Well, it’s over. The 2019 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations was, for the third year in a row, robbed of a premier day by the weather. Cold, rain, and wind all added up to a tough day of racing for the riders and teams. The Assen TT Circuit facility, which was covered by a man-made sand track, was hammered by rain on Saturday and then Saturday night and most of Sunday. Man, it didn’t look like fun out there for the racers and teams. Let’s dive into the day that was in the Netherlands, yeah?
First, the track. Yeah, I wasn’t a fan. To me, the MXoN is the premier motocross race of the year, the one that the fans look forward to the most and it should be on the very best tracks. Assen was not what you would call “the very best track.” It’s flat, it’s narrow (in places) and being a speedway the fans were away from the track in most places. It got crazy rough though, and the rain made it so soupy and rutty that it was gnarly in spots. Like, USA should’ve called Kailub Russell to race gnarly.
I get what Youthstream is trying to do. You go to a purpose-built road racing facility and you get better amenities. MX Sports did the same thing in Utah for a few years but that experiment didn’t last. I’m old school, I believe that the track, the atmosphere…things that make up the real, you know, racing is what matters. I had a lot of people tell me how great it was being on concrete in the pits with all the rain and they’re right, it is great. Sliding around the pits in Matterley Basin a few years ago and destroying a pair of shoes sucked royally but yeah, it’s the racing I care about. Not my shoes, not the construction of the paddock nor the comfort of the media room. (Editor’s note: Steve said the Florida National wasn’t hot and “was fine” from within an air-conditioned space!)
In talking to some riders they weren’t fans of the track either and the start was massively unfair. Starts should be a bit unfair in my opinion, there should be an advantage to being fast and having gate picks near the front, but should you have gates that are facing the stadium wall? I’m not sure if they meant to put the gate like they did, but it was really bad. Again, the “best” race of the year where everyone spends a lot of money to get there should have every gate position be somewhat fair. Don’t get me started on the ping-pong draw for gate positions for Saturday qualifiers. The gap between the best countries and worst is massive on Saturdays and it’s almost dangerous to just randomly award some countries a premier gate position.
As I’ve said many times, there are many things I really like about the MXGP setup. The MXGP series has wash bays which is good, their hospitality suites by the track are awesome and I like how everything is run, it’s very structured but let’s not do this race somewhere like what we just had ever again, okay?
Maybe having three years in a row of crappy weather, the powers that be at YS might move this race up a bit on the calendar? That would greatly help the USA team and maybe also the spectator count at these things? With the FIM Motocross World Championship expanding to more and more GPs every year, I won’t hold my breath. I just hope it doesn’t keep continuing to be the Rain des Nations like we’ve seen.
Also, can we get the TV cameramen some towels? I’m happy to provide some PulpMX ones for free if they want. Re-watching the race back and the lens being covered with water and the viewer not being able to tell what in the hell is going on is a rough look.
Steve isn’t the only one to offer towels to the camera crew…
First up, Team USA and yeah, the winless streak continues for the eighth year in a row. Really, in dry conditions it was gonna be a tough one for USA to win but once it poured down and turned the track into soup city, the red, white, and blue hopes went down the non-existent drains at Assen.
But if there was any hope for a USA win it went right down the tube 20 seconds into Sunday’s first race when Justin Cooper, who pulled a good start from the inside gate on his 250F, got sideways and went down. That’s bad. The fact he took out Jason Anderson was really bad. In fact, it’s pretty much the worst case scenario for a team at this race. Both riders went down hard, Cooper broke his hand and clutch lever off and almost didn’t race the second moto. Like, ten minutes before his second race, he wasn’t even in his gear. He was hurting!
Hard to pull off a team win when one of your riders is injured, never mind a team podium. Cooper was fastest in Saturday’s practice and he won the qualifying race so you had to figure he would’ve done pretty well had the track stayed okay. Team USA needed his results in the always very important MX2 class but the crash ruined everything.
Anderson rode well to get back up into a decent position but his practice time in the MXGP class indicated that he wasn’t feeling his usual self. I heard the team made massive changes to the bike after that and that seemed to help, but with that crash, who knows? That changes everything.
As far as the captain of Team USA, Zach Osborne, you have to feel for him. He got the inside gate both of his races and couldn’t pull off the starts he needed. By the way, have you noticed that since the European riders went to the grate starting system that Team USA can’t seem to get a great start most of the time? Not sure why, because the grates are there in SX, but anyhoo.
Osborne started around 15th in moto one and worked his way up to fifth in a good ride. On that track with a bad start I think that was a good ride. Second race he didn’t ride anywhere near where he could and it was a struggle, including pulling in for goggles at one point. Zacho is a buddy of mine but I gotta be honest, it was a tough watch. Not sure what was going on other than uncomfortableness (I don’t think that’s even a word) with the track and the conditions.
So to recap, Osborne had one decent moto and one poor one. Cooper broke his hand 20 seconds into the race and Anderson rode well to come from last in one moto and then followed that up with a good, not great, ride in moto three. USA finished sixth overall.
What the hell is going on with USA and this race? This track, as I said off the top, was never going to favor the USA at all but to not make the podium at this race is amazing to me. To not make it at RedBud last year is something I’ll never get a grasp on. Don’t give me the whole “USA focuses on SX” stuff because when they were winning this race not that long ago, the focus was on supercross back then also.
We talked to Osborne on the PulpMX Show on Tuesday. As I said then, I just refuse to believe that there are five riders in the Open class at the MXdN that could show up at the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and beat him, never mind win a moto at the sandiest national at Southwick like Zacho did. He qualified sixth fastest on Saturday when the track was decent. I don’t get it.
The team went to Europe early and rode in the sand, they tried all sorts of suspension settings to get used to things (but ended up using their USA sand settings) and they did it right. And Osborne was sixth fastest in qualifying on Saturday. Jason Anderson was 12th…12th!!!!! I’m using Saturday practice because that was when the track was at its best. Sunday was a s**t show. Sorry but Zach Osborne and Jason Anderson are in the top ten motocross riders in the world…yes, I said motocross and we just saw what happened when the track was good and there was a 40-minute practice. Twelfth and sixth bro…12th and sixth.
So, bottom line? I’m not shitting on the guys here. All I can say is that things are just different. That’s all I got for you, sorry I can’t find more scientific reasons on what and why but we can all agree these two Rockstar Energy Husky riders are two of the top ten riders in the world right? Whatever surface you want to put them in and we saw the times on Saturday. With three weeks of testing in the sand with European teams.
I’m not sure with the way the MXoN and USA national schedules are, with one OEM seemingly not interested in going, with the date of this race making a mudder probably 50 percent possible, with the “differences” that I spoke of, if Team USA will ever win this race again? I mean, it’s got to be an uphill battle right? I know people like JT will scoff at this but what evidence in the last three years can you point to that indicates a win is coming?
One thing we can ALL agree on is to thank Jason, Zach, and Justin and all the crew members who went early to prep for this race. What an effort and sacrifice they all made to prepare the best they could for this race and that’s impressive to see. It didn’t work out but I hope they can somehow still be happy with everything. I know when I went for Team USA in 2003 [as Tim Ferry’s mechanic] and we lost, I was super bitter at the whole thing and it took a few years for me to appreciate the opportunity.
Thanks to everyone for the work, it was cool to see. #TeamFried
Now, onto the other riders and countries…
Team Netherlands winning this race in dominating fashion was about as surprising as me choosing a pizza over a salad. Glenn Coldenhoff stole the show again with 1-1 rides just like last year and he did it in one moto with having the outside gate pick. He was awesome again, can you believe that he’s not even on the factory team? Jeffrey Herlings was, to me, very good but not what I expected. He got bad starts, crashed three times in his second moto and went 2-4 on the day. I mean, he is the best motocross rider in the world on his preferred soil in front of his home fans. This was expected to be a JH84 runaway and it was hardly that. Still, he did enough to help the team win as did Calvin Vlaanderen who was good in MX2. The Dutch had 18 points…the second place team had 47!
Herlings had a rough year this season with injuries but he’s been racing for the last month or so you would think he was ready to go. “The Hoff” must feel a little overlooked these days. All he does is win MXoN races and people want to talk about and focus on Herlings. What about “The HOFF” everyone????
Great work for the team and congrats to them and all the Dutch. If this race were held at a traditional sort of track it would’ve been amazing to see the fans flood the podium. But alas, they were a ways away in the stands.
Even if all the other countries had their best on the line, it probably would’ve still been a win for the Netherlands, they are that good, but when you add in the fact that out of the big six (Netherlands, USA, Great Britain, Belgium, France, and Australia) the only one that was able to pick their ideal team was the Dutch, that’s how you get the huge win. Again, if you’re Dutch read the first sentence again. They earned it but it was made a tad easier for them.
I picked the Belgians for third overall before the race and they didn’t disappoint me with their finishes. Jago Geerts, their MX2 rider, was very impressive in his second moto and was on it from way back. Kevin Strijbos, who rode for Belgium in 2001 and might have been raced for the last time, showed a ton of heart coming up from crashes. He was just eating wet sand for 30 minutes plus two laps all day long and Jeremy Van Horebeek, a privateer nowadays after a great career, got great starts and ran up front.
The French were heavily criticized for their team selection coming into the race but wouldn’t you know, despite a couple of sub-par rides from their MX2 rider, they were going to podium the damn race! No, it wasn’t a win but still, a podium would’ve been a nice showing for the team. But then Gauthier Paulin, who rode great in his first moto, had the motor on his Yamaha go kaboom on the last lap and the dream was over. The five-year winning streak was gone and so was any podium at that. Seriously, I couldn’t believe they were even going to make the podium but they were. Now, many years in this winning streak they deserved the top spot but they also got some luck along the way and it was bound to swing the other way right?
Paulin’s DNF gave Great Britain the last spot on the box and that’s great for them. Like a lot of teams, they were hurt by injuries as they were originally going to go with Max Anstie, Ben Watson, and Shaun Simpson but had to swap out Max and Ben when they got injured. Simpson hasn’t had a great year as he’s been hurt but he had won at this track before. Ben Watson was replaced with his brother Nathan Watson who used to race MX but was now an enduro/beach racer and then they took MX2 racer Adam Sterry. Watson was real fast at times and definitely a darkhorse coming in. He had a clutch issue in one moto but the other one was good. Simpson in particular rose to the occasion. His best finish all year long was a seventh in a moto but he got third in his first moto! Yes, it was that kind of day where some riders really rose up while others shrunk to the occasion.
A few years ago it was a broken chain late in the race that cost GB a podium in Latvia so they’ve certainly been in the same spot as the French this year. They made the podium in Matterley Basin a couple of years ago as well, and ended up third overall at RedBud after Team Italy was disqualified.
After Tim Gajser clinched the MXGP title very early on, he sort of put in it in cruise control the last few GP’s. Well, that cruise ended this weekend with an overall win in the MXGP class and a couple of great motos (including winning the first). I’m not sure he would’ve been able to hold off Herlings with another lap to go in the first moto (that was the race of the weekend by the way) but Gajser nevertheless showed that when he needs to, he can get all the magic back. Impressive rides for Tim and although with all the guys healthy I would rank him third in MXGP (after the big two KTM guys). The 2020 MXGP season should be very interesting indeed.
I was interested to see Jorge Prado’s first race on a 450 and between Saturday and Sunday he showed that he can adapt pretty well to the bigger bike. Good starts (for the most part) and speed throughout the weekend. He looked to me to be a little tired at times but that’s to be expected in those conditions. He finished an impressive third in moto one but he did grab the start which was everything and anything in these conditions on this track. His second moto he didn’t get the start but did well also. He’s got a weird riding style, his back is straight up and down and he’s a small dude. But yeah, gonna be some great battles in MXGP next year with him and vets.
Team Australia came into this race with their D team…or maybe even their E team. Absolutely devastated by injuries, team switches and a couple of guys passing on it, manager Michael Byrne had to rig up a line up of the countries second best MX2 rider (Kyle Webster), Dean Ferris, and then a kid that had never raced a 450 before (Regan Duffy). But both Duffy and Webster were based on Aussie’s west side, which is sandier so that helped. Duffy was not scared! He sent it out there a few times and it seemed that all the guys got good starts. Ferris crashed way back in one moto and his bike blew up in the other as did Duffy’s. At one point, “Byrner” had the guys in fourth overall which would’ve been a miracle finish for these guys but with the two DNF’s in the final moto, they dropped to 15th. Oh what could’ve been!
Thanks for reading, always fun to go to this race and watch everything that goes down. The line between countries being heroes and then being duds is a fine one and there’s always drama. I just wish it would stop raining. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat about this race or anything else.