The Motocross of Nations is undoubtedly the pinnacle of Motocross. September is an important month for our sport, as well as the VMXdN at Farleigh Castle, multiple champions are crowned worldwide. However, the MXoN is undoubtedly the most prestigious of them all. This year, the 66th edition of the event will be running on the weekend of September 30th in the bottomless sand of Lommel, Belgium. The MXoN is the sole chance for fans worldwide to determine which is the fastest nation in the world; as well as being the only chance to see riders from all continents and backgrounds – ranging from America to Mongolia – compete in the same place.
A key factor in this year’s edition of the Motocross of Nations is the sand. Whilst many European teams and riders are based just minutes from Lommel; the Americans are heading in with not much valuable background knowledge surrounding the track. If you’re not prepared, the sand will bite you; which is perhaps why there is more uncertainty around who will take home the Chamberlain trophy this year. The fact that the Americans don’t really know what they are up against, definitely adds a sense of anything can happen. So, I wouldn’t be surprised to see nations like Belgium head in with a little more confidence. Still, you would be silly to bet against the Americans, especially considering they swaggered into Lommel 30 years ago to join the MXoN party, trounced the opposition and went on a 13 year win streak!
With the vast knowledge of Roger DeCoster still behind them, the American team of Ryan Dungey (MX1), Blake Baggett (MX2) and Justin Barcia (Open) will undoubtedly figure out their setups quickly. Dungey is simply a machine, and is capable of winning wherever he races, whilst Barcia is a very strong sand rider. However, if there is one rider on the team I am unsure about, it’s Blake Baggett. Blake struggled in his rookie MXoN performance last year, and isn’t as comfortable in the sand as he is on hard pack. But, if he can just be consistent, I can’t really see anyone ripping the Chamberlain trophy from the USA’s grasp.
Could this be the year team GB climbs onto the podium again? Having been so close, so many times in recent years, the team of Tommy Searle (MX1), Jake Nicholls (MX2) and Max Anstie (Open) are looking quite good in the lead up to the event. All of the selected three are solid sand riders, having spent a lot of time in Belgium over the years. Although they may not be in contention for an individual win, when the team results are tallied up I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see the Union Jack raised above the podium.
Maybe Belgium could capture a sensational home victory in Lommel? Clement Desalle (MX1), Jeremy Van Horebeek (MX2) and Ken de Dycker (Open) are all formidable sand riders. However, the deciding factor in how the Belgians will fare is whether or not Desalle is 100% healthy. Ever since the British GP, Clement has been suffering from a niggling hand injury that has hampered his performance recently. But, if he is anywhere near healthy, the home nation should be in a position to possibly claim an upset victory.
A downside for a lot of the teams is finding a world-class third rider. For instance, Germany has two incredible talents in Max Nagl (MX1) and Ken Roczen (MX2). However, for the most part their end result will depend on how the team’s third rider, Marcus Schiffer (Open) performs. Whilst Nagl and Roczen will be in contention for their individual class victory, Marcus will have a fight on his hands to break into the top five. However, if he can just put in one solid result, Germany are more than capable of challenging for the win. New Zealand is in a similar position to the Germans. Whilst, Josh Coppins (MX1) and Cody Cooper (Open) have been around long enough to experience multiple MXoN’s, their MX2 candidate Kayne Lamont is heading into the event for the first time, and is really an unknown.
What about France? Traditionally the deep sand isn’t a strong point of the French, which should make things tough on the team. Christophe Pourcel is no longer a part of team France, as Xavier Boog will now replace him. The most likely reason behind Pourcel being dropped from the team is because of a cracked shoulder blade suffered at Matterley Basin. However there are rumours that suggest it is because of some tension between himself and Paulin. Therefore the team now looks to be Gautier Paulin (MX1), Marvin Musquin (MX2) and Xavier Boog (Open). On paper the team seems very strong, however in reality they may not be capable of challenging the Americans.
If you are looking for a wildcard, look no further than The Netherlands. Of course, the Dutch are notorious for their sand riding skills, and Marc de Reuver (MX1), Glenn Coldenhoff (MX2) and Jeffrey Herlings (Open) are more than capable of challenging for a podium. The last time the MXoN visited a circuit with sand comparable to Lommel, they climbed up onto the box. With sand master Jeffrey Herlings now a part of the team; they stand an extremely realistic chance at getting on the podium at the end of the day. Even if they aren’t a factor in the team result, it’s worth keeping an eye on Herlings as he tries to cement his position as the fastest sand rider in the world!
Quite simply, the 66th edition of the Motocross of Nations is going to be one not to be missed. The MXoN is the most spectacular Motocross race in the world and is the one time the entire industry is focusing their efforts on one race. There is definitely a chance of an upset winner stealing the spotlight, as how the Americans will fare is a bit of an unknown. But one thing is for sure; it’s time to get behind our team!