Bad news is rarely good, but it does create one of the great realities of sports: unpredictability. If each season went exactly how we expected, there wouldn’t be as much reason to watch. It’s the ups and the downs that create stories. No one saw Cooper Webb’s rough 2022 coming, but it was contrasted by big gains for Eli Tomac and Jason Anderson.
Today we will review what could go wrong and right for a gaggle of 450 contenders. First, the bad news. What could go wrong that could open the door? Let’s guess.
Eli Tomac: Eli was The Man in 2022, full stop, but he does have an all-new motorcycle to work with this year, and that can be finicky. We have seen weirdo nights before from Tomac, at times when he’s not feeling right with his motorcycle. We did not see it in 2022. Will the weirdo Eli nights stay away?
Jason Anderson: Anderson has all the momentum on his side after a superb 2022 season and he hasn’t changed much, same team, bike, program and all. Nothing worrying here except the standard fear in all sports: it just takes one bad moment for an injury to curb the greatest of expectations.
Chase Sexton: It appears Sexton has found the consistency to match his speed, however, potential is one thing and actually making that championship leap is a huge step. Avoiding a big one over 17 rounds in 19 weekends is no joke.
Cooper Webb: Webb’s 2022 season was a huge disappointment, not only failing to defend his ’21 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship but also failing to win a race. There are changes to get Webb back to his old heights, from returning to off-season boot camp with Aldon Baker to major bike changes to a bike platform that was all-new last year. But this question is simple: what if all that doesn’t work?
Malcolm Stewart: Malcolm just keeps getting better every year, culminating with his third in points last season. It makes it seem like even better days are ahead, including a first 450SX win, but is it possible we’ve already seen his peak?
Dylan Ferrandis: There are reasons to think Dylan will be way better this year, including the new Yamaha that he loves. But his starts have always been a liability in supercross. Can he fix it?
Adam Cianciarulo: Unfortunately, you already know about this one. The world does not need another injury-riddled season from AC.
Aaron Plessinger: AP’s first year with KTM didn’t set the world on fire, but that new bike last year makes it hard to pick through the data. Bike or rider? We don’t know on Webb, and we don’t know on AP. Will that get fixed this time or not?
Marvin Musquin: Marvin just keeps going. Wins the last two years make it seem like it will go forever? Can it?
Justin Barcia: BamBam is always a threat to podium or pull off a win, and that usually keeps him around the top five in points, too. Seems easy to just pencil in another one of those seasons, but his latest Pro Motocross campaign was far off of his usual level. Like Marvin, can Barcia remain a contender forever?
Christian Craig: Solid amount of Craig hype for his first full 450SX season, as he has more 450 races (especially with motocross) under his belt than most, and he’s got, ahem, let’s make this positive, age and wisdom. But the 17-races-in-19 weekends 450SX grind is unforgiving, and there’s no experience like actually getting the experience.
Colt Nichols: Same as for Craig here, as this is Colt’s rookie 450SX campaign. Very little margin for error with just a SX-only deal with Honda to prove his worth. Nichols has an even steeper learning curve, since he didn’t race at all last year, due to injury, and hasn’t raced a 450 much.
Ken Roczen: The wildest of wild cards, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Roczen win Anaheim 1 for the fifth time. Even on a Suzuki. Also, though, you have to consider that Roczen’s 2022 supercross campaign was the worst of his career, and while the Progressive/Ecstar HEP Suzuki story is compelling, there’s also a chance that bike is just not what it once was. Sink or swim? You could see some of both, for Ken, and for everyone.
Main image courtesy of Octopi Media