Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from the Cathedral of Speed, the Assen TT circuit in the Netherlands. We're here, of course, for the last great big race of the 2019 calendar, the 73rd annual Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations. The motocross racing nations of the world, 34 of them, are here to compete on a purpose-built sand track that will be a brutal test for everyone. Add in the looming rain and the pressures involved for three different countries—the host Dutch, the visiting Americans, and the defending French—and you have the makings of quite an epic weekend. We will do our best here at Racer X Online and on our social media to keep you posted, and we also have all of the information of how you can watch TV or online.
I just got to Assen myself after a short mini-vacation in Amsterdam, where I actually ran into Jeff Emig, who is here to do some broadcasting work for Fox Racing and MXGP-TV. Emig is a legend at this race, having lined up for Team USA a record six consecutive years in the 1990s. His record was 3-3, but the wins and losses all meant a lot to him, so he was the perfect friend to bench race with about the upcoming race, Team USA's recent struggles, the balance of power in the motocross world, and just how this all may play out. Of course, I had to get a few jabs in about his broadcast partner Paul Malin, the host of MXGP and the 125 class winner—over Emig—for the winning British team at the 1994 Motocross of Nations in Roggenburg, Switzerland. That was the year Team USA's epic 13-year winning streak ended. As a racer, as a commentator, as (briefly) a team owner, Jeff knows the sport as well as anyone. I wish I would have recorded our conversation—it would have been an epic podcast!
Let's start with the Dutch. All summer long, and especially late in the summer when Glen Coldenhoff really began finding his form, it's been everyone's assumption that the home team will win this weekend. That's because they have Jeffrey Herlings, hands-down the best sand rider on the planet (and maybe best on any other part of the planet). Everyone knew Jeffrey would probably be ready to go by now, so even though he barely raced in 2019, he's penciled in as the overall winner, and with Coldenhoff coming off a 1-1 at RedBud last year and riding better than he ever has, it's hard to bet on anyone other than the Orangemen. Their third rider is Calvin Vlaanderen, a South African transplant. He just needs to finish. Had he just finished last year, the Dutch would have won RedBud too.
But that's the thing: the Dutch have never won this team event, and the race made its debut here in Holland right after World War II. As I mentioned last week, the Dutch king is coming, the Dutch army is backing the team, and every prognosticator has them down as the heavy favorite and almost certain winner. That's a lot of pressure. Then you add the fact that mainstream Dutch media has been following the guys around, everyone who probably ever met these three guys is calling them for tickets and pit passes, every radio station and local newspaper wants to interview them.... It takes your focus off the race. I remember Alex Martin telling me that the hardest race for him and his brother Jeremy every season is Spring Creek, because they live there and everyone knows them. That's what the Dutch are dealing with right now. That and the 72-race losing streak they've had here since they dropped the gate on the first one right down the road.
And then there's the French. They once again come into the race with a lot of question marks, a little bit of drama in rider selection, and an insanely overblown battle between the French Federation and rising star Tom Vialle's sponsor Red Bull over the size of the logos on the team hat. I will spare you the details of rehashing it, but Vialle isn't here, and that's a shame. But the last five years they've won this race with five different lineups and just one constant: Gautier Paulin. The highly respected veteran is the mainstay of this team. (I would call him the anchor, but that makes him sound slow. He's not.) He's a very fast man on any terrain, and he's super-competitive and very proud of his French team and their success. Don't forget, he was one of the few jumping LaRocco's Leap last year, just because he wanted to show our team and fans that he was up for the battle. Even if they don't have some of their very best to join him, like the U.S.-based Marvin Musquin and Dylan Ferrandis and the injured veteran Romain Febvre, and Tom Vialle and his unacceptable hat, they still have a chance.
And that brings us to Team USA. Obviously, there are a lot of other countries here with some very fast riders, including reigning MXGP champion Tim Gajser of Slovenia and MX2 champion Jorge Prado of Spain, but to win here, you need three talented and capable riders, and that's a tall order for those countries when you have to go up against a seemingly perfect (for this race) Dutch team, the always-competitive French, and the Americans, whom you can never count out. Ever since Team USA was announced at Unadilla, there has been some guarded optimism about the combined forces of Zach Osborne, Jason Anderson, and Justin Cooper. They were not the three fastest men in 2019, but they were the three fastest who wanted to be here. We could go on and on over the same old ground about the timing and costs and risks of this event, and whether or not a rider or his race team was right in their decision-making, but I prefer to focus on the guys who are here and want to compete. (It could be worse: the three fastest German riders—Ken Roczen, Max Nagl, and Henry Jacobi—are all missing from their roster.) Zach, Jason, and Justin want to be here, and they even came early!
But that doesn't mean we should get our hopes too high. The sand here is unlike anything in the rest of the world, and no matter that they practiced for a few weeks on it, the sand trucked into this Assen circuit and dumped out to make a motocross track can't really be replicated. The same goes for the other countries, though with that one big caveat: our guys spend more than half the year on hard-pack supercross tracks. Supercross tracks don't exist in the Netherlands or Belgium, which is where most of the MXGP elite live year-round. The boys have been riding a lot of sand here, as you know if you've been following the videos of our friends at Team Fried, but will it be enough?
(Quick sidebar: As I walked to the press conference today, I ran into Youthstream's David Luongo, and we were catching up and doing a little bench racing when Matty Rice of Team Fried came strolling by with a Team USA headband on that he’d fashioned out of a T-shirt. I introduced Matty to Luongo, and David told him how much of a fan he was of the work they had been doing and how so many people in Europe not only appreciate the videos, but even more so how open and positive the guys were being about the event, being in Europe, and just trying really hard to get the Peter Chamberlain Trophy back. It's amazing what the reach and effect those videos have had on turning around the perception of Team USA long before the race even started.)
So do we at least have a puncher's chance? Emig thinks so, and so do I. We've got a veteran in Osborne, a proven MXoN winner in Anderson, and a fantastic starter on a very good 250F in Cooper. With some good starts and good luck (and some bad luck for others), Team USA could do what others managed to do to them last year: ride into our house and grab the Motocross of Nations win away from our expecting hands. If we did that to the Dutch this year, it would honestly be a much bigger upset than what the French did at RedBud last year. And the post-race celebration would be absolutely epic! Fortunately, Team Fried would be there to film it for everyone back home.
By the way, this is not the first time the Assen TT circuit has hosted a competition between nations. Back in 1984, the facility was the hub for that year's International Six Days Enduro, and the home Dutch Trophy team, led by motocross legend Gerrit Wolsink, ended up winning the whole event.
Okay, back to being a Team USA fan and representing my country … in the beer tent!
GO TIME (Matthes)
The press conference for the 2019 Motocross of Nations has just wrapped up, and tomorrow, after all the bench racing and flat-out arguing, it begins. The circuit here at Assen is quite different from the regular GP layout, at least to the riders that I spoke to.
One thing I’ve picked up is that the starting positions on the outside are not very favorable, so the gate picks, done tonight by clothespins, are going to be important for tomorrow’s qualifiers. By the way, here’s my 15th year in a row rant that the teams spend SO much money to be here and qualifying is SO important for many of countries and their fate is determined by a clothespin draw? Could we perhaps go off last year’s results, guys? No? Okay.
The guys on Team USA said the right things about this race: they’re here to podium, but they want to win and it’s a team race, they need to remember that, etc. But yeah, the effort they’ve put in, along with the help of the Ice One Husqvarna team (who, if Team USA wins, should join them on the podium) is a serious one, and you hope that they are rewarded for their efforts. Team USA manager Roger De Coster mentioned that he’s got three riders that really, really want to be here (he said “really” twice, so I guess the past riders just “really” wanted to be here?) and he’s stoked with the effort the guys have put in.
Weather is not going to be nice, with a 90 percent chance of showers for both days. That’s not going to be awesome, but it is sand, so there’s that. But rain and wet sand is a killer for vision, so that could be an issue for many riders come moto time.
I’m not a fan of putting the most prestigious motocross race of the year on a homemade track (you ever see the Superbowl at the Oakland Coliseum?) on flat ground, but the positives for having the race here will shine through if the rain falls on both days in the form of concrete, level pits.
The Rest of the World (Jason Weigandt)
We’ve had perhaps the busiest Friday ever here at Racer X Online tracking all of the preview content for Motocross of Nations. I personally have ruined a keyboard typing about the event all week, such as 10 Things to Watch and How the Race Is Won. The MXoN is the center of the motocross world, for sure, this weekend. Yet, there’s still lots of other stuff going, on, including the AIMExpo trade show, which has returned to Columbus, Ohio, after a year in Las Vegas. Moto introductions are rare at this show (seems like new bikes and products for our market hit in June), but Cobra did shake things up big-time by introducing the 2021 CX-E5 minicycle. You can do it, it’s electric! As a 2021 model, this new Cobra mini is about a year away from dealers, but KTM’s new SX-E 5 should be on sale in November, and the press intro is set for next Saturday at Red Bull Straight Rhythm. It won’t be long until the two raciest brands in minicycle racing both have purpose-built electric kids race bikes for sale.
This will be a controversial topic, you can listen to my podcast with Cobra president Sean Hilbert to get deep into it. Sean told me that his company and KTM spent two years working together to try to educate the AMA and racing promoters on how to enforce these bikes. The solution seems to be setting class limits based on battery size. If you want to make your electric bike faster, you’ll run out of juice and not finish the moto. Cobra thinks that’s the best way to stop people from gaming the system, and also prevents these bikes from becoming too fast. In fact, a lot of Cobra’s engineering behind this bike was based on making sure the lap times were similar to the gas machines. Cobra is not asking for gas to race against electric, but they saw what happened when four-strokes came in and started having so much racing success immediately. This is set up to be a slower process.
What else is happening? The 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross schedule is out (as you'll see below), and there are few changes. The Florida National has been moved a few weeks earlier (June 6 in 2020 instead of June 22 in 2019). The weekend off that normally comes after round three in Colorado will now come after round four in Florida. So maybe there’s a chance it’s slightly less hot for this race?
Red Bull Straight Rhythm is coming up quickly—next weekend! There are retro bike builds aplenty. Cooper Webb’s KTM 250 SX is designed to look like the Jeremy McGrath’s (brief) KTM run in 2003. Meanwhile, Ryan Villopoto has his YZ250 looking like McGrath’s old Bud Light Yamaha. And Ken Roczen is actually riding McGrath’s 2006 Honda CR250R! Hey, if you’re paying homage to the nineties, you can’t have too much McGrath.
AJ Catanzaro, who went as a James Stewart #259 lookalike last year, is now going as a Travis Pastrana RM125 double this year. AJ even went to Travis’ compound to get Travis lessons from Travis himself. Pastrana, by the way, is also competing at Straight Rhythm on the RM-Zilla 500 two-stroke, against Tyler Bower’s “The Unit” KX500. Bowers has been doing some cool interactive work with fans on social media, including a giveaway every day until the race on his Instagram.
Other retro builds include Adam Enticknap’s RM250 designed to mimic Kevin Windham’s old Suzuki days, Jerry Robin on a #111 Grant Langston KTM replica, and Germany’s Simon Lagenfelder (who is also racing MXoN this weekend) on a Ryan Hughes-looking KTM 125. All we’re missing is someone on a Mike Brown replica. Actually, that would mostly likely just be Brown coming as himself!
Anyway, that will be fun next weekend. Right now the focus is 100 percent on Motocross of Nations!
Mason-Dixon GNCC Preview (Mitch Kendra)
The 11th round of the 2019 Amsoil Grand National Cross Country Series (GNCC) will take place this Saturday and Sunday at the second annual Mason-Dixon GNCC at Mathews Farm in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania. FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Kailub Russell, who earned his 60th overall win at the inaugural Black Sky GNCC, currently holds a 52-point lead over Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thad Duvall in the overall standings. Kailub earned his sixth win of the championship (which leads the XC1 class) at last weekend’s inaugural race in Harpursville, New York, as he looks to bring home his seventh consecutive title over the last three rounds of 2019.
In the XC2 class, Trail Jesters KTM’s Ben Kelley officially clinched the class title at the Black Sky GNCC after earning ten wins in ten starts in 2019. He also inked a three-year extension with KTM that will see him step up from the KTM Supported Trail Jesters team to the FMF/KTM Factory Racing team beginning in 2020. With the class championship already his, will Kelley be able to make it 11-for-11? Come out to the Mathews Farm on Sunday afternoon or watch the event live on RacerTV.com to find out.
2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Schedule Announced (Mitch Kendra)
As Weigandt mentioned, on Wednesday, MX Sports Pro Racing unveiled the 12-round schedule for the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. The 49th season features only a few small changes to the schedule. The Hangtown Motocross Classic starts the season on May 16 and the championship concludes with the Ironman National on August 29.
Fox Raceway at Pala, which returned to the championship this year for the first time since 2011, will be the second stop of the championship on May 23. The track served as the season finale for the 2010 and 2011 championships, which were won by Ryan Dungey (450 Class) and Dean Wilson (250 Class) both years, but with 250 Class Champion Adam Cianciarulo moving to the Monster Energy Kawasaki team in the 450 Class, the 2020 Fox Raceway National will see a new winner atop the podium. Following two rounds in California, the third round brings the championship to Thunder Valley Motocross Park on May 30. From Lakewood, Colorado, the championship will visit WW Ranch Motocross Park in Jacksonville, Florida, for the Florida National on June 6. After the first break in the series, High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania, will host the fifth round of the championship, this year’s event taking place over Father’s Day weekend on June 20.
The championship will then head to Southwick, Massachusetts, on June 27 and RedBud MX in Michigan on July 4. The new three-race stretch of High Point, Southwick and RedBud should be a little easier than the Florida/Southwick/RedBud trio in 2019.
After a break, the championship will resume with the Spring Creek National on July 18 and Washougal National on July 25. Another break will bring the last three rounds of the championship in back-to-back weekends with the Unadilla National on August 15, the Budds Creek National on August 22, and the Ironman National on August 29. For information about the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, please visit ProMotocross.com.
2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Schedule
|May 16||Hangtown Motocross Classic||Prairie City SVRA||Rancho Cordova, California|
|May 23||Fox Raceway National||Fox Raceway||Pala, California|
|May 30||Thunder Valley National||Thunder Valley Motocross Park||Lakewood, Colorado|
|June 6||Florida National||WW Ranch Motocross Park||Jacksonville, Florida|
|June 20||High Point National||High Point Raceway||Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania|
|June 27||Southwick National||The Wick 338||Southwick, Massachusetts|
|July 4||RedBud National||RedBud MX||Buchanan, Michigan|
|July 18||Spring Creek National||Spring Creek MX Park||Millville, Minnesota|
|July 25||Washougal National||Washougal MX Park||Washougal, Washington|
|August 15||Unadilla National||Unadilla MX||New Berlin, New York|
|August 22||Budds Creek National||Budds Creek Motocross Park||Mechanicsville, Maryland|
|August 29||Ironman National||Ironman Raceway||Crawfordsville, Indiana|
Missing in Action (Andras Hegyi)
The 2019 AMA champions are all missing from this year's FIM Motocross of Nations. Of the five different AMA Supercross/Pro Motocross championships, there were five different winners: four Americans and one Frenchman. But this weekend none of them will be racing at the 73rd MXoN held in the Netherlands at Assen. AMA 450 Supercross Champion Cooper Webb, 450 Class MX #1 Eli Tomac, 250 Class MX Champion Adam Cianciarulo, and 250SX Regional Champions Dylan Ferrandis (West) and Chase Sexton (East) are not racing for various reasons.
In the history of the MXoN, this is the third time that no current AMA champions are taking part in years in which Team USA participated. (In 1979, '80, 2001, '02, and '04 Team USA did not participate.)
The years in which they raced without a champion, both in 1981 and 1982, turned out to be special ones, marking the beginning of Team USA's epic 13-year winning streak. The then-four-man teams were all Honda riders: Donnie Hansen, Danny Laporte, Johnny O'Mara, and Chuck Sun won the '81 Trophee (250cc) and Motocross (500cc) des Nations for the first time, and then the quartet of O'Mara, David Bailey, Jim Gibson, and Danny "Magoo" Chandler swept both races in '82, Magoo taking all four motos overall handily. That '82 season, Honda's Donnie Hansen was the AMA Supercross and 250 Motocross Champion while teammate Darrell Shultz was the 500 MX Champion, but both were hurt and unavailable for the MXdN and Trophee races.
The 73rd MXoN in Numbers (Andras Hegyi)
After 15 years, the Motocross of Nations is going to visit the Netherlands again. This is the first time since 2004 that Holland has hosted the race. Before 2019 the MXoN paid a visit to Holland in 1947, which was the first year of the race, and then '54, '61, '67, '72, '76, '91 and 2004. Only Belgium and Great Britain had more Motocross of Nations than Holland. Both countries hosted the race ten times.
Assen is the 8th Dutch venue that has hosted the MXoN. Before that it was in Wassenaar, Norg, Schijndel, Markelo, Saint Anthonis, Valkenswaard, and Lierop.
The world-famous Assen TT circuit is the 53rd track to host the MXoN. The legendary Citadel of Namur in Belgium entertained the races the most times at five.
The entry list of this 73rd MXoN consists of 34 national motocross teams. This is the second time that many nations have participated. In 2014 there were 34 teams in Latvia. The most ever to participate was 2013 in Teutschenthal, Germany, which featured 40 teams.
The 34-year-old Tanel Leok from Estonia is going to take part in his 19th consecutive Motocross of Nations. Leok has raced for Team Estonia every year since 2001.
Among the field of 34 teams there are five FIM World Motocross Champions. The boss of Team Netherlands is the 4-time world champion Jeffrey Herlings. The leader of Team Slovenia is the 3-time world champion Tim Gajser. Spain’s biggest star is the 2-time world champion Jorge Prado. The 2014 MX2 world champion Jordi Tixier is racing for Team France, and the '17 MX2 #1 Pauls Jonass is with Team Latvia.
The November 2019 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
The November 2019 issue of Racer X magazine is coming to newsstands and mailboxes soon. Sign up now for the print and/or award-winning digital edition. And if you're already a digital subscriber head to digital.racerxonline.com to login and read now.
Inside the November issue of Racer X magazine
- See who stood out and what our takeaways are from Loretta Lynn’s and all of its future moto talent.
- GEICO Honda had a packed house at the last three nationals, but who’s sticking around?
- Former factory rider Michael Byrne has made a successful jump to team management, and we find out how and why.
- When the AMA’s 1986 Production Rule went into effect, it ended a glorious run of exotic, hand-built—and wildly expensive—bikes in AMA racing. We dig into the story of those final years.
All these features and much more inside the November issue.
“47,048 Laps” by Davey Coombs
The 2019 Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn Ranch once again featured amateur racing at its pinnacle. And we (almost) escaped the rain! See who stood out and what our takeaways are for future talent.
“New Policy” by Jason Weigandt
Updated AMA rules and a packed GEICO Honda team semi made for a very busy pro debut weekend for three Factory Connection amateur squad riders. But who’s going to stick around?
“The Last Works Bikes” by Eric Johnson
When the AMA’s 1986 Production Rule went into effect, it ended a glorious run of exotic, hand-built—and wildly expensive—bikes in AMA racing. This is the story of those final years.
Poster Info (Print Edition Only)
Hey, Watch It!
LISTEN TO THIS
Don't miss this podcast from last week as Matthes, Weege, and JT did a full preview of the 2019 Motocross of Nations.
For this week’s Fly Racing Racer X Podcast, host Steve Matthes caught up to Chad Reed at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. They talked about his love of racing all things, the upcoming 2020 season, thoughts on the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations, and more. Give it a listen.
There are multiple prongs to building an electric motocross infrastructure. Building the bikes and getting riders to try them is just a start—and Cobra and KTM have taken that step by introducing race-ready electric minicycles that will be available shortly. But what about the racing rules? Why should riders want to try these bikes in the first place? Cobra Moto president Sean Hilbert joins Jason Weigandt to talk about the process behind the scenes that will make electric make sense.
This week on the Main Event Moto Podcast, Daniel Blair and Producer Joe talk about the off-season and what's to come. Hang out with them as Daniel focuses on the headlines in the sport. Oh yeah, sometimes it goes off the rails. Give a listen to episode #133 of Main Event Moto Podcast now.
Doug Henry was a three-time AMA Motocross national champion in the 1990s. He was on the leading edge of a revolution in professional motocross racing by becoming the first prominent rider to race four-stroke machines in national competition against a sea of traditional two-stroke motorcycles. Just a few years after Henry became the first four-stroke rider in AMA Motocross history to win a national championship in 1998, AMA Motocross Championship racing would become almost exclusively the domain of four-stroke bikes. After retiring from motocross full-time, Henry went on to become one of the leading Supermoto riders in the world. This week on The Whiskey Throttle Show, Ping and GL were joined by Henry.
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“Here's A Lovely Newspaper Photo Goof”—Deadspin
"Walrus Attacks Russian Navy, Wins"—Jalopnik
If you weren't a fan of Ryan Dungey when he was racing, you probably got tired of people gushing over his clean, good-guy image. Well, prepare yourself for a continuation of the love-fest, because this story in People is awesome. It's all about Dungey helping a nine-year-old cancer survivor take his first steps after having to relearn everything following a tough surgery. Even following retirement the aww shucks racer is still serving as a great example for the racing community. Nice work, Ryan.
A get-well-soon goes out to 1992 Team USA hero Billy Liles, who was hospitalized recently with some sort of infection to his lungs (@90smotocross on Instagram reported that it might be Legionnaires’ disease).
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #39.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!