fifteenth most dangerous city in the world, I was immediately on edge. Oakland is bad enough! The area is not as bad as it is made out to be though – Oakland is much worse in my opinion. The things I have seen in that place! I digress anyway. I had also heard that The Dome at America’s Center was the worst stadium in the country (slight exaggeration) but it really was not bad at all. Heck, I would say it was nice! It will still be interesting to see if the race returns, because the crowd was mediocre to say the least.
The track – or soil I should say – lived up to expectations. The soft east-coast dirt (yes, east coast) has been praised for years and fortunately a hiatus of one year did not cause the quality to drop at all. There were a few concerns that the soil would break down more than it usually does, because the event was earlier than it has ever been, and it was actually snowing in the area. It actually held up remarkably well at night though, better than it did in the practice sessions. They really seemed to pack the track in during the two-hour stint before opening ceremonies kicked off.
The tracks have actually been incredible this year, on that note. It has been a long time since the series was kicked off with such technical layouts and there were even options in St. Louis! Quadding over the tabletop was a big move, if possible, and really helped Ken Roczen stretch out his lead in the main. Justin Barcia just could not nail the thing consistently. The five jumps after the finish jump were even more entertaining, as the five footers that are not actually five footers were giving guys fits. A lot of the guys did not pull the pin on that section until the racing begun!
It would not be shocking if some of the guys started to complain about the fact that those jumps are heftier than before, but surprisingly most of them seem to have accepted the decision. Long may it continue! It is not dangerous, in reality, and causes guys to use their technique and craft. Those two qualities need to be brought to the forefront more often. Anyway, what about the racing? Here are some thoughts on some of the riders of note in both classes.
Ken Roczen: Ken Roczen needs his set-up to be just right in order for him to hit his potential on a weekend. St. Louis proves that and, hey, he has even admitted it. There are plenty of fans who attribute that to those significant injuries that he had in recent years, but this actually goes beyond that. Does anyone remember his final year aboard the RCH Suzuki? The first half of the term was underwhelming to say the least and it all looked rather bleak, but then some significant bike changes were made and he claimed victories in two of the remaining three rounds. That is a season that needs to be referenced more.
The most interesting thing that came from St. Louis is the fact that he said the team scrambled prior to the second race of 2020 Monster Energy Supercross, but it does not sound like there was necessarily a massive breakthrough that caused him to truly believe that he would rebound from a difficult Anaheim 1. It sounds like changes were being made during the day and he even said up on the box that it could have been better in some spots. Does that mean there is more to come? Maybe. One would believe this confidence boost is going to do a lot anyway.
Justin Barcia: Look, it will take some time for everyone to fully invest in the idea that Justin Barcia really is a legitimate title contender. Comparisons need to stop being drawn to last season now though. The victory in the mud last year carried an asterisk of sorts and he followed that with a sixth at the second event, which was meh. There were no signs that he was in it for the long haul. This is a completely different story and a runner-up spot in St. Louis was arguably more of a statement than that win a week ago. Did anyone actually think he was going to back it up in all honesty?
Jason Anderson: Jason Anderson is doing what Jason Anderson is expected to do, one could argue. A lot of pundits have him pegged as being a guy who will end between third and sixth most weeks, which is exactly what he has done so far. Anderson will win on occasion, but it just seems like he just needs the cards to fall his way in order for that to happen. Heck, he even mentioned that in the post-race press conference. There is a chance that the consistency pays off in the end and he is in the hunt without anyone even noticing. Has anyone actually noted the fact that he is tied for third in the points?
Eli Tomac: Eli Tomac missed the podium again in St. Louis, which has some repeatedly destroying the panic button. St. Louis was good for him though – the only negative point is that his starts just straight-up sucked. Tomac moved through the pack pretty well after that and did not appear to suffer from any arm pump, so that is a good thing. Tomac actually tried to push that to one side as soon as free practice begun at midday, as he jumped out on track and hammered down. Jeffrey Herlings uses a similar strategy in free practice in MXGP for what it is worth.
Cooper Webb: I was all over the Cooper Webb bandwagon after Anaheim 1 and honestly could not envision a scenario where he wouldn’t win the 450SX title. St. Louis was concerning though. Webb was ill, okay, but he was at A1 too and ended up third there. What changed? Well, his start sucked and maybe that was just enough to screw him. The great news is that he is actually in a better spot in the points than he was at this point last year, so there is not much of a reason to freak out. It will be intriguing to see which Webb we get at Angel Stadium this weekend.
Dean Wilson: Could everyone make a pact to give Dean Wilson more credit for what he is actually doing at the moment? Wilson could – and probably should – be over on the sidelines yet he has reeled off a pair of thirteenths at the first two races of 2020 Monster Energy Supercross. He was fifth in timed qualifying in Missouri! It seems that most people have not altered their expectations though and are judging him as if he came into the season opener at one hundred percent. What he is doing is really impressive! Let’s just acknowledge that from time to time, okay?
Wilson mentioned to MX Vice in the days prior to Anaheim 1 that he is actually looking to Glenn Coldenhoff for inspiration, and it is a solid point. Coldenhoff started the 2019 FIM Motocross World Championship way behind the eight ball and just kept plugging away. That resilience led to him landing on the box a ton at the end of the season, so what is to say that Wilson is not going to do something similar in the coming months? It seems like a good thing to shoot for in what could be a testing time.
Austin Forkner: Austin Forkner won in St. Louis, which is brilliant (obviously), but he does not look as frisky as he did a year ago. Is that actually a bad thing? It may not be. If he can maintain an element of consistency, then he is obviously going to go further than he did a year ago. It is certainly not a given that he is going to win each week, like it was a week ago, and I do not think that someone can confidently state that he is the best rider in 250SX West at the moment. Forkner is in this thing – do not get me wrong – but is just another guy at the moment. That may change as he gets more time under his belt, but who knows?
Justin Cooper: Justin Cooper is the most impressive rider in 2020 Monster Energy Supercross and arguably the guy who has made the greatest step forward. I actually believe that pass that he made on Forkner back in the first heat race at Anaheim 1, which was not as aggressive as some make out, was a turning point in his career. It was a power move and one that proved to him that Forkner is beatable – something that was probably hard for him to grasp in 250SX East twelve months ago. I genuinely think that he is no longer fazed when he sees the Forkner up ahead – he has lost that invincibility
Dylan Ferrandis: Dylan Ferrandis needs to figure out how to get around the first turn in the top three. What the hell is going on out of the gate? The Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha team have the fastest bike in the 250SX division, most would argue, yet they are losing out when gates drop. There is a theory out there that the power delivery is so aggressive and needs to be more linear right off of the grate. Oh, there is no reason to worry about Ferrandis and his title chances either. Ben Townley won the 250SX East in 2007 after failing to finish the first round. Riders have overcome much worse in the past.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Sean Ogden