Staging Area: Glen Helen

Staging Area Glen Helen

May 21, 2015 12:00pm

Dirty Little Secrets

Glen Helen is a monster. All of the major teams test here for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship because it’s in their backyard. They usually rent the facility a time or two and then follow up with endless Thursdays at their open practices. The track resembles a war zone more than SoCal sometimes, with crater-like holes littering the racecourse. Make no mistake, on race day this will be one of the roughest circuits that the riders face all season. The sandy base changes as the day grows long, bumps ever evolving.

It’s still a race that many riders look forward to, however, as they can sleep in their own beds before and after the event. They have done millions of laps at Glen Helen and that brings comfort. The biggest difference is in the atmosphere and vibe compared to a normal practice/test day. All of the pressures of racing will be present on Saturday, a far cry from a random Thursday in April.

The track itself is always a big test in both rider courage and machine durability. The willingness to accelerate down a hill with waist-high bumps is not easily acquired. Also, the jumps at Glen Helen are notoriously big and death defying. In past years there have been jumps pushing the limit of modern motorcycles. I’ve personally had broken wheels and blown engines while witnessing weird failures such as Andrew Short and Justin Barcia’s broken chains in 2014. If it’s going to happen, it seems that Glen Helen is the place.

The start this weekend is the longest in the series and possibly worldwide. It’s the only start of the season that allows the bikes to reach maximum speed. Riders will be in fifth gear and hanging off the back of their bikes, hoping to eek out any extra horsepower. Coming into the “Talladega” first turn, it can get a bit scary with forty riders all moving that fast in unison. Add an overzealous flagger armed with a garden hose and things escalate quickly. It’s always interesting to me to see who has the engine bragging rights because they’ll be leading the charge into turn one at Glen Helen. It’s the ultimate moment of truth if you’re looking for raw power.

In the first round, we saw both new developments and continuation from last summer. Eli Tomac’s second moto served notice that he may be the man to beat. It was one of the most impressive rides I’ve ever witnessed. His aggression and ability to simply push harder when the track deteriorated was jaw dropping. Surely Ryan Dungey will have something to add moving forward, but I feel confident in saying no one on earth would have beaten Tomac in that moto. Glen Helen was the site of Dungey’s incredible last-lap pass on defending champ Ken Roczen, so watch for a bounce back from the mighty Minnesotan.

In the 250 Class, Jeremy Martin showed why he arrived with a red number plate and left Hangtown with that honor intact. Marvin Musquin was great as well, winning the first moto handily and proving that supercross was just the beginning of his 2015 assault. Musquin and Martin are poised for a summer-long showdown that we simply didn’t have last year. Add in an ailing Cooper Webb and an improving Adam Cianciarulo, and we could have a full on war in the coming weeks. The 250 Class has the potential to be a barn burner every week.

Marvin Musquin is one of many 250 riders with the potential to make it hard for Jeremy Martin to defend his title. 
Marvin Musquin is one of many 250 riders with the potential to make it hard for Jeremy Martin to defend his title.  Photo: Cudby

Who’s Hot

Eli Tomac isn’t just hot; he’s scalding. He’s perfect thus far after one race and has some serious momentum.

Ryan Dungey kept Eli honest in the first moto, and for a while I really thought he would catch him. His second moto wasn’t what he was looking for, but he was still far better than the rest of the field and has had one hell of a year so far.

Jeremy Martin didn’t meet his goals in supercross, but now that we are outside, he’s back on track. He had me worried for about fifteen minutes of the first moto, but once he found his stride he moved back toward the front. He was absolutely dominant at Glen Helen in 2014, so it will be interesting to see if he has that same pace this weekend.

Marvin Musquin ran away with the 250 East Region Monster Energy Supercross Championship and then backed that up with 1-2 moto scores in Rancho Cordova. He is a two-time world champion in the 250 class, and this is easily the best Marvin we have seen racing in the States. It should be a big fight with Martin, but Musquin looks poised and ready.

Jason Anderson grabbed a podium at the opening round, just like he did at Anaheim. Judging from his social media posts, he seems to be frustrated with his detractors. Podiums will quiet that noise.

Chris Alldredge landed his first podium ever and was impressive in doing it. He showed great fitness and resolve as Alex Martin was pushing hard to catch him in that second moto.

Who’s Not

Cooper Webb came in with a bum ankle and aggravated that with a crash in the second moto. He was a favorite to win this title but lost a boatload of points in the opener. If he can get healthy, he can win races immediately.

Ken Roczen is dealing with a stress fracture in his back and was a question mark to even race Hangtown. It’s a bummer for the defending champ, and he and his team had high hopes for the summer. His second moto was much better than the first, but he was still nowhere near his peak.

Chad Reed got great starts at Hangtown but seemed to struggle with the pace and never looked comfortable. He’s a rider that needs the bike exactly to his liking, and that didn’t seem to come easy on Saturday. He has the potential to mix it up if everything is just right.

Jessy Nelson was running a strong second place at one point in the second moto, but he had two crashes. His tangle with Justin Bogle was scary, but luckily both escaped uninjured. [Ed Note: Bogle will miss Glen Helen with a sore shoulder.] He’s better than his results showed on Saturday.

Chad Reed left Hangtown with 12-15 scores.
Chad Reed left Hangtown with 12-15 scores. Photo: Cudby

Bold Predictions

Eli Tomac pulls another massive lead at Glen Helen. His ride is so impressive that even Jody Weisel can’t find anything to criticize.

Jeremy Martin goes two for two, backing up his 2014 California round finishes.

Adam Cianciarulo becomes the first-ever Mathlete to podium an outdoor national.

Yamahas holeshot at least two of the four motos on Saturday.

The line to enter Glen Helen extends to just outside Barstow.

Factory Kawasaki holds Brett Metcalfe hostage until he signs a contract for the rest of the outdoor series.

My Picks

450

  1. Eli Tomac
  2. Ryan Dungey
  3. Blake Baggett

250

  1. Jeremy Martin
  2. Marvin Musquin
  3. Adam Cianciarulo