Observations: Toronto

April 1, 2009 6:22am | by:

After last week’s disastrous column where Weege pretended to be me, I’m really back in action this time and of course, why wouldn’t I be? The Monster Energy AMA Supercross series, a FIM World Championship, was in my home country of Canada! For the three people that don’t know it yet, I’m a born and raised hoser, and this weekend was where the “a FIM World Championship” came into play because the CMA was running the show here…. With a little help from the AMA of course.

  • I went down on the track afterwards and shot this jump. This was the face of every jump out there. Imagine you're a rider and you have to pick a line and hope your footpegs don't drag up the face. I think I'll take the press box.
  • I shot this from the press box as I wondered who exactly the flagman who's up against the wall is notifying? The fans in the first row? Maybe his buddy that is THREE feet from him can help out? These guys were fixed soon after.
  • Here are the Canadian Monster girls that are at every national up there. They're both named Julie and neither one will go out with Ryan Lockhart or Ryan Gauld, no matter how many times they ask.
For those of you that care about Canada’s sanctioning bodies, the real sanctioning body that is actually running 98% of the country’s MX races is the CMRC. The CMA has a few pockets here and there (and looks after the hugely popular Canadian trials, enduro and road racing scenes) but for some unknown reason, the FIM won’t change the official sanctioning body to the CMRC. The CMA is a shell of its former powerful self but they do have sweet white jumpsuits for the referees to wear. Maybe the CMRC needs to step up and get some track suits?

The AMA calls the CMRC when they have questions about Canadian riders racing in America, the AMA and CMRC discuss sound testing procedures and rules and things like that….  Think of it this way: The FIM is a hot movie producer with all this money and wants to make a blockbuster summer movie. The CMRC is Michael J Fox in Teenwolf and the CMA would be the guy that played Michael J Fox’s part in Teenwolf 2. Clearly the FIM likes sequels.

In a true cooperation of major international bodies, I noticed the Canadian sanctioning body guy would go down the line to make sure the riders were ready and then the American sanctioning body guy would start the 30-second countdown while the heavenly-body Monster girl would hold the board. It was international teamwork at its best!

The track was, well, it was rutty and soft. Like fresh out of the oven Pillsbury cookie soft. The layout was good, it was designed by Jeff “Six-Time” Stanton but the dirt made the track difficult to ride for sure. The 250 guys would be hanging on for dear life over the triples, the 450 guys were making mistakes everywhere and it was a challenge. I think that’s why we didn’t see great racing in either main, because the guys were busy trying to just race the track instead of each other. Hey, when it takes Reedy and Stewie three or four laps before they start jumping stuff, you know it’s gnarly.

I didn’t like the rocks and figured the riders didn’t either but in talking to some Feld and Dirt Wurx guys, it seemed the riders accepted the dirt for what it was there wasn’t too much bitching. I think everyone realized its Canada and it’s March and not much anyone can do about that. Next year they are going to sift the rocks out and store it under the Gardiner Expressway highway so that should make for better conditions next year. Maybe they will store the over/under bridge there also?

  • This is the man that won his first ever Toronto supercross. Stewie rode pretty conservative and I didn't see any crazy-balls moves and I'm sure the track was the reason why.
  • I thought Reedy was going to make a race out of it when he had a couple of laps in a row that were better than James but it was too much to ask on this track for a guy to ride mistake free.
I thought that opening the roof would help the dirt as the weather was unusually warm but according to Dave Prater of Feld, before the roof opens for the first time the dome people have to call in all these engineers and inspectors to make sure everything is greased and ready to go. That’s too bad because that would’ve helped the track and all the smoke that was in there from the fireworks as well.

So James did what he had to do. And if James does what he has to do, then Reed has to do what he has to do. And he did just that. Follow? The main event started with (what else) a Mike “Always” Alessi holeshot and then James grabbed the lead and took off for the win from there. Reed got into second and made some time up on James but then Stewie would pull it back out. They were yo-yo-ing each other for about half the laps but then stayed the same and James took the win. I was just going to type out that James made some mistakes along the way but realized that everyone made mistakes out there so just imagine after every paragraph there is a “but he had some close calls out there.”

Interesting that both big dogs hid a jump combo from the other until the main event. There are no secrets and they both probably realized that each other was going to try it. What was the leap? After the first triple there was a double, tabletop and then single. If it was normal dirt, the guys would’ve jumped onto the table and off all day long but because the face was rutty and nasty, they were holding off until the main.

I figured one of them would try it and got confirmation from somebody in the Stewie camp (let’s call him “Loger Rarsen”) that James was eyeing it up. Then on lap two of the main, Reedy went for it but went a bit long and almost over the berm but it was definitely quicker. And then like someone beamed the info into Stewie’s head, he jumped it the very next lap! Then it was on for the guys and they gapped everyone pretty good by doing this jump that no one else did. Interesting games going on in between both guys’ ears.

Well Mitch Payton is going to have to add a garage door to his semi as he claimed another number one plate when Frenchman Christophe “Le Superman” Pourcel won the East Region title with his 250 main event win. This track suited him perfectly as the kid who looks like JMB out there just precisely picked his lines and won pretty easily. The throttle control and patience that this ever-changing track needed was right up Pourcel’s alley and he grabbed the title with one to go.

  • The guy on the left is Pourcel's manfriend but I forget his name. Good to see Stroupe on the podium shot, even though I'm sure he didn't want to be there. Rollerball's old mechanic is on the far left. Yes Dave, we know you and Ross were number one.
I’ve gone on and on about his amazing comeback from injury but its worth repeating that his injury was incredibly serious and still affects him now. His mechanic told me that when he gets nervous or worked up, his stomach gets very upset and it’s hard for him to concentrate on riding. He’s still getting treatment on the injury and it’ll probably be there the rest of his life. Bravo Christophe. His win made up for his brother’s bad showing at the opening mud filled GP.

Josh Hill has been riding at Stewie’s and then had his best ride of the season as he came from eleventh (!) to third, passing Josh Grant, Ivan Tedesco, Kevin Windham and many other heavy hitters (sadly, not Ferry though, he’s still hurt). The Pacific Northwest rider probably felt right at home in the ruts, rocks and soft dirt and I bet if he closed one eye, it probably reminded him of Albany Raceway out there. The other Yamaha factory guy, Broc Hepler also grabbed third earlier this year and was staying at Stewie’s. That’s not a coincidence and although James likes to say that “we build champions” down there in Haines City… he should say that they build champions and surprise third-places down there. Great ride for the seventy-five.

Halfway through the main I was watching the lap times and there were only three guys in the 53s: Stewie, Reedy and Hill.

I was wondering what was up with Andrew Short as he was in third during the opening laps but faded bad—like  a ’97 Pro Circuit flo-green fender-in-the-sun bad. That’s pretty unlike the Tex-oloradoan and I asked him (I actually texted him but I can’t say texted because people think I’m name dropping in my column so I’ll just lie and say I asked him) after the main what was up, hoping he didn’t punch me out later but he said he tore his triceps and will have to stay in Canada for a few days as there is a doctor up there that can help him out. Hence the fade to the back for Shorty.

Before the race I asked him about Canada and how he liked it; he said he didn’t like customs very much (who does?) but did like the restaurant by his hotel called Kit-Kats (check it out here http://www.kitkattoronto.com/). Then I mentioned that the good news about staying in Canada was that he could eat at Kit-Kats some more but that didn’t really thrill him. He is going to try and race this weekend in Jacksonville because the Canadian doctors have some bitching machines to help him heal. Serious.

  • I'VE BROKEN THE SECRETS BEHIND MIKE'S STARTS. That's it, I'm sure his holeshot days are behind him. Yeah, right.
  • Hill rode great and charged through the pack to grab third. He's been staying down at Stewie's and even though I'm impressed he got third, I'm more impressed that he hasn't got lost on the property.
I’ve been going around and asking some riders why they think Mike Alessi is so freaking good at starts as it just fascinates me that no matter what, he is up front all the time. This week I might’ve got to the bottom of some of his success…. Y’see, Mike starts in the same gate almost every time. I went back to the archives and noticed in New Orleans heat, St Louis heat and main, a supercross commercial AND this weekend he starts in the fourth gate to the right of the box.  When I was walking the track, I went over to that gate and it’s a good 2-3 inches lower than the ones around it. Pretty clever, Mikey!  But I do think this isn’t the only reason for his starts….

Is he hurt or something? Does anyone know? Because this weekend, just like last, he faded pretty bad. He went all the way back to eleventh this weekend and that’s unlike a healthy Mike Alessi.

Brady Sheren was the lone Canadian to make the main out of the three that tried but if you’re wondering why he got to race an east round when he’s a west rider, you’re not alone. Seems he took advantage of a loop-hole and because the Toronto round was also a NAMU (North American Motorcyclist’s Union-don’t laugh) round and he was Canadian, he got to race. Did you know that Martin Davalos was a NAMU champion based on his Vancouver and Toronto races a few years back? Neither did I. Basically NAMU is created by the same person who runs the CMA and the confusion in Canada continues… I’m sure Martin Davalos keeps his NAMU plaque close to his heart, if he even knows he won it.

Brady was running okay but a fall and arm pump got the best of him in the main. The other Canadian that I thought might do okay was Tyler Medaglia but in the LCQ he went for the third spot in a pick-up pass type of move and was left picking up his bike.

Look, I know Tim Horton’s is pretty much Jesus juice for all you Canadians and the gross earnings of the donut/coffee chain must be bigger than NASA’s budget. What I don’t understand is how they can serve you a beverage that is SO F-ING HOT you cannot hold the cup. I’m serious! I really don’t get it.  There’s these American things called sleeves that we use, you guys should look into them.

Austin Stroupe and Matt Lemoine are both really fast and real throttle jockeys. I was thinking that this is the type of track to cause them trouble as when they get in trouble, the wrist tends to turn instead of the brain activating, but of course my intuition was completely wrong as both guys rode strong races to get a second and a fifth.

  • I ran into Will Hahn and Daniel Blair in the airport on Sunday morning and told him I thought his bike was fast. He just smiled and nodded.
Only four riders (Pourcel, Stroupe, Lemoine and Clarke) in the top ten have made every main event this year. That tells you something about the parity in the class.

There was a triple out of a corner that barely any 250 riders did because of the short run and the soft dirt. Pourcel did it kind of consistently and Jesseman aired it out quite a bit (although he looked like he was going to die every time) but the rider that was jumping it the most and the best was Will Hahn. His KTM is fast, no doubt about it, because he wouldn’t even go all the way to the outside to jump it.

Hart & Huntington’s Matt Boni really hasn’t missed a beat since his switch from Butler Brothers MX. I was going to get into the whole deal when it happened but here’s the deal with that—I write press releases for both teams! Yes, the comedy in that is hilarious in itself to be sure but after getting both sides of the deal, I’m just going to stay out of it because I don’t really know what happened. It’s one of those he said/he said things.

What I do know is that Matt has put in some great rides for both teams and that can’t be easy adapting to the different bikes and settings but after getting some good finishes for BBMX, he has gotten a tenth and an eighth for H&H (yes, I know guys like Ferry and Byrne are hurt, but still). Matt’s been the surprise of the 450 class and moved into the lead in the privateer point’s battle when Heath Voss didn’t make the main.

JGR rider Nathan Ramsey put in a good showing with a twelfth in the main event. After not making the main in his second race, the veteran got it up in there in the main event. I was a little scared after watching the first practice when Nate Dawg definitely struggled with the track but maybe the WD-40 he sprays on his joints hadn’t soaked in yet.

Jason Thomas and I grabbed something to eat at the Pizza Pizza place right by the dome before the night show and were marveling at all the people in Toronto Maple Leaf jerseys going the hockey game that night. I suggested we skip the race and check out the mighty Leafs but he didn’t think that was a good idea and said something to the effect that team manager Forrest “would kill me.” He spent the main event coming back from a start so bad, he might as well have started backwards. Then he diced back and forth with his teammate Kyle “don’t call me Kenny” Keylon for the twelfth spot.

  • I didn't talk about Broc Tickle at all and I feel bad. Great ride Broc!
I went to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Friday afternoon and reveled in the history of that place. I go every year but they don’t change that much stuff so I found myself breezing through the hallowed halls. I tried to get any American industry person to go with me but they all said they were “busy.”

I would bet that almost everyone that knows me on the circuit knows I’m from Canada, so I have to hear every year the good and bad about my home country. This year Shorty was getting on about customs but his mechanic Gothic Jay said he liked that Tim Horton’s puts the milk and sugar into the coffee for you (he didn’t say anything about how you can’t hold onto the cup for longer than .3 seconds because Gothic wears mechanics gloves everywhere). Kyle Bentley, Pourcel’s mechanic, was not happy about his stay because he got held up at customs for 45 minutes, got a ticket for not stopping all the way at a stop sign, and to top it all off a bunch of PC guys got their clothes stolen from the pits underneath the stands. Kyle lost his jacket and cell phone and even his rider winning the title didn’t make him love Canada.

You know in my podcast with Damon Bradshaw, he mentioned that when he tore up his knee in the ’92 season, he had a long time off and discovered a lot of things that he missed out on after racing his whole life. This led to his disinterested 1993 season and subsequent retirement in 1994. I can’t help but think Davi Millsaps might be going through the same thing. In no way am I saying he’s going to retire but after being nothing but a little moto-robot his whole life, he missed some races the last few years, got engaged and maybe is seeing that there is more to life than riding your balls off all the time. I’m just sayin…

That’s all I got from my home country and it saddened me to leave the great city of Toronto but it’s onto Jacksonville for a brand new venue and a new stadium for Bobby Kiniry to crash in! Thanks for reading and email at matthes@racerxonline.com if you have beef with me.