It’s not a lot of data, but it’s enough. Four rounds of Monster Energy AMA Supercross have shown three riders stepping up to a sustained, relentless pace, and those three just grabbed the podium spots at the last round on Saturday in Anaheim. Those riders are Eli Tomac, Chase Sexton, and Jason Anderson. This series tends to take shape quite quickly, from the first two rounds that are usually fluid to a more firm pattern over the next three. By round five, it’s rare to see a rider make massive gains. If anyone is going to catch this trio, they will have to do it quickly.
Going into A2, each of these three had their bonafide traits proven already. Tomac simply did it with numbers, as he held the points lead. He also held the promise of more, because while Tomac wasn’t amazing at the first three, he usually gets better after the first few rounds. He was on a new bike and team that needed some fine tuning. Could Tomac improve what he had at round three? Seemed likely, and he showed that at round four, where he was complete control of the proceedings. He didn’t dominate qualifying, and he didn’t lead every lap, but it never looked out of reach, and never looked that difficult to get.
Sexton and Anderson didn’t have the points numbers like Tomac, but they had lots of speed and the coulda’ shoulda’ wouldas. Sexton biffed it while challenging for the lead at Anaheim 1. He was off in the whoops at round two, made changes for round three and won it. Anderson got knocked down by Justin Barcia at round one and his radiator cost him spots at round three. Riding-wise, Anderson is good enough for fantastic 2-1-2-2 finishes, and Sexton has been on-pace with the fastest riders at three of the four races.
This is how quickly these things take shape. The first two rounds are often crazy and do not serve as a preview of the rest of the series, but rounds three and four often do, and these three have been the best in those races. Who else can jump in there?
You can argue that Dylan Ferrandis already is fast enough, but he keeps getting buried off the start. Like his teammate Tomac, Ferrandis doesn’t need holeshots to win, but even a top-five start would give him better odds compared to the 14th – 16th level positions he’s had around turn one. If he gets better starts, he could run with anyone, but he’ll have to fix that quickly.
Cooper Webb is the defending Monster Energy AMA Supercross Champion, so it seems crazy to not have him in the top group. His riding hasn’t been there, though, outside of the Anaheim 1 podium. Since then, he’s been subpar, first due to illness at Oakland, and he just wasn’t fast enough at the last two races. He has gone 7-4-8 and hasn’t looked as comfortable on the new-generation KTM as he did on last year’s bike. Again, it’s early so solutions could be coming, and Webb sits just 12 points behind Tomac. He has made comebacks in this series before but will have to turn things around quickly before that gap grows toward the 20-point mark.
Really, that goes for Webb and the rest of the new-generation KTM/Husqvarna riders, which includes Aaron Plessinger (now way down in points after crashing out of Anaheim 3), Marvin Musquin, Malcolm Stewart, and Dean Wilson. We haven’t seen the blazing whoop speed out of Stewart that we usually do, and he couldn’t turn a rare, good start into a podium over the weekend. No doubt there will be some more tweaking on these new bikes over the next few races.
Justin Barcia’s Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GasGas MC 450F is actually based on the old model, unlike the KTM and Husky crew. That might not be a disadvantage. Barcia has been good, just not quite on the pace of that lead trio. His starts have been hit or miss. Then there’s Ken Roczen, who has ridden great at times but has also hit the ground (through his own crashes and due to bumps from Anderson). He now sits almost a full race behind the series lead after just four rounds.
It’s a long season, but things take shape quickly. So far there have been three riders setting and elevating the pace this year. Who can hitch a ride with them? Tomac is leading the series but even he knows contenders could still be yet to revel themselves.
“A lot of times, by round three or four you really start figuring out who the guys are, but really the first three were a whole toss-up this year,” said Tomac. “It’s by far the deepest field that we’ve had.”