Welcome to Staging Area for round three of Monster Energy Supercross. We find ourselves heading back to Anaheim, which is a familiar setting, but the format will be anything but. This is the first of three “Triple Crown” rounds, featuring three main events of differing lengths for each class. As Feld is looking for ways to spice up the series, this is a nice first step.
The three main events for 450SX will be comprised of an eight-minute first main event, a 12-minute second, and the final will be 15 minutes in length. In 250SX, the first race will be six minutes, the second eight, and the third 12. On the surface, that sounds easier than the standard 20-minute plus one lap format, right? I disagree. Having three main events will force riders to get that intensity level up, cool down and recover, and be ready to go again. Eight minutes will be around nine or ten laps, depending on the track length, so we can figure to see a nine-lap main, a 13- or 14-lap main, and a 17-lap main at minimum. That’s a lot of racing.
Now, you may be sitting at home thinking, “Well, they already do the heat race, which is six-seven laps, so what’s the difference?” The difference is in the intensity level at which several of the riders will be racing. In the heat race, most of the riders are simply trying to qualify and not make a big mistake that forces them to the LCQ. For those in the three-eight spots, they are mostly cruising to the checkers. In the main event, however, they will be putting it on the line in hopes of a good finish.
After the first main event, the riders will have around an hour before the gate drops again for their next race. That means they will need to cool down and try to recover completely in that time. They will also want to watch the race video from the first main event and learn from their weak points or pick up on other riders’ strengths. Then they will be back down there for staging and gate pick. It sounds like a lot of time, but when everyone is in the moment, time definitely speeds up. All of that interval training that was done in November and December will be put to the test Saturday night. The ability to perform at maximum heart rate for an extended period, recover, and go again twice more for even longer is not easy. It will be interesting to watch that final 15-minute main event and see who has the endurance to keep the intensity up.
The track for A2 has the safest of the start variations. This week’s start is a bit longer to give some separation before braking, ending with a long, sweeping left-hand turn. That left leads into a tricky rhythm section, though. The key to this section may be on the first lap. With this week’s format, if a rider can grab a holeshot and then hit the fastest option right off the start, they may get a big time gap on the first lap. How this section plays out will be determined by the jump angles and height, but there will be some triple options here regardless. It looks like riders will triple onto the first tabletop, step off over at least one single jump, then possibly triple-triple into the berm. That looks to be the fastest option, but as I said, that’s all dependent on the Dirt Wurx crew.
Upon landing into the right-hand berm, a standard supercross triple greets riders right at the exit of the turn. This will put big pressure on the riders to hit the berm perfectly, especially the 250 class. The 450 riders will be working to carry big speed through the turn, which will allow them to scrub the triple versus simply trying to clear the landing. Visually, it’s fairly easy to tell if that’s been accomplished by looking at the bike angle mid-flight. If the front wheel is high, the rider is still accelerating to clear the jump. If the front wheel is neutral, faced down, or leaned to the side, that rider has plenty of speed and is working to stay lower in their trajectory. A few small bumps lead into the next left bowl berm, but otherwise won’t matter much.
The next section has a short set of whoops which riders will either blitz very quickly or be a jump in-jump out. A 90-degree right turn sends riders toward three jumps, and in most cases, this will be a double-single option that keeps riders on the inside through the next 90-degree right as well. There are four jumps along the first base line before a longer set of whoops. There will be a few ways through those four jumps depending on how they are built. The main goal, regardless of the size and shape, will be to land on the fourth jump’s downside, allowing hard acceleration before the whoop section. Getting both wheels on the ground and allowing the front forks to regain their composure is key to blitzing whoops at speed. Assuming all goes well in those whoops, another 90-degree right-hand turn waits in the home plate area of Angel Stadium.
The second supercross triple of the lap should be pretty easy rolling through the home plate turn. Riders will ride through the middle of the turn and drift to the outside, hoping to scrub the triple in the process. Landing the triple, riders will most likely go three-three-one into the next right-hand 180 bowl berm. Look for Steve Matthes’ nets in this bowl berm, possibly. This berm will be important, as the next triple onto the tabletop is a much faster option than the alternative of doubling and table-to-single. If riders don’t get the turn just right, they won’t be able to seat-bounce onto the table and off.
Landing into the berm, the finish line jump awaits. Even though there is a triple drawn on the map, I will be surprised if this is not a tabletop landing when all is said and done. A fast right-hand bowl berm rockets riders back down the start straight and lap two begins.
Questions I Need Answered
Which shoulder (Tomac, Wilson, Musquin) will be ready for action on Saturday?
Is Jason Anderson ready to take this series by storm?
How will the three-race format shake up the results?
Can Shane McElrath bounce back from a tough main event in Houston?
Who wants this 250 title?
Will we see any drama with the timed qualifying for the main events?
Jason Anderson was on fire from lap one of Saturday morning until the checkers flew in Texas.
Aaron Plessinger came from behind to win the Houston main event convincingly and then did some sort of rodeo dance that I can’t unsee.
Justin Barcia kept his podium streak going and is really the turnaround story of 2018.
Cole Seely looked very spry on Saturday and nearly held on for a podium, but Justin Barcia was unwilling to let Seely go.
Weston Peick has back-to-back top-five finishes and sits tied for fourth in the series.
Marvin Musquin was the points leader going into round two, but his crash left his series in jeopardy.
Cooper Webb crashed on the first lap of the main event and hasn’t really flashed any signs of life yet.
Eli Tomac was unable to go in Houston and might have written off any chance of the title with another big loss of points.
Justin Hill looked “off” all day on Saturday. He just didn’t have any speed, and the whoops were particularly troublesome for the defending champ.
Justin Barcia holeshots the first main event and T-bone-ejects a baker’s dozen of riders into the Steve Matthes nets en route to a win.
Vince Friese, upon seeing Barcia’s aggression, takes his shirt off for main event two.
John Gallagher announces that this aggression will not stand, man. He embarks to his perch for the final main event with 14 black flags and a Super Soaker.
In an effort to regain points, Eli Tomac “bunches” up the pack in all three main events. This strategy is completely ignored by the broadcast team.