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We’re back! Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, has finally commenced. YAY! The seventeen-round series kicked off like it usually does at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California. It was by all accounts something akin to your mom’s meatloaf. It was good because it has your mom’s love baked into it, but it’s still meatloaf. Y’know? Put it this way: No one’s going to be comparing this thing to Anaheim 1986—that’s for sure.
The good news is the series can always use the hashtag #itcanonlygetbetter all this week as we head into round two. Let’s get right into this and talk about what I “observed” this weekend.
First of all, part of the blah factor of the race was the track itself. The first round is usually pretty tame and that’s fine—you don’t want the ambulance racing off all night. But a little imagination would have helped. Think about where you saw a legit pass all night long that didn’t piss a rider off. It was the entrance to the sand, that next right-hander, and then the next left. That’s it. No one did any of the rhythms any differently (that mattered, anyway), the whoops looked tough but ended up not being that tough, and what else? This led to a parade of following the guy in front of you and hoping for a mistake. There were only two guys who got lapped in the 450SX main event, and that hasn’t happened for, like, ever. More proof the track was wayyyy too easy.
Ken Roczen won the main event, but you knew that already. Congrats to Carey Hart, Kenny Watson, Kyle Bentley, and all the guys who have been a part of the team since it was named Hart and Huntington and had smoke machines in the pits. Pretty cool deal. Roczen was amazing out there; he’s got his scrub going and seems to be able to go “through” the jumps and not just stay low. It was an “easy” win for the German (as easy as a supercross win can be). I do think that Eli Tomac or Trey Canard could have given him a bit more trouble, but both of those guys, as we’ve seen, end up on the ground more than Roczen. I was a bit worried for Roczen, as I didn’t think leaving a great OEM like KTM was the best move ever, but scratch all that. Scratch it all. It was another thing I got wrong. Roczen’s back and maybe better than ever.
When news broke that last year’s 250SX West Region Champion Jason Anderson was joining Roczen, Ryan Dungey, and others in super-trainer Aldon Baker’s program down in Florida, someone who was Jason at different points told me that it wasn’t going to work, that Anderson wasn’t going to put the work in with Baker—he didn’t want to sweat that hard. And I don’t know Jason much, but I do know that the newly formed Baker Factory pumps out champions like no other, and that it’s hard work. Lots and lots of hours on the bicycle and in the gym are on tap daily. So I just filed this information away and watched to see what would happen.
Well, not only is Anderson seemingly buying in 100 percent with Baker, he’s thriving. He set the fastest time in his first race on the 450 (Monster Energy Cup), the fourth fastest in his first supercross, and cruised home to a second in his first main event. He was even catching Roczen at one point (although I’m sure Kenny could’ve picked it up if he was in danger). Anderson looks great. A lot of us spoke about Dean Wilson and Cole Seely as the 450SX rookies to watc, but maybe we should have been a bit smarter and realized that Anderson’s got the skills and now he’s got the program in place. Great job by him and his team.
Look, I know that Husqvarna doesn’t want you to refer to their bikes as “white KTMs” because that’s bad marketing, and I know that stock-to-stock there are some small differences, but Anderson is riding a white KTM. Can we all just stop pretending? It’s awesome that one of the owners of KTM bought Husqvarna and down the road has plans for them to be much different than the KTMs, but right now Anderson’s basically riding a factory KTM from last year while the factory KTM guys ride the new bike.
Speaking of KTM, they have this new factory race replica bike, and did you see the starts that BTOSports.com KTM riders Andrew Short and Justin Brayton got? Did you see Dungey up front as well? The new bikes look so good—they’re light (more on that later) and maybe KTM has come out with something that could really be better than the other 450s. I guess we’ll see.
It’s interesting that Short is the only KTM rider running air suspension front and rear. All the other guys are on springs front and back. Short refers to himself as “the old test mule” and loves the feel of the WP air stuff. Let’s keep watching and see if air suspension ends up on any of the other bikes.
We thought that Jessy Nelson could win a race this year. Nelson’s not on Baker’s program, but he was staying out in Florida with the boys last year. He told me it really opened his eyes up to what top riders did off the bike. And guess what? Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs KTM’s Nelson took his first ever 250SX win with a wire-to-wire victory that cemented him as a title contender. Most of us who follow the sport figured that Nelson was on an upward trend, but on this night he wasn’t the fastest qualifier (he was fifth), nor did he win his heat (he was second behind Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Tyler Bowers), but he rode great when it counted. Getting the holeshot on this track was also huge for Nelson.
The TLD team has ridden Hondas since its inception some ten years ago, but this year KTM continued their takeover of American racing by granting the TLD satellite team status and providing the product to win races. And so far, the team’s undefeated on orange!
Nelson, a calm and cool kid who’s had to overcome a handicap of missing most of his thumb on his right hand, seemed to be in shock after grabbing the win and the point lead. I spoke with TLD team manager Tyler Keefe before the season about Nelson’s journey down to Florida last year and how it could be a turning point for Jessy in his career. You don’t know what you don’t know until, well, someone shows you, right?
“I think going down to Florida he had a great opportunity to go down there and I think he learned a lot,” said Keefe. “The kid’s work ethic has just taken off. Now he enjoys training and he sees the light at the end of the tunnel. With him, he’s 100 percent doing his job. I have no complaints and very happy with him as well.”
Oh, man, Eli Tomac! There’s now zero doubt in my mind (there was probably 2 percent doubt before A1) that Tomac’s going to grab his first 450SX main event win this year. He’s so fast. He’s got raw speed out the butthole, but he’s got to work on starts, and then once he’s got those down, work on calming down when he doesn’t get the start. Tomac was blazing-fast at A1 and got his first ever 450SX heat win, and things were shaping up great for a Roczen/Tomac battle before Tomac kind of pooped the bed off the start. Then he crashed two more times and finished twentieth. Yes, you read that right.
It’s a bad start to the season, but at least he has the satisfaction of knowing that his opening ceremony video ruled the world. I’m not going to ruin it for you, but HE TAKES A FLAMING ARROW AND SHOOTS IT INTO A PIT COVERED WITH HIS COMPETITORS' NUMBER PLATES THAT HAVE BEEN SOAKED IN GAS!!!!! He basically is telling us that he’s going to burn his main challengers to death. Eli Tomac, like John Tomac, is gnarly. Always remember that.
Let’s take a look at the results, shall we?
1. 28 Jessy Nelson; Paso Robles, CA; KTM 250 SX-F – I don’t know what the deal is, but the Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs KTMs look different in person than they do under the lights and on TV. Didn’t they almost look red on TV? In person, as usual, the TLD bikes look cool, but they don’t look nearly as good on TV. And don’t question my eyes, bro—I just got Lasik.
2. 16 Zach Osborne; Chesterfield, SC; Husqvarna FC250 – This was a career best for Zachypoo. Good for him. His lack of elation for the finish was all over his face when he realized his thumb is broken from one of his two crashes in the heat. I’m not sure how he won the LCQ, pulled a great start from the outside, and finished second. Maybe his trainer had him put in some hard laps in Bali this off-season?
3. 911 Tyler Bowers; Corona, CA; Kawasaki KX 250F – Bowers was good, but then again, we all knew that, right? His pass on Osborne in the heat race wasn’t that dirty. I guarantee you Damon Bradshaw would have laughed at it. It was aggressive for sure, and Osborne’s vulnerability at the moment of impact made it look bad, but it was just another day at the office for Tyler. I predict that Bowers’ pass will start a chain reaction in 250SX of no one ever messing with Tyler Bowers ever again. But that’s just a theory.
By the way, a source that shall go unnamed but rhymes with ‘Smyler Sowers’ sent me some definitive proof in my eyes that it wasn’t Tyler Bowers who broke Osborne’s thumb, but in fact it was a collision later with Matt Bisceglia that did Zachery in.
We had some "Zapruder-like" video to show you that proves this, but it was taken down off YouTube. Trust me, though, it looks like Osborne's thumb is broken when he slams it on the ground after a tangle with Bisceglia, and not the crash with Bowers where his hand looks to never come off the bar.
So Bowers isn’t some sort of bloodthirsty killer that hunts for the bones of Husky riders—he’s just aggressive.
4. 32 Justin Hill; Yoncalla, OR; KTM 250 SX-F – Hill’s a slight—I said slight—favorite for this title in my eyes after watching him last year, so winning the heat was great. Finishing a distant fourth after being in third in the main (and almost being caught by a rookie) is just “ehhhh.” But, hey, the track was easy and I’m sure he’ll be better this weekend.
5. 157 Aaron Plessinger; Hamilton, OH; Yamaha YZ250F – The “who’s that guy?” award goes to the rookie, who came from fourteenth to get this position. And it’s his first-ever supercross race. There was even one point where I thought he was going to get Hill. He was really good! Of course, Aaron’s dad is Scott Plessinger, a very accomplished off-road rider back in the day. This is Weege’s new favorite rider, by the way. #GNCC
6. 40 Shane McElrath; Canton, NC; KTM 250 SX-F – McElrath is going to take the “Jessy Nelson” leap this year and be a race winner next year if he can stay healthy. You watch.
7. 17 Cooper Webb; Newport, NC; Yamaha YZ250F – Webb is fast, he’s in shape, and he will get his first win soon, maybe even this weekend.
8. 31 Alex Martin; Millville, MN; Yamaha YZ250F – Martin hasn’t ridden the West Coast for a long time, and most think of him more as an East Coast guy. Well, “Troll” is good on the slick stuff, also. Martin was very fast in the second practice (When was the last time you said that?) and would have had a nice main event, and if he hadn’t been jacked with by Hanny and slowed down a bit, he might have gotten a fifth on the night. Martin told me he’s very happy with the new GYTR package he’s got going on in his bike.
9. 100 Joshua Hansen; Elbert, CO; Kawasaki KX 250F – “What about Hanny?” was a common question among the bench racers of the sport. Hansen made his return to supercross with some speed and some arm pump or fitness issues. He looked to be hanging on out there at the end. But, he’s got speed and you can’t teach that.
10. 61 Michael Leib; Menifee, CA; Honda CRF250R- Leib basically looks like a snowman out on the track because he couldn’t get a gear deal that worked for him, so he got his own stuff that’s all white and he’s selling spots on it. I hear you snickering over there, but guess what? It’s working! Michael told me what he’s getting and it’s a whole lot more than any gear company would’ve paid him—that’s for sure. Maybe Kenny Watson’s defending Innovator Award win at the SX banquet is in danger?
11. 44 Zachary Bell; Cairo, GA; Husqvarna FC250 – Bell was fast in both practices, and he already looks to be a better rider on the Husky than he was on the Honda. Then the main event came and he was forced to work his way up from last. This was a nice ride. Keep an eye on Bell—he could be a sleeper.
12. 65 Scott Champion; Wildomar, CA; Yamaha YZ250 – Champion’s back on the Strikt/Slaton Yamaha team, and I just thank the SX gods that he wasn’t wearing the colorway that Cody Gilmore was wearing. My recently repaired eyes would not have been able to take that.
13. 38 Matthew Bisceglia; Weatherford, TX; Honda CRF250R – Oh, no, for The Bisch! He was up front in the main before going down early on. He was forced to come from the back to this finish. Also, I thought he was going to have to go to another LCQ when he went down in the heat, but props to him for fighting back in the heat and avoiding those LCQ races that he seemed to end up in last year a lot.
14. 130 Thomas Hahn; Decatur, TX; Honda CRF250R
15. 148 Trevor Reis; Alpine, CA; Yamaha YZ250F
16. 341 Nico Izzi; Murrieta, CA; Yamaha YZ250F –Izzi’s back for another attempt at this motocross thing. There’s no shame in making the main event and getting his feet wet in his first race in a long time. You can lose your wallet, your car keys, and maybe your girl, but it’s really hard to lose talent.
17. 981 Austin Politelli; Menifee, CA; Yamaha YZ250F – Don’t let this finish fool you, Austin was very fast but went down early in the main event and didn’t get to show his speed. Politelli will be the first guy with the least amount of support in many, many mains.
18. 217 Ryan Breece; Athol, ID; Yamaha YZ250F – Breece was in qualifying position before being hit by Jean Carlos Ramos with just over a lap to go (Ramos now starring in “The Take Out”), and his dreams of making it to the main were done. Oh, the heartbreak of supercross! But, oh no! The dude who passed both guys while they were off the track doubled the triple on a flashing light and was docked. So, Breece was in! Yay! The supercross gods taketh, but they sometimes giveth as well.
19. 86 Zackery Freeberg; Riverview, FL; Yamaha YZ250 – I asked Zack’s buddy Adam Cianciarulo before the race where he thought he could finish because I was filling in my fantasy SX deal. AC said he could easily be inside the top ten and, as a matter of fact, Zack was in tenth when his bike broke and effed me in my league.
20. 71 Cole Martinez; Rimrock, AZ; Yamaha YZ250 – Martinez was a real surprise a couple of years ago and had a rough 2014 with injuries. He’s back and into the main event, which isn’t too bad.
21. 97 Darryn Durham; Butler, PA; KTM 250 SX-F – Durham had a rough A1, which sucks. He’s done nothing much the last little while but hit the ground. That’s unfair for a dude as cool as DD. Hope he figures it out.
22. 34 Malcolm Stewart; Haines City, FL; Honda CRF250R- Oh no, Mookie! There was no fever spread at Anaheim, as Stewart, a title contender by anyone’s standards, crashed his way out of the heat and the main. I blame the FIM, dammit.
1. 94 Ken Roczen; Clermont, FL; Suzuki RM-Z450 – The team had fantastic Jimmy John’s catering going on and, after the night was over, team B to B man Kenny Watson said it felt great to win Anaheim 1, but that it also wasn’t anywhere near what my Summercross win was. And you know what? He’s right.
2. 21 Jason Anderson; Edgewood, NM; Husqvarna FC450 – What I know for sure about Anderson is that he cannot keep his jersey tucked in, and that every time I see a post from him on Instagram I think about how old I am.
3. 41 Trey Canard; Edmond, OK; Honda CRF450R – Every time Canard, Tomac, and Roczen hit the track they were the three fastest guys. In session one they were three-tenths better than anyone else, and in session two they were almost half a second faster than anyone else. As we talked about, Tomac self-destructed, but Canard was very fast. He ripped through the pack and might have had something for the German if he had gotten a better start. The KYB suspension is never coming off.
4. 5 Ryan Dungey; Tallahassee, FL; KTM 450 SX-F – Dungey was Dungey. He’s so solid that a fourth is his “ehhhh,” and that’s what he was on this night. Nothing great, nothing bad—and he’ll be there each and every week. By the way, his mechanic Carlos was looking for me because I wrote a story about bike weights last year that he claimed was off (I stand by my sources), and he’s barely over the minimum weight of 220 lbs. with this new bike (maybe they even had to add weight), which is remarkable for a four-stroke. I remember at Yamaha that if we got it under 230 it was time to break out the piñata and have a party!
5. 29 Andrew Short; Smithville, TX; KTM 450 SX-F – Short’s night was fantastic except for the fact that he had mismatched day-glo boots. I’m okay with the mismatch thing if the pants and gear match the mismatch. But Andrew’s gear was day-glo yellow, which was fine for one boot, but the other day-glo orange boot just didn’t look right. If you’re going to pull this look off, you had better be Rick Johnson at the 1986 USGP.
6. 51 Justin Barcia; Greenville, FL; Yamaha YZ450F –Barcia’s night looked to be a disaster from the start—he got dropped his heat and was forced to the semi. In the main he didn’t start well and was just kind of moving up slowly. It was looking to be a ninth-kind-of-night for the 51 until he got on his horse and started feeling the flow. He charged hard, set his fastest lap on the nineteenth lap, and made some room to get by his teammate.
7. 23 Weston Peick; Menifee, CA; Yamaha YZ450F – Peick’s night was great but not as great as a mid-race tweet sent out by Weston to Cole Seely that, according to him, Seely tried to take him out. It ended badly for Seely. Sometimes, Twitter is awesome.
8. 20 Broc Tickle; Holly, MI; Suzuki RM-Z450 – This is a surprising finish to me. I didn’t think Tickle, coming off a serious injury and absent from almost the entire 2014 season, would stay strong all main event and get inside the top ten. Not at the opener, anyway. Great ride by the Tick.
9. 800 Mike Alessi; Hilliard, FL; Suzuki RM-Z450 – Who had Alessi, Tickle, and Peick inside the top ten at the first round and Seely, Wilson, and Tomac out? Exactly. The 800 grabbed the holeshot (duh) and put in some consistent laps. Mike’s not the most technical rider out there, so when the tracks get a little more-tricky I don’t think he’ll be inside the top ten with this field, but for right now, at round one, this is a great ride.
10. 22 Chad Reed; Dade City, FL; Kawasaki KX 450F – Not a good night for the #22. A bike issue in the main held him back from performing at his best, but even with a healthy motorcycle I don’t think he was on the box. Reed’s main event start was really bad; he basically popped a wheelie and came out dead last. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better rider look worse than Chad did off the line at A1.
11. 12 Jacob Weimer; Wildomar, CA; Kawasaki KX 450F – I’m buying Weimer stock. This was a good ride, and as I wrote in Racerhead last week, guys who have talent and skill, and have been in a way “given up on” do not lack for motivation. I also gave Weimer some tear-off clips for his goggles that he claimed he didn’t use, but I think he did; therefore, some of this good ride is due to my generosity.
12. 4 Blake Baggett; Grand Terrace, CA; Suzuki RM-Z450 – Blake was good at Anaheim—not great and not bad. If you’re his team manager Mike Webb, you take this race and build on it. Running fifty-seven-second laps for fourteen laps in the main event (including the last nine laps) indicates he’s got the cardio handled.
13. 10 Justin Brayton; Murrieta, CA; KTM 450 SX-F – Hung out with Brayton and Short upstairs in the BTOSports.com rig before the night show, and that allowed me to snap the picture of the night (hands down, Peick wins the best tweet of the night) right here.
14. 14 Cole Seely; Laguna Beach, CA; Honda CRF450R- Seely always rides well at Anaheim, and I thought we’d see big things from the new #14. It didn’t work out so well, but he was the recipient of the best in-race tweet ever when he came together with Peick and Peick asked him how the encounter worked out for him. So there is that.
15. 15 Dean Wilson; Wesley Chapel, FL; KTM 450 SX-F – I don’t know, man, Dean wasn’t very impressive. He qualified fifth (“we can work with speed”), but from there his actual, you know, races weren’t very strong.
16. 75 Joshua Hill; Yoncalla, OR; Yamaha YZ450F – Late deal on the Yamaha for Hill; he’s got Larry Brooks as his coach, and I’m sure neither were stoked for this ride. He should get better as the series goes on.
17. 24 Brett Metcalfe; Lake Elsinore, CA; Suzuki RM-Z45– I was texting with Metcalfe and asked him about his return to supercross after two years off, and this is what he had to say:
“It was pretty good. Already made some moves this week, which should shave off a few tenths on lap times. Without a good start, though, the race is a scrap fight for a lot of guys. I had good fun though.It was nice to get a win (in the semi). It's been a shit load of work just to get to this point so it's pretty cool to have a small success like that. I will improve my results, though, don't count that out! I think with this field at the moment, results could go either way without much extra effort just a start and fight hard. There's only a handful of guys that will be able to move forward from a bad start with raw speed. The rest is just a battle of block passes. Haha”
18. 33 Joshua Grant; Wildomar, CA; Kawasaki KX 450F – Not a lot of flash from Grant out there, he was near the back at the start and never really moved forward for whatever reason.
19. 18 David Millsaps; Murrieta, CA; Kawasaki KX 450F – Millsaps had some crashes that hurt him. I’m sure the Kawasaki guys will be hitting the test tracks, as I didn’t think his machine looked great in the whoops, but Davi was…decent. He should’ve been fourth though seventh if things hadn’t gone so poorly for him.
20. 3 Eli Tomac; Cortez, CO; Honda CRF450R – He’s so gnarly, bro.
21. 199 Kyle Partridge; Canyon Lake, CA; Honda CRF450R – Partridge has speed—no doubt about it—and he’s really good in big whoops. We know this about him, but some golf claps are in order for his main event because some bigger-named dudes sat on the sidelines and watched Kyle race around out there. And he did it without big whoops.
22. 211 Tevin Tapia; Menifee, CA; Suzuki RM-Z450 – The bad: Tapia’s best lap was almost two seconds slower than the next slowest guy. The good: He managed to make it into a main event with so many great riders in it. Congrats to him, but you have to wonder if he left it all in the LCQ that was twenty minutes earlier because he was almost three seconds faster in that race.
Some other news and notes:
- It’s early, but the Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna team is the clubhouse leader for best-looking bikes and gear. I may think so because I’ve been doing this for so long that a new manufacturer coming in (Husqvarna) just looks awesome because it’s, well, new. But I thought the whole look was strong. White, yellow, and black just flows well.
- At some point in the day I was standing in the pits with David Pingree, Jimmy Button, David Vuillemin, and Jeremy McGrath. Oh, and super-agent Beeker was there also. There were so many wins inside the group that my four Manitoba titles really paled in comparison. This is what goes on at Anaheim, folks.
- The really cool story of Fast Freddie Noren continues, as the smiling Swede picked up a Motosport.com/GPI/Honda Racing ride for 2015 and is racing the 450SX class with some help from factory Honda. Last year, Freddie struggled to make the main in the watered-down 250SX East Region, but he’s much better this year. Like anything else, Freddie’s working hard at mastering the indoor stuff. We know he’s got the outdoor stuff down, right? Anyway, he’s probably not going to make a main unless we have some injuries, but he looks much improved. It’s just good to see him out there. I heard that he might only be doing about half the series and then testing with factory Honda for outdoors, but that may just be a rumor.
- Privateer Cole Siebler didn’t make the main event. In fact, he didn’t even make the night show. But Cole gets the award for most stock-looking bike. He was out there on what looked like basically a bone-stock RMZ-450 (exhaust and everything, but I’m sure he had suspension done) with even the warning label on the rear fender. No graphics or anything. That’s hard-core, bro.
-Chad Reed wasn’t happy with the media at the pre-race press conference on Friday and, as a guy who knows who’s in the media, he let me have it on track walk. He just wanted some of our media guys to step up and ask some real questions, like “Who is your biggest threat in the title hunt” and things like that. I defended my media brethren to him by pointing out that most guys aren’t like him and most take the bland road when asked tough questions. We agreed to disagree by the way.
-I wrote about the shadowing program that a lot of teams and riders have been using for years a few times. It’s pretty cool for a rider to see where the ultimate line is around the track, and what they’re doing right or wrong but overlaying a rider with their own lap. It’s pretty sweet. Anyway, here’s an example of Andrew Short’s DartFish video that he let me film where he’s overlaid with Kenny Roczen.
- I know I’m super biased, but Timmy Ferry was the best-dressed rider at Anaheim 1. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Thanks for reading this thing. I enjoy putting my thoughts down on virtual paper each week—even if parents, wives, or girlfriends get mad at me and want to light me on fire. Like Bryan Adams said, “Everything I do, I do it for you.” Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat.