Four rounds down in the Monster Energy Supercross series and thirteen to go. After having a bit of a downer to start the series with two frontrunners going down with injuries at the first two rounds, both riders (Eli Tomac and Marvin Musquin) have returned and look either as good as ever (Tomac) or like they are getting there (Musquin).
The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider, Eli Tomac, has put himself in a sticky situation with him scoring one point at the first two rounds. The margin of error is not zero yet, as there are all those rounds left, but it is not much higher. Forty-eight points down after Houston and now it’s thirty-six, the road to the greatest comeback in supercross history is long. Much like James Stewart later in his career, you cannot throw points away because it takes weeks to make them up. Just when Stew would get close, he would have some crash and throw away a month of progress on Ryan Villopoto.
“That’s all I can do [win], then kind of have to wait for a mistake from someone else and then, at the same time, I cannot make another one,” Tomac told me after the main in Glendale. “That’s just my boat.”
Not making a mistake is tough to do but, hey, the dude won nine races last year, so he certainly knows what he is doing. I have been getting some crap for saying that he can’t win this title, because look at all those points he made up on Ryan Dungey last year. That is true but two things; it was around thirty percent less points than it is now and Ryan Dungey wasn’t “Ryan Dungey” last year. He was very good, but not great.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson is the current red plate holder and Honda’s Ken Roczen is not far behind. Tomac has to jump both of these guys, not to mention Yamaha’s Justin Barcia, so it is not like he is thirty-six back of one guy. He has got the same issues as Stewart had those years. Super fast guys and he cannot make a mistake. I think it is clear after four rounds that Anderson isn’t the Anderson of the past (like Dungey was not the Dungey of old). He’s much improved, calm with his riding and is going to be very formidable the rest of the way.
A series that started with some big blows looks like it is going to heat up in a big way real soon.
If there is a wizard on a mountaintop in the pits, it would be Pro Circuit’s Mitch Payton. Since 1991, Payton has been beating the factories at their game with his little shop in Corona, California. So much so that nowadays, the big five don’t run their 250F programs anymore. They just farm it out because Payton showed them how it was done!
I like talking to Mitch about the various issues in the sport – he has been there and done that. He has got financial stake in the sport, but he’s a business owner who can’t just throw tons of money at a problem like an OEM can. Since so many of the sports movers and shakers seek his council, I thought what better guy to ask about the recently completed Triple Crown?
“I thought it was great for the fans, because they got to see everybody three times and I think they really enjoyed that. I think we need a little bit more time in-between just in case,” says Payton. “By the time they took the guys that won, did the podium, they came back… You only have an hour. So if they’re down there for ten to fifteen minutes, then you are a little bit maybe stretched. If you had a bike problem, I don’t know if you could always get it done. It would be nice to have a little more there.”
Most at the race or watching on TV would assert that there was too much time but, then again, they don’t run a race team with athletes and machines to look after. Couple other changes for Payton would be an increase in purse money since you’re asking more of the racers and a bonus point for each individual main event won.
That all makes sense to me and, generally speaking, Payton’s a traditionalist of the sport so when he can embrace three main events in a night, maybe that’s going down the right track. I just don’t know about MORE times between the mains. Yikes – that is a lot of downtime.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Monster Energy Media/Octopi
A Matthes Report: Paris Preview
Steve Matthes previews the Paris SX.
It is that time of the year again, the Paris SX happens this weekend and is always a good time. Of course, this race used to be Bercy from 1984 until, I think, around 2013. It was most times epically great inside the small arena, then the race moved north to the town of Lille, on the border of Belgium, and it was still good but lost some of its mojo with a stadium that had fans on only one side (because only half the floor was used) and they were a little further away as well.
The race just was not as amazing and that’s ok. It is hard to top Bercy’s seating configuration, where the fans were right on top of you, and the track design that ran down some hallways. Then again, a quiet secret about Bercy was that the 450cc bikes were just too damn big for that floor.
The new arena in Paris is good, very good, and I’d say that while it’s still not Bercy (which was like a Fenway Park over here for baseball), it’s better than the Lille arena and definitely more modern. The dirt’s always good also at the arena, which makes for great racing.
It’s Paris and the big news right before I started typing this was Marvin Musquin, the crowd favorite, is out for this weekend when he hurt his knee in an off the bike incident. Big blow for the hometown fans and one of the co-favorites for the race is going to be sitting at home.
Fresh off his Australian SX win, Rockstar Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson will be there and he immediately becomes the favorite. Anderson seemed to be on point down under and looks to be on his game. It’ll be a surprise if the #21 doesn’t win both nights.
MCR Honda’s Justin Brayton will also be heading from Australia to Paris for the race. Brayton’s a past winner of Bercy, his record at these one-off European races is very good, and will probably be able to give Anderson some fits here and there. Especially if he gets the starts. Last year the whoops were very legit at this race and if they are again then Brayton will be great.
Filling in for Musquin will be JGR Suzuki’s Weston Peick and Justin Hill. Both riders were last minute calls for the race and they really add to the depth of the field. How ready they are will be an issue plus they’ll just be riding stock bikes with motors and suspension thrown on, not the full race bikes that I imagine Anderson will be on.
The rider I’m probably most interested in is Anderson’s teammate Zach Osborne, who’s making his big-time 450SX rider debut. He was at this race last year but basically his whole goal was to not get hurt and get some experience. Now he’ll be racing against these guys full-time so I want to see how he looks. Zach’s ride this weekend, although you never want to draw conclusions from one off-season race, is going to very interesting to me.
The home crowd will get to cheer for the second best Frenchman racing in the USA. Fresh off another MXoN win for France, Dylan Ferrandis will be there on his Star Yamaha. Ferrandis is no stranger to the smaller indoor tracks and he’s very aggressive rider. Ferrandis is probably a sneaky pick for an overall podium. There is that tendency sometimes with 250 riders on the bigger bikes to just make sure they don’t get hurt and they don’t race with the big names on 450s, so make sure you don’t jack with them. Dylan will not be one of those guys though!
Vince Friese will be there to ride shotgun alongside Brayton and, one thing is for sure, his starts will be on point. Tyler Bowers broke his finger at the Monster Cup and just got back on the bike for last weekend’s race in Germany that didn’t go well, so I predict he’ll be a bit rusty. You never know what Tyler can throw down though.
Paris always offers up a good time on and off the track, Anderson might be the best guy but after that there will be a hell of a battle for second on down. Great race, great tradition and I can’t wait to watch it.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Husqvarna/Simon Cudby
A Matthes Report: Three Weeks
Steve Matthes on a very hectic period.
Well, holy shit the last three weeks in American motocross/supercross have been something else indeed. We had the Motocross of Nations on American soil (at RedBud), the Monster Energy Cup (in Las Vegas) and this past weekend the Red Bull Straight Rhythm (in LA). Could you get three disciplines as different as that if you tried? True motocross with 30-minute motos, supercross with three ten-lap sprints and, finally, a 45-second straight line rhythm section on a two-stroke!
Let’s break down the three events and what was good, what didn’t work and more, yeah?
|Best Race: MXoN|
I mean, c’mon… It’s the most prestigious race on the calendar and if you take away the American results, it was still exciting. Glenn Coldenhoff pulls a Gautier Paulin and dominates a couple of motos (beating his teammate Jeffrey Herlings), The MX2 class featured some great racing between Hunter Lawrence, Ben Watson and Jorge Prado and Herlings’ race in the Saturday qualifiers was something else. Add in the thousands of people there and, despite the weather, it was a great race.
|Best Race (Part Two): Josh Grant/Ryan Villopoto at Straight Rhythm|
With all apologies to the MXoN, perhaps the coolest thing I saw the last three weeks was the run between Grant and Villopoto. Both guys were absolutely pinning it and scrubbing like crazy… Well,Grant was more than RV. RV was soaking everything up with his legs while JG was flicking the bike left and right. It was way rad to watch both guys trying to get to the ground fastest.
|Most Interesting Race: Red Bull Straight Rhythm|
I mean, where else could you see legends like Ryan Villopoto and Ryan Dungey line up on two-strokes? It was pretty cool to see both guys come out, have some fun and try to race in a straight line and, judging by the smiles afterwards, neither guy cared all that much if they had lost (RV did).
|Most Unexpected Development: Team USA at the MXoN|
I mean, c’mon! That was and still is shocking.
|Most Unexpected Development Other Than Team USA: The Million-Dollar Winner|
Feld Motorsports ran a contest where at the Monster Cup a lucky fan, who beat thousands of people to be flown to the race, that had gathered enough money up in a phone booth got a million dollars if a rider swept all three main events. Well, with Eli Tomac capturing the first main with ease, things looked good for Jesse Hebert, a guy that worked at a law firm in Washington DC. We all saw Joey Savatgy let Tomac by to give Tomac the sweep and both Eli and Hebert won the million bucks. Truly a crazy development within a two-minute span. Congrats to Jesse, who’s a super fan of the sport. Now change your phone number ASAP Jesse.
|Breakout Star Of The Three Weeks: Glenn Coldenhoff|
I mean, Glenn didn’t have a great MXGP season so to see him go out and win two motos at the MXoN was pretty amazing. Whether it’s Gautier Paulin or Max Anstie, there are plenty of guys over the years that step up at this race and in 2018 it was The Hoff.
|Hero Of The Three Weeks: Ryan Villopoto|
Just ask him if you don’t believe me. Villopoto retired, like, three years ago but he’s the only rider that raced all three weekends. If you count the Pit Bike of Nations as one of the events, that is. RV took the win there for Team USA, he should’ve been top ten at the MEC if not for getting penalised for not taking the Joker Lane and he finished third at Straight Rhythm. Whew, he’s been pretty busy. Also he rode a TTR-110, a YZ450 and a YZ250 in those three weeks so talk about a sample platter of bikes.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Monster Energy Media/Octopi
A Matthes Report: MXoN at RedBud
Steve Matthes on some MXoN excuses.
It’s over. I know, I know you guys read my predictions on the MXoN here and laughed at them now but that’s fine with me. I’m still trying to process what exactly happened at RedBud in terms of Team USA. I mean, I’m shocked they didn’t at least grab a podium. Like, seriously? Oh man, it wasn’t good but at least Team USA won the first inaugural Pit Bike of Nations. Wait, that doesn’t really matter? Dammit.
Even though I’m Canadian, I live in the USA and I do want the team to do well because at the Motocross of Nations I have been to where America wins, the after parties are epic. But for seven years now, it’s been pack up and go home with no Limoncello shots. It didn’t go well for Team USA but I’m here to offer up a litany of excuses, things I’m hearing out there, reading out there and see whether or not they are valid excuses for the seventh defeat in a row. Ok, ready?
|1) TRACK WAS TOO SANDY|
It definitely was different from the traditional Redbud and Aaron Plessinger told me as much afterwards, but he lost and could be trying to explain his riding, so let’s go to winner Dylan Ferrandis and, yup, he said the same thing. So, yeah, different track but guess what? The layout was ninety-five percent the same and Team USA wasn’t on the pace from the first practice on. Guess what, the track’s the same for everyone and guess what again? I talked to the track owner and he threw sand down on the new start section and a bit on the off-camber and that was it, so everything there was native to the track.
EXCUSE METER: I’ll give this one a two out of ten. Not buying it bro.
|2) MXGP RIDERS ARE ALLOWED TO HAVE WORKS BIKES|
Yeah, I mean there is a difference here. Imagine having to race the one hundred-meter final against a bunch of dudes with running shoes on but you have bare feet. Ok, it’s not that drastic but the fact is the USA has to run quieter (ie slower) mufflers and different fuel and as well their frames, swingarms and crankcases have to be stock. The KTM’s/Husky’s seemed unbelievable at RedBud (all the people who watched all the GP’s right now are nodding) and I’m sure the frames are built to specs for their riders. There’s plenty of cool stuff on the bikes in Europe while the Americans can’t change much or develop new parts just for this race. It’s funny, I can’t tell you how many Motocross of Nations I’ve been to where someone from Europe tells me they can’t believe how stiff the USA guys suspension is. #SXProblems.
EXCUSE METER: This is somewhat legit, but guess what? When USA was winning sixty-four MXoN’s in a row the same rules were in place. Still, I think the MXGP bikes are better because they’re more suited towards the specific riders. Let’s go with a four out of ten.
|3) THE EUROS USE A STARTING GRATE|
Nope, we have that in supercross now so everyone started on them many times. Plus there are practice starts before practice begins. I mean, I guess it’s been six months since our guys started on them but you know they have them at the practice tracks. But sweet Jesus did Team USA’s starts suck balls.
EXCUSE METER: Zero, bro. A big fat zero.
|4) TEAM USA ISN’T A TEAM ANYMORE|
Lots of calls, and they are getting louder, that Team USA manager Roger DeCoster should step aside and let someone else take a turn to see if they can change things up. With DeCoster being promoted by KTM to some sort of bigwig, he won’t be as involved next year so maybe this is time. Yes, there are always whispers about how Roger really doesn’t do that much for the team. After all, everyone who comes over brings everyone from their own teams. There could be more unity on the team for sure (France is sure doing that and, hey, they are winning) but it’s not the reason USA has been getting its ass kicked at this race lately. They are not good enough on the track, bottom line.
EXCUSE METER: Let’s go with a two. If the riders need DeCoster to hug and talk to them more to do better, they have bigger issues than that.
|5) TEAM USA IS ALL SUPERCROSS, ALL THE TIME|
This is true, supercross and motocross are quite different and the USA guys spend about eight months testing and racing indoors and four of them with motocross. So, yeah, bike settings are influenced by supercross and the riders need to get into the motocross mode for this race. It’s not easy as the MXGP riders just do motocross year in and year out. Watching our guys slam into berms and bury their bikes, you can see they are not exactly outdoor warriors.
EXCUSE METER: It’s a factor for sure, let’s go with a five out of ten. Again, nothing changed from when USA was kicking ass so…
|6) THE TIME FROM END OF NATIONALS TO MXON|
Yeah, this is also a factor. Our USA riders stop racing and it’s natural, after a year that starts in January, to relax a bit after the last national. It’s hard to ramp everything back up and get into full attack mode. There is the Monster Energy Cup coming up too that the riders do have to test for at some point. The MXGP guys? Yeah, they raced LAST WEEKEND. Advantage to those guys in my mind.
EXCUSE METER: C’mon, even if you are a Team USA hater (and it does seem at this event that it’s USA versus the world) you have to admit that it’s a real valid excuse to why USA has been losing. The MXGP series keeps getting longer and longer, the USA season has been shorter and shorter since MX Sports took over (due to TV contract). I’ll go with a seven out of ten.
|7) EXCUSES ARE FOR LOSERS|
Yeah, pretty much. What I listed are possible “reasons” for Team USA getting worked at their home track. Some people will see them as just that, reasons. Others will say they are “excuses” and whatever, I cannot argue that either. I just know that Team USA wasn’t anywhere near good enough for the second year in a row and that’s got to change.
I just don’t know how.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: ConwayMX
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