Yeah, yeah, I know it’s late to talk about last weekend’s supercross in Paris but I went and visited Alpinestars over in Italy right after the race so it was a busy week for me. Look for more about boots from the country shaped like one next week on Racer X Online. For now, let’s talk about the race in Paris.
As you know, the Bercy/Lille SX that we’ve known for more than 30 years had a big change this year—it was in a brand-new arena in Paris. Bercy was in Paris technically, and was a great race, but there’s no doubt that getting booted out of there due to renovations to the arena was a bummer. The three years north of Paris in Lille were good, but it was no Bercy. Could the move to Paris recapture some of the magic of this race?
I say yes. Although the proximity of the fans to the track at Bercy can’t be replicated nowadays with these newer stadiums, the U Arena was state—of-the-art and allowed for a bigger track as well. The arena was packed both nights (Lille second day last year was a ghost town) and it was a good track with perhaps the hardest dirt I’ve ever seen at this race. Whether it’s Bercy or Lille, generally speaking it’s softer and ruts up a bit, but not in Paris. It was much harder and more toward a Southern California supercross.
The move back to Paris was great in ever aspect but the pits. They were on the stadium floor so it made it tough to get some peace and quiet as either bikes or announcers were constantly going. Oh, and did I mention there was a Starbucks that was about a seven minute walk from the hotel? And a Chipotle that Zach Osborne claimed was “disgusting,” but was perfectly fine.
When I hear the promoters of the race tell me they talked to so and so rider and so and so agent about coming over but were turned down, I just shake my head. There’s no reason (outside of a family situation) for a rider to not come over and race. The flight is pretty short (from the East Coast it’s basically like going from Orlando to Anaheim), you get paid good money, get treated well, and get some gate drops.
How many riders have been hurt just practicing? Yeah, approximately 7,864 in the last 10 years (Hi Benji!). Riding a dirt bike is dangerous so don’t tell me how the risks are higher racing against another five guys that are on your level over there. Every single racer I’ve ever worked with talks about how settings change when you get out there in a real race situation so if you go to Paris SX, you’ll learn something about your bike. With the bigger floor at the U Arena, there’s no reason in my opinion for a rider to not go. What, 30K and up for a weekend of work isn’t enough?
As you know, “Moving” Marvin “The Marv Attack” Musquin won just about everything in Paris much to the delight of his hometown fans. Marv set the fastest time in both Superpole contests (seemed like Cole Seely was going to beat him on Sunday), won two out of four Sprint finals, and won both main events. Everything you did all weekend long counted toward the King of Paris crown so it was important for the guys to go hard every time they were on the track. But the weekend wasn’t all roses for Musquin as his one weakness last year in supercross presented itself again in Paris and that’s whoop speed.
The whoops in Paris were big and they were tough. And Musquin just couldn’t get them down like the other guys. Of course if you watched 2017 Monster Energy Supercross, you know what I’m talking about. If the whoops are big, Marv prefers to jump rather than blitz and most times, that’s slower. Blitzing a set of bad boy whoops ain’t for the faint of heart and it’s easy to make a mistake when you do it but it’s the way to win championships. If Marv had been able to blitz whoops like his competitors, no one would’ve been able to touch him as his speed was superior everywhere else.
Musquin tried about 64 different ways and lines to get through them throughout the weekend. He went outside and blitzed. He went inside and blitzed. He went inside and jumped. He went outside and jumped. He went inside and faded to the outside and vice-versa. And still, for him, nothing worked as well as jumping three-four at a time. There was a hard right hand turn at the end and being on the left side coming in was clearly better, but for Marv, blitzing on the right where the whoops were in better condition was preferred.
So, yeah, he’s got to get better at whoops but thankfully for Marv he’s so damm good in the flat corners and technically great at landing on the backside of jumps to maximize speed. Just about every time he got caught in the whoops (and it was just about every lap) he would open that gap back up on the rest of the track. He did jump off the track a couple of times (once it cost him when Dean Wilson got by with just over a lap left) which was a bit uncharacteristic but overall, Musquin was very good in Paris. He’s going to win a lot of races in 2018 and be right there with Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen for the title but until he gets better at skimming whoops (and at his age and with his successes it says here he won’t), it’s hard to see him winning as much as he probably should.
The best race of the weekend was the first Sprint final on Sunday when Cole Seely came from third to first to catch, pass, and pull away from Marv for the win. It was a great ride as Seely used some, wait for it, great whoops speed to make the pass on Marv. In the next Sprint final Seely was again all over Marv but Musquin successfully blocked him from making the same move at the end of the whoops to take the win. It looked like the main event on Sunday was going to be amazeballs but Marv answered any threat by riding great and pulling away from Cole. If you let Musquin get the start (which he’s great at) and ride his own race without pressure, he’s tough to beat. Putting a bit of pressure on him can cause him to get a bit flustered but good luck with that. I think Musquin pulled every single holeshot all weekend.
Seely had his full factory bike there, which Marv did also, and in these races that’s always going to help out. This was Cole’s first race since his disastrous weekend in England at the Motocross of Nations after which he had a small surgery to take out a plate in his hand. Must’ve been nice to get back on a bike and have a positive result, right? All in all, Seely finished second to Marv on the weekend and provided the best race of the weekend in that Sprint final.
Dean Wilson was absolutely amazing in practice on Sunday as he hammered the whoops lap after lap setting the quickest time. Wilson’s always been great at whoops with his long legs soaking them up while he leans way back. As mentioned, Deano took one win in a Sprint final on Saturday and was second overall going into the final day when his starts let him down. He was a strong third but couldn’t stick with Marv and Seely on Sunday thereby letting Seely go by him in the overall weekend results.
Speaking of starts, after being a real surprise on Saturday with a second in Saturday’s final, Zach Osborne’s starts on Sunday blew chunks. He was so far back in one Sprint final and the main that the best thing about his weekend was the amount of passing practice he got. First time racing a 450 in SX for Wacko and he showed that there’s no reason to worry about him adapting to the big bike. He insisted on going down the right side of the whoops and making the turn at the end slower and despite me “helping” him with that, he kept it up. Hey, I tried, bro.
Jeremy Martin was there on a production Honda CRF450R with bits and pieces bolted on and his Saturday lasted about seven minutes. I was watching him in practice and thinking “Hmmm, he’s getting through the whoops pretty good” which then probably jinxed him and a lap later he tumbled to the ground at the end of them. He looked to have gotten a bit lucky as he hit a tough block but nope, there was a wrist injury that kept him out of the program. Despite rumors it was broken (it wasn’t), J-Mart came back for Sunday and rode hard. He was better every time out on the track and scored a good fifth place in Sunday’s main event. It was hard to get a gauge on his weekend because with one practice on Sunday, he was still working through which way the track went when the gate dropped. I’m just glad he didn’t get seriously hurt and was able to race.
RJ Hampshire was supposed to race a 250 in Paris but with Christian Craig pulling out, he was bumped to 450. He only had 250 suspension prepped so it was a tad soft. Hampshire, like Wilson, was also coming off the AUS-X Open the weekend before where he had a good crash on the first night. Hampshire’s bike wasn’t great, he probably wasn’t feeling great from Australia, and he got terrible starts and crashed as well. When I mentioned to RJ that I never saw him up there off the start he replied that “maybe I didn’t want to be up there.” So between the bike, his crashes and all that Hampshire was happy to just be there and get some experience. Crazy to think that RJ told me until he went to Australia he had never been outside of the country except for the Toronto race which, to me anyway, doesn’t really count.
Some other news and notes:
- As usual with these off-season races, it was Cedric Soubeyras that was a pain in the butt to the American racers. Cedric’s a veteran French racer that’s raced a bit in the U.S. and knows the indoor stuff well. He gave Osborne and J-Mart fits more than a few times in the weekend as they tried to get by him. Soubeyras is now on a Suzuki which makes it approximately 32 different brands for him over the years both two and four-strokes.
- Perhaps the most impressive thing I saw all weekend, or at least tied with Wilson’s whoops speed on Sunday, was Fabian Izoird almost pulling the holeshot from an outside gate on Sunday. Seriously, the first turn was slanted toward the inside gates and not much happened if you were outside. Except for Izoird’s jump and charge into the first turn. Wow.
- Tyler Bowers was there racing the SX2 class for the Bud Racing guys and he had some travel difficulties getting to the race that somehow involved a stop over in Istanbul! Anyway, the Bear was a tad sleepy on Saturday and could only get a fourth but on Sunday, well he again provided some great entertainment. He parked French SX2 SX rider Thomas Do right before a red flag was waving to stop the first main event start which led to Do explaining afterward to Tyler that he’s in a title fight and to leave him alone. If he wants to win, Do would let him! There was also another French rider in a heat race that felt like playing the “go slow, speed up and look back” game with Bowers as Tyler was coming up on him. There’s a lot of guys you can play this game with and nothing would happen to you. However, Bowers is pretty much a master at this stuff. In fact, he’s one of the best at it. So after said rider got caught and tried to jack with Bowers to keep The Bear behind him, Tyler decided to end it and send the dude off the berm and luckily onto a tough block. What the guy did is basically like jumping into shark infested waters wrapped in a whale carcass and thinking you’re going to outsmart the sharks.
- I don’t know, I guess it’s just me, but plenty of races featured #14, #15, and #16 running in order and battling it out. I thought this was cool. I mentioned it to a couple other people and they just thought I was nutty.
- Great downtime at Paris to hang out and talk to mechanics and riders as well as Aldon Baker, who was there looking after Musquin and Osborne, two of his clients. The stories are endless and you can get some great intel from everyone on how the season went with us all being forced into these tiny pits and cafes.
Thanks for reading, everyone. I enjoyed Paris SX and it should be something any fans of racing try to see and enjoy at least one time!