Coming into the True Value Thunder Valley National, all eyes were on Eli Tomac. The Monster Energy Kawasaki racer had won in convincing fashion at Fox Raceway and would now be racing in his home state of Colorado. After such a dominant performance the week before, a green streak of Tomac fury seemed imminent. But that’s not the way it worked out. Not exactly, anyway, and while the action in the 450 Class didn’t disappoint, the only thing anyone at the track was talking about at the end of the day was what went down in the 250 Class.
The controversy in question took place in the second moto, but the first moto wasn’t exactly normal either. Justin Cooper, just like we’d seen twice already, got out to the early lead in this one after getting around his teammate, Ty Masterpool, and never looked back. If he had, he would have seen Adam Cianciarulo inching up on him in the late stages of the race. Complicating matters was a lightning storm that’d rolled in and was intensifying as the track became slicker by the second due to increasing rain. Would Cianciarulo catch Cooper? We’ll never know—the race was red flagged with six minutes remaining and called early due to lightning strikes that were increasing in frequency.
As the gate was about to drop for the second moto the main question was whether or not Cooper could back up his first-moto win with a solid finish in the second to secure the overall. After all, Cooper won the first two motos of the year, but followed them both up with fourth places in the second, handing the overall wins to Adam Cianciarulo. The answer seemed to present itself when Cooper blasted out of the gate and took the holeshot, but Cianciarulo was right behind and as the two broke away, all eyes were on the battle for the lead, which would decide the overall. That’s when the drama started. Cianciarulo got kicked funny and went off the track, and instead of re-entering in the exact spot, he cut across the track, skipping a small section, and reentered. Cianciarulo allowed Cooper to pass, and even rode slowly for several moments before getting back on the gas, which allowed Cooper to gain an ever larger gap than before the incident started. The race continued, and Cianciarulo ended up taking over the lead when Cooper caught a rut wrong and crashed. Cianciarulo went on to win the moto, despite a maniacal charge from Cooper, but a protest was filed afterward, leaving the answer to who actually won the race in question. After plenty of deliberation and arguments made on both sides, it was decided the results would stand, although Cooper’s team, Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha, is appealing the decision.
“All the points we made [with the AMA], we weren’t getting anywhere,” Cooper said. “It was kind of frustrating, they didn’t agree with anything we said. They just countered and backed AC’s [Cianciarulo’s] decision up. It’s frustrating. I thought I had the overall no matter what happened in the moto, I pretty much had it in my head. I’m so speechless right now, my mind’s just running. It’s going to be a long two weeks between now and High Point. The fire is lit underneath me. It would have been a big deal, it would have put me in the points lead. I’ve never had the red plate and it would have been my first win. It would have been nice to go 1-1 today. We’re going to appeal it though. It seemed one-sided. They weren’t taking any of our points.”
Afterward Cianciarulo stood by his actions, saying if he found himself in that position again he’d do the exact same thing.
“Coming around that corner I was hitting that right-hand side and just got a little cross-rutted. I landed on the gas in order to save it. I’ve been in situations before and I’ve always been honest,”Cianciarulo said. “Unadilla, 2017 in the mud, I made the wrong decision and cut the track. I went to Jeff Canfield [AMA official] and said, ‘Dude, dock me. I messed up.’ I’m never one to shy away from my mistakes. In the end it’s one race and it is what it is, but I felt I did everything right.”
“I told the guys in there I’d do the same thing again. I looked up and there was no break in the banners, and going up a hill and trying to go through those banners that are super staked in, I’m going to drag them all over the track and cause a hazard for other racers. I also stand a chance of washing the front end and getting one of those wooden stakes somewhere and hurting myself. I was looking for a break in the banners and there was nothing, so I hit the banners straight-on as slow as I possibly could. Obviously Justin [Cooper] was there. I was six tenths behind him when I went off the track and I was 1.7 after that. He went by, I rolled up the face of the jump and rolled all the way down. You could check the RPMs on the data, the bike was basically off. I felt I did everything I could. I’ve made the wrong decision in other scenarios, but in that case I stand by exactly what I did.”
Cooper clearly did not agree with Cianciarulo’s decision.
“He jumped the banner and it kind of flustered me,” Cooper said. “They were saying it was going to endanger people if he reentered anywhere else, but he kind of endangered me by jumping on right there. It flustered me. I wondered where he was. There’s always going to be two sides of the story, and it just didn’t work out in our favor, as of right now anyway. From my point of view, I saw him jump the banner right in front of me and it caught me off guard. I got around him and I didn’t know what he was doing from then on. I thought he jumped in right behind me. They argued that he slowed up, but he did enter the track right in front of me. They said he slowed down but as soon as he went off the track he was on the gas. They [the AMA] brushed off everything we were saying. It’s frustrating, it felt like I was talking to a wall. The rulebook, I guess today it didn’t mean much.”
Cianciarulo was able to see Cooper’s displeasure with the situation, but still felt he’d handled the situation correctly.
“From his perspective, he just sees me pop over the banners and he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know I let him go or anything. He comes back to the truck and obviously the team is going to say everything they can, they have to. It’s a motocross win, it’s a big deal. I’m not too sure what he thinks about it now, but clearly I gave him room. Maybe it flustered him a little bit. I was noticing some mistakes, and this is no knock on him because he’s been riding amazing, but he was making some mistakes when I was behind him and those mistakes continued when I got back on the track. I closed the gap and he made another big mistake, and that was that.”
Somewhat overshadowed by the controversy was a fantastic 4-3 from Michael Mosiman, which earned him his first career podium. It didn’t come easily though. He had to make several hard passes on both Chase Sexton and Colt Nichols to make it to third in the second moto.
“I’d put an aggressive pass on Sexton and I was out of control when I went by Nichols,” Mosiman said. “I knew I needed to get out of there before they payed me back!”
|1||Adam Cianciarulo||Port Orange, FL United States||2 - 1||Kawasaki KX250F|
|2||Justin Cooper||Cold Spring Harbor, NY United States||1 - 2||Yamaha YZ250F|
|3||Michael Mosiman||Sebastopol, CA United States||4 - 3||Husqvarna FC 250|
|4||Dylan Ferrandis||Avignon France||3 - 5||Yamaha YZ250F|
|5||Chase Sexton||La Moille, IL United States||7 - 6||Honda CRF250R|
In 450 action there were no questions whatsoever as to who won the race. Ken Roczen absolutely dominated the first moto, winning by over half a minute in front of Zach Osborne. Roczen lost the second moto to a hard-charging Eli Tomac, but since Tomac took fifth in the first moto, Roczen’s 1-2 was more than good enough to take his second overall victory in just three races.
“I can’t complain about today at all, I feel like I was riding really good,” Roczen said. “The first moto was awesome. In the second one I tried to stay up there as long as possible but Eli [Tomac] was really fast in the end. I should have switched up some lines in the end, but I didn’t really have anything for him. I tried not to let him get too far away and did what I could. The track changed a lot between the first and the second moto. It was a good day.”
Despite riding so well, Roczen admitted that he still wasn’t feeling 100 percent.
“I’m not 100 percent, that’s for sure,” Roczen said when asked about his fatigue factor in the post-race press conference. “I can’t really tell you why. I’m just trying to do my best throughout the week and do well on the weekends. I just need a little bit more.”
If Roczen, who now leads Eli Tomac by two points, is doing this well when he’s not at his best, things could get interesting with him and Tomac if Roczen is able regain his full strength.
We mentioned Tomac finished fifth in the first moto. That usually doesn’t happen unless something out of the ordinary happens, and today was no exception. Tomac got a bad start and was trying to move to the front, but it became apparent something was wrong when Tomac started losing big chunks of time with a long stream of roll-off film trailing behind him. He ended up pulling into the mechanic’s area for a goggle change and rejoined the race in roughly tenth place. His speed was back, but the damage was done. Tomac was still able to charge back up to fifth, and nearly got around Jason Anderson for fourth, but he hit a deep rut with about a lap left that killed his rhythm and nearly put him on the ground.
“I was kind of stressing after that first moto,” Tomac said. “I can’t be getting fifth and letting Kenny [Roczen] run away like that. It ended up being a lens problem. In a perfect world I would have come in a lap earlier. I was riding like I was cross-eyed there for the first five or six laps.”
The second moto was classic Tomac. After starting in roughly sixth place, the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider came through the field and found himself on Roczen’s tail with about ten minutes remaining. As the two entered a high-speed roller section Roczen took the outside line. Tomac initially funneled in behind him, but made a quick line change and smashed down the middle of the section to take over the lead. From there Tomac checked out and ended up second overall on a day that could have been disastrous. Interestingly enough, the spot where Tomac passed Roczen is the exact same place he passed him in both motos here last year.
Earning third on the day was Zach Osborne. It was the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider’s first career podium, and he now sits third in points.
“It’s a long process to get used to get your motorcycle and to 100 percent, to where you feel like you can run with these guys,” Zach said. “The riding time is huge, so to start this outdoor season healthy and to start with two top fives, and now a podium, is good. It’s going to be a summer of setting goals and moving those goals as you progress. I think this is where I belong, I feel really comfortable with the pace I’m at now. It’s a huge process to run up front with the fastest guys in the world.”
Joey Savatgy’s return to racing after missing the first two races with injury didn’t go great, but it’s understandable considering Savatgy only had a few days of testing under his belt before racing. In fact, Savatgy even said after he crashed and DNF’d the first moto they used the second moto mainly for testing purposes, which explains why he was in and out of the mechanic’s area so many times.
|1||Ken Roczen||Mattstedt Germany||1 - 2||Honda CRF450R|
|2||Eli Tomac||Cortez, CO United States||5 - 1||Kawasaki KX450|
|3||Zach Osborne||Abingdon, VA United States||2 - 4||Husqvarna FC 450|
|Edgewood, NM United States||4 - 5||Husqvarna FC 450|
|5||Marvin Musquin||La Reole France||8 - 3||KTM 450 SX-F|