The biggest race in America in years is over. Well, for the people whose rental cars might still be stuck at RedBud it’s not, but for most of us it is. The 2018 Motocross of Nations is a memory now and what a memory it is. I really don’t know where to start in trying to get through the weekend where I slept maybe 15 hours in three nights. It’s all a blur. I also heard about 5,000 “Noise” quotes for the magazine but didn’t write them down and they’re all lost in a haze. And I maybe had two beers all weekend at that, so it’s not like I was in “Lot B” shape.
You know the story by now, Team USA lost for the first time when this race has been held in the USA and I’m fearing their now record winless streak (in years they sent a team) might not end for a while. USA got sixth, they probably should’ve gotten fourth, but either way they were miles off from winning. Aaron Plessinger, Eli Tomac, and Justin Barcia all had days they would like to forget. Tomac’s first moto, with the outside gate pick, was pretty good but other than that, it was rough.
I just don’t know how Team USA couldn’t make the podium on a track they know well. I’m shocked frankly that they didn’t. Ok, with the conditions that were there due to the weather, I get that a win might not be as “stamped” as I had been predicting. But no podium? Really? I mean… come on.
There appeared to be a ton of sand put down at the track, more than usual. In fact, I would’ve bet a lot of money that they dumped sand on the place. But I texted with track owner Tim Ritchie and he told me they put sand on the new sections over by the start and then a bit on the big off-camber and that was it. I was surprised at this. I guess with the rain, it carried sand from the sides of the track onto the track and then with it not being disced up like an AMA National, it just looked like sand was dumped on.
“Today was just weird. I’ve never seen RedBud like this ever in my life, and I’ve been coming here for a long time,” Aaron Plessinger said after the race. “It was very Euro-style.”
You could chalk that up to a rider who had a bad day looking for excuses, but Dylan Ferrandis, whose team won, told me this: “The track was sandy. I really think I made a mistake to didn’t set up my bike for a sand race, because that was definitely the key today. I think that was a mistake from me. It was even more sandy. Also they moved some corners or some angles. The track was different than the national. It was not that easy for me and for all the guys who did the national to ride two months ago on this track, and on a so different track today.”
So yeah, things were a bit different for the guys that were used to RedBud but then again, everyone had the same track, right? There’s this thing we use on the PulpMX Show called “Blame Pie” and if we were to talk about this race from a “Why didn’t USA win or at least get on the podium” point of view, I think it would go something like:
20% The sandier conditions made it tougher
10% The weather kind of sucked
20% The gap between the end of the nationals and this race
50% The riders weren’t fast enough
Lots of talk about Roger DeCoster and maybe it’s time he stepped aside to get some new USA management, talk about the inside gates being passed up by the team, why Barcia didn’t have a mousse in his rear tire in the third moto (he got a flat late in the race), and probably some things I missed but it just boils down to the fact in 2018, the riders didn’t get good enough starts and weren’t fast enough. That’s the bottom line.
Let’s get to the highs and the lows of the race.
HIGH: Team France (again)
There’s no truth to the rumor that next year France is going to name Pepe le Pew to the team and see if they can still win. The French were thought to be nutty to leave Marvin Musquin off but wouldn’t ya know it, they won again. Somehow. With Jordi Tixier doing just enough to make it happen, France performed well. Gautier Paulin was great, Dylan Ferrandis was very good and they needed some fortune to pull this one off but they did it. Hey, Team USA got a lot of breaks in their 13-year winning streak also. These things tend to even out over time. Paulin busted out LaRocco’s Leap on his second lap of the day and was the first guy to jump it. Yes, you read that right. In AMERICA, a Frenchman jumped the Leap first. That should’ve been some foreshadowing on the day, right?
After the race Paulin told me: “We’ve had a lot of judgment, but this is like it is. We cannot make everyone happy. Then Romain [Febvre] got injured and stuff and Marvin [Musquin] didn’t want to come. This is part motocross. This is part of history. We are many strong racers. We forgot about everything. It’s nice to live this moment all together.”
If I was France I would just put out an Instagram post with the middle finger and tell everyone the photo is dedicated to the critics.
HIGH: THE DUTCH
Jeffrey Herlings and Glenn Coldenhoff were great. Netherlands should’ve won their first MXoN actually. They just needed one 30th place (or so) score from their MX2 rider Calvin Vlaanderen but he got a rock in the eye in the first race and did not finish. He was declared unfit by doctors for race two and did not start. And they still got a third overall! Herlings and Coldenhoff were great in winning the three motos. Did we mention RedBud was a bit sandier? Herlings was everything we thought he’d be but I was a bit surprised that he didn’t catch his teammate in the third race. I think Glenn’s ride was amazing. This is a guy that got seventh in the FIM Motocross World Championship this year and his two best motos were a couple of thirds. Yet, at this race, on a track he’s never been to, he busts out two moto wins???? Amazing rides by Glenn. Like Max Anstie last year he really rose to the occasion but it wasn’t enough. The loss of one rider was too much to overcome.
We didn’t talk much about Italy coming into the event. We know they had the great Antonio Cairoli but he’s been a bit beat up the second half of the MXGP season. After that, his teammate Alessandro Lupino finished just 13th in the MXGP points this year and Michele Cervellin is pretty young and isn’t quite as good as he’s going to be right now. But yeah, with five minutes to go, Italy was going to the win the MXoN. But Lupino tired a bit, Cairoli had to toss his goggles and lost a couple of spots and there went the win. It was that close! Still, they were steady all day and if AC hadn’t fallen in the first turn of the first moto or hadn’t had to toss his goggles, it might have been a different country up front instead of the French (again).
LOW: TEAM USA
I mean, I kind of covered it, right? No one rode anywhere close to the way I normally see them ride but they all appeared to be trying. Tomac especially seemed frustrated on the track that he couldn’t get going but maybe we should’ve seen this coming. In the first practice on Saturday, Tomac was tenth quickest, Plessinger was ninth, and Barcia was fourth. This on a track they supposedly knew well. It started off poorly and went from there. Again, I’m shocked they couldn’t make the podium. I don’t think even in my nightmares this race would’ve gone this bad for Team USA without an injury knocking one of the riders out.
LOW: THE BRITS (AGAIN)
Great Britain actually got fifth overall but Tommy Searle’s bike that he borrowed blew up with two laps to go in race one. Had he been able to hang onto his spot of fourth (and he certainly looked like he was able to), Team GB would’ve gotten third, just three points off the lead. Yes, once again the Union Jack suffered a heartbreak at this race. It’s pretty much routine at this point. Searle and Ben Watson rode great all day long. After his bike blew up he rode a bone stock motor to a tenth in moto three.
HIGH: PUERTO RICO
You know their story by now. All I have to say is what I said to Kevin Windham after the race.
Thank you, that was cool.
Ken Roczen didn’t have a very good day. On Saturday he finished a nice second to Antonio Cairoli in the qualifier but on Sunday, crashes and bad starts held him back. Kenny’s had some amazing races at this race over the years but not at RedBud. Didn’t see much magic from him but hey, Germany still got tenth and Max Nagl’s ride in the third race on a TM was very good. Someone told me he had an external fixator on his hand or wrist or something and kind of “hooked” his hand onto his bars? I didn’t see it but I just want to believe it because that’s a cool story.
HIGH: OH CANADA
My home country had a good MXoN. Not great but good. Hey man, it wasn’t that long ago that they were in the B Final year after year. Eleventh overall after getting 13th last year is good but it could’ve been oh so much better. Tyler Medaglia was running top ten with seven minutes to go before he crashed and then his Kawasaki blew up. Had he gotten that spot the results could’ve been better, but every teams has something to deal with. Also, I thought the team’s rookie, Jess Pettis, rode very well in both his motos to come from way, way back into the top 20.
Sorry man, but with the age rule in the MX2 class, I just can’t take the MX2 World Champion seriously. I know Herlings and Gajser have been great but every time someone starts getting really good, they have to get out of the class. It’s a ridiculous rule and I think it creates an artificial greatness in there, and we just don’t know how these guys will do. But this weekend, MX2 champion Jorge Prado went 3-3, as in, not 3-3 in MX2 but 3-3 overall in the two motos. It was a great ride and everyone and anyone who follows the MXGP circuit told me to watch this kid off the starts and man were they on point this weekend. Spain got eighth overall on the back of this kid and I have to think that’s their best finish ever at a MXoN.
Same deal with Hunter Lawrence. I know he was very good last year and had a crappy year this past season with an uncompetitive bike and a team that wasn’t really experienced enough for a rider of his quality. So, I don’t know really… one good year, one not so good. What do you expect with him? Last year he won the MX2 class at the MXoN but it was a mudder so again I just don’t know. This year he was on his GEICO Honda bike he’ll ride in 2019 with very limited suspension testing. And he went 3-1 in MX2 (8-2 overall) for second in the class and was very impressive, especially in that second moto. Lawrence might just be the real deal here.
Oh man, the Swiss had a bad MXoN. At one time they were sneaky good and potential podium country but Killian Auberson crashed out in qualifying on Saturday with some serious injuries so the team was down to two riders. Jeremy Seewer did a nice job in one moto with a fifth but other than that, it was ugly. Hey, at least they made the A main!
So with all the highs and lows covered….
HOW CAN TEAM USA WIN AGAIN?
Well, they can win again but until the two schedules of USA and MXGP work together, it’ll be tough. It’s not a coincidence that USA has lost this race since the USA schedule wrapped before September 1 and the MXGP kept pushing their schedule deeper into the year with more races.
Something I was talking about last year (and had various European media members telling me I was wrong) was that the MXoN used to be sooner in the year but Youthstream insisted that it had not. Well, maybe not since YS took control of the series from Dorna but over the years before that it was. Thanks to poster Mark Swart over on Vital MX, check out the dates between the nationals and the MXoN and same for the MXGP series.
That’s not a coincidence, people. The amount of days growing between the end of the USA season and this race as well as the amount of days dwindling between this race and the end of the MXGP series means the USA will be in a tough spot to get this trophy back on American soil again. Again, not an excuse but facts are facts. Nice work, Mark!
So that’s one thing. The other is trying to get the team together a bit before the race. That’s easier said than done but it seems to work for the French. I’d also, for the 65th time, look into putting a deserving 450 rider on a 250F. Facts are USA hasn’t had a great MX2 ride other than Zach Osborne last year for a while. Hey, Micky Dymond was a two-time 125 champion and left off the team, same with George Holland. If there’s a killer 450 guy, put him on a small bike and see what he can do instead of just shrugging and sending the highest placing American 250 guy.
Thanks for reading, good times indeed at RedBud and win or lose, it was great. Thanks for all of you that came up to me to tell me they enjoyed listening/reading to my stuff. I appreciate it. Email me at email@example.com if you want to chat about this race or anything else.