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Observations: Montreal SX

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This past weekend I was at the biggest race in the world, it was one filled with tension and drama. There was no give in any of the competitors and the stakes were high. Riders, nay... Gladiators were going into battle to fight for their country’s pride and the winner would be the one left standing. Only they would be able to fly their country’s flag proudly whilst the defeated could do nothing but gaze up and admire the superiority of the winner.

  • Dusty Klatt finished third on a cool looking Blackfoot Yamaha that had a red frame and white plastic. You know, like us Canadians have always had when you Americans were riding yellow YZs.
  • Kelly Smith, the 2000 Mt. Morris national winner, was at Montreal and had some bad luck. Smith is looking for a ride and in case you were wondering, he can still start.
That’s right, I was at the Montreal Supercross, people! Why? What did you think I was talking about? That’s right, the longest continuous running event in the city of Montreal was taking place this weekend at Olympic Stadium. Sure, it wasn’t the Motocross des Nations, but it was the next-best thing, and I was there, dammit.

For the last few years, the track was built by Dirt Wurx, but for 2009, the promoters decided to cut back a bit on the costs (aren’t we all?) and they brought in a local crew to build it. The Montreal Supercross is unique in that there are so many events during the night for the spectators. They really get their money’s worth watching the event. There are 450s, 250s, quads, and this year, for the first time, Endurocross.

So, as you can imagine, the track needs to be suited to all of the above guys, but one thing that helped the track builders was that they hired legendary Canadian racer Jean-Sebastien Roy to oversee the construction of the track. JSR hung up the boots last year when he won his record-tying fifth Montreal Supercross and is still heavily involved with the sport as a consultant for his old team, Blackfoot Yamaha, and now he can add “track builder” to his impressive resume.

I thought the track was pretty good. It probably wasn’t challenging enough for the top American riders that were there, but you have to remember that the Canadians that were there wouldn’t fall under the term “supercross specialists.” So it had to be a bit tamer for them, for the quads, and also the Endurocross dudes used a couple of straightaways as well. Add all that together and you have to make it a bit easier than an AMA SX.

Jason Thomas takes the Montreal SX very serious. He’s a friend of mine and we often joke around and call him “JT Serious” because he oftentimes has a scowl on his face and doesn’t seem to enjoy himself at the races. He’s got a great sense of humor but finds it necessary to keep it real serious. So when he can line up on the gate with a chance to win the main event, well, he ratchets up the seriousness quite a bit.

When he didn’t qualify well and didn’t set that fast of a time in practice, well, the seriousness turned to just plain grumpiness. He wasn’t much fun to be around, that’s for sure. His mood probably lightened up quite a bit when he grabbed the holeshot in the MX1 main event and sped off for the win. He turned a crappy day into a great day with his main-event win.

His race was really won in the opening laps when he gapped the second-placed rider Colton Facciotti. From there, he was doing a quad into the sand section that had developed some pretty nice-size bumps, and using the inside whenever he could. It was JT’s second-career Montreal SX win and gave him a nice start to his Suzuki career.

  • Da Winner! Jason Thomas took his BTO Sports.com/BBMX Suzuki to the top step on the podium. He wasn't the fastest at any point during the day except when it counted.
  • This guy was the fastest when it didn't count. Troy Adams was my American ringer and he was on it, but I suppose riding at Croom in Florida wasn't that good of practice for a supercross track.
  • Ryan Clark won this race a couple of years ago and when I spoke to him he was into the having fun mode. He didn't have a very good year this season and his Montreal SX kept right up with that theme.
Huh? Suzuki? Yeah, that’s right. Butler Brothers Motocross has recently switched from Honda to Suzuki and that may just be the thing that Thomas and the other riders on the team need. Sometimes a fresh start is a good thing.

Second place was Blackfoot Yamaha’s Colton Facciotti. The two-time Canadian MX1 champ certainly stuck to his modus operandi in that he rides poorly in practice and doesn’t look like he’s on it, everyone writes him off or wonders what’s wrong, and then he goes out and spanks everyone. He did the same thing in Montreal when all he could do was get the eleventh-best time in Saturday practice. This got me thinking that he couldn’t adapt to the supercross and that we could count him out for the night – this despite me going to three Canadian nationals this year where he did the exact same thing. Apparently, yes, I can be fooled twice. Or even, like, a dozen times.

Colton came out and blitzed the heat race to grab the win and I remembered that he always plays possum. In the main, he started and finished second. There was nothing he could do to try and chip away at Thomas’s lead. He had his teammate Klatt right behind him the whole main event, waiting for a mistake.

One Blackfoot Yamaha did stand on the top step, though, and that was the team’s MX2 rider, Kyle Beaton. Beaton is certainly one of Canada’s outstanding young riders and he proved it by winning the Canadian-rider-only MX2 main event. It was almost not to be for KD Beets as he injured his ankle early on in qualifiers on Saturday and he was unable to do any more than four laps all day. The MX2 guys went straight into a main event off the qualifying times and we all waited to see if Beaton would go out and try to ride.

And not only did he ride but he took the lead early on in the main event and rode off to victory on a 2010 YZ250F. That’s probably the first win for a 2010 YZ250F in the world and I’m not sure what that’s worth but it’s got to be a little noteworthy. No?

Beaton passed Suzuki’s Brady Sheren on the third lap or so and I was disappointed in Sheren’s performance. He’s the Canadian with the most actual SX experience and set the fastest time in practice, so when he holeshot and led for a while, I pretty much thought the race was his. But he got tired or arm pump or something and was lucky to hang on for third. Another lap or so and Broc Hoyer would’ve gotten him. It’s a ten-lap main event, and that’s about nine minutes of riding. There’s no reason to get that tired on an easy track. Sheren’s racing this weekend at the U.S. Open and has a chance to redeem himself in the MGM Grand Garden Arena. I’ll be watching.

One of my jobs is editor for a Canadian moto website called Directmotocross.com, and we covered Montreal like we were Wolf Blitzer and the race was a Geneva Convention. One of the things we did was set up a live webcast of the event, and somehow, amazingly enough, I was able to get Supercross LIVE! announcer Jim Holley to come up and help me out. Holley is an amazing color guy and I tried to play the role of The Weege and call the action. I spoke to Weege before going up for some advice and he said that whenever I get stuck, throw it to Jim and he’ll ramble on intelligently about whatever you want him to.

  • Kyle Beaton won the MX2 class (or 250 class for you Americans). KD Beets is good people and will be the favorite for next year's MX2 title for the 428th consecutive year.
  • John Dowd had a trick bike. Look closely at it here. He raced Endurocross and Supercross and is the man. Of this, there is no doubt.
And that’s exactly what happened. I tried to call the action best I could but whenever I ran out of something to say, I simply turned to Hollywood and asked him what he thought about Guy Giroux’s BMW, and sure enough, he had something to say about. It was great!

Did I mention that Holley won the Montreal SX a couple of times? He was the perfect guy to have up there and did an awesome job. If you would’ve told me in 1985 when I watched Ross “Rollerball” Pederson and Holley battle it out at the Winnipeg Arenacross that I would someday announce the Montreal Supercross with Hollywood, I wouldn’t have believed it.

In case you didn’t already know that John Dowd was the man after his third overall at this year’s Southwick national, he showed up at Montreal and rode both the 450 SX and the Endurocross! And they were back to back at that. So after going out and transferring to the main via the 450 LCQ, he lined up for the seven-lap Endurocross final. After a second in that, he just changed out of a wet jersey and lined her back up for the 450 main. Then he went out and finished 13th there. He’s 44 years old and a hero.

Dowd’s endurocross bike was trick. It was a KX250 motor in an aluminum-framed KX250F chassis. I heard that the old factory Honda/YoT mechanic Kenny G. was behind this sweet setup.

I was a super-agent this weekend as I arranged rides for Troy Adams and Kelly Smith to come up and ride for Team Label It racing on Hondas. The owner of the team, Brad Coles, is a good dude that has a small team. I thought it would be cool to get my friends Troy and Kelly some small start money as well as help Brad out with his sponsors. I was giddy like a school-girl when Troy had the fastest time in qualifying and Kelly was seventh. Alas, it was not to be, as Troy and Kelly both didn’t get the starts that they needed to. Adams was on the move early on in the main and got into fifth before arm-pump struck and Kelly never recovered and ended up fifteenth.

The winner of the endurocross was Hungary’s Kornel Nemeth. Nemeth, who rode three Canadian Nationals this summer and was a factor in all of them, stuck to just the Endurocross and won that going away. The guys like 6’7” and can just put his foot down and get out of anything. The course was tricky with two water-crossings, an all-wood double jump, and massive tractor-tire obstacles.

At one point, there was a Husaberg, a BMW and a KTM going at it in the EX race. I’m pretty sure I was the first announcer to ever say those three words in one sentence.

The opening lap of the EX race, the riders went onto the SX track and there was a jump-on/off and the only guys to do it were Nemeth and Dowd. They immediately pulled 10 seconds on everyone else that grabbed the brakes and rode slowly down the tabletop.

  • The Hungarian, Kornel Nemeth, showed everyone his ass in the Endurocross final. He and JYD pulled a massive lead on the opening lap when they went on the supercross lane. Nemeth is a monster, I'm surprised he didn't just pick his bike up and carry it around the course.
  • Pretty sure a BMW has never ridden over a giant wooden spool in a supercross before. Guy Giroux on his way to a third.
There was a funny moment for us but not so funny for Kelly Smith. Before the night show, Thomas was out on the track directing the dozer to put some dirt down in the first turn because they had soaked it. The operator spoke French, JT did the universal “my front end is going to wash out when I hit the mud” sign and the dozer guy threw some dry dirt on the mud and worked it in all nicely. As soon as JT and the dozer guy went away, some other well-intentioned track worker walked over and soaked the first turn down again.

Flash forward to the first heat of the night and Kelly Smith comes barreling into the first turn on the outside. He hits the mud, loses the front end and goes down hard. Well, at least JT had good intentions.

Teddy Maier is the MX2 champion in Canada, but because the MX2 class was Canadian riders only, Teddy was forced to jump up to the 450. And he was fast. Very fast. All weekend. He was one of the favorites for the main-event win, but went down in the first turn. Maier got up near the back and blitzed all the way to fifth by the end of the night. It was a great ride, and if he had gotten the start, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would’ve won the whole thing.

Now, I’m Canadian and everything, but I’m not really sure if I’m down with the whole after-party tradition that seems to go on up there at every race I’ve been to. The “cool” thing to do is to rip each other shirts off and then hang out and laugh about it. Just the guys, though; no girls. I went to bed around 2 a.m. and got up at 4 a.m. to catch my flight home, and when I got down to the lobby it was a bunch of dudes standing around shirtless laughing. I don’t get it. One mechanic ran by me yelling “Don’t judge me Matthes! Don’t put me on the internet!”

Just so you don’t think I’m not going to give you some MXdN Observations, here is a super-secret report from a PR guy over there. I’m not going to reveal his name so let’s just call him “Monster.” Here is his report:

The attendance was incredible on both Saturday for practice and even more crazy for Sunday. It may be the first time in the history of motocross that they announced a crowd size smaller than what many people estimated. They announced 90,000, but the two hillsides were jam packed with people that easily looked to be more than 120,000. That doesn’t include all the people who were trackside.

There were three distinct pit areas in the Team USA compound with each manufacturer having their own tent setup. Though the three riders were from different teams, they all bonded over the course of the weekend, sharing lines and strategies for the race. They even walked the track on Sunday morning before practice. During the track walk, they thought someone was playing a joke on them. It was like the rainout scene from Bull Durham (where Kevin Costner’s character promises a rainout and then goes to the field and turns the sprinklers on and lets them run all night); the track looked like the water hoses had been left on all night, creating a big mud hole. Of course, as the day went on, the track dried out and was in great condition for the motos. I guess they knew what they were doing.

  • That's JSR on the right, he helped to design the track and was receptive to everyone's concerns. After all, he's been there, done that.
  • Here's Beaton leading Brady Sheren early in the main event. Sheren struggled during the night and ended up third.
  • Colton Facciotti ended up runner-up in MX1 and it might have been the biggest height differential from first to second in the history of supercross.
Before the final moto, both Ivan and Ryan got a pep talk over the team radio from Rick Johnson. The team knew if anyone could inspire the riders, it was him.

At the after-party in the Alpinestars hospitality, which if Steve would have been there would have been his home – the Italian chefs prepared great food all weekend that there was a never-ending supply of it – Danny “Magoo” Chandler was toasted by all three Team USA riders as well as everyone at the party.

The media center for the race was inside an indoor go-kart facility at the Autodromo (Italian for “racetrack”.) The room is normally used as a night club and from the outside looked a lot like a gravatron from the state fair. Inside, it was nice but typing up stories and editing photos is a little more difficult with a disco ball spinning all day.

The running joke of the weekend for Team USA was how so many members of Team Australia sounded more American than Australian.

Chad Reed came to the Team USA party wearing a Monster Energy hat, maybe hinting at his new sponsor for next year. What do I mean, “maybe?” He was hinting he was making the announcement right then and there.

For the first time in years, the actual Chamberlain Cup will not be returning to America. I guess even a trophy only has so many years on its visa. Actually, the FIM is going to put the original trophy on display at its headquarters, and for the first time each rider as well as the Team Manager are going to receive replicas of the trophy. Ivan also was surprised when he received a medal from the FIM at the press conference. The previous two times he has won the event, the only trophy he received was the Motocross of Nations team-championship plate.

The practice track the team used on Thursday was Malpensa, and it last hosted a GP in 2004. It had strong ties to Team USA, though, as it was the site of DeCoster's first GP win in 1968.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to the PR guy for his contribution, and I apologize if the column wasn’t up to its usual standards because I’m sick. I got some sort of basset-hound flu and you’re lucky you got anything at all. Next week, it’s the U.S. Open of Supercross right here in my hometown of Las Vegas. It should be a good time!

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