Breakdown: Motocross of Nations Preview

Breakdown Motocross of Nations Preview

September 24, 2015 3:00pm

The Motocross of Nations (formerly the Motocross des Nations) has set the standard for international motocross competition since its development in post-war Europe in 1947. The Olympics of Motocross will pit thirty-five countries and more than one hundred riders against each other this coming weekend in Ernee, France. With so many riders running different gear and numbers and brands, there is always some confusion. To help you keep up, we’ve put together a spotter’s guide to get you through the weekend. We’ll preview the top fifteen finishing countries from a year ago in Latvia as well as a few other teams you should keep an eye on.

France

France

2014: 1st

Gautier Paulin #1 MX1 2nd in MX1 GPs 1-1 at 2014 MXoN
Marvin Musquin Marvin Musquin #2 MX2 2nd in US 250MX DNC at 2014 MXoN
Romain Febvre #3 Open 1st in MX1 GPs DNC at 2014 MXoN

Notes: The defending champions enter the 2015 Motocross of Nations with arguably a stronger team (on paper) than the one that won a year ago in Latvia. FIM MXGP World Motocross Champion Romain Febvre replaces Steve Frossard, while Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 250MX runner-up Marvin Musquin takes the place of Dylan Ferrandis. Gautier Paulin is the only returning member.

On paper, France is, by most, considered a favorite to repeat on home soil. Febvre, who ran through the MXGP field and showed moxie at the USGP at Glen Helen against the Americans on their home soil, is probably the strongest Open rider in the field. Something to consider: This will be Febvre’s first Motocross of Nations, on home soil, in front of a rabid crowd. What pressure? 

Musquin is back on the team for the first time since an 11-16 performance in 2012 at Lommel. After years of what appeared to be bad blood between the Federation Francaise de moto (FFM), France’s sanctioning body, and Musquin, after Musquin was left off the team during years he was considered the top MX2 choice, the past appears to be water under the bridge. Musquin and American Jeremy Martin are the top choices to claim the MX2 individual title (new MX2 World Champion Tim Gajser will be on a 450 for this event). 

Despite a second-place overall finish in the MXGP Class, many think Gautier Paulin had a disappointing 2015 season, his first year with Honda. His moto win total dropped from five in 2014, a year in which he missed seven rounds with injury, to just three this year. In addition, his moto podiums increased by just two in 2015 (eleven in 2015; nine in 2014) despite the fact that he raced seven more rounds. Paulin admitted on Instagram this week that 2015 was a hard season, saying, “It's been a complicated season but glad to fight till the end despite the obstacles.” 

Even if Paulin is not up to last year’s standards, he’s certainly not far off and shouldn’t have to carry the torch for the team, as Febvre is rolling right now and Musquin’s a favorite in MX2.

Belgium

Belgium

2014: 2nd

Ken de Dycker #4 MX1 17th in MX1 GPs DNC at 2014 MXoN
Julien Lieber #5 MX2 6th in MX2 GPs 11-15 at 2014 MXoN
Jeremy Van Horebeek #6 Open 5th in MX1 GPs 2-4 at 2014 MXoN

Notes: First, the bad news: Veterans Clement Desalle (shoulder) and Kevin Strijbos (thumb) are both out with injury. Luckily, Belgium can reach into their deep talent pool and add another veteran—Ken de Dycker—to replace Strijbos, who led the team with a moto win a year ago. De Dycker has dealt with his share of injuries as well, missing eight rounds of the FIM World Motocross Championship this year. 

Julien Lieber returns after last year’s debut, and is vastly improved. He didn’t grab any moto podiums in 2014, but did five times this year. If the Red Knights are to win, they need a strong performance from Lieber. 

A year after finishing runner-up to Antonio Cairoli in MXGP, Van Horebeek’s second MX2 season never got traction, as he reached the podium in just four motos. He is typically solid at the event, so don’t diminish his chances this weekend.

Despite missing the star power of Desalle and Strijbos, the Red Knights should contend for the win—like they always do. 

United States

United States

2014: 3rd

Justin Barcia Justin Barcia #7 MX1 3rd in US 450MX DNC at 2014 MXoN
Jeremy Martin Jeremy Martin #8 MX2 1st US 250MX 11-13 at 2014 MXoN
Cooper Webb Cooper Webb #9 Open 11th in US 250MX DNC at 2014 MXoN

Notes: You have to go all the way back to 1997-1999 to see the last time Team USA lost three consecutive years in which we sent a team. (We didn’t send teams in 2001 and 2002.) The Americans have now lost three in a row dating back to 2012, and face a stiff challenge this year as they travel to France to try and dethrone the home country. 

Justin Barcia is back to lead the all-Yamaha team in MX1. Barcia was part of losing USA teams in 2012 and ’13 but actually rode quite well in both appearances. In his first year with AutoTrader.com/Toyota/JGR Yamaha, Barcia overcame a slow start in supercross to have a career year in the Nationals, which included his first wins aboard a 450.

Jeremy Martin is back for a second consecutive year after defending his 250 crown in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. Martin broke his foot in qualifying last year and struggled to an 11-13 performance. In his second trip outside the United States, Martin should be much improved and should contend for the MX2 crown. The 250F division is especially critical because teams score points on overall, not class, finishes. If a 250 rider can beat a bunch of 450s, it gives a team a huge boost, so Martin and Musquin, for example, might make or break their teams.

We all saw what Cooper Webb can do on a 450 last weekend at the USGP. Although he took a small step back in the second moto, you have to be encouraged by his third-place overall finish. The trip to France will be the first appearance for Webb on Team USA, and the first time since Barcia moved up in 2012 that a full-time 250 rider will ride a 450 for Team USA. 

France may be the slight favorite, depending on whom you ask, but it would surprise no one if the Americans left with Chamberlain Trophy.

Great Britain

Great Britain

2014: 4th

Shaun Simpson #10 MX1 4th in MX1 GPs 13-33 at 2014 MXoN
Max Anstie #11 MX2 3rd in MX2 GPs DNC at 2014 MXoN
Dean Wilson Dean Wilson #12 Open 23rd in US 450MX 3-5 at 2014 MXoN

Notes: All of Great Britain held their collective breath as Scot Shaun Simpson went down in the first moto at the MXGP of USA on Sunday and had to be carried off the track. Simpson sustained a hematoma on his lower back but said earlier this week he will be fine for the weekend. Simpson had a career year in the GPs, winning three motos en route to fourth overall. And, we saw first hand his speed when he traveled to the U.S. and finished fourth overall at Unadilla.

Max Anstie had a career year as well, at times looking like the fastest rider in MX2 after Jeffrey Herlings went out with injury. Anstie won eight of ten motos to get back in the title chase down the stretch, but dug himself too big a hole early in the season. Anstie is replacing Tommy Searle, who dropped down to MX2 last year and went 4-8. Anstie will probably need to repeat that performance if the British have a shot at winning. 

Although he missed most of the season with a torn ACL and MCL sustained in January, Dean Wilson looks to be coming into form as the MXoN approaches. Don’t misjudge his fourth overall at the USGP—Wilson was fast but hampered by starts. A year ago, Wilson led the team behind a 3-5 performance to a tie with the U.S. for third—and it could have been better had Simpson not popped an oil cap, robbing him of a top-ten finish in the first moto, and his chain not snapped in moto two. 

The Brits have three solid riders and will contend for their first podium performance since 1997.

Germany

Germany

2014: 5th

Max Nagl #13 MX1 6th in MX1 GPs 3-12 at 2014 MXoN
Henry Jacobi #14 MX2 23rd in MX2 GPs 28-34 at 2014 MXoN
Dennis Ullrich #15 Open 34th in MX1 GPs 14-15 at 2014 MXoN

Notes: Without the services of Ken Roczen for a second consecutive year, the Germans return all three members of a surprising top-five team a year ago. Max Nagl will once again lead the charge for the 2012 Chamberlain Trophy winners. Nagl was the head of the MXGP class early in the season—winning three of the first six rounds—before breaking his ankle at his home GP in qualifying. Since his return at the MXGP of Italy, Nagl has yet to find the podium and looked a bit off his early season form. If Germany hopes to repeat, it will need a strong performance from Nagl.

Dennis Ullrich rebounded from a disappointing 39-40 performance in 2013 (which may have cost Germany a chance at a repeat win) to help take some of the load off Nagl last year with a 14-15. The Germans will need a similar performance from Ullrich in France. 

Henry Jacobi, just 18 years old, completed his first year in MX2 this season and finished a career-high eighth at the Grand Prix of Lombardia. The former 85cc Junior World Champion (2010) just signed a new deal to stay with Honda Motor Europe and Honda Jtech in MX2 in 2016, and should feel more at home in year two on the team. He will need to better his 28-34 results from a year ago if the Germans have any hopes of contending.

Italy

Italy

2014: 6th

Ivo Monticelli #16 MX1 16th in MX2 GPs DNC at 2014 MXoN
Michele Cervellin #17 MX2 DNC at 2014 MXoN
Samuele Bernardini #18 Open 22nd in MX2 GPs DNC at 2014 MXoN

Notes: No Antonio Cairoli. No David Philippaerts. No Davide Guarneri. No Alessandro Lupino. No…podium. It’s apparent that when Cairoli went down with injury—and with it their best chance to podium—the Italian Federation would use the opportunity to give their young guys experience on the world stage.

When the team was announced in late August, Paolo Sesti, president of the Italian Motorcycle Federation (FMI), said, “2015 has been unlucky because of the injuries. That’s why I completely agree with the choice to give a great occasion to these young riders. This decision is in line with our politic to involve youngsters in these experiences.”

Team manager Thomas Traversini echoed the same sentiments: “The MXoN is always difficult even for top riders. Due to the injury situation I’m very happy to welcome these young riders to this event and give them the chance to compete with the best motocross riders in the world. I’m following them and I know they’ll do their best for this unique experience.”

Monticelli and Bernardini move up to the 450s for the young Italian team hoping to get its feet wet in international competition. Making the top ten would be an achievement.

Switzerland

Switzerland

2014: 7th

Valentin Guillod #19 MX1 4th in MX2 GPs 16-17 at 2014 MXoN
Jeremy Seewer #20 MX2 5th in MX2 GPs 17-40 at 2014 MXoN
Andy Baumgartner #21 Open DNC at 2014 MXoN

Notes: The loss of Arnaud Tonus, who has missed the majority of 2015 due to illness, devastates Switzerland’s chances of a podium. We’ve been touting the Swiss for a long time as podium dark horses, but as with many countries, the loss of one star put them in a hole. 

Like he did last year, Valentin Guillod will move to the 450 and ride the MX1 class (he rode Open last year). Guillod, who was in the running for the MX2 FIM World Motocross Championship until late in the season, had a career year in 2015, finishing fourth in MX2, including three moto wins. 

Jeremy Seewer is back in MX2, hoping to improve upon a 17-40 performance a year ago. Seewer finished a spot behind Guillod in the MX2 standings, and despite getting just one moto podium, was much improved for a season ago.

No Tonus, so the onus will be on Guillod and Seewer to step up if Switzerland hopes to repeat another top-ten performance.

Russia

Russia

2014: 8th

Evgeny Bobryshev #22 MX1 3rd in MX1 GPs DNC at 2014 MXoN
Ivan Baranov #23 MX2 DNC at 2014 MXoN
Maksim Nazarvo #24 Open DNC at 2014 MXoN

Notes: Russian Bob is back to lead a Russian team that managed to pull off a top-ten finish a season ago without its leader. The big news with this team is the loss Aleksandr Tonkov (shoulder),who led the team in Bobryshev’s absence a year ago with a 5-6 performance. 

Bobryshev was healthy all season for the first time in a long time in 2015. He capped an eleven-moto podium season by finishing third in points behind teammate Gautier Paulin. In the absence of Tonkov, Bobryshev will have to step up. 

Also out with injury is Vsevolod Brylyakov, who finished nineteenth in the FIM World Motocross Championship MX2 class. Brylyakov raced with the team last year, but missed the final three rounds of the FIM World Motocross Championship with ankle and shoulder injuries. Ivan Baranov will replace him.

Maksim Nazarvo replaces Evgeny Mikhaylov on the team. Most know Mikhaylov from his time racing in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. 

If Russia is to repeat, it will have to be up to Bobryshev.

Estonia

Estonia

2014: 9th

Pritt Ratsep #25 MX1 40th in MX1 GPs DNC at 2014 MXoN
Harri Kullas #26 MX2 17th in MX2 GPs 20-24 at 2014 MXoN
Tanel Leok #27 Open 41st in MX1 GPs 7-7 at 2014 MXoN

Notes: What if we told you this small Northern European country has four straight top-ten appearances? Seriously, they do, thanks in large part to the one-man-wrecking-crew, Tanel Leok.

Leok has carried Estonia on his back for the better part of a decade—helping lead the small country to fourth overall in 2004 at Lierop. The following year, Leok went 4-10 to help Estonia to a sixth-place finish at Ernee—the last time the French circuit hosted the event. 

Harri Kullas holds dual citizenship in Finland (his home country) and Estonia, and for the second year will ride for the northern European country. Kullas scored a ride with Wilvo Nestaan Husqvarna Factory Racing after Aleksandr Tonkov injured his shoulder, and had some good results at the end of the year, including a moto podium in Latvia. 

Pritt Ratsep, like Leok, is a Motocross of Nations veteran, yet without the accolades of his countrymen. Although he hasn’t competed for the team since 2012, Ratsep knows the drill. If Estonia wants to get inside the top five, it will need a great performance from the ever-steady Leok, and Kullas to improve upon his 20-24 results from a year ago. 

Netherlands

Netherlands

2014: 10th

Brian Bogers #28 MX1 11th in MX2 GPs DNC at 2014 MXoN
Nick Kouwenberg #29 MX2 1st in EMX250 (Europe) DNC at 2014 MXoN
Glenn Coldenhoff #30 Open 8th in MX1 GPs 7-8 at 2014 MXoN

Notes: Oh, man, what this team could have been if Jeffrey Herlings were healthy. Pairing the two-time MX2 world champion with Coldenhoff and one of the youngsters—Bogers or Kouwenberg— would have made the Netherlands a podium contender. Without Herlings, podium may be asking too much. 

Coldenhoff is known for his abilities in the sand more than on the hard-pack Ernee surface. He will have to be the team leader for the Dutch, though, as Bogers (just turned 19) just completed his first season in MX2 and will make their first appearance at the MXoN in 2015. Kouwenberg (23 years old) won the EMX250 championship this year, but doesn’t have a ton of experience on the big stage.

While the future looks bright for the Dutch, Bogers and Kouwenberg may be a year or two away from contending on the big stage, and the loss of Herlings is probably too much to overcome.

Sweden

Sweden

2014: 11th

Filip Bengtsson #31 MX1 21st in MX1 GPs 6-31 at 2014 MXoN
Alvin Ostlund #32 MX2 5th in EMX250 (Europe) DNC at 2014 MXoN
Jesper Jonsson #33 Open MX1 Swedish MX Champion DNC at 2014 MXoN

Notes: The loss of Fredrik Noren greatly affects the Swedes’ chances of a repeat performance in France. Filip Bengtsson was impressive in Latvia a year ago and will need a repeat performance if Sweden hopes to make the top fifteen. Although he didn’t compete in the entire series, Bengtsson won seven motos in the Swedish Motocross Championship and had three top-tens in the FIM World Motocross Championship.

Jesper Jonsson, the 2015 MX1 Swedish Motocross Champion, is tasked with filling the shoes of Noren, but the hopes of a top-fifteen performance may rest on the shoulders of Alvin Ostlund, who finished fifth in the FIM World Motocross Championship EMX250 series this year.

GoPro of Alvin Ostlund:

Footage of Jonsson’s title celebration:

Latvia

Latvia

2014: 12th

Davis Ivanovs #34 MX1 53rd in MX1 GPs DNC at 2014 MXoN
Pauls Jonass #35 MX2 2nd in MX2 GPs 18-23 at 2014 MXoN
Matiss Karro #36 Open 18th MX2 British Championship 13-21 at 2014 MXoN

Notes: The fate of Latvia rests on the shoulders of 18-year-old Pauls Jonass. In his rookie MX2 season, Jonass pushed eventual champion Tim Gajser to the brink, before a huge crash at the penultimate round in Mexico ended his title bid. Without a ton of star power behind him, Jonass will have to carry the load for the small Baltic country. 

Matiss Karro, the 2014 MX2 Maxxis British Champion, will also be asked to shoulder a lot of the weight as well. If Karro, who has struggled in his British title defense, can repeat his performance (13-21) from his home race last year, it could vault Latvia into the top ten. 

Davis Ivanovs replaces Roberts Justs (22-27 in 2014) on the team. In just four races in the FIM World Motocross Championship, Ivanovs has scored points in five of eight motos.

Check out Karro preparing for the 2014 MXoN:

Here is some 2012 footage of Ivanovs:

Portugal

Portugal

2014: 13th

Rui Goncalves #37 MX1 30th in MX1 GPs 10-12 at 2014 MXoN
Sandro Peixe #38 MX2 DNC at 2014 MXoN
Hugo Basaula #39 Open 23-26 at 2014 MXoN

Notes: If the team hopes to land inside the top ten, it will have to be led through the efforts of MXoN veteran Rui Goncalves. Hugo Basaula returns for a second term with the team.

Check out Peixe and Basula preparing for the 2015 Motocross of Nations: 

Australia

Australia

2014: 14th

Todd Waters #40 MX1 9th in MX1 GPs DNC at 2014 MXoN
Luke Clout #41 MX2 2nd overall in MX2 AUS 21-22 at 2014 MXoN
Dean Ferris #42 Open 11th in MX1 GPs DNC at 2014 MXoN

Notes: Australia hopes to rebound from a fourteenth-place performance in 2014, with almost an entirely new team. Todd Waters and Dean Ferris replace Chad Reed and Matt Moss, while Luke Clout returns, but only after Jay Wilson went down with injury earlier this week.

The good news for Australia may be the European experience both Waters and Ferris bring to the table. Both have been full-time GP riders in the past, giving Australia a much needed advantage. Both riders had consistent seasons in the FIM World Motocross Championships in 2015, but neither was spectacular.

Luke Clout got the last-minute call to make his second MXoN appearance after Jay Wilson was injured earlier this week testing in Europe. Clout finished runner-up to Wilson in the MX2 Australian Motocross Championship this year. The 20-year-old told MotoOnline.com.au earlier this week “I’ve been riding a lot of supercross, but coming off a solid season of ten rounds in motocross, having a little break from outdoors could possibly benefit me."

Australia is much better than their fourteenth-place performance a season ago. But asking for a top-five may be a reach this year.

Denmark

Denmark

2014: 15th

Nikolaj Larsen #43 MX1 67th in MX1 GPs DNC at 2014 MXoN
Thomas Kjer Olsen #44 MX2 6th in EMX250 (Europe) 20-24 at 2014 MXoN
Stefan Kjer Olsen #45 Open 24-29 at 2014 MXoN

Notes: Denmark returns two Olsens from last year’s surprising top-fifteen team. No, they’re not Olsen twins.

Others:

Slovenia

Slovenia

2014: 19th

Klemen Gercar #58 MX1 28-31 at 2014 MXoN
Peter Irt #59 MX2 30-36 at 2014 MXoN
Tim Gajser #60 Open MX2 World Champion Injured in practice in 2014

Notes: For the second consecutive year, Gajser will move to the 450 to let Irt ride the MX2 class. The recently crowned MX2 world champion finished third in Open qualifying in Latvia last year, but had to withdraw from the event after fracturing his fifth and sixth vertebrae in morning practice. The just-turned 19-year-old will have to carry a team that failed to reach the top twenty-five without him a year ago.

New Zealand

New Zealand

2014: Failed to Make Final

Ben Townley #67 MX1 15th in MX1 Australia DNC at 2014 MXoN
Kayne Lamont #68 MX2 DNC at 2014 MXoN
Cody Cooper #69 Open 1st MX1 New Zealand MX Championship DNC at 2014 MXoN

Notes: This crew is a Josh Coppins away from the Kiwi super teams of the late 2000s, which could have contended for the Peter Chamberlain Trophy if not for bad luck. These days, Townley and Cooper have moved down from their peak (Townley, in fact, is semi-retired), but these guys have not forgotten how to ride motorcycles. It’s cool to see guys like this still in action. What’s next, a South African team featuring Greg Albertyn, Tyla Rattray, and Grant Langston?

Venezuela

Venezuela

2014: Did Not Send a Team

Carlos Badiali #103 MX1 DNC at 2014 MXoN
Anthony Rodriguez Anthony Rodriguez #104 MX2 22nd in US 250MX DNC at 2014 MXoN
Lorenzo Locurcio #105 Open 3rd 250A at Loretta’s DNC at 2014 MXoN

Notes: Could be a sleeper to make the A Final, as former Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha rider Anthony Rodriguez teams with amateur standout Lorenzo Locurcio. A fifth at the season opener gave Rodriguez hope for a breakout season, but he was injured a week later and missed most of the season.

Lucurcio is a talented amateur currently training at the Millsaps Training Facility in Cairo, Georgia. At the Amateur National Championship this year at Loretta Lynn’s, Lucurcio finished third and fourth in 250 and 450 A, respectively, but will now have to handle the pressure of the world stage.

If Venezuela is to make the A Final, it will be on the backs of Rodriguez and Locurcio.