Regular points-paying races are like four-strokes. There’s a smooth, broad spread of stories, with the three-month countdown through the off-season to Anaheim, and the big crescendo at the opener. A1 is big, but it doesn’t sign off completely because round two is nearly as exciting as round one.
The Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations hits like a two-stroke. Nothing, nothing, nothing…then braap! Hard and fast. Comes and goes. You get that hit, you never forget. There is no one day of racing that packs the emotion and drama of the MXoN.
Unfortunately, we haven’t felt it lately. The Motocross of Nations didn’t happen last year, and while it’s back this year, American interest will wane since Team USA isn’t racing. Team Australia is out, also. Several other nations won’t have their best riders, either, as most superstars of MXGP are passing on the race since to preserve their title hopes. That has dulled the experience and perhaps fans aren't paying as much attention as usual. It all leads to this important public service announcement: Motocross des Nations is this weekend!
Did you even realize?
Mantova, Italy, will play the host of the 74th edition of the event. Yes, it’s this weekend.
Team Netherlands won the event in 2019. The squad would have already been the favorite regardless of who competed this year, but in the absence of other MXGP stars and the AMA-based racers, the odds only grow stronger. Just look at it this way: this year’s MXGP season features a full-tilt battle between five riders. Of the five, three (Tim Gajser of Slovenia, Jorge Prado of Spain, and Romain Febvre of France) chose not to race the ‘Nations. Tony Cairoli of Italy wants to race, but he stacked it up big at the GP just a few days ago, leaving his condition in doubt. That leaves just one of the “big five” ready, willing and able for the ‘Nations, and that’s Team Netherlands’ Jeffrey Herlings (also the new MXGP points leader as on Sunday). That leads to long odds for everyone else.
Herlings will be joined by Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Glenn Coldenhoff and F&H Kawasaki Racing’s Roan Van De Moosdijk. Coldenhoff has become a bit of a des Nations legend recently, stepping up the game with moto wins the last few tries. For Van De Moosdijk this will be his first Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations. The Netherlands won this race the last time it was held, in 2019.
France is a perennial powerhouse at this race, but unfortunately the Grand Prix title chase means Febrve and also MX2 points leader Maxime Renaux have elected to skip the event. Dylan Ferrandis isn’t competing. Marvin Musquin was on the team but is now out after a recent bout with COVID-19. The team does get defending MX2 World Champion Tom Vialle (after he could not race for the team previously due to….a conflict between Red Bull and Team France as to what logos will appear on the his hat) and well as F&H Kawasaki Racing’s Mathys Boisrame and Team Honda SR Motoblouz’s Benoit Paturel. This is not quite France’s A team, plus stalwart Gautier Paulin is now retired. But if Team Netherlands falters, they could surprise. France has pulled that trick several times lately.
Team Italy would have a shot at this if Cairoli lines up near his normal strength. His status was completely in doubt until this morning, when he confirmed on Instagram that he's going to race. Will he be 100 percent, though?
"Even if beautifully damaged, it's time to pick up the handlebars to defend the colors of the Italy Nation," is how Cairoli's Instagram post this morning translates. If he's somehow unhurt after last weekend, his team has a good chance to win. He’s joined by Mattia Guadagnini and Alessandro Lupino, who have had strong seasons. Plus, they’re on home turf and you know the Italian fans will be crazy.
For years, Team Great Britain kept missing the MXoN podium in heart-breaking fashion. Things look better now with three-straight podiums at the event. The squad is headed by SS24 KTM MXGP’s Shaun Simpson, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Watson and Conrad Mewse of Hitachi KTM.
Team Germany could have been a slick dark-horse pick if Ken Roczen was on the team, and at one point he was going to do it. Now he’s out. The ageless Max Nagl is on board alongside Henry Jacobi and Simon Längenfelder. Team Denmark, with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Kjer Olsen, Mikkel Haarup of F&H Kawasaki Racing and WZ Racing KTM’s Bastian Beogh-Damm could be in line for a best-ever finish.
Seems crazy to hype up a des Nations without mentioning Team Belgium, but several stars of the old guard are missing, like Kevin Strijbos and the retired Clement Desalle, and MX2 title contender Jago Geerts is staying away also. The future comes now, with Liam Everts, son of MXoN legend Stefan Everts and grandson of MXoN legend Harry Everts on the squad. Brent Van Doninck and Cyrcil Genot round out the squad.
Missing completely? Team Australia. The plan was to have the Lawrence brothers plus MX2 front-runner Jed Beaton on the squad. Who wouldn’t have paid money to watch that squad?
As you can tell, there’s a lot of what ifs here, and the only nation coming in with its three best riders is Team Netherlands, unless the legendary Cairoli can get back to his pre-crash form What an amazing story that would be, especially on home turf.
Main Image is from the 2019 MXoN by Jeff Kardas