It was a tough weekend for the riders in Oakland, as California's relentless rain (does that sound right?) followed Monster Energy Supercross right up the coast to NorCal. The first set of practices were once again cancelled, and the track once again ended up rutted and soft despite the amazing efforts of the Dirt Wurx crew. But how do the best supercross riders in the game navigate this type of track?
Jason Anderson is railing through the Oakland sand in this photo. He’s pushing hard and probably on a flyer lap for qualifying. His rear tire has blown over and through the berm, sending sand everywhere. His body language is a sure sign that he expected the bike to carry forward instead of to the outside. He’s leaning way inside now and for most of the motocross world, this would be a low side crash. Luckily, Jason has next level balance and talent so he is able to ride this out. He’s trying to catch up to the bike with his body and using the clutch to slow himself down, as evidenced by how far his clutch finger is curled. Also notice how much pressure he is applying with his outside leg on the frame, doing everything he can to get his Husky back under control.
Blake Baggett is mid-flight on the triple immediately after the whoops. This triple had a very steep take-off that was made worse by the ruts on the ascent. He is leaning really far forward in an attempt to keep the bike low. As the forks compress and rebound, his body weight will counter balance that and keep the bike moving forward instead of a full rebound skywards. This move can also go poorly and result in a nasty endo, but Blake is making it work. He will also get the front end down for the landing and be able to accelerate hard immediately. Dragging his boots across his number plate is going to make his mechanic Nate very angry though.
Austin Forkner telling all of the Bay Area ladies to give him a jingle.
Shane McElrath is blitzing the nasty Oakland whoops. These broke down and caused some huge crashes throughout the day. Shane was running down the far left side most of the day, trying to stay out of the main line. He is leaning far to the rear which most riders avoid these days, opting to keep the bike as level as possible. Maintaining a neutral center of gravity keeps the bike from a “see-saw” motion. Notice his feet are positioned so he can push against the foot peg for leverage, instead of simply sitting on the flat surface of the peg. That allows him to absorb the whoop and pick up the front end if needed.
This turn is just after the big triple-quad that Eli Tomac was jumping in the main event. Eli wasn’t able to jump it this lap so he swung out wide to put pressure on Ryan Dungey. Ryan in turn knew that he needed to stick to the inside to prevent a block pass. You can see how Eli’s body position is ready to carry momentum into the berm while Ryan is fighting the hard angle that he created for himself. Ryan will almost come to a standstill here to make the turn. He knows that the next whoop section had one good line down the middle so there was nowhere to go as long as he could control Eli to his outside, though. Ryan’s line was slow, yes, but it was also a great defensive move. Eli will be stuck waiting for Ryan on the exit. These tracks are chess boards and the riders are planning moves several corners in advance.
I am about as patriotic as they come, but that is a very unfortunate hat.
Eli Tomac is shown here doing Eli Tomac things. When he is feeling it, no one is as aggressive as Eli. He finds traction where it doesn’t seem to exist, then exploits it. This was in the turn onto the start, just after the finish. He was landing off the finish line jump and then leaning into the traction with everything his KXF450 would give. He is using his inside leg as a rudder to keep his tire planted. That’s not ideal technique but I will let you tell him and his two-race win streak that bit of info. I’m not sure how many of you have tried to lean a 450 this far while also turning the throttle to the stops, but let me tell you, things happen quickly. If he were to lose traction with either tire, he’ll tip over to the low side. If that rear tire slides then catches, he will high side violently and probably land in his mechanic’s lap. Fortunately for Eli, he is a world class talent and can pull this off for 20 minutes. But that inside leg also tells me that he is aware of what can happen if things go wrong.
This is how you do it, folks. Cooper is railing a deep rut that looks to be just after the whoops. His foot is lifted high and out of the way. He has slid forward to gain more control over the front end of the bike. He is feeding his clutch through the turn to control RPM and acceleration. One could argue that maybe he could lean more with his head to the inside of the turn, but it’s difficult to say without seeing the curve of the rut. If it has a hook, he may have had to sit up and then lean over at the apex. Ruts cut into super tight supercross corners are never perfect arcs. Also, this is just one snapshot of things happening very quickly. His lean angle will change a couple of times throughout a rut this long.
I have no idea what’s happening here, but I wanted to share this. My guess would either be some sort of reaction time type warm up, or a reenactment of Yoda and Luke Skywalker on Dagobah (nerd alert).