Main image courtesy of Ray Archer.
As we gear up for the return of the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations at RedBud on September 24-25, we are looking back at some of the most memorable moments in Team USA history. As a country there has been numerous wins for the Americans, but there have also been some memorable performances in defeat as well. Take 1994, for instance. That was the year Team USA’s 13-year winning streak came to an end, as the trio from Great Britain—Kurt Nicoll, Rob Herring, and Paul Malin—shocked the world by knocking off the U.S. team of Mike LaRocco, Mike Kiedrowski, and Jeff Emig. The race was held in Roggenburg, Switzerland, and while it will always be considered a loss, it did have one bright, shiny moment: Team Kawasaki’s Mike LaRocco won the final 250/500 moto outright aboard that big KX500, topping 250cc riders Frederic Bolley (France), Marnicq Bervoets (Belgium) and Greg Albertyn (South Africa).
The next year in Slovakia, it was the Belgians who took it to the Americans, but not without a fierce fight from Emig (250), Ryan Hughes (500), and Steve Lamson (125). The final moto was again an American win, as the YZ250-mounted Emig bettered Belgium’s big Joel Smets on his big Husaberg thumper, and then said afterwards, “We’re Americans—we don’t get beat by four-strokes.” Fro apparently did not have a crystal ball to see the future…
In 1998 an American on a four-stroke won the first muddy 125/500 moto in Great Britain, as Doug Henry, in his one and only outing for Team USA, won the first moto at Foxhills aboard his YZ450F. Henry took advantage of a late-race mistake by Spain’s Javier Garcia-Vico, who got stuck on a steep hill after leading much of the moto.
Team USA would get another moto win in 2003 at the Zolder, Belgium circuit, the year that the FIM tried a single main event format. Team Honda’s Ricky Carmichael straight-up bettered Stefan Everts and Joel Smets while riding the #85 Honda CR250, but his teammates Ryan Hughes and Tim Ferry both had problems, with the chain coming off Hughes’ KTM thumper and Tim Ferry suffering a broken thumb.
Finally, and maybe the strangest race win in the history of the Motocross of Nations, comes Maggiora, Italy in 2016. While the fans and the event organizer were celebrating the 30th anniversary of Team USA’s shocking dominance in 1986, the ’16 team was made up of Cooper Webb jumping up to a 450 for the MXGP class, Alex Martin on the 250 as our MX2 rider, and Jason Anderson on a Husqvarna 450 for our Open entry. Martin had decent 9-9 finishes against the bigger bikes in his two motos on the hilly track, which made his second overall in the MX2 standings that day. Webb was a solid fourth in his first outing on a big bike, it was Anderson who really stole the show for the Americans when he went out and beat Jeffrey Herlings and everyone else in the MX2/Open moto, giving Team USA a clear shot at winning the whole Nations. That was all after Anderson crashed in qualifying on Saturday and suffered a broken bone in his foot. But no sooner did he roll the finish line tabletop jump in celebration, an unknowing Japanese rider (whom TV host Paul Malin would refer to as “a wayward back-marker”) launched the big tabletop and landed on Anderson’s head! He was knocked out by the freakish collision, giving him 1-DNS scores for the day. The Americans did have a real chance at still winning, despite being a man down, as they could use Anderson's DNS as a drop score. Webb was in position to save the event for the team but he tipped over late in the last moto and that was that.
Had Jason Anderson been able to race that final moto, alongside Webb, and finished up front, Team USA could have dropped one of Martin's ninths on the 250 and gained more points. They would almost certainly have emerged with the win in the 2016 Motocross of Nations.