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Pundits Preview: Motocross of Nations

The Motocross of Nations has a special place in the hearts of most; it is a unique event and one that draws everyone together, no matter what series they contest. For this reason it is hardly surprising that the MXoN is the biggest event on the calendar and the one that we have all been counting down to. It is now just days away, so here is a look at some of the teams that you need to watch out for.

Following recent events, Team USA are the undoubted favourites on paper; they will be heading to Latvia with Ryan Dungey, Jeremy Martin and Eli Tomac. Obviously Ryan is solid, although his performance in Germany last year shows that we cannot just presume he will be on the podium in his two motos. If he is comfortable with the track and his set-up, he should be right in the mix at the head of the field. I believe that Jeremy Martin is the biggest question mark on the squad, as we have never seen him in a situation like this. It is always interesting to see how a young rider performs on the biggest stage.

Martin did not seem to struggle with the pressure when battling for his 250MX title in the summer, so perhaps there will be no issue there? His track, Millville, is a little sandy too. Kegums is going to be sandier, but it will not be too big of an adjustment, I presume. Jeremy doesn’t seem to really know too much about the MXoN and its format, which may actually aid him, because he will not get swept up in the hype of it all. Eli Tomac is the third rider on the team and will be in contention for individual wins, like his MX1 teammate.

The reigning champions, Team Belgium, suffered a huge blow when their strongest rider, Clement Desalle, bowed out with injury. Julien Lieber has been drafted in to fill the MX2 berth alongside Jeremy van Horebeek and Kevin Strijbos. Although it is now less likely that they will win, they do still have a shot. Van Horebeek will hopefully not be hindered by his ankle and should be inside of the top five; Kevin will probably be in a similar spot to that as well.

Prior to the final two rounds of the FIM Motocross World Championship Julien Lieber had not really delivered any notable results, hence why most were sceptical when he was called up to represent his nation. However, since moving to the Standing Construct KTM squad he has been much more impressive and even posted a fourth in moto two at the MXGP finale. His starts have also been impressive, which will be a huge help to him this weekend. If he can keep it together and post one good result at least, Belgium could end up with a second straight victory.

France has selected a controversial team this year, as Jordi Tixier, the newly crowned MX2 world champion, will not be present. Instead they will have Gautier Paulin, Dylan Ferrandis and Steven Frossard, which will be a strong team, although they may need a little luck on their side if they are going to win. Paulin is obviously a brilliant rider and should be in the mix at the front; the other two should be strong too. However, I have to question whether Frossard can hold it together. He is notoriously inconsistent and crash prone, but if he keeps it together France will more than likely end up on the podium for the first time since 2011!

In my opinion the Italian team are the underdogs this year. Although their team may not seem exceptionally strong on paper, they are more than capable of being on the podium for the second successive year. Consistency will be their greatest strength; especially if their riders can slot inside of the top ten in each moto. Guarneri and Philippaerts are solid riders that usually impress at the MXoN, so the potential is there, but for whatever reason there hasn’t been too much talk about Italy.

Putting Antonio Cairoli on the 250F may end up being a very wise decision, especially if he can battle with the 450 guys in the mixed motos. The start at Kegums is very biased towards the inside, so if Antonio is on the inside along with his MX2 peers (who he should beat, if everything goes to plan) and gets out of the gate well, he could run away whilst the strongest riders on the other teams are cutting their way through the field. Seeing the eight-time world champion on a 250F will be one of the most interesting stories to follow this weekend; it is going to be exciting!

The British team may be one of the strongest on paper, as they are one of the few teams that have not been hindered by injuries, although Shaun Simpson did dislocate his shoulder just a few weeks ago. However, despite this he seems ready to fight. Shaun has been very strong this year and is actually a better sand rider, so should thrive in Latvia. It is going to be quite interesting to see how Tommy performs on a 250F, as he was searching for less power on his 450F this year; the MX2 bike may suit him better for this reason. He did enjoy his best years in that class, so if he rediscovers that form he should be competitive against the bigger bikes.

Although this has been a relatively disappointing season for Dean Wilson, he was impressive when he stepped up to a 450F in the Monster Energy Supercross series. Obviously the disciplines are quite different, but his speed was there, which is key. We really do not know how he will perform until he rolls out onto the track on Saturday, but he is Dean Wilson, he’ll be strong. Fitness was an issue in his stint on the big bike earlier this year though, so that may be something to keep an eye on.

If Germany and Australia had their three best riders present, they would be in contention for the win. However, they will be travelling to Latvia with ‘B teams’. Germany will be missing Ken Roczen, of course, which will be a major loss. If you’ve been living under a rock, he elected to opt out of the race due to visa issues and the fact that he wanted to get on his Suzuki. Max Nagl, Henry Jacobi and Dennis Ullrich are the riders that have been selected, as a result (after Marcus Schiffer succumbed to injury this past weekend). Nagl could be a spoiler in the individual races, but as a team you have to think they will be in the lower half of the top ten.

Chad Reed will return to the Motocross of Nations for the first time since 2011 and lead his nation into action; national champions Luke Clout and Matt Moss will join him. Chad had a lacklustre outdoor season, as he was dealing with a variety of issues, so it is unknown if he is going to be one hundred percent. Clout and Moss are obviously very fast, but it is unknown how they will fare at this level. Luke especially – he is inexperienced in comparison.

Team Switzerland have not been talked about much, despite the fact that they boast a line-up that consists of three top MX2 riders. Arnaud Tonus and Valentin Guillod have been bumped up to the bigger bike, but that should not be an issue for either rider – they have proven to be competitive on the 450F in the past. Jeremy Seewer will stick with the 250F. If everything goes well for the team, would it really be surprising to see them battling it out with the teams mentioned previously?

Of course there are many other teams that could battle it out inside of the top ten. Russia, The Netherlands, Estonia, Spain, Latvia, Puerto Rico, Canada, Slovenia and Ireland will all be strong! The Motocross of Nations will be an event that is not to be missed, as it is each year. We can hardly wait.

Words: Lewis Phillips

Image: Elliot Spencer

MX Vice Editor || 25

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