Breakdown: Retro and Rocks

Breakdown Retro and Rocks

January 22, 2014 2:30pm

Going into the A2 “retro” race, I really expected to see a closer copy of the track they were replicating from 2001. Back in those days, the tracks were very technical and unforgiving. Steep takeoffs and landings were the norm, which slowed the pace down as a result. There was much more emphasis placed on timing and creativity than there is now. If a rider could piece together a tricky section that other guys couldn’t, it was often a sure sign of a good result. Nowadays, the tracks are built around pure speed. The obstacles are much more forgiving and mistakes are less consequential. In turn, the riders are more inclined to “race” around the track, knowing that they can get away with minor mistakes. In 2001, if a rider mistimed a rhythm section when pushing too hard, he would find himself upside down next to the stadium wall. In 2014, that same rider could make the same mistake, but the track has been tamed to the point that he would just bounce off the obstacle and keep going. Riders can push the limits and battle without as much fear—one of those racing each other instead of racing the track deals. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing but it is certainly different. It has evolved supercross into more of a “rat race” feel than a technical, calculated race. I personally liked the tougher, slower tracks better but I am sure that it’s a mixed bag. It would be cool to get a mix of both now and then … add variety!

"Nowadays, the tracks are built around pure speed. The obstacles are much more forgiving and mistakes are less consequential." - Jason Thomas Photo: Simon Cudby

Another question I often get asked during rider track walk on Saturday mornings is, “Why are there so many rocks?” To find the answer, many times we need to look back at the weather years before that particular Saturday. In these open-air stadiums, winter weather can wreak havoc on supercross tracks. When a storm comes in and fills the track with water and mud, the track builders will use what looks to be a road fill gravel to soak up some of that water and add consistency to the course. It works wonders to save that event and give everyone a great show. The problem is that once this gravel (aka: rocks) is added in, it’s there forever, because the dirt gets used again and again. A track in 2014 can be rocky because it rained at that event in 2010. It’s just an unfortunate side effect of saving an event and preventing a mudder. I don’t know if there is a better solution but it’s a shame when great dirt gets ruined for years because of a necessary stopgap. In Feld’s defense, they do buy new dirt every few years in an attempt to solve this issue, but at a venue like Anaheim, with three events yearly, it’s a recurring theme. So, the next time you hear about rocks and flat tires at a supercross race, check your almanac, remember the near-mudder that turned out okay a few years ago, and you will find out when and why that happened.