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MX Vice Viewpoint: Motocross des Nations

The 2013 Motocross des Nations is in the books; the biggest race of the year produced quite a lot of surprises, for the second successive year. Shall we just get straight into it? There was so much that happened – I do not know how we’re going to fit everything in!

Before we get to the racing, we definitely need to look at the major changes that were made to the Teutschenthal track for the Motocross des Nations. Before this year, the German start wasn’t fair at all, as it favoured the inside gates massively. However, the new start was much improved, as it was actually quite fair – it was possible to get a good start from any gate. The British team proved that, with their starts in the qualifying heats from the fortieth gate pick.

Aside from the start, there were not too many changes made to the track. However, it was a lot shorter than usual – lap times were fifteen seconds faster than at the GP there in 2012. It was certainly noticeable, as the riders completed nineteen laps, which is a lot more than the normal GPs. Teutschenthal was much rougher than it normally is, as well. Every rider that I spoke to said it was notably harder both mentally, and physically, because of the difficult surface that was hard-pack and slick with deep ruts and square edged bumps. I was surprised at the little track preparation that they did, specifically at the end of Saturday, as they left the track as it was, which ultimately caused the breaking bumps to get very hard.

Although most would have liked to have seen the track prepared slightly better, whatever the club did clearly worked, as the on-track action was faultless. Perhaps this was a conscious effort? Usually, Teutschenthal is very fast – maybe they left it rough in order to slow it down, which in turn would keep everyone a lot closer? Anyway, I digress. Shall we just get into the racing?

Shockingly (yes, shockingly, whenever it happens it is always going to be a surprise) the USA lost again, for the second successive year. Was this time more surprising than last year? Most people that I have spoken to are torn on this. But, I believe it was. Why? In 2012, there were a lot of genuine question marks surrounding the Americans. So, when they lost at Lommel it was not as much of a shock, as it seemed as though most fans had already expected it. Whereas in the lead up to the Motocross des Nations this year, everyone had team USA pegged as the obvious winners. After all, the hard-pack of Teutschenthal was much more conventional, and suited to the American trio.

It is strange that for the second year in a row, Ryan Dungey failed to lead the team in the way that most expect him to. Prior to last year, Dungey was undefeated in the individual MX1 class at the MXdN. But, he has really struggled the last two years. In Teutschenthal, he just seemed lost. I actually saw him messing around with his bike setup a lot over the two days, even in the morning warm up session on Sunday, he was pulling into pit lane and fiddling around with the air shock. It is quite well known that Ryan is not the greatest test rider out there. But, at this point in his career he should be well versed in the area, especially at a place like Teutschenthal, where the track is not too dissimilar to what they have in the USA.

Overall, Ryan Dungey ended up fifth overall at Teutschenthal, following a sixth and a seventh in the two motos. When was the last time Dungey straight up finished outside of the top five in two motos? I would say that it was back at Hangtown in 2010, his outdoor debut on a 450. Seriously, Ryan was not selected for the team because he would be a good bet to finish close to the top five – he was brought over to win, and that just wasn’t a realistic goal for him this past weekend. Why? Well, in an exclusive MX Vice interview, Roger DeCoster (the American team manager) ripped into Dungey a little bit, as he stated that he was not mentally ready to do the job. Perhaps this is the case? Remember back in 2008, when Jason Lawrence rattled him? Dungey is clearly not the strongest guy in the field, mentally.

Despite the lack of speed and intensity showcased by Ryan Dungey, it seemed likely that the American team were going to collect the Chamberlain Trophy still, as they had a formidable lineup of guys. Eli Tomac specifically, was particularly impressive. I thought that he might have a tough time of it following his performance in the MX2 qualifier on Saturday, as he struggled to get around (and break away from) guys like Jordi Tixier and Jake Nicholls. However, Eli looked like a new guy when Sunday rolled around! Honestly, his speed in moto one was unrivalled, as he sliced through the field before eventually pulling onto the back wheel of Ken Roczen.

Eli Tomac then had a frightening crash, as most of you will have seen already. Some would liken it to Chad Reed’s frightening fall in 2011, but it was much more similar to Ricky Carmichael’s crash at Washougal in 2006. Whatever you compare it to, it was frightening, and he was lucky to ride away from it. At first, I thought he caught his footpeg whilst leaning the bike over on the takeoff. However, after looking at it closer it seems as though he lost the front end, before chucking the handlebars out of his hand. Immediately I presumed that he would have looked dejected in moto two, but he came out swinging again, remarkably.

What about Justin Barcia? Well, to me, he seemed to get progressively worse as the weekend wore on. During the first free practice on Saturday morning, I was actually quite impressed by his speed. But, he never showed that again in the races, strangely. In Saturday’s qualifier, he just seemed out of sorts, as Desalle rode off into the distance. Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect Justin to beat Clement. However, I did expect him to at least keep him in his sights. The weekend wasn’t a complete disaster for Barcia though, as he won the Open class overall, somehow, despite getting caught up in a pile up in the final moto.

If America were going to lose the MXdN, it was more than likely going to be to Belgium. So, it isn’t completely surprising that the Belgians won the Chamberlain Trophy for the first time since 2004 (when the USA did not even compete). In recent years, the nation has certainly been unlucky, as they have come so close so many times. It was anything but easy for them this year though, as they had to work for it. I have heard a lot of people state that “if Tomac had not of crashed, the USA would have won.” But, what if Desalle had not of crashed in turn one and dislocated his shoulder? Clement was seemingly the strongest Belgian – he could have challenged for the lead in that race quite easily.

When the announcer screamed that Clement Desalle was out of the race, I thought it was over, honestly. Heck, so did Joel Smets! But, a heroic ride by Ken de Dycker, where he actually managed to maintain a solid pace for the full forty minutes, clinched it for them. With around five minutes to go in the final moto, it did seem as though Ken was seconds away from dropping the anchor, as he began losing a lot of time and making many minor mistakes. However, he picked it up again to claim second in the race – a commendable effort. Prior to that point, Ken seemed to be the weak link in the squad, as he had a poor first moto where he struggled. The lanky Belgian mentioned to me that this was because of how fast the circuit was at the beginning of the day, which is seemingly a condition not suited to his style.

Personally, I felt like Jeremy van Horebeek was the most impressive Belgian. I openly stated that Jeremy was the weak link on the team going in, and understandably so. After all, it can’t have been easy switching down to the 250f. However, he seemed even faster than he did on a factory KTM back in 2012, shockingly. Jeremy actually said to me after the race that he felt faster too! In my eyes, he seemed much more aggressive, he also seemed to be able to chuck the bike around a lot more, which is more than likely because of how much lighter it felt. Honestly, two sevenths doesn’t show just how well he rode, it was certainly eye opening. In fact, he came from thirty-fourth to seventh in one of the motos – that is how capable he was! Jeremy also seemed to be the happiest of all the Belgian team with the win, as he was ecstatic.

Well, it’s about time! Finally, Italy travelled to the race with a team that was more than capable of backing up Antonio Cairoli, and finishing in the top three overall. Admittedly, I didn’t foresee them landing on the box. But, all three riders did exactly what they were expected too. Interestingly, they were not too far out of second. In fact, they occupied that position for much of the race. If Philippaerts had not of faded in the closing stages of the final moto, they would have more than likely beaten the Americans, which is remarkable really, when you consider that Italy are never normally a factor when it comes to finishing on the podium.

I don’t want to jinx it, but Antonio Cairoli may have finally shaken the black cloud that used to follow him at the Motocross des Nations. Of course, he won both motos last year, and he did exactly the same again this year. Obviously, we all want to see him match up against Ryan Villopoto, but I think it is fair to say that he is quicker than Dungey, right? Antonio had to work for his wins both motos, so there is no way that anyone can try to belittle his achievement – he was seemingly the fastest rider on track. With the goal of finishing on the overall podium now achieved, Cairoli stated that he wants to contend for the win next year, which will be a mountainous task – personally, I don’t think the Italians are ready for that, just yet.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! If you have been reading my articles, you will know that I was pretty much driving the Australian bandwagon heading into Teutschenthal. On Saturday, my belief in the team seemed to be paying off, but only Dean Ferris performed when points were on the line. Now, one of the popular debates this weekend was, were Ferris’ results a surprise? Honestly, I think they were. Yes, I know he won a GP. But, the Dean Ferris that I saw at Teutschenthal was not the same guy that won a moto at Matterley Basin. Teutschenthal actually had a similar surface to both Bastogne and Matterley Basin. Perhaps that was why he was so strong? I certainly didn’t expect him to finish second overall in the MX2 class, and inside of the top five in both motos – what a ride!

What about Brett Metcalfe? On Saturday, he looked really strong. Perhaps the strongest that he has been since returning from his horrific 2012 injuries? So, following that heat win, we all expected a similar ride on the Sunday. But he was pretty invisible out there, as he just plugged away, in typical Brett Metcalfe fashion. Overall, an eighth and a tenth certainly was not disastrous. However, we all expected a lot more, because he set the bar so high on Sunday. Following a tough couple of years fourth was a great result for Australia, as they certainly shocked a few people. But personally, I expected this.

If you read our predictions article in the lead up to the event, you will have seen that I didn’t think that France would finish in the top five. However, they did it! I was wrong – I’ll admit it. Both Gautier Paulin and Jordi Tixier were pretty good, but Christophe Charlier was most impressive, to me. I thought that he was a strange pick for the Open slot, but he actually excelled on the bigger bike. In my opinion, he looked even better than he normally does on a 250f. Perhaps it is time for him to move up full-time? After all, he is a bigger guy. Bike problems hindered him in the final moto, hence why some will overlook his great ride.

Oh, Great Britain! Honestly, we should have finished a little higher – we were better than sixth. Tommy Searle carried the team this year, and he did it well. In my opinion, this was the best that we have seen him perform aboard a 450f. Why the sudden change? Well, he made a switch to WP in the week before the race, as he has been struggling with setup all year long. In fact, his team has been apologising to him all year, because the equipment used previously just was not up to par! Now, CLS Kawasaki are splitting from Pro Circuit next year, which seems to be a wise choice going off of this past weekend. Tommy was actually second in the individual MX1 class, which most do not know. So, it was a great individual performance for him.

Jake Nicholls was slightly off of where he could have been, in my opinion. However, the second moto wasn’t bad at all! Admittedly, moto one was pretty dismal – it sparked debate over whether he should have even been picked! But, there is no doubt he deserved to be there. Shaun Simpson was actually the biggest surprise on the team, as he excelled under the pressure. However, some rotten luck hindered his results. In the joint MX2 and Open moto, Shaun had no front or back brake, hence why he dropped off so quickly. In the final moto, he got caught up in that pile up, so any shot he had at finishing up front immediately evaporated. But, he actually hung with Justin Barcia for the full forty minutes, and by the end he actually seemed to be a bit faster! Shaun has made a big jump up in recent weeks, which is great to see.

Germany were unlucky, they should have finished on the podium, honestly. Unfortunately, Dennis Ullrich had a shocking day, as he crashed out of both motos. Perhaps the pressure of the event got to him? Dennis had to post just one good result, and he failed to do so. Although the German fans had to be disappointed by the overall result, both Max Nagl and Ken Roczen had some great individual performances, which sent the crowd into frenzy. I was really quite sceptical about how Max was going to perform, but he stepped it up in the final moto. Nagl has had a torrid year on the Honda World Motocross machine, so it was great for him to salvage something by leading that final moto for a solid amount of time.

Obviously, Ken Roczen was the standout performer, as he achieved his goal of winning a moto. Honestly, it cannot have been easy for Ken, as he was so busy with the press, fans and sponsor obligations all weekend. However, Roczen is one of the guys that always excels under pressure, hence why he delivered the results we all expected from him. Ken did state that he was suffering from arm pump, perhaps that was because of the pressure? It obviously didn’t have too much of an effect on him, as he got the job done! What about that second race? Now that was insane! Wow, I believe that it was one of [if not] the best races I have seen in a long time – it was hard not to get excited about that!

Well, there you have it! I’ve rambled on long enough. Obviously, there will be a lot of content up on MX Vice this week, with interviews and opinions on the Motocross des Nations. If you haven’t read our exclusive Roger DeCoster interview, you need to – it’s gone viral, you don’t want to miss out, do you? If you want to bench race about the race, just send me an email at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter (@LewisPhillips71)!

Words by Lewis Phillips

MX Vice Editor || 25

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