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Matthes Report

A Matthes Report: Unadilla

PulpMX’s Steve Matthes on hot topics.

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There was not a whole lot that happened at Unadilla this past weekend outside of just mud, mud and more mud. The fast guys still produced results and Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger should wrap up his first 250MX championship this weekend after the first moto at Budds. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac’s 15-point gap on Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin remained the same after they split motos so, yeah, things stayed the same for the most part.

That does not mean there are not things to talk about when it comes to the series over here and the upcoming MXoN at RedBud. Congrats, you are in luck, I have decided to empty my brain of some thoughts about some stuff just for you…

– Big news this week is the return of Rockstar Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson to the nationals. Anderson got hurt practicing midweek after round two and has been out ever since. The current 450SX champ had expressed a desire to try and make it back to be selected for the Team USA at the MXoN, but couldn’t do it. It is a bit odd to see a rider of his caliber come back with just two races to go but that’s cool. Everyone would have understood but Anderson’s back and I imagine he’ll be fighting for podiums right away. With Cooper Webb back and now Anderson, the 450MX class just got tougher.

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It is likely that Jason Anderson will return to racing at Budds Creek.

Husqvarna/Simon Cudby

– Speaking of Team USA, it was named at Unadilla and as expected it is Plessinger, Tomac and Monster Energy Yamaha’s Justin Barcia. That’s a strong team and, for the first time in a while, USA are sending their best. Sure, maybe Anderson could replace Barcia if he didn’t get hurt, but the #51 has been riding very well this year. In past MXoN, I have felt that Barcia has raised his game and rode with a lot of heart so I am good with the selection. I have been very vocal on different shows that I think USA wins this race, barring injury of course.

Look at the USGP results the last five years, races at Glen Helen and WW Ranch last year. Our best guys, on USA soil, have a big advantage. The MX2 classes have been dominated by American riders over the years. Outside of special talents like Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings, generally the USA riders kill these events. Guys like RJ Hampshire and Jessy Nelson have won GPs when they have never been the best over here. The last two MXoN’s in America, Budds Creek and Lakewood, saw decisive American wins.

Just like it’s a disadvantage for Team USA to travel to Europe and deal with time change and strange tracks, it’s the same for the European-based riders. Add in that the USA guys know RedBud well, France’s INSANE decision to leave Musquin off the team and home-country support and, to me, that equals a USA win. I’d be shocked if the red, white and blue don’t get the Chamberlain Trophy back for the first time in six years. They better get it back this year, because I don’t like the odds in 2020 in Assen!

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Eli Tomac will lead Team USA into action at the Motocross of Nations.

Monster Energy Media/Octopi

– Chad Reed blew up the internet again this week with some social stuff of him testing at the JGR track. Reed’s in a familiar position where he has to find a ride for 2019 Monster Energy Supercross and we know that he likes to ride the bikes and make a choice from there. The thing is, I’m not sure he has a choice this year! Reed’s coming off his worst season ever due to an injury and he never really got it going much in ’17.

I’m surprised if I’m honest that JGR would try him out. They seem set with Justin Hill and Weston Peick in the 450SX class, but team owner Coy Gibbs must see the value in having the most popular rider in the sport (or 1A with Ken Roczen) riding Suzuki’s for him. I know he was terrible last year but there were reasons for that. I can see the #22 getting a podium or two next year, I really can. He is in good shape right now, he wants to prove last year wasn’t really him and, hey, fans will dig your team if you sign him.

I pondered on Twitter last week that a MotoConcepts Honda deal made sense from my end of things and I know they’ve talked but, from sources I speak to, it doesn’t seem like a fit there. This JGR thing might not lead anywhere but hey, it gives us something to talk about. Chad Reed’s always been good at that.

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Chad Reed has been testing a RM-Z450 with JGR this week.

Suzuki Racing

– Team Puerto Rico was named and it’s Travis Pastrana, Ryan Sipes and Ronnie Mac. All on two-strokes and coached/managed by Rick Johnson. I don’t even know what to say other than I have my doubts those three guys will actually make it to the race. Pastrana can’t seem to stay together and Ronnie Mac isn’t a real person sooooo, yeah, something might give there. It’s still a cool deal, they will have the fans behind them and raise some money for Hurricane Relief down there in PR. It’s a win/win type of thing here even though some people in positions of power were a bit upset it took the light away from the naming of Team USA. I think feelings will be repaired and PR will enter some sort of team on two-strokes. Mike Brown and Gared Steinke… Keep your phones close by.

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Monster Energy Media/Octopi

European Supercross

A Matthes Report: Paris Preview

Steve Matthes previews the Paris SX.

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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.

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Jason Anderson is the heavy favourite to take the win at the Paris SX.

Husqvarna/Simon Cudby

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.

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Zach Osborne will be interesting to follow over the two nights of racing.

Husqvarna/Simon Cudby

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

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Matthes Report

A Matthes Report: Three Weeks

Steve Matthes on a very hectic period.

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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.

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The racing at RedBud was, unsurprisingly, incredible.

ConwayMX

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.

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There were two big winners at the Monster Energy Cup.

Monster Energy Media/Octopi

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

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Matthes Report

A Matthes Report: MXoN at RedBud

Steve Matthes on some MXoN excuses.

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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?

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Eli Tomac (4-7) was fourth overall in the individual MXGP classification.

ConwayMX

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.

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Aaron Plessinger (18-16) was eighth overall in the individual MX2 results

ConwayMX

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…

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Justin Barcia (9-13) was seventh overall in the individual Open results.

ConwayMX

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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