The East Rutherford, New Jersey, round of Monster Energy Supercross has come and gone. The late April weather is always a question mark in that area of the country, and we were certainly fortunate in 2015. The weather was perfect on race day, but rain earlier in the week led to softer than ideal conditions. In a cookie cutter series, variety is good. The track was treacherous for many, as I saw crash after crash. From Justin Bogle going over the bars on practically the first lap of qualifying to Broc Tickle cartwheeling on the last lap of the 450 main event, it was a constant occurrence. While there were plenty of mishaps and talking points there, the most interesting to me was a small, seemingly insignificant bump that played a key role on Saturday.
Riding down the start straight during timed qualifying, most riders didn’t pay too much attention to the rolling bump entering the first turn. It may have upset a few entering the rut, but for most, it went largely unnoticed. That is, until the racing got underway. In nearly every gate drop, there was an incident escalating from that bump and riders’ subsequent inability to stop for the deceptively close first corner. Dakota Alix’s nose wheelie into Marvin Musquin in their heat race was a perfect example of what I am referring to.
Alix was en route to a great start, but being on the far inside, he needed to brake very early in order to make such a sharp turn. Unfortunately, he stayed in the throttle for too long, setting off a chain reaction of events that could have proven catastrophic for eventual champion, Marvin Musquin. As Alix hastily realized he needed to slow down, he also approached the sneaky roller jump, which lifted him off the dirt and negated any chance for braking. As he landed on the front wheel from decelerating on the previous jump, he applied the brakes, sending him further into a nose wheelie. This is the worst possible scenario.
In this exact moment, he would want to be hard on both brakes in hopes to stop immediately. By being in the nose wheelie, not only is he incapable of using any rear brake (his rear wheel is airborne), but he also can’t apply enough front brake to help. If he’s too aggressive with the front brake, he’s going to simply flip right over the bars in this precarious state of Kevin Windham-ness. It really is a situation that has one solution: He needs more room to slow down. Of course, that wasn’t available. Marvin Musquin was just to his outside and attempting to close down the inside as he normally would. He was on the brakes hard and beginning to lean inside and ominously towards the impending doom that Dakota Alix’s orange battering ram represented. By the time Musquin realized that Alix was in far too deep, the damage was done. They were both on an unavoidable collision course with terra firma. The real question was: how bad was it going to be, and would Alix’s front wheel injure Marvin’s arm or leg? Even a 20-point lead wouldn’t be safe is Musquin broke a bone and couldn’t even make the main. Luckily for Marv, he was able to get up unscathed and qualify for the main event with a fourth place heat race finish. He would go on to win the main event and championship, but for a scary few moments, all of that was in doubt.
There are so many technical obstacles involved in supercross that wreak havoc. Triples and big whoops, nasty ruts and quads—that’s what supercross offers. Sometimes, though, something as simple as a rolling bump entering a turn can be pivotal. Being able to jump the big rhythm section will often times be the talking point. In rare cases such as this, however, it’s the little things. I watched that singular bump cause crashes and chaos every time the gate dropped. Braking points had to be modified because of the inability to slow down. When twenty-one other riders are hoping to beat you to that apex, logic would say that going faster for longer would win the day. Not so in this case. Braking before that bump and being able to actually turn on the inside was key, but as we saw on Saturday, it was easier said than done.