In the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross series, a lot of riders have hogged the headlines for a few different reasons. However, there are always some riders that put in a great ride and get overlooked by everyone. So, in this piece, we like to put the spotlight on those guys and look at some of the great rides from Phoenix that you may not have noticed.
Shane McElrath (250SX): Honestly, I did not expect Shane McElrath to do exceptionally well this year. Why? Well, when he jumped onto his Troy Lee Designs Lucas Oil Honda at the end of the Lucas Oil Pro Nationals last year, he did very little. Although, Shane managed to score some points, he was struggling to break into the top fifteen. When you consider that he had very little supercross experience prior to this year, also, I presumed that he would struggle.
Shane McElrath failed to impress at Anaheim 1, also, as he finished down in sixteenth. But if you look at the lap chart from the opening round, you will see that he was in the top ten for most of the fifteen laps, before he started to fade in the latter stages. Maybe all of the hype and excitement that surrounds the season opener got to him? Anyway, whatever happened at round one, his result was certainly underwhelming.
But, Shane looked like a completely different guy in Phoenix on Saturday, as he showcased a bit of potential for the first time as a professional. During the practice sessions, his lap times put him around the top ten, which was a bit of an improvement. However it was in the main event that McElrath really shined through, as he got a solid start and held his own. Although he ended the first lap in fourth, he was pushed up to third when Cooper Webb ran off of the track. I presumed that McElrath was going to tighten up and drop back at first, seeing as this was the first time that he had ran up front at a supercross. But he occupied the position and held off Dean Wilson for four laps, before the Scotsman found a way through.
The Troy Lee Designs Lucas Oil Honda rider seemed like he had the potential to finish around the top five. But, Webb took him out on the seventh lap, which wrecked his race. I think that it was a silly move by Cooper, I am sure that he thinks the same now, as he crashed too. But, I digress. I am quite interested to see what Shane can do in the coming weeks. Although I do not think that he is capable of battling with the top five, I believe that he is going to be a top ten guy consistently in the near future.
Broc Tickle (450SX): Broc Tickle has been quite consistent in the Monster Energy Supercross series thus far, as he has finished in eighth at rounds one and two. It seems like he is exactly the same rider that he was last year, which definitely is not a bad thing. Tickle is very similar to Ryan Dungey; he is smart, consistent and right there every week. However, all of us want to see a little more from him, right? Prior to the round one, Broc mentioned that he wanted to break out of his comfort zone and post some stronger results; he stated that he had been working on that during the off-season as well. But we have not seen any flashes of brilliance from him, yet.
In my opinion, Broc is going to continue progressing as the season wears on, and as he gets a little more comfortable; he will start making small gains in the standings. I am certain that he is motivated after watching Justin Brayton finish up on the box in Phoenix; there is no reason why Broc cannot do that! After all, the two have been very close in speed in the past.
Tickle has the speed to succeed, evidently, as he posted strong practice times in Phoenix. In 2013 he was never really up front during practice, so maybe he has gotten faster during the winter months? In fact, he was faster than James Stewart in practice this past weekend. So, he is clearly doing something right, it just needs to come together for him in the races. I will be keeping an eye on Tickle in the coming weeks, as I do think that he could break out quite soon.
In reality Tickle does need to impress this year, as his contract is up at the end of the season, and it is no secret that the RCH Suzuki team will be hoping to hire a title contender. Although I would not be surprised to see him stay with his current team, he will need to show a couple of flashes of brilliance to help justify why they should keep him onboard. But, at the moment that is a long way off. However, I can guarantee that some riders have started to think about it already.
Words: Lewis Phillips
Image: James Lissimore