Observations: Hangtown Observations Hangtown

May 20, 2015 1:45pm

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Yeah, the great outdoors! Seventeen rounds of Monster Energy Supercross have passed, and we now enter the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, which opened this past weekend in Sacramento, California, with the Go Pro Hangtown Motocross Classic. The Hangtown track used to be absolutely terrible back in the day (in my opinion), but it’s come a long way. It’s got good dirt now and nice viewing. Over the years there have been some interesting track changes. All in all, it’s a nice track to kickoff the twelve-round torture test Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.

Ah, yes, track changes. Let’s talk about those. The folks at Hangtown added in a massive tabletop with different levels called the Fly 150 after the new presenting sponsor of the Nationals. At first I wasn’t pumped on it because I think the track designers need to back off on the huge jumps. Yeah, we’re going to need you to ride for thirty minutes wide open, have arm pump, be on the verge of passing out, and still clear the jump.

Look, RedBud has LaRocco’s Leap. It’s been been there forever and if you don’t have one of those—just deal with it. You don’t have to create your own do-or-die leap for the riders. That’s my opinion.

Anyway, yeah, the tabletop was really big, but it was safe if you didn’t want to jump it, and not very many riders did actually jump it. You didn’t lose a ton of time if you didn’t jump it, either. But when those risky souls did air it out, well, it was pretty cool. So this one worked—a good combination of not an insane risk, a small reward, and still a decent, safe jump for most of the guys who decided not to go all the way over.

Not many guys were taking the Fly Racing 150.
Not many guys were taking the Fly Racing 150. Photo: Cudby

There was also the attention grabbing half-pipe, but I’m not sure it really worked that well. It offered some passing opportunities, but it wasn’t revolutionary. Still, nice to see them try something, right? What stood out was how rough the track was (and the crowd was better than the last few years as well). It was a tough test for the riders, as most only had about two weeks of riding outdoors prior to the opener. And guess what? Glen Helen this weekend isn’t going to get any easier. 

Over the last couple years Justin Barcia, Ryan Dungey, and Eli Tomac have all said the tracks are rough at the Motocross of Nations. And because I’ve been to all these races and some GPs also, I can vouch that they don’t touch the MXoN tracks much. They’re left rough! Now it appears the track guys are leaving the outdoor national tracks as rough as possible (as well as putting the 450s second again at the suggestion of Roger DeCoster) to maybe help the guys who are heading to Europe for the ‘Nations. Who knows if it will work for those three riders who get selected for the team, but I can attest that Team USA riders haven’t been prepared enough for the roughness of the track, nor do their bikes look all that great over there.

Hangtown was rough, rutty, and gnarly—there’s no doubt about that.

Whenever an opening round of a series hits, there’s lots of talking and writing (wait, maybe it’s just me?) about what we think we’re going to see. Then the race hits and we’re left with the carnage of what, you know, actually happened. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what we thought coming into the race and what actually happened. These thoughts and opinions are, of course, based on reality and not coming from some fan-boy of a rider. Afterward, I’ll rank how accurate we were on a scale of 1-15 (15 being the number of the 2007 450MX Champion Tim Ferry. Yes, the champ).

Kenny Roczen

What we thought: It’s been a long time between gate drops for the champ, and we’d been hearing through the rumor mill that his ankle was still a bit of an issue. No matter, he’ll be strong at Hangtown, and worst-case scenario, he’s third behind Eli Tomac and Ryan Dungey.

What actually happened: I heard from a source Tuesday before Hangtown that Kenny might not race because of a back (?!?) injury, but wasn’t able to get anyone else to confirm it. So I kind of wrote it off. Well, it was indeed a back injury that struck Roczen down, and he was a shell of his self out there. After a huge fade-back in the first moto, I was honestly surprised to see him out there for the start of moto two. This sucks for the fans and for Roczen, and I have to wonder how long he’s going to keep going out there if he can’t at least make podiums.

Accuracy Meter: Way, way off, bro. But it’s hard to know about secret injuries that the rider and team don’t want to talk about. Probably a 5 out of 15—next time I’ll trust my sources better.

Very little was actually known about Ken Roczen entering the opener. 
Very little was actually known about Ken Roczen entering the opener.  Photo: Cudby

Ryan Dungey

What we thought: Well, it’s the Dunge, bro. He’ll either win the race or probably get second. Ryan’s coming off an amazing supercross year, and he’s perhaps a better outdoor rider than indoor. He’ll be there and the only question is, how will the new KTM 450SXF work outdoors?

What actually happened: Dungey was solid. Chased Tomac around the entire first moto and took a respectable second. Second moto, he admitted that some bike changes didn’t work out so well, and Tomac smoked him. Still, as bad as he got beat in moto two, Tomac still only put three points on him—he’ll be fine. It’s Ryan Dungey! 

Accuracy Meter: Pretty good actually. I’d say a 12. Few points deducted because of his defeat in moto two, but instead of crapping on Dungey (who was miles better than everyone not named Tomac), let’s praise Eli Tomac.

Eli Tomac 

What we thought: He’ll be very good, but he has to get some decent starts (not holeshots, just something decent), and he has to stay away from his usual small mistake in the opening laps. If he does that, he could win this race.

What actually happened: Somehow Honda figured out how to mount a NOS kit on Tomac’s bike and cheated. That’s the only reasonable explanation for the beat-down that Tomac gave everyone not named Ryan Dungey in the two motos (and Dungey only saved face in the first moto). Tomac was amazeballs, stupendous, and incredible. We haven’t seen domination like that since some dude wore #4 and rode Hondas. It was a great race and one to remember for anyone that was there live. “Where were you when Eli Tomac showed the world how fast a man can go on a 450?” 

Accuracy Meter: Ummm, probably a 10. We knew he’d be great, but this good? Next time we should account for Honda cheating with the NOS kit. I thought I saw Vin Deisel hanging out around the pits.

In a truly dominant performance, Tomac proved any doubts wrong. 
In a truly dominant performance, Tomac proved any doubts wrong.  Photo: Cudby

Jeremy Martin

What we thought: Well, he didn’t have the greatest supercross season, but he also didn’t have the greatest supercross season last year and that didn’t matter. Martin is a lot like Dungey: There isn’t a ton of flash and he probably won’t roll a rental car in the pits, but he’s so solid. The thinking was he’ll be very good, a lock for top three, and probably win the race. 

What actually happened: He didn’t have his “A” game in the first moto (afterwards he said he didn’t like his shock that much and changed it for the second moto), but he did what champions do. He used his fitness and determination to get a second place, which was great. In the second moto he got out front and ran away with it. A great start for Martin.

Accuracy Meter: Yeah, we knew he would be good and he ended up being good. A 15 out of 15.

Marvin Musquin

What we thought: The Frenchman, coming off the best supercross season of his career, would be very fast this summer. But can he unzip his pants and put his balls on the crossbar when it gets rough, hot, and gnarly? He’s more of a finesse guy and needs to be a bit gnarlier to be national champion. Sorry to be gross, but this was the talk. 

What actually happened: Well, he almost won the race, but we knew he’d be top three, right? Marvin was good. He didn’t have anything for Martin in the second moto, but he was great in the first moto. Those questions above still remain, though—this was only round one.

Accuracy Meter: A 13.

Musquin won one moto in Hangtown.
Musquin won one moto in Hangtown. Photo: Cudby

Cooper Webb

What we thought: He’d be great and right there with Martin and Musquin if—and it’s a big if—his ankle injury from supercross was healed. He hurt it in San Diego, took eight weeks off, and tweaked it in his first race back, which was not a good sign.

What actually happened: Webb was great and right there with Martin and Musquin in the first moto. Second moto, he tweaked his ankle and looked to be in a lot of pain as he DNF’d.

Accuracy Meter: Nailed it, bro—15. We knew he’d be fast and we were worried about the ankle. Both things rang true.

Adam Cianciarulo

What we thought: In the over-four hundred days since AC had been on the gate, he’d had approximately thirty-two shoulder injuries, so the jury was out on him. He’s a world-class rider, on a great team, and works hard with one of the best trainers in the sport, but his speed and recovery were questionable. We thought he’d get a win and maybe a few moto wins, but this sport doesn’t stop for injured riders. It would be tough for him at the beginning with all the rust he has to break off.

What actually happened: The kid was fastest in both practices and moved through the pack in the first moto to lead five laps before crashing (rumors that he crashed while trying to tweet “#blissboy” cannot be proven) and finishing ninth. In the second moto he was fifth or so, crashed, and got tired to end up eleventh. Yeah, 9-11 doesn’t look great on paper, but he was impressive and he answered all my questions I had at Hangtown. I think he immediately becomes podium material every week once his fitness comes back, and he thinks with the limited amount of time to prep for the Nationals, that should happen in three weeks or so. 

Accuracy Meter: Yeah, about that rust at the opening round… Five out of 15. 

Let’s take a look at the results, shall we?

The opener didn't go well for Cooper Webb.
The opener didn't go well for Cooper Webb. Photo: Cudby

250MX Results 

1. 1 Jeremy Martin; Millville, MN; Yamaha YZ250F; 2-1 – Jeremy’s working with Johnny O’Mara now. It’s funny, I heard a bunch of people lately saying that O’Show just runs his guys into the ground with so much cycling. Yeah, Martin just looked so terrible out there….

2. 25 Marvin Musquin; France; KTM 250 SX-F; 1-2 – After the race Marvin thought that it was a good day considering he had never really liked or done that well at Hangtown. Yep, I agree with that.

3. 66 Christopher Alldredge; Powell Butte, OR; Kawasaki KX 250F; 5-3 – Massive surprise here. Mitch Payton told me, “I don’t know if you noticed, but Chris had a rough supercross year…” No, Mitch, I never knew that. Alldredge was great. Where the hell did this come from?

4. 31 Alex Martin; Millville, MN; Yamaha YZ250F; 6-4 – Only because Alldredge shocked the world are more people not coming away from Hangtown talking about this guy. A-Mart’s not exactly a SoCal specialist, and for him to do this well in California at the first race was awesome. He got good starts, he’s in shape, and his bike is good. It’s nice to see a good dude get what he deserves. His contract is up this year and he’s setting himself up for a nice raise. 

5. 62 Anthony Rodriguez; Venezuela; Yamaha YZ250F; 7-6 – Nice job by A-Rod, quietly logging his best-ever outdoor performance. From what we’ve seen, it’s not easy for Anthony to keep it together for a whole race, but he did just that at Hangtown. Nice riding!

6. 157 Aaron Plessinger; Hamilton, OH; Yamaha YZ250F; 10-8 – The moto gods were with Aaron in that a 10-8 score got him sixth overall. He, like A-Rod, rode steady coming from the back and got two great moto scores. Had Webb not jacked up his ankle the Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha team would’ve had four riders in the top seven—how about that? 

7. 37 Joseph Savatgy; Thomasville, GA; Kawasaki KX 250F; 4-15 – Joey was eighth in the second moto with third right there in front of him, but he lost the front end and a potentially great finish. I thought that the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki riders looked as good as ever at Hangtown, as all three guys were motoring up the hills. 

8. 50 Adam Cianciarulo; Port Orange, FL; Kawasaki KX 250F; 9-11 – The kid texted me between motos and asked me what I thought. I said that was pretty impressive, something to build on no matter what the finish was. He said, “I’ll podium the next moto if I don’t get tired,” to which I wholeheartedly agreed. After his second moto my phone buzzed with a “Well, I got tired.” Still, a great debut for AC, and as I said up top, I immediately put him into the “I have no questions” category of rider. 

9. 38 Matthew Bisceglia; Tualatin, OR; Honda CRF250R; 12-10 – Big outdoor season for Matt if he wants to stay with GEICO next year. He holeshot the second moto, so dropping to tenth wasn’t awesome, but a top-ten overall at the first round is a nice finish.

10 17 Cooper Webb Newport, NC Yamaha YZ 250F 3 37- I hope Webb’s ankle is fine, but I’m betting it’s not. That sucks for him and is not cool as crap.

11. 80 RJ Hampshire; Hudson, FL; Honda CRF250R; 11-12 – Nothing flashy here. I’m sure he wishes he could’ve done better, but two solid motos just outside the top ten aren’t bad. I’ll take it.  

12. 16 Zachary Osborne; Abingdon, VA; Husqvarna TC250; 20-5 – Osborne told me his first moto was “something out of a bad nightmare,” which I would agree with. Second moto, “Ozzy” must’ve bitten the head off a bat or something, because he came from thirteenth or so to having third place two seconds ahead of him.  

13. 32 Justin Hill; Yoncalla, OR; KTM 250 SX-F; 25-7 – Hill was so far back in the first moto after crashing that to just get twenty-fifth was an accomplishment. I expect his finishes going forward to be similar to that of the second moto.

14. 19 Justin Bogle; Cushing, OK; Honda CRF250R; 8-35 – Bogle didn’t qualify well, but that’s not an issue with him. He holeshot the first moto and dropped a bit, which was surprising. In the second moto an out-of control Jessy Nelson cleaned him out, and he was forced to go to the hospital. Not a good debut at all for the Bogle Monster.

15. 40 Shane McElrath; Canton, NC; KTM 250 SX-F; 21-9 – McElrath wasn’t that far ahead of Hill in the first moto… Imagine putting all the work in for outdoors and crashing in the first lap of the series to see thirty-nine guys go by you. That’s got to suck. 

16. 343 Luke Renzland; Hewitt, NJ; Yamaha YZ250F; 16-14 – Luke told me before the race that he thought getting those nationals in at the end of last season was going to help him out a ton. Maybe he was right, because this is a good result for him. 

17. 126 Jordon Smith; Belmont, NC; Honda CRF250R; 19-13

18. 28 Jessy Nelson; Paso Robles, CA; KTM 250 SX-F; 14-18 – There were some crashes, a bike problem in practice, and probably some stuff I’m missing, but this was not a good start for Jessy, who usually does well at Hangtown.  

19. 52 Mitchell Oldenburg; Alvord, TX KTM 250 SX-F; 18-16 

20. 434 Daniel Baker; Crittenden, KY; KTM 250 SX-F; 13-23 – A rookie, he was impressive in his first moto ever as a pro. “We can work with speed…”

Daniel Baker pulled a top-fifteen finish in his first pro moto. 
Daniel Baker pulled a top-fifteen finish in his first pro moto.  Photo: Cudby

450MX Results

1. 3 Eli Tomac; Cortez, CO; Honda CRF450R; 1-1 – Tomac’s got Osborne out training with him in Colorado, and when he had bike issues this week and was forced to finish out a moto on a CR250 two-stroke. He told us on the PulpMX Show that he was putting heat on Osborne who’s on a 350. #poorZach 

2. 5 Ryan Dungey; Waconia, MN; KTM 450 SX-F FE; 2-2 – Like I said, as bad as Dungey got beat in the second moto, it’s just three points. By the way, Dungey re-upped with Fox Racing for a multi-year deal. Remember when he signed with ONE Industries coming into 450s and then jumped ship because Jason Lawrence was also wearing ONE? Apparently Ryan demanded ONE pick him or Jason and they stuck with the #338. Pretty bad decision in my opinion 

3. 21 Jason Anderson; Rio Rancho, NM; Husqvarna FC450; 3-7 – Just like Anaheim I, Anderson starts off the series with an unexpected podium. Yeah, he got tired in the second moto, but his first moto was impressive.  

4. 23 Weston Peick; Wildomar, CA; Yamaha YZ450F; 8-3 – If anyone knows me, then you know I’m not a big “my bike set-up held me back” kind of guy. I just believe in this sport that it’s 90 percent rider, and if you have competent people getting your bike close, you can make the rest up. Well, in this case I was wrong because Peick faded badly in the first moto due to arm pump caused by his suspension. They changed it for the second moto, and he rode amazing, coming from the back to get Justin Barcia late in the race for a podium. My advice to JGR is to NEVER PUT THE MOTO ONE STUFF ON THE BIKE EVER AGAIN.

5. 4 Blake Baggett; Grand Terrace, CA; Suzuki RMZ-450; 4-6 – Baggett needed Ken Roczen in the second moto for third overall, and he knew it. It was a great race within the race, as Baggett pushed hard to try and find his way around a probably hurting Roczen. In the end he wasn’t able to get it, and just to pour salt on the wound, his buddy Jason Anderson did get third. 

6. 20 Broc Tickle; Holly, MI; Suzuki RMZ-450; 6-8 – Like a lot of races, Tickle was very quiet out there, but I thought he was also very good. He came from way back in the second moto to get eighth and basically moved forward all day long. All told, he passed twelve riders to get this spot.  

7. 24 Brett Metcalfe; Australia; Kawasaki KX 450F; 7-9 – Metty does what Metty does, bro. Two solid motos for him as he preps to head to Canada in two weeks for the start of the Canadian Nationals.  

8. 377 Christophe Pourcel; France; Husqvarna FC450 5-12 – The “crafty” Frenchman had a nice debut on the Husky. It was a lot like last year, though; he qualified well, had a nice first moto, and then got tired and faded in the second moto. In the closing laps of the second moto he looked to be pretty winded. I would say to cut him some slack because it’s his first race of the year. 

9. 39 Fredrik Noren; Sweden; Honda CRF450R; 10-10 – I’m super impressed with the Swede’s finishes at the first round. He’d been riding outdoors for a while, but he’d also been crashing for a while. I didn’t know what to expect from him, but his speed and fitness were great. This was one of the big surprises of the day to me. Honda has to love having this guy testing and working through things for them.

10. 46 Phillip Nicoletti; Cohocton, NY; Yamaha YZ450F; 9-14 – Filthy was back and put in a nice couple of rides to get a top-ten. Phil hates California tracks, so this was a good start for him.

11. 51 Justin Barcia; Monroe, NY; Yamaha YZ450F; 35-4 – Barcia crashed in the first moto and had no goggles for a while. Second moto he rode well but got tired, and his teammate Peick ate him up slowly until he passed him with two laps left and put four seconds on him in two laps. I imagine this made him very angry. 

12. 1 Ken Roczen; Germany; Suzuki RMZ-450; 19-5 – Clearly whatever it was that they gave Kenny to deal with the pain didn’t work at all in moto one and worked wonderfully in moto two. My suggestion going forward from here is to give Kenny the second-moto stuff so he can at least ride.

13. 11 Kyle Chisholm; Valrico, FL; Kawasaki KX 450F; 11-13 – Kawasaki stepped up and helped out Chiz big time for the Nationals (they do have some spare parts after the release of Davi Millsaps after all) with a bike, some stock motors, an over-sized carbon tank, and other parts. Nice to see that happening. I remember when I was Nick Wey’s mechanic at Moto XXX in 2002 and Yamaha’s Steve Butler gave me a frame, swingarm, and all these spare parts. I thought I had won the lottery. 

14. 10 Justin Brayton; Fort Dodge, IA; KTM 450 SX-F FE; 14-11 – Brayton said after the race that he was sixth in qualifying before a glitch hit the computer system and took that time away. His second best time was nineteenth so that really sucks, man. If Brayton can get out of Colorado close to the top ten in points, that’s a huge win for the notoriously slow starter outdoors.

15. 22 Chad Reed; Australia; Kawasaki KX 450F; 12-15 – Let me try and say something positive about Chad’s Hangtown. His starts were good, and him putting Ricky Bobby’s “ME” thing on his side panels was awesome. That’s about it. Moving on… 

16. 130 Thomas Hahn; Great Bend, KS; Honda CRF450R; 13-16

17. 43 Matthew Lemoine; Collinsville, TX; Kawasaki KX 450F; 16-18 – I was watching the motos with an industry guy, and as Lemoine went by us we both said, “Man, I hope he can make it all the way through the series.”

18. 285 Tony Archer; Waldorf, MD; Kawasaki KX 450F; 18-17 

19. 35 Kyle Cunningham; Willow Park, TX; Kawasaki KX 450F; 15-40 – Cunningham was pretty good in the first moto and then got rammed in the first turn of the second moto and was limping after the race. He seemed to think he’ll be fine for this week. 

20. 48 William Hahn; Decatur, TX; Kawasaki KX 450F; 17-26 – Great to see Wil back on the track. He qualified ninth, which was nice. Unfortunately, that was the highlight of the day for him, but  he’ll get better as the races go on. After the race he was carrying a red shopping bag that made him look like an 80-year old dude shopping at Macy’s.

You can always count on Tickle to be quiet yet consistently good. 
You can always count on Tickle to be quiet yet consistently good.  Photo: Cudby

Normally I do some news and notes, but I’ve been trying to keep this column shorter than it has been. So I’ll carry over what I have to next week’s column when I go shorter on the other stuff. Lot’s to talk about after the first race! 

Thanks for reading. Email me if you want to chat about this or anything else.