Thank God that’s over. Welcome to 2021. Time for a whole new year, a whole new outlook, and a whole bunch of positive vibes, right? Let’s hope so, but we have to be honest with the current state of the world: we’re not out of the woods yet. There is a vaccine finally making the rounds, but it will be months before there are enough distributed to make a real difference. But the very fact that we’re into a new year and Monster Energy AMA Supercross 2021 is just a fortnight away is something to be thankful for. Because while the rest of us are doing our best to enjoy the holidays, the folks at Feld Entertainment have been hard at work trying to get the series up and running on January 16 at Houston’s NRG Stadium in a safe, smart, successful way. There won’t be much of a crowd, just as there hasn’t been for any other sporting events since last March, and the paddock will be inaccessible for the most part to all but essential crew members and limited media, and everyone will be expected to stay in their areas. As SX director Dave Prater told me last week, “It’s not going to be like Anaheim, but it’s a start.”
And that start is something we’re all ready and waiting for. The idea that a new season is finally upon us, after all the starts and stops of 2020, is a very good thing. And if it’s not exactly like going to the Anaheim opener in, say, 2019, who cares? We just want to see supercross racing by the best riders in the world, and as it stands right now, we have all the top 450 riders healthy and ready (with the one exception of Blake Baggett, who is rehabbing a wrist injury and also considering his options with another team). The bells and whistles and parking-lot industry cocktail parties that are always part of Anaheim are soooo last decade at this point. We just want some racing!
There are mixed signs out there right now though about the Lone Star State, where new cases and hospitalizations are problematic. For instance, the college football Mercari Texas Bowl between Arkansas and TCU that was scheduled for last night at NRG Stadium was canceled because of an increase in positive COVID-19 tests for TCU's program. Conversely, the Rose Bowl played today in Dallas for the first time ever because California is in such a serious lockdown that the traditional location in Pasadena was a no-go.
It’s into such uncertainty that supercross will try to begin the season as planned, and if you ask the riders and teams, they really can’t wait. Everyone is hopeful that when they get together on January 16 (in a socially distant climate, of course), they can forget about COVID-19 for a little while and just watch some damn good dirt bike races!
With that in mind, Feld released the first SX Power Rankings for 2021 to help everyone start shaping their fantasy teams, as voted by a bunch of industry watchers. Here’s the 450SX class:
And here are the 250 guys:
1. Austin Forkner - #38 | Kawasaki
2. Jett Lawrence - #18 | Honda
3. Justin Cooper - #32 | Yamaha
4. Jeremy Martin - #6 | Yamaha
5. RJ Hampshire - #24 | Husqvarna
6. Colt Nichols - #64 | Yamaha
7. Christian Craig - #29 | Yamaha
8. Alex Martin - #26 | Yamaha
9. Michael Mosiman - #42 | GasGas
10. Jo Shimoda - #30 | Kawasaki
My thoughts? As far as the 450 goes, how in the world is Marvin Musquin so low, and where the hell is Dylan Ferrandis? And I feel like Justin Brayton should be in there, too, but his program got mixed up in regards to using all of the overseas races as a way of training.
As for the 250s, I think all those Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing riders are a little lower than I might have put them. But that’s what happens when you have so much talent in both classes! This year is looking really, really competitive.
Before I turn this over to the other guys, if you have time this weekend, check out our annual requiem we posted yesterday called The Lives They Lived.
The ones we lost in 2020 range from the superstar status of Marty Smith and his wife, Nancy, to older industry icons like Sante Mazzarolo and Joe Bolger, to amateur riders and industry friends. Sadly, the last name we added was Brian Joseph Weigandt, the father of our man Jason Weigandt, who passed over Christmas. On behalf of the whole Racer X and MX Sports family, we send our condolences to Jason and his entire family. Godspeed, Mr. Weigandt.
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
Nothing says "the new season is here" like January 1. All the talk about "next year" is gone. Much of the hardest work is now over as well. With two weeks left until Houston 1, focus shifts to sprint speed, starts, and last-minute setting improvements. The routine of the day will remain fairly constant throughout the season, but the workload will come way down. A 2+ hour bicycle ride will become an hour. Two or three 20-minute SX faux races will be reduced to just one, accompanied by 6-10 minute sprints. Overall, every effort, whether on or off the motorcycle, is tapered. The main goal here is to allow the body to recover from the heavy, consistent strain that boot camp levied. That day-in, day-out work created a very strong fitness base on which riders will lean all season long. Creating that base takes a heavy toll on body and mind, though, so this lessening of the workload is critical.
The ideal scenario would have riders feeling a bit worn down in the last few weeks. They would be looking forward to this coming week, slowing the pace a bit, and their bodies starting to regain their footing after the constant barrage of November and December. A pep will return to their step. That first turnover of their bicycle pedals will feel just a touch lighter. It's a feeling every rider emerging from boot camp can identify with. Every day feels a little better as the tapering into the first round continues. Next week, riders will ideally transition from this week's "I don't feel too bad" into "I’m ready to run through a brick wall."
It's almost time, and the riders can sense it. Even more media hype will kick off this week; the new season will turn from a far-off goal into a near-term reality. The hard work is over. It's now down to the final details. As a former rider, I was always very excited for this time. Riders will realize the fruits of their labor in just over two weeks. As a fan, I love the reveal of who put in the work and who is going to regret not doing more. There’s no hiding once the gate drops in Houston. Two thousand twenty one is here!
Happy New Year (Kris Keefer)
I have been trying to unplug a little from the dirt bike world, but it seems like every time I try to do that, something brings me back in. Case in point, Mother Nature decided to throw us a bone over the holidays up here in the high dez and gave us some precipitation. So just when I think I’m going to take a full week off a motorcycle, the rain gods give us some Velcro to ride on for five days! I can't just sit on my ass inside the house while I’m looking at chocolate cake outside, so I did what any red-blooded American high desert rat would do: rode dirt bikes with my friends and family for five days straight.
Now, you would think that this is not a huge deal—I ride all the time—but when it's wet in the high desert, it brings my joy of riding up another level, which in turn forces me to ride all day long. I’m not 18 anymore, but when there’s a puddle of water in front of my house from a storm, my brain goes all Benjamin Button on me. Putting 3-4 engine hours on a machine per day for five days straight has got me feeling 43 again. Five days, seven high dez tracks, three dishwashers, two couches, one abandoned boat, and 12 engine hours later, I am a piece of crap today. I mean, I didn't even make it past 9 p.m., as I feel asleep with my mouth wide open and my hand down my pants like Al Bundy from Married With Children. You know what? Give me two days and I’ll be itching to do it all over again. I love dirt bikes! I hope all of you out there had a great holiday and got to spend it on two wheels with your families. Here's to 2021! Let's ride!
Hey everyone, sign-ups are open over at PulpMX Fantasy for the 2021 SX season. It's a great way to enjoy the sport even more, and you can play for free, create leagues for you and your buddies, and if you want to pay, you have a chance to win weekly and yearly prizes, including a chance at three Yamaha YZFs.
We had Ryan Villopoto and Jake Weimer in-studio this past Monday for a holiday edish of the PulpMX Show. Drinks were had, we called Justin Brayton and Zach Osborne, and then Skip Norfolk showed up with some of his Nac-Nac Beer from the brewery he owns here in Vegas. Things started going downhill from there, folks, but for a while, it was interesting to hear the stories from RV and Jake about working with Aldon Baker, racing at a high level with kids, and more. Both Ryan and Jake swear they want to come back and redeem themselves with some hardcore sober SX analysis at some point.
You can watch show #448 below, and apologies for the swearing and awkward moments.
Also, GO SHORTY!!!!
Ed. note: Scott Cavalari wrote this review of the PulpMX Show this week—don’t let it go to your head, Steve:
"Howdy. Steve Matthes Podcast on Pulp last night with RV2 and Weimer and Skip Norfolk was beyond good. RV2 and Weimer were drinking during it and slowly got hammered and they rang up Mitch Payton and a lot of good moto content was generated for sure. Worth checking out if you didn't catch it for sure those can be pretty dry sometimes but not that one!"
Some 2020 records (Andras Hegyi)
As we all know, 2020 was not a normal year by any means. Motocross and supercross were affected by the coronavirus just like everything else in the world. More events were postponed or simply canceled, making for the longest MXGP season ever, the latest-starting Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship schedule ever, and the most Monster Energy AMA Supercross races ever in one city—the Salt Lake City Seven. But despite that global contagion, both the FIM World Championships and the AMA SX/MX series were completed, with some historic results on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Oldest Supercrosser
Eli Tomac finally got it! After four AMA Pro Motocross Championships (2013 in the 250 Class then 2017, 2018, and 2019 in the 450 Class), he finally got his long-coveted AMA Supercross 450SX Championship. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider is now the oldest first-time 450SX Champion ever at 27 years, 7 months, 7 days old. Tomac debuted in 450SX in 2013 and has been a regular rider there since 2014, so he became a new champion in his eighth season after 114 main events. Eli is also the first 450SX Champion to have at least 30 wins when he took his maiden title. When he finally clinched at the last round in SLC he had already notched 34 wins.
The Oldest Motocrosser
Zach Osborne again rewrote AMA history, as well as Husqvarna history, in 2020. Osborne is already Husqvarna’s only rider to have won both 250 Supercross and Motocross championships. Now he's the brand's first 450 Motocross Champion (though Kent Howerton did win the 1976 AMA 500cc National Championship on a Husky, back when it was a Swedish brand, not Austrian, or even Italian). Osborne also became the oldest champion ever in 450 Pro Motocross championship: 31 years, 15 days old.
The First French
Before 2020, no French rider had ever won the AMA 125/250 Pro Motocross Championship, despite great riders like Jean-Michel Bayle, Stephane Roncada, Christophe Pourcel, and Marvin Musquin getting close. The ice was finally broken thanks to Dylan Ferrandis of the Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing team. He's the first French champion in the history of this class, first won by the late Marty Smith in 1974. And thanks to young Tom Vialle winning the FIM Motocross World Championship MX2 title in Europe, the French are now the only country other than the U.S. to ever possess both the FIM and AMA titles at the same time in this class.
Honda’s Best MXGP Rider
Slovenia's Tim Gajser was already one of Honda’s most successful riders in Grand Prix motocross. He is the only Honda world champion in the MX2 category, in existence since 2004. He is also the only Honda world champion in the MX1/MXGP class, which also goes back to 2004. He also has the most GP wins ever for a Honda racer. But this year Gajser became the first four-time world champion for Honda, and he extended his record for most wins to 29.
Unfortunately, some legendary events were cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic: the Motocross of Nations (since 1947), the Hangtown Motocross Classic (since 1969, before there even was an AMA Pro Motocross Series), the Bercy Supercross (1984), and the Monster Energy Cup (2011).
And while there aren't records, there are final tabulations for a great team. Factory Connection Honda ended its run in 2020 after longtime sponsor GEICO decided not to renew their contract. The team was founded in 1998 and became one of the most successful factory-backed satellite teams ever. They said farewell in style, as Chase Sexton defended his 250SX East Region title, giving FC/GEICO Honda 12 titles in all: two 250 Pro MX titles thanks to Trey Canard (2010) and Eli Tomac (2013) and ten 125/250 SX via Travis Preston (2002), Trey Canard (2008), Justin Barcia (2011, '12), Eli Tomac (2012), Wil Hahn (2013), Justin Bogle (2014), Malcolm Stewart (2016), and Chase Sexton (2019, '20). Factory Connection Honda was an amazing team that will be missed on the AMA scene.
The February 2021 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Hey, Watch It!
UNITED IN DIRT | GASGAS
Owens and Cudby's 2021 Supercross prep out at Hemet SX:
Vurb Platinum: Welcome to 2021 ft. Evan Ferry.
Two-Strokes, 125s, and guy named Ferry. Is this the 90s again? Nope.
Red Bull KTM's Max Vohland talks to Spencer Owens about learning the ropes, staying close to the KTM mothership in California, and planning on entering the East Region. Check it out here:
As they get ready to announce the programming packages for the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, here's a look back with NBC Sports at the best moments of the 2020 tour:
Listen To This
This week, Fly Racing Racer X Podcast host Steve Matthes called up Wasserman Media Group's super agent Lucas Mirtl to talk about being a high profile agent in the sport, the highs and lows of helping riders, his journey from Australia to the U.S., his clients, and more.
Our buddy Jason “Wheels” Todd also started his own podcast—the Mondays Don't Suck Podcast. Check out the introduction episode, which is out now!
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“Texas Bowl between TCU Horned Frogs, Arkansas Razorbacks canceled”—ESPN
“Mississippi State, Tulsa end Armed Forces Bowl with major brawl”—ESPN
“With Trump a no-show, Mar-a-Lago guests left to party maskless with Rudy Giuliani and Vanilla Ice”—CNN
“Everybody Loved Watching Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen Get Drunk for New Year’s”—TheWrap.com
Looking for a good read to start the new year? Check out Eric Johnson's deep-dive with Johnny O'Mara on the Mugen Honda that propelled the O'Show to stardom when he shocked the world upon it at the 1980 Valvoline 125cc U.S. Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio. It's called "Johnny O's Magical Mugen Honda" and you can read it right here.
(PIC with caption: Johnny O'Mara crosses the finish line to win the 1980 Valvoline 125cc USGP at Mid-Ohio.)