You can read Davey Coomb’s investigation into Team USA’s recent fortunes at the Motocross of Nations, “All Things Considered” in the January 2018 issue of Racer X Illustrated. Subscribe now to read it, as well as stories on Zach Osborne's long-overdue breakout season and how Suzuki tries another private/factory tie-in. Also read about Justin Barcia facing an uncertain future on his privateer Honda, and our Holiday Gift Guide with the best moto gifts from across the industry.
Here’s a brief look at DC’s latest on Team USA:
Something is obviously not working for Team USA at the annual Motocross of Nations. After winning the race seven straight times from 2005 through 2011, the Americans have now lost the race the last six years in a row. And at this most recent MXoN, we weren’t even close, save for a middle-moto third-place finish (the top-250 performance in that race) by Rockstar Husqvarna’s Zach Osborne. Of course, the weather in Great Britain was a mess, Cole Seely’s rear shock failed twice, Thomas Covington tore a ligament in his knee during Saturday practice .... In the end, we came home with ninth-place finish, matching Team USA’s worst result in history.
How did this happen? Why does it continue to happen? What has caused the world’s greatest motocross racing nation to suddenly slip below the waves of mediocrity when it comes to international racing? That’s the gist of my feature “All Things Considered” in the latest print issue of Racer X Illustrated. It’s a deep-dive into all that’s not working for Team USA at the MXoN and what team manager Roger DeCoster is up against more and more: difficult scheduling, conflicting contract obligations, decimation of the ranks due to injury, and general indifference from many top riders. It’s not a laundry list of excuses for The Man and Team USA, but rather a 30,000-foot view of what’s keeping top AMA-based riders—and not just Americans—from participating in the annual Olympics of Motocross.
While Team USA has struggled the past half-dozen years, France has risen to the top of the moto hierarchy. For the last four years, the French have won this event—this past time in dominant fashion. While their three riders—Gautier Paulin, Romain Febvre, and Christophe Charlier—didn’t win a moto, let alone a class overall, they rode with a Three Musketeers concept of all for one and one for all. What they do to prepare is worth looking at for Team USA as we try to get back to where we belonged.
“I was not looking for my individual result but that of the team,” said the veteran Gautier Paulin, a member of Team France for the last nine years. “When you don't have a good team, you can look individually, but we are very strong, and the French Federation give us the power to succeed. We were acting and thinking together.”
Before this four-year winning streak started, France had only won the Motocross of Nations once, in 2001, when Team USA and several others pulled out in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks. Now they are the prohibitive favorite each year, and French riders are quick to volunteer for service. During their four-year streak, Team France has not had the same lineup twice. Says Paulin, “In France, we have so many good riders, so to be selected for the Motocross of Nations is the bonus of a good season, and with many different riders we have been winning, so this means we are strong.”
The weather can make you look like either a genius or a fool. The fact that the French chose an enduro rider as their third man after both Dylan Ferrandis and Benoit Paturel were injured seemed desperate at first, but as soon as the forecast took a turn for the worse, that choice appeared to be brilliant.
“I stopped motocross last year, but to have a good race like that was a lot of fun,” Charlier said after doing more than enough in MX2 to help France stay on top. “The team and staff did an excellent job. With the enduro season, I progressed in the mud. I think it is good to do a lot of things like enduro and motocross.”
Check this out: a couple of years ago, when the race was held in France, the French went so far as to have a trial-run weekend where they went through a model of what the whole Motocross of Nations at Ernee would be like, staying at the same hotel where they would be for the real MXoN and then going there and doing practice and motos according to the exact clock they would be on for the real race. It was cumbersome off-weekend from MXGP, but it was also a great team-building exercise that helped them deliver in front of their partisan fans.
The French collective seems at odds with how Team USA has approached this event in recent years, without a lot of camaraderie or even time spent together. Our guys seem to be competing in an individual race where they will simply add up the scores at the end. Part of that is due to the rigors of traveling and racing abroad, where you pit under the truck of the brand you’re on and not just under a pure “Team USA” tent. The whole weekend format also seems to have an effect on us, as it takes mental and physical adjustments to find your comfort zone on a foreign track, in a foreign land, under a foreign format, and challenged by tens of thousands of foreign fans.
Think about this: next year, the last round of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross will take place in Indiana in late August, there is no MXGP of the USA in early September, and the Monster Energy Cup will take place after the 2018 Motocross of Nations runs on October 6-7. Why not do like the French did a couple years ago (and, to a lesser extent, third-place Great Britain did this year at Matterley Basin) and hold a big dry run at RedBud in September where Roger takes the boys—and hopefully it’s our very best boys—to Buchanan, Michigan, for a weekend of training, talking, testing, and just getting a feel for what they will be up against in 2018? It’s not against the rules, and we have all that downtime between races. Why not take advantage and build some team spirit and be ready to take on France, Great Britain, The Netherlands, and the rest on home soil?
That’s just one suggestion, and there are more in “All Things Considered” in the latest issue of Racer X Illustrated, on newsstands now. Pick up a copy—or better yet, SUBSCRIBE NOW—and see if you have any ideas, suggestions, or observations for turning Team USA’s fortunes around.
Team USA has never lost the Motocross of Nations when it was held in the United States—not in 1987 (Unadilla), 2007 (Budds Creek), or 2011 (Thunder Valley). Let’s do all we can to make sure it doesn’t happen in 2018.