How great was it what we got to witness today? How much better was it that we witnessed such greatness during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Unadilla MX, which has been synonymous with motocross in America? If you missed it, well I’m here to inform you that you missed one for the books. On the history side, first, Rick Johnson was inducted into the Unadilla MX Hall of Fame. Although I wasn’t able to watch RJ race (unfortunately I’m too young to have watched these legends in person so I have to rely on reading about, hearing about, and digging up old photos of these guys in their heydays), to see one of our sport’s legends honored in such a way is something I’m thankful I got to experience. We also got to see a parade lap from RJ and lots of other legends, including “The Man” Roger De Coster himself!
Second off, the riders that will represent Team USA at the 2019 Motocross of Nations were announced, which we’ll touch on later. As far as the action on the track, in the 250 Class, we saw the two championship contenders battling one another nonstop for both motos before literally finishing with the same results. We’ll also get into later. In the 450 Class, we watched a rider that I will one day have to tell/teach/show the youngsters about. Let’s dig in!
Today was Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen’s day. It’s that simple. He was unreal. He was today’s fastest qualifier (in both sessions) only by, ya know, a casual THREE SECONDS. Yes, his best lap was three seconds faster than the second fastest lap. Kenny dropped a blazing 2:11.482. The next four fastest laps were: Cooper Webb’s 2:14.628; Jason Anderson’s 2:14.702; Zach Osborne’s 2:15.382; and Marvin Musquin’s 2:15.826. Musquin, who has won the last two Unadilla National 450 Class overalls and finished second overall in 2016, finished qualifying fifth with a 2:15.826 and was 4.4 seconds off of Roczen’s fastest lap. Roczen said in the post-race interview that he expected to do great today.
“The last couple of days I was just talking about having a perfect weekend, and for whatever reason I put that in my mind and it seemed to work out today,” Roczen said on his mindset for this weekend. “It’s been a long time.”
He was flying around from the moment he first touched the track this morning. Still riding in his typical low-rev, high speed style, he was clearly enjoying himself. In the second qualifying session as he threw a massive whip over the Sky Shot jump. The fans went wild. Little did they know the show wasn’t near over yet.
“It’s great,” he said about getting to express himself on the track. “The jump’s obviously known for being able to throw some whips. It’s very forgiving just because you have a long landing. Throughout the entire year we don’t really have any jumps where you can do that. They’re not really made for that but that one. I had fun, even yesterday in press day and today. It just kind of mixes it up a little bit and takes it out of that straight race [mode] at all times.”
So it was the Ken Roczen show today. Unfortunately for Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac, he wasn’t even the supporting actor. Today, he was just a member of the cast—he just didn’t have it today. As NBC Sports commentators Jason Weigandt and Grant Langston alluded to on the broadcast, the GOAT Ricky Carmichael once said, “You win the title on your bad days.” If Tomac’s bad day is 7-3 for fourth overall, no, that’s not what he wants but compared to trying to go all-out and keep up with Roczen and crashing out of the day or even the championship, he did a good job of managing it all. Tomac’s goal has been to get a two-moto (50 points) lead over the competition so he doesn’t have to secure the championship at round 12 at Ironman Raceway. Clearly, he wasn’t comfortable today and while he did lose ten points to Musquin, he still has a 40-point lead. This was the first time Tomac finished off of the overall podium all season.
Even though he’s been strong at this race in the past, Musquin was no match for Roczen. Following the motos, Musquin said he wishes he hadn’t made mistakes and could’ve been more of a challenge to Roczen in the second moto.
“I’m pretty happy with my day but I wish I would have given it a better fight in the second moto,” Musquin said. “I felt good in both motos but at the end I started making mistakes. Overall, it’s a good day but I wanted more. I have good memories here—winning my first 250 race here in 2013—so of course I want more of that but I’m happy to gain ten points on Eli Tomac in the overall championship.”
Unfortunately for KTM, Webb suffered a knee injury about halfway through the first moto and was forced to retire from the race after completing ten laps. He didn’t line up for the second moto and he left the facility to go get an MRI. We will provide more information on Webb when it becomes available.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Zach Osborne continued his strong rookie season in the premier class by rounding out the podium.
“Overall, it was a decent day,” Osborne said. “Typically, a 4-4 isn’t going to get you on the podium but it did today. I’m happy with my riding, I just really didn’t have the speed today. I felt good in both motos and I’m happy to be back on the podium.”
Although he missed the RedBud National at the beginning of July, of the 18 motos he’s raced this year, Osborne has finished inside the top five 17 times.
“That’s what we train for, but it’s hard to believe that I’ve managed to actually do it,” Osborne said when I asked him how he’s been able to consistently finish inside the top-five of just about every moto. “Showing up and starting in positions where you can get in the top five. This class is no joke right now. You can’t start in tenth or 15th and get in the top five. So, I’ve just really been putting myself in good track position and trying to hang on. It’s my rookie year. It’s not been like that. So I feel good about it.”
Osborne’s teammate, 450 Class veteran Jason Anderson, finished fifth after two fifth-place moto finishes.
“My weekend went pretty good,” Anderson said. “I was happy to qualify third and then be consistent with top-fives in the motos but I definitely want more—I want to be on the podium and fighting for wins.”
The third Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider, Dean Wilson, finished 8-11 for tenth overall. Wilson, who came into the championship on the IR, has recorded overall finishes of 9-14-9-10 since entering the championship.
“Today was a step in the right direction,” Wilson said. “In the second moto, I had a crazy good battle with [Justin] Barcia all race long. I didn’t end up beating him, but I was happy with my effort. I’m just coming back and still healing, so I’m not being too hard on myself with the results.”
|1||Ken Roczen||Mattstedt||1 - 1||Honda CRF450R|
|La Reole||2 - 2||KTM 450 SX-F|
|3||Zach Osborne||Abingdon, VA||4 - 4||Husqvarna FC 450|
|4||Eli Tomac||Cortez, CO||7 - 3||Kawasaki KX450|
|5||Jason Anderson||Edgewood, NM||5 - 5||Husqvarna FC 450|
Every race fan loves close action between the top competitors. And that’s exactly what we got treated to today in the 250 Class. Points leader Adam Cianciarulo came into the weekend with a 28-point lead over Dylan Ferrandis. And he left with a 28-point lead over Ferrandis. We’ve seen these two battle back and forth before but today was about as good as it gets. In the first moto, Ferrandis got a good start and was right behind Cianciarulo and ready to charge. And he tried, pushing Cianciarulo the whole way, but it wasn’t enough. In the second moto, Ferrandis got an even better start, snagging the holeshot, which you only see occasionally from the #34. But in his rearview mirror was the #92. And he charged. But this time he couldn't get around his rival. So Ferrandis went 2-1, earning 47 points, and Cianciarulo went 1-2, earning 47 points but the tie-breaking went to Ferrandis, who recorded the better second moto finish.
The motos were about identical, as these two battled—just in a reversed role in the second moto—and then Chase Sexton followed behind in third both times. (Note: they were in such a great battle that Anderson and Wilson came into the media tent to watch the action before their final 450 moto—surely they also wanted to keep tabs on their teammates, of course!).
“I didn’t feel that great, but I’m getting back to where I need to be and back up on the podium where I belong,” Sexton said in the post-race interview. “It’s nice to be able to be back up here. It’s been not a long road, but it’s just been kind of frustrating these last couple weeks. It’s pretty good.
“These guys have been riding super good,” he continued, referring to Ferrandis and Cianciarulo. “That pace we had second moto was fast. It was just nice being up there with those guys. I was trying to make something happen, but like I said, these guys are riding really good. They’re one and two in the points for a reason. So it was a good day. Just trying to build off this into next weekend and make it even better.”
Cianciarulo and Ferrandis acknowledged their battles with one another and explained their thoughts on the situation.
“It was a good day for us,” AC said. “Obviously, we’re trying to finish in front of Dylan every time, and he’s trying to do the opposite. I’ve never had this much fun racing before. I think Dylan and I are really respectful of each other when we’re racing, too. So we can just go out there and push as hard as we can and may the best man win. I’ve just been having a blast. I’m just trying to kind of learn from him and get better. I would have liked a 2-1 instead of a 1-2 today, but as far as points goes, we came and did what we needed to do. I was going for it the whole time.
“I think it’s imperative that I stick with the offensive mentality and not get too defensive,” he continued. “Not ride too smart, but at the same time make good decisions. I was happy with the day. Obviously, you always want more when you didn’t win, but he rode great. I think that the second moto I definitely put my best foot forward and just came up a little short.”
“Today was very important to use the technique to really get the flow on this track,” Ferrandis said, “because it was difficult.”
“I think for me doing well at this track is good,” Cianciarulo said. “One of the reasons the track is pretty technical, so a lot of long ruts. Something I’ve kind of struggled with in the past and really worked on. It’s one of those things where you have to be super technically solid on the bike to do well and have two motos without mistakes. Beyond just the historic value of doing well here, I think it’s good for me and my confidence to see my improvement at this track.”
While neither Cianciarulo nor Ferrandis gained an advantage in the points standings today, Ferrandis did gain the confidence by holding off AC in the second moto—which can be an even bigger game-changer than an actual points advantage.
“For me, it’s easy,” Ferrandis said. “I have to win. I have to beat him and try to get some points every race. Now it’s just four more motos, so he’d have to make something happen. Anyway, I’m giving everything. I’m the hunter, so just try to win and to beat him. We all saw that he’s not riding defensively. He’s giving also everything he has. That’s tough. He’s tough to beat. He’s riding good. It is racing for the show. We do a good show. [The last] two races, we’re battling really hard. Looks like he’s not riding defensively at all.”
Cianciarulo said Ferrandis is right, that he hasn’t backed off one bit.
“It’s a fine line because obviously having the points lead you got to be smart, but at the same time you have to do everything you can do,” Ciancairulo said. “You've got to do what you can. There comes a time out there sometimes where I make a couple mistakes or there’s a section of the track that’s a little bit sketchy. Maybe now I tone it down a little bit more than I would, but it’s definitely against my nature. Obviously, you guys know me. I want to just go for it all the time.
“It’s super hard to make those smart decisions sometimes,” he continued. “But with that being said, I’m doing the best I can every race. That’s my mindset when I’m there. It’s not like, we have this many points. Let’s just make sure we nail whatever. No. If this was the last race, then maybe. I think still you’ve got to be offensive and you’ve just got to make good decisions when the time comes.”
New York native Justin Cooper was hoping to get his second career overall win and was in position early by grabbing the first-moto holeshot, but he crashed while leading and then dropped to fourth. Another mistake early in moto two set him back, but he came back through to take fourth again.
Michael Mosiman has been putting in an impressive 2019. After taking a step in the right direction at the end of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, Mosiman has carried his momentum from SX into Pro Motocross. He was in a battle with Sexton and Cooper in moto one before a brief crash, then Mosiman suffered a hard fall in the second moto that ended his day early. His 6-38 moto finishes resulted in a 12th overall—only his second overall of the championship outside of the top-ten.
“It was a pretty rough end to the day,” Mosiman said. “In the second moto, I had two big crashes and unfortunately wasn’t able to finish. I’m feeling pretty sore and I’m just going to go home and recuperate and go from here.”
Mosiman's Rockstar Energy Husqvarna teammate Jordan Bailey finished 15-11, tying his season-best 11th overall. While Bailey’s first moto wasn’t great with a bad start, he was running in ninth in the second moto until the very end when Jett Lawrence and Garrett Marchbanks passed him with only three laps to go after he slid out.
“All-in-all, I think today was a really good step in the right direction,” Bailey said. “It was a bummer to slide out at the end of the second moto but I’m happy with how I rode. I’m looking forward to Budds Creek and just keeping this momentum going.”
The day was tough on the rookies that had just turned pro after last week's Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Amateur National at Loretta Lynn's. GEICO Honda's Joe Shimoda was nursing a sore shoulder from Loretta's and crashed in both motos, failing to score points either time. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna's Jalek Swoll went 22-19. Carson Mumford and Jett Lawrence, racing their Amsoil Honda amateur bikes, did slightly better, with Mumford going 16-20 and Lawrence going 21-8. His second-moto eighth included a strong comeback charge.
|1||Dylan Ferrandis||Avignon||2 - 1||Yamaha YZ250F|
|2||Adam Cianciarulo||Port Orange, FL||1 - 2||Kawasaki KX250F|
|3||Chase Sexton||La Moille, IL||3 - 3||Honda CRF250R|
|4||Justin Cooper||Cold Spring Harbor, NY||4 - 4||Yamaha YZ250F|
|5||Colt Nichols||Muskogee, OK||5 - 6||Yamaha YZ250F|
TEAM USA ANNOUNCEMENT
During opening ceremonies today, the American Motorcyclist Association has announced Team USA for the 2019 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations. USA will be represented by Zach Osborne, Jason Anderson, and Justin Cooper.
“It’s an honor to represent my country, let’s go get it," said Justin Cooper, the third-year pro that will make his MXoN debut in the MX2 class.
“This is at the top of my list," said Osborne, who will race the open class. “I hope to go over there and tear it up and bring home the cup. I think we have three guys who really want to be there and are enthusiastic about the event, and that’s half the battle. We’re going to go over and try to dial in our bikes and try to get used to that European sand.”
“The task is serious,” said team manager Roger De Coster. “We’re racing in European sand, a real sand box. But these guys are going to put in 100 percent effort. We're going to go over and put in a lot of testing, it's going to be very tough but we hope to be competitive.”
"We’re going to go over a little early and try to get prepared for this race, and for me," said Anderson, who will race in the MXGP class. "I’m always down to do this race and rip it up out there."
The 450 Class post-race press conference opened with Osborne asked about being selected as the caption for the team
“[Really good,” Osborne said on how it felt being named team captain. “Des Nations is something I’m pretty passionate about. Really passionate about. It’s awesome to be named to the team and also to be the captain. I think they just did that because I’m old! It’s really cool, though. I’m really happy to be a part of it. I think we have a really good team and a good plan to make some stuff happen.”
You can read more about the announcement of Team USA here.