Observations: Toronto

Observations Toronto

March 8, 2017 11:15am

Yeah, Toronto! Home of the Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, Raptors, TFC, and Argonauts! Seriously, go look it up, those are all professional sports teams that play in Toronto. This was round nine out of 17 (even though the AMA official results list only 16 rounds of supercross for some reason) and perhaps the best one of the series!

Well, I’m super biased because I’m from Canada and there’s no way anyone who follows the series week to week would say Toronto is the best round. It’s mostly cold (this year might have been the most frigid one yet), the teams pit out of their trailers while the animals on Privateer Island pit in the bowels of the stadium. Also, it’s a different country so you have the immigration process coming and going. In my experience, Americans don’t like being held up going into another country. They seem to think that because they’re Americans, they should be able to waltz right in. Of course I’m generalizing, but I can’t tell you how many industry people complain to me about this simple process.

This race is cool, though! Stadium is right downtown, plenty to do down there, you stay right there, you have the Directmotocross.com party on Friday night (strangely, there were no riders there this year) and Canada is full of friendly people! Yeah, yeah, I know I’m biased.

O Canada!
O Canada! Cudby

I’ve been hammering on the tracks lately and including rider quotes with their thoughts on the tracks weekly so it’s only fair that when a design is good, we talk about that. And Toronto was pretty good. It had this chicane off the start that was interesting, a long rhythm lane where only the very best could do something in it, whoops that held up, a long start straight and a sand section that kind of worked. It was a welcome relief to a few weeks of unimaginative designs and some weird decisions.

This week’s race was a carbon copy of last week’s except Ryan Dungey and Eli Tomac traded places. Yeah, Tomac didn’t get the holeshot like Dungey did in Atlanta, but he got into the lead on the first lap and like RD in the A-T-L, never looked back on his way to leading every lap. Tomac was ninth last week before coming up to second and Dungey was ninth this week before coming back to second. Dungey lost three points to Tomac but hey, eight rounds left and he has a 24-point lead—not too shabby for Ryan right now. As we said last week, Tomac’s just got to win them all while Dungey can play the waiting game a bit and one bad start by Tomac (who, let’s face it, isn’t exactly Donnie “Holeshot” Hansen out there) and Dungey extends his lead.

With these tracks breaking down and getting rough, it’s right up Tomac’s alley as it turns into outdoor-type of terrain. Eli’s speed in the sand sections the last few races is unreal. He stands up everywhere, manuals the bike over bumps, and explodes the turns. When he’s on, Tomac is like the smoothest out of control rider you’ve ever seen.

Remember when Eli Tomac was terrible to start the season? He went backwards from second to fifth at the opener, in San Diego he could only get up to sixth, and at Anaheim two he just sort of rode around in eighth. He went to Arizona, changed his bike around, got some confidence and won round four. Since round four he’s outscored Ryan Dungey by five points. Unfortunately he gave all those points away to start the year (and with a 15th in Arlington) and I think he’ll be ruing those races when Las Vegas hits. Fortunately for Eli, he’s got his mojo back, I assume he’s happy with the bike and I think he’ll re-sign with Kawasaki here soon.

Tomac making sure he's picking the perfect gate.
Tomac making sure he's picking the perfect gate. Jeff Kardas

When comparing second place rides the last two weeks (first Tomac, then Dungey) you have a lot of similarities. Both guys had to fight through some of the gnarliest riders around and salvage seconds when it didn’t look very good. Let’s break down their rides, yeah?

  • Tomac had to find his way around Vince Friese in Atlanta and that’s never any fun. Dungey didn’t have to pass Vince because Vince went down on the first lap. But Dungey gets a point because Friese almost knocked him down when picking up his bike. +1 for both
  • Tomac had to get by Mike Alessi in Atlanta and when you combine that with getting around Friese, it should be worth double. Like in Frogger when you escape the giant snake. +4 for Tomac
  • Both dudes never had to pass Jason Anderson or Justin Barcia either week so their tibias/fibulas were saved. +2 for both
  • Poor Cole Seely—a rider that wants to and believes he can win races—was passed by both riders each week and dropped. +2 for both
  • Chad Reed went down in front of Tomac in Atlanta but was passed by Dungey in Toronto. Anytime you pass Chad Reed and leave him is worth extra. I mean, Tomac PROBABLY would’ve done that in Atlanta but he didn’t have to. +2 for Dungey
  • Blake Baggett’s riding awesome right now and Tomac had to straight up pass him in Atlanta while Dungey got a hand when Baggett crashed in Toronto, although Dungey still had to pass him later in the race. +1 for Tomac
  • Between Friese and then Seely hitting Dungey, Ryan looked to have more sketchy moments while ripping through the pack than Tomac. +2 for Dungey
  • Tomac got to within a couple of seconds of Dungey in Atlanta (although I’m sure Dungey had it under control) while Tomac won by a large margin in Toronto so the edge goes to Tomac here. +2 for Tomac
  • Atlanta track was definition of basic while Toronto was much tougher. So harder for Tomac to make up time on guys than it was for Dungey. +1 for Tomac

So via Steve’s Super Scientific Scoring System (SSSSS for short) I have Dungey with a nine and Tomac with a 13. Congrats to Eli Tomac as his ninth to second ride in Atlanta was better than Ryan Dungey’s in Toronto. The plaque is in the mail!

Broc Tickle got his first ever 450SX podium this weekend. It was another thing for the Tickle Monster to check off in his career. He’s gotten a 250SX title, 250SX wins and podiums, and now 450SX and MX podiums in his career. Strangely, he never got a 250MX podium so maybe he drops down one day to complete that, but what a night for Tickle in the Great White North. Remember this was the place where he broke his back a few years ago so it’s got to feel good to get a result like he did. Toronto was also the place where he got his first career 250SX podium, so how about that?

Tickle was running in second until lap 16 when Ryan Dungey got around him.
Tickle was running in second until lap 16 when Ryan Dungey got around him. Jeff Kardas

After the race Tickle said he got the start and that was why he got on the box and he’s not wrong, he’s just not giving himself enough credit for his riding. He stuck with Dungey a bit when Ryan passed him for second! He earned this third the hard way with having last gate pick in the semi and pulling the start with it.

Tickle got the last gate pick in the semi because he smacked Justin Barcia on the helmet (apparently, I didn’t see it) after the heat race when Barcia was trying to saw his front end off and/or break his leg in just about every turn. And the guys had some words in the tunnel as well where Tickle says Barcia was mad at him for some dangerous moves. Barcia also did this stuff with Blake Baggett earlier and last week did it with Tickle and Cole Seely. Barcia is very angry about something and taking it out on the track. I recommend he get a therapy dog ASAP to help soothe him.

Barcia’s not at his old level right now and no doubt he’s frustrated at the guys catching and passing him. But the smart thing to do is just ride with them, try to learn and work on yourself instead of fighting in a heat or semi like it’s for the last spot on the podium in the main event. Having said that, Barcia won his semi, got a top 10 in the main and rode the best he has in his comeback. I’m sure at this point FIM referee John Gallagher is very tired of other team managers coming up to him yelling and screaming.

Speaking of which, Justin Bogle will add Barcia’s name next to Marvin Musquin on his list of revenge passes. Bogle was not happy with Marvin last week in Atlanta, and he was going for the revenge pass on Marv in the heat until he washed out in a turn. Late in the main Barcia made contact with Bogle after he passed him and I know it made the RCH guys and Bogle upset but it was just a hard hit, not dirty. Don’t tell that to the RCH guys, though, I’m sure Bogle isn’t having any of it.

Wacko Zacho won again! The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider was great in Toronto as he slowly worked from third up to first and took the second 250SX win of his career and second in a row. Wacko has gone 3-1-1 to begin the series and has a 12-point lead. Osborne looks great, he moved through the pack in both the heat and the main in total control. When he comes up on a rider he can cut under them, take a different line, rail a turn, whatever he needs to do to get by. No waiting things out for Wacko, he’s aggressive and when you pair that with the fitness he’s got right now, it’s the total package.

“Three laps to go, three laps to go,” is what Joey Savatgy might be saying to himself when this 250SX series is over. Joey was set to collect second behind Osborne and leave Toronto five points back. Instead he crashed in the rhythm and it was a good one at that. Nice work for Joey to get up and salvage a sixth, but he lost 10 points to Osborne and is now down by 12.

This crash cost Savatgy seven points.
This crash cost Savatgy seven points. Jeff Kardas

There’s no doubt that Osborne’s the best rider right now, but five points is very manageable for Savatgy and the Pro Circuit Kawasaki guys while 12 kind of sucks. Props to Savatgy for showing up at the press conference after he apparently took a trip to the hospital after his crash.

Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Dylan Ferrandis made an impression this weekend in Toronto, both good and bad. The Frenchman has been pretty quick this year with a fifth place average qualifying time but only a 10th place average finish. In short, he’s been faster than he’s shown. He led four laps of the main event in Toronto before being passed by Savatgy and then crashing. That’s the thing with Ferrandis, I’ve seen him in Europe for years and he’s always been fast. He just can’t always keep in on two wheels.

He’s also not making any friends out there with some aggressive moves that aren’t always dirty but are right there on the edge, you know? I had one 250SX rider tell me that he’s had three different dudes tell him they are all going to get Dylan back at some point so keep an eye on that as we go forward. Maybe he needs to party in Temecula?

Please keep an eye on Barcia and Ferrandis in Daytona at all times when they’re on the track as fireworks are sure to ensue.

GEICO Honda is having a hell of a bad year. Jeremy Martin and Christian Craig, the team’s SX title contenders on each coast, have no shot at the titles. Chase Sexton has broken two wrists and a femur and has yet to race as a professional and this weekend RJ Hampshire broke his leg on the last lap of the main. Wow, when it rains, it pours.

So they need a fill-in for Hampshire starting at Indy SX and I know they were looking at Kyle Cunningham before he was announced as a fill-in for JGR Suzuki (another team hit by injuries). So perhaps Anthony Rodriguez? Dakota Alix? Wil Hahn? Mike LaRocco? I’m not sure, but tough start to 2017 for the Honda guys.

Vince Friese thought that teammate Justin Brayton’s pass on him was a little aggressive so he spent the next few laps trying to get Brayton back by possibly breaking his leg. It was a bit bizarre because I saw Brayton’s pass and it looked fine to me and also, Justin Brayton doesn’t really ride like, say, Vince Friese. The two had words after the race and I imagine back at the MCR truck. I’m telling you, tensions were high in Canada!

In case you’re wondering what in the heck happened to Marvin Musquin, he was sick with the flu, which should explain his tough night.

Davi Millsaps missed last week’s night show with a wrist injury and came back this weekend. Millsaps qualified 12th, started third in the main, but quickly dropped back to seventh which was pretty unlike him. Afterwards he told me that the wrist was really hurting him, hence the fading.

Millsaps is struggling with his wrist injury.
Millsaps is struggling with his wrist injury. Jeff Kardas

Speaking of tough nights, just when he was looking better, Trey Canard went down with a knock to the head in practice. He wasn’t able to line up and Trey’s crappy 2017 just gets worse.

Chad Reed rode well to get a fourth and he was closing in on Tickle near the end of the race. That’s two good races in a row for Reed who was in a slump for about a month. Reed was one of the first guys to figure out going three into the dragon’s back and he attacked the whoops like only he can. Oh, and he also got out early in practice all day long. That’s been his thing lately.

Colt Nichols was all over Adam Cianciarulo for third (which ended up second when Savatgy went down) and I think he would’ve gotten him until he fell. It was another great ride for Nichols (remember he finished third last week) and are we sure he broke his femur in November? Maybe it was just a bad bruise? Because the way he’s riding, man it’s impressive.

Alex Martin didn’t have a great night, he was around 10th or so and fell late in the race to slip back. That wasn’t the biggest problem, it was more of an arm pump issue on a track that was “OMG so gnarly,” he told me via text.

I don’t know who was more depressed at being on the podium—Cianciarulo or Craig. Both guys said numerous times that they didn’t ride that well and were surprised to be up there. It was a bit weird to hear them say this at the press conference and combine that with Savatgy not being happy with his riding at Minneapolis and the 250SX East Region is turning the E in “East” to “Emo”.

Thanks for reading, greatly appreciate it. Email me at matthes@racerxonline.com if you want to chat about this or anything else.