The second edition of Staging Area for 2020 is here! After some feedback, good and bad, we are making a few adjustments to this week’s installment. Instead of just fantasy coverage (thanks Weege), we are going to incorporate a few of the classic segments and then include a bit of fantasy advice along the way. I am a man of the people and I would love for all 14 of you that read this column to feel their voices heard. So, without further ado, let’s get hyped for St. Louis.
St. Louis’ layout has a lot going on. I am happy to see the series rocket out of the chute with technical track designs. The key variable I am curious about is the soil. The dirt in St. Louis is notoriously awesome but then again, we don’t typically race there this early in the series. Hopefully the dirt is exactly like we expect, giving great traction to the riders.
Dirty Little Secrets
The start is a long one, stretching nearly the length of the track. The first turn is a long, 180-degree left hander. Staging Area veterans will know that I love this style of first turn and feel it’s the safest variation offered. The first rhythm section consists of nine jumps and we all know what that means: who will bust out the 3-3-3? The first three could be the toughest, jumping from a smaller three-foot take off and clearing a five-foot landing. That all depends on how the first take off is shaped, too. These rhythm sections live and die with the height, steepness, and distance between each obstacle. If they are built “correctly,” riders will be able to pull off big combinations like 3-3-3. If not, they will have to get creative as to what’s the next best option.
A long sweeping left leads into the finish line section which should be pretty basic. A slow jump over tabletop rolls directly into the finish line jump and immediately into a sharp left hand corner. This corner could present two options; staying tight to the inside and doubling out of the next corner, or going outside to slingshot for a potential triple. In either scenario, riders will land as they enter the over/under section. My best guess would be to rail the outside and keep their momentum up but this also depends on how far the inside barrier is located from the berm. The further distance from inside to outside, the more viable the inside line becomes. Riders are always looking to “shorten” the track but it’s a compromise on momentum, too. If the inside line creates a much shorter distance, riders will utilize the inside, especially on a high traction track like St. Louis.
After going under the tunnel, riders scream down the start straight and into a bowl berm right. The fast line will be to use the berm to build momentum for the whoops. The danger there is that riders have plenty of room to set up a block pass coming down the long straight before. Further, if the whoops turn into slow jumpers, look for the inside line to become the preferable option. Jumping whoops doesn’t require any momentum so the shorter line would again work in that case.
The next section is interesting. The most aggressive option (and fastest) would be to triple out of the corner, downsiding the tabletop. That would set up a 3-3 into the outside of the next corner. For whatever reason, we will just say experience, I don’t think that will work out. Riders are likely to try several options here, so keep an eye out for cool experiments. One of the keys will be to try to land on the inside of the last jump in order to cut the turn short. The only option that would preclude that inside would be the big 3-3 at the end, carrying too much speed to make the inside work. That section will be where riders spend the majority of track walk, eyeing up options and alternatives.
The next two doubles are big, really big. They jump over the start straight, similar to A1 2019’s double. These doubles are nerve wracking for the inexperienced riders, especially the underpowered 250’s. I hate to see riders hurt themselves but I also think supercross should be challenging, too. At least there is the option of not doubling, that’s always a safe out if things go sideways. Following the second double, there is a 180-degree left turn right into a seemingly easy dragon’s back. I hated dragon’s back sections but when they are soft and rutty, they end up being easier than the sharp, hard-packed varieties. Landing from the dragon’s back puts riders back into turn one, and round and round we go.
For those of you that play PulpMX Fantasy, you know how challenging A1 was. The handicaps were brutally hard and points were at a premium. Taking big risks didn’t really pay off at the first round with riders like Kyle Cunningham, Chris Blose, Kyle Chisholm, Chad Reed, Alex Ray, etc. didn’t pay off in the 450 class. Those are some fantasy heavy hitters and a staple of many teams year in and year out. The highest score of any 450 rider was 32 points, a far cry from what we normally see. Look for some of those riders to pay off in coming weeks as their handicaps climb and they get more chances to right the ship.
In the 250 class, many were burnt by the influx of Australians. Aaron Tanti, Jay Wilson, and Luke Clout all failed to hit the mark on Saturday, with Clout picked by 24 percent of teams. With Clout running well inside the top ten until his crash, he will be a make or break pick this Saturday in St. Louis. Christian Craig and Michael Leib were the high scorers at A1 but could both still have value come Saturday.
That’s the real challenge of fantasy SX/MX. Timing is everything and really determines the success of a season. For those boom or bust riders, picking them on their DNF weekend or picking them on a day where the stars align is enough to have you screaming at your television. It’s a brutal thing, timing, and there’s no way to know which way fortune will turn.
Riders comment about how good the dirt is 1,485 times during track walk.
Marty Davalos continues his path of destruction, shotputting his bike across the dome several times on Saturday. Never has a parts budget been set ablaze at such a rate.
Blake Baggett raises the stakes, sending baby Braeker out solo on his 450 for opening ceremonies. Braeker blitzes the whoops and throws a nice whip but in true Baggett fashion, no one can make heads or tails of his interview due to his pacifier.
PulpMX Fantasy DNF’s are the cause of 53 beers being spiked into the bleachers during the main events.
Justin Cooper holeshots both his heat and the main event.
Zach Osborne bounces back, putting his 450 inside the top five.
Adam Cianciarulo sets the fastest time again.