Matthes on: Eli Tomac

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Well, he did it again. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac won his fourth Daytona SX with an amazing ride to catch and pass Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen. The speedway is somewhere where he definitely feels at home and it’s hard to see how anyone can beat him, especially as the track gets rougher and rougher. We caught up to Eli on the PulpMX Show to get his take on the race and some other things this past Monday night. 

MX Vice: Eli. First half of the race, hanging out and doing alright. Everything was okay. Kenny is sprinting, and then you go into beast mode. Do you find some lines? What clicks in your brain to all of a sudden start dropping your lap times like you did?

Eli Tomac: Well, what was on my mind at that point was… The first part of the race is always a hot pace. It’s easy to blow yourself up early if you are going too hard early, especially at that track the way it gets and how bumpy it gets. Really it was just a patience game for me. Then I was like, “Alright, I need to get going if I’m going to get anywhere near Ken.” I was eye-balling him and he was sliding away. It ended up working out that way. My plan worked out – be patient and then make the attack. A couple of guys made mistakes. Most of my passes actually were on mistakes. The [Justin] Barcia pass was a tip-over. Cooper [Webb] kind of tucked his front in the sand – that’s just the way it went. The cards just kind of fell the right way for my position.

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Race Kawasaki

When Kenny is out there – he gets out to ten or twelve seconds whatever it was – are you stressing at that point? You still had to deal with [Jason] Anderson and Webb at that point. You dropped into the 1:10s where no one could go, and then you start catching him. I was like, “Is he waiting? Is he stressing?” It sounded like you were being patient. I was just wondering your mindset. Are you nervous about Kenny getting away? It sounds like you were.

If you would have asked me the question the first half of the race then yes, I was nervous. The second half? No. One of the two laps there I pulled big time out. I’m like, “I’m back in this thing.” I think I looked up at the timer and there was five and a half minutes left. I caught him within those next two laps or something. I was stressing. I’m like, “I’m supposed to win this race, Kenny is out front again and I’ve got to pass Jason, Cooper, Barcia and those guys. This is not good.” It worked out.

Did you find some better lines too? Did you stick to what was working for you? I didn’t really see any. I wasn’t there, so I just watched TV. It looked like you stuck to your lines. I do not know if it just was a matter of picking it up or if you found some better ones. 

The only time I moved or changed lines was the whoops section. I started the main – if you are on the track – on the right side, and then I moved over to the left side. I was kind of riding the edge. That was more consistent for me. The option line would work if you started on the inside and ended on the outside, if you could get the triple clean out of the turn. That’s what was really hard about that. I missed that two or three times. If you miss it though, you’d give up more time. 

Pumping up high there kind of sucked. You could just see your frustration when you were like, “Oh, crap. Now I got to jump up here, and then land…”

Yeah. Anyway, I got that clean a few times, and then I would start catching those guys. There weren’t tons of lines out there to make up huge time. I was kind of just riding, it felt like.  

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Race Kawasaki

Not the greatest Daytona track we have seen. I know Ricky Carmichael is limited with some stuff he has got to do, as far as the logos and sprinklers and the room. There have certainly been better Daytona tracks. I know he tried to bring it old-school a little bit this year too. I wasn’t a fan. I talked to a lot of riders who weren’t fans. Did you like it, Eli? 

I didn’t really have any thought. I didn’t really know how it was going to play out just walking the track. I thought the lines would form in a way that would allow for more passing, but it still kind of funnelled into the one or two lines. For the most part there wasn’t a whole lot of passing going on, without guys making the mistake and allowing the guy to get by. There wasn’t parts where you could just battle it out and then block pass a guy and square him up and do things like that. I’m with you guys there. It wasn’t the best Daytona layout.

We did the math. You got more points after round ten than you have ever had before. You got the red plate. You have got to be feeling good about your chances to get your first 450SX title, as far as [compared to] past performances.

Oh, yeah. Best position, right? Problem is I’m battling Ken Roczen. It’s just going to be who’s the guy that’s going to really flinch first, I feel like, between us two. We are riding so close to the same. I can’t let him get away like that again on the start, especially inside the tighter domes. That’s what I’m going to have to do. I’m going to have to be within the top guys, and I can’t let the guy run away at the start. Then I feel like I can definitely get it. If that’s not the case, then it’s going to be tough. It’s good to be in the position, but at the same time there is no looking at the end. We are only three points separated from each other so it kind of feels like round one still. 

This year I feel like some starts have been money for you, and some haven’t. Inconsistent starts this year. Good and bad.

Yes. I’ve been trying to fix them, but you can only do so much.

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Race Kawasaki

The Barcia stuff is what everybody is talking about and what everybody likes. They caught you guys post-race talking to each other. I was a mechanic for a long time. I can’t tell you how many times I heard two riders telling each other they are going to kill each other after the race. Did it bother you at all that they kind of posted that stuff?

Between me and Justin, I don’t think it matters much. We left it there at that moment or that situation, and then the rest is just the popcorn for everyone else. I think our mindset between me and Justin… I don’t think that really changes it. We are both going to really believe what we think or whatever. I think what really fired up Justin in the situation there was my handlebar tagged him and it tagged his hand. We bumped, but my handlebar got into him and that’s what pissed him off.

I think it felt a lot like more of a contact than what it really was. Yeah, I did try to drive it in there and I was pissed that I got passed. When you are in the battle with guys – and you are in the train of guys – you are trying to get forward and then someone comes in on the inside of you. You are like, “I don’t want to be going backwards right now.” It was all kind of a rushed situation there. That’s what happens in the middle of the pack. 

New teammate this year, Adam Cianciarulo. Obviously he is out right now. What’s that been like for you to have somebody that is on your level with speed, has won some heat races and set some fast times? Has that helped you a little bit, do you feel? Is it business as usual for you? 

We are not in the truck together so we don’t really interact during race day, so I’m just kind of going along with business. At the test track it was like, “Man, he’s going good.” He definitely pushed me early on. I would say I was riding harder at the test track before A1 for sure. Then race day it’s just like business as usual. Getting second place five weeks in a row by like two hundredths in practice, that started getting annoying

It’s been cool to watch, for sure

Yeah. You know what’s really nice? Having another bike that’s your same colour. Even though motocross everyone is out for themselves, but it really does help having, I feel like, the same colour bike up fighting for that podium position. 

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Race Kawasaki

You are in Colorado during the week so going to sea level this weekend, does the bike feel way different power delivery-wise after riding at elevation quite a bit? How does that go 

It’s bad when I come back from California and then I start practicing here. I’m like, “Wow, it’s a lot slower.” Then I get used to it. It basically takes a week to get used to Colorado again, and then I’m fine bouncing back and forth. I will say it was worse on 250s – I really felt like I was down on power. I would go to sea level and be like, “Man. It’’ like a whole different motorcycle!” Thankfully on the 450 most of the time we can leave our gearing the same, so your wheel position is the same and you don’t really mess with the chassis that much. 

Is there anything different for you personally this year, Eli?

I feel like on race day this year, I’m different. Mentally I feel more at ease. I don’t know what it is, whether it’s just age or the experience. I just feel more level-headed throughout the day. I can manage my emotions better. I feel like that’s been the difference. We are not to the end yet but after this halfway point… Heck yeah, I’ve been better for sure on race day.

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Race Kawasaki

Matthes on: 250SX East

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Tampa was the kick off to the 250SX East series and while the 450SX guys are approaching halfway, there was a sense of optimism and excitement for the 250SX teams and riders. Going in, I think most reasonable people would think the defending champion, GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton, and Monster Star Racing Yamaha’s Shane McElrath were slight favourites over a pack of past race winners like GEICO Honda’s Jeremy Martin, Rockstar Husqvarna’s RJ Hampshire and Monster Pro Circuit’s Jordon Smith. After that there are rookies, veterans and tweeners like PC’s Garrett Marchbanks.

We saw McElrath have a dominant day in Tampa with setting the fastest time, winning his heat by eighteen miles and then checking out to grab the win. It was Shane’s third opening round 250SX win and erases what was a so-so SX season for him last year before he sat out the second half. We have seen the success of the Star Yamaha team over the last few years with rider after rider winning titles and races aboard the bLUcRU machine so it’s not hard to picture Shane going on a run here and getting his first professional championship.

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Monster Energy/Octopi

Some other thoughts on the 250SX East opener…

– Chase Sexton finished second and looked pretty good at that. He seems to have filled out a bit as well. The one thing I hear over and over is that the riders on GEICO Honda are so much happier with their motorcycle than last year. “We have a new (motor) guy, Ryan Cox. I tell him, ‘You are a blessing to this team’ every time I see him,” Sexton told me afterwards. “It’s not that we had the wrong parts. We were doing it in the wrong sequence. Last year I was honestly beating my head against the wall every race.”

Both Sexton and Hunter Lawrence were not stoked with the lower-end power of the all-new CRF250R last year but looking at Christian Craig and Jett Lawrence in 250SX West, it seems that power isn’t an issue for the red guys this year. Sexton’s a great rider but he’s not great enough to let McElrath grab the holeshot and check out like that early and still win. Starts might be the deciding factor between these two and I’ll go with the Yamaha.

– Jeremy Martin hadn’t raced a Monster Energy Supercross round in almost two years so finishing third  making a little mini-run at Sexton in the main event even  was a win for Martin. Jeremy hasn’t found supercross as easy as motocross but maybe taking a break from it, looking at his skills/programme a different way might make him a better supercross rider. This third had to feel like a win for J-Mart right?

– Jordon Smith ran as high as second in the main event before dropping back. He got passed by the two GEICO guys, his teammate Marchbanks and Hampshire as well. I had heard that he wasn’t 100% coming into the race and that buzz proved to be correct. Or at least I hope so!

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Monster Energy/Octopi

– The surprise up front was probably Marchbanks, he rode from outside the top five to a fourth before dropping back a bit but getting it back when Hampshire crashed. Garrett passed veterans Smith and Hampshire to get into the mix and he looked way better than perhaps any time last year (outside of when he podiumed in the mud in San Diego). Big year for Garrett in the last year of his contract with the PC guys.

– The most improved rider was Joey Crown of the Club MX team. He hadn’t ever made a main event before (last year was his rookie year and he didn’t do all the races at that) so to ride into a qualifying spot from a ways out in the heat was good. Then running top seven in the main event for a long time was downright impressive! Joey was the surprise of the main event and I think he’ll keep it up if I’m honest. He’s got skills and is comfy with the bike. Good work for Crown.

– Team PulpMX’s RJ Hampshire (serious, he runs a sticker!) didn’t get the start he wanted but I was anxious to see how he would do. New bike, new team, new trainer and Hampshire took a bit too long to get going in the main event even, as I say, getting passed by Marchbanks. Sure enough he got going and moved up later on in the main, even getting close to Martin at one point. He set the fastest lap of the main event as well. That’s the good. The bad is he crashed in the whoops and lost two spots late in the race.  Some good, some bad from Hampshire on the new ride and, as of now, the jury is out on RJ’s change.

“We just kind of grinded, did what I could to be good for tonight. Struggled all day,” Hampshire told me afterwards “Really I just told myself all week: ‘I got fifteen minutes plus one.’ That’s all I need. You can tell, that was it. I was going for it. I feel like I’m not a fourth-place guy so I’m not going to settle for fourth. Like you said, I felt like I was riding good. Had a good lap time. Just one little mistake.”

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Husqvarna/Simon Cudby

Some other quick hitters…

– We always overlook Kyle Peters but he went out there and did Kyle Peters things in getting into the top ten. Seriously, we need to talk about him more than we do.

– Josh Hill’s first 250SX in, what, eleven years went probably about as well as can be expected. Hill didn’t get a good start and fought hard to get near the top ten but was thwarted by a huge battle with Cedric Soubeyras late in the main event. I wonder what Josh’s expectations were for this series and if he met them?

– Jimmy Decotis made two podiums last year but came into the opener nursing an injury from a practice crash. He looked terrible in practice but gutted out a top ten in the main event.

– Nick Gaines looked to be better than he was last year so that’s awesome for him while I expected more out of Enzo Lopes.

– Jalek Swoll of the Rockstar Husky team and Jo Schimoda of the GEICO team had the ultimate highs and lows out there. Swoll didn’t make the main event, which had to sting while Schimoda ran up near the top five before falling and ending up tenth. Hopefully both kids understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and won’t be too down from their rides, especially Swoll.

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: GEICO Honda

Matthes on: Triple Crown

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Did you have Triple Crown fever this past weekend? Glendale was the first round of said format and it provided some great racing and some not-so-great racing as well. The introduction of the three-main-event format a couple of years ago has elicited a mixed response from riders, teams, media and fans of the sport.

Me, I’m all for it. I applaud change because, guess what, you can always go back if it doesn’t work so I’m on-board. I wouldn’t want to see seventeen rounds of the format but I’d add more than three in the season. It’s weird to me to talk to some fans that despise the format… I mean, you can’t find anything good about the format that you do like? Seeing the best riders go at it three times is a good thing, right?

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Sean Ogden

I think overall the reception for the most radical change in supercross’ forty-year history has been mixed amongst everyone. That speaks for the times we live in. I mean, does anything or anyone have universal acceptance? What would I do to tweak this format to make it a little better? Well, I’m glad you asked!

– The first thing I’d do doesn’t have anything to do with the Triple Crown format but it would help the evening out. I’d put the 250SX and 450SX LCQs into the night show. This is such a no-brainer and makes the whole thing a lot better. The LCQ races are so exciting and when you add in the fact that the entire stadium knows that only four are going on and the rest home makes for some real drama.

It would add ten minutes to the whole programme but the memories it gives is priceless. I don’t want to hear the excuse “you can’t start a programme without your stars” because, as it is now, we start with the 250SX riders, who are hardly the real stars of the show. This move should have been done yesterday.

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Sean Ogden

– The fact the promoters made the change to the three races all being equal length last year is a good thing, so I’m here to say that we should look at making these races back to laps and not time. As it is now the riders are doing a lot more work and the mains do go on a tad long. Not much, but just a bit. There’s got to be a happy length of laps that would make these a bit shorter but long enough to make up for a poor start.

– Can we come up with an actual real name for the mains? Like, seriously! I’ve been having fun with this on the PulpMX Show but it’s asinine to come up with a shorter race that goes three times and call it the same as a single longer race. It’s like calling an apple a banana. Just call them motos for gods sake and put the whole “we don’t want to acknowledge motocross was right” mentality away please and thank you. While we’re at it, can we have the AMA keep track of these things?

– I think the timing of the three races is fine, any less and it would be tough for the riders/teams to be ready. Anymore and it would drag a bit for the fans (it’s probably right on the borderline of dragging as it is now) but we could use more filler in-between the races. There’s also a need for track maintenance as well somewhere in there.

If you are not going to put the LCQ races in there, maybe a B-main for the riders not in the main event? I understand that there needs to be some pay for the guys here… Maybe you just move the LCQ money there? I just feel for the smaller teams and privateers that support the sport and are getting right shut out of the night show with the Triple-Crown format.

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Sean Ogden

– Finally, the riders and teams work a lot harder at these races than a regular supercross and the fact that [Ken] Roczen did two extra starts, more laps, had more chances for issues to arise and got three more points than Eli Tomac seems a bit off. Maybe a bonus for most mains won? Something other than three points seems fair… Don’t start awarding each main with the regular amount of points. That’s too much of a penalty for a rider who gets hurt and misses the race but it seems to me that a change is needed to award the individual race winners a bit more.

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Sean Ogden

Matthes on: Translations

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St Louis was a good race with plenty to talk about, the track was again pretty sweet and we saw some good racing in both classes. The intensity of the 450SX main event really caught my eye  the guys were going for it! In the 250s we saw Austin Forkner grab the win in front of his hometown fans in a controlled and measured ride. This just in: Dylan Ferrandis has to work on his starts too. Attention David Vuillemin.

Post-race I found myself wandering the indoor pits looking for riders to chat with. While I didn’t find Adam Cianciarulo or Zach Osborne, I did find some other riders and I will offer up my translation of what they really meant! You are all welcome!

Justin Barcia

SM: “We have been talking a lot lately. We probably talked more in the last week than we have in like five years.”

JB: “Yeah, we have been talking a lot, which is good, because now we are friends.”

Translation: We are not really friends but I can tolerate you now.

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Sean Ogden


SM: “Heat race not so good, not a great start I guess it was.”

JB: “Yeah, not a good start, but my passes were phenomenal. I worked through the pack good in six minutes. It was a really good race. It wasn’t obviously a win, but it was a nice race.”

Translation: You obviously didn’t watch me come from ninth to third or you forgot moron.


JB: “I didn’t want to blame it on anybody, but Vince [Friese] was in the good line. I just blew through the jump and cased, endo, endo, landed on the tuff blocks and blew on the concrete. I got road rash down my side. It was one of those days but we managed, so can’t complain.”

Translation: I totally want to complain and blame it on Vince Friese.


JB: “Thanks, Steve. That’s a lot coming from you. You don’t give compliments out. I appreciate that.”

Translation: All you do is talk shit on riders on the internet.

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Sean Ogden

Jacob Hayes

SM: “The triple, triple, triple thing was big for you guys.”

JH: “Yeah, it was. To go double, double, triple, triple, single I was on the limiter trying to get that puppy every lap.”

SB: “The Star guys were over-jumping it.”

JH: “Well, don’t talk about that.”

Translation: Those bikes are SO much better than mine so I just try to block that information out so I don’t get depressed.

Justin Brayton

Me: “Bike issue in the heat?”

JB: “Yeah. I don’t honestly know exactly what it was.”

Translation: I know exactly what it was Matthes, I just came out of a post-race meeting with Honda and they told me but no chance in hell I’m telling you.


JB: “Chad beat me to the first turn and I got by him. It was actually really fun.”

Translation: Riding an LCQ is terrifying and not fun at all.

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Alex Martin

AM: “I had a really good parade lap start, then I kind of botched the main start.”

Translation: I basically folded when the pressure was on.


AM: “He’s [Brandon Hartranft] on the Mike Brown programme. You can’t give Seth [Rarick] any credit.

Me: I think Brownie quit already.”

AM: “Never mind.”

Translation: I don’t think we should talk about that. Let’s change the topic.

Ken Roczen

KR: “I’ve just been trying to really get comfortable on the bike because I’m the kind of rider that when things are comfortable for me I go really good, but when things are a little bit off I’m off the back.”

Translation: You bitches saw me complain about my bike after Anaheim 1. Well, guess what? They made me comfortable and I smoked everyone so suck it.


KR: “I definitely slowed down in the last couple laps just because I didn’t want to do anything stupid. Last lap was super slow. I almost singled everything. I messed it up plenty of times towards the end. It ain’t over until you cross the finish line jump. I’ve learned that.”

Translation: “I was so scared I was going to screw this this up, I almost crashed. I FINALLY WON THOUGH!”

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Sean Ogden

Matthes on: Big Dreams

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Although I’ve been in the pits now for over twenty years and am about as jaded as one could be at times, the bottom line is I’m a fan of this sport just like you. Yes, I have to put that part of me aside and report on the races as an impartial media member (much easier now that Tim Ferry and Nick Wey are retired by the way). There are still things that I would like to see happen though because, well, I’m a fan of the sport, right?

With Anaheim 1 just days away and with that the whole seventeen-round Monster Energy Supercross series itself starts, I thought I’d write down a few things that I’d like to see happen this coming season. You know, heart-warming stuff. Will it all happen? No, but it doesn’t stop a guy from dreaming!

– Seventeen races and I’d love to see ten different winners. Ok, that is crazy talk. How about eight though? Could we do that? I mean Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen, Jason Anderson and Cooper Webb are locks. Could Adam Cianciarulo win? Absolutely, that’s five. Zach Osborne is so close… There is six. Blake Baggett got one last year and has the potential to do it again and so there’s seven. Justin Barcia? Dean Wilson? We are getting there!

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Husqvarna Motorcycles/Simon Cudby

– With this being the last year for Chad Reed, I’d like to see him go out with some good results and not tarnish his legacy. I mean, it would be amazing to see him land on the podium again but it doesn’t seem like he’s coming in with a good base of preparation. That’s fine… He can go out doing it his way, because there’s no other way Reed knows but I just hope he’s around the top ten or higher each night. Maybe he can lead some laps and go out with his head held high? I don’t need to see him in the LCQ and missing main events. Nope, just won’t have that.

– I’d like to see Malcolm Stewart land on the podium this year. He has never gotten a top five in a 450SX main event and that one seems inevitable to happen, but could he podium? That would be cool for him and his Smartop Bullfrog Spas Honda team. He’s one of the best personalities in the sport and has a lot of fans out there. How great would it be for him to do this?

– Can Eli Tomac win this 450SX title for the love of god? I mean, honestly, he deserves it. He has been so fast for so long and cannot quite seal this thing up. He has found many different ways to mess this championship up and I’m ready for him to grab this. We all are. Please Eli, we cannot talk about it anymore. Just win it.

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– We know Adam Cianciarulo will be fast and popular in his rookie 450SX season. I’m not even thinking of any other scenario really, but what I’d like to see is last year’s 450SX rookie, Aaron Plessinger, have a good season. AP’s a cool guy that had a rough year and I’d like to see him just build throughout the season and get some good results.

– I would like to see Ken Roczen get a 450SX win. God knows he’s been as close as possible to getting his first since the big injury. I already consider Roczen’s comeback from all those surgeries a success, even if he never wins another race, but it would be nice to see him atop of the box. I think this one is close to a slam-dunk by the way.

– This one is impossible but I’d like to see no injuries this year in supercross. Our sport is so brutal that it’s hard for it to get traction at times, because so many riders that teams have sunken millions of dollars into get hurt. I just do not see a way to prevent them either. It is what it is I suppose, but one can dream!

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Husqvarna Motorcycles

A Matthes Report: 2020

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We are getting real close to Anaheim 1 kick off, round one of seventeen of the Monster Energy Supercross series. There are a ton of subplots to talk about when it comes to the new season (as there always is) then I’ll be around when the series is into round twelve and we will see how many riders are left standing by then. Our sport’s biggest issue is keeping the stars healthy for an entire season. It’s tough to do! Think about the injuries we see in supercross and motocross and imagine if we halved those by even fifty percent… Both series and the sport would be better for it. No doubt about it!

There’s always the usual pre-season buzz before the year and I find it interesting that in these social media times we live in, it’s pretty easy to go and get the pulse of what the normal fan is thinking about before the season. Some of it is nutty and some of it makes sense. It’s all part of being a fan, right? Here are some of the things that I have read on my social media, emails and message boards.

1) “Adam Cianciarulo is going to win the 2020 450SX championship!”

I mean, AC could follow Jeremy McGrath and Ryan Dungey and become a champion in his rookie 450SX season. He  has certainly got the speed. We have seen that over and over! I mean, there is a reason why only two riders have done it in the sport’s history and that is because it’s really hard! Adam, as much as we all like the guy, has shown a tendency to make mistakes during the race season. Yes, he made it through twelve rounds of motocross in a dominant fashion. What about supercross though? He has yet to do that and the odds are high that he won’t do it in his rookie year. Calm down everyone.

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2) “Malcolm Stewart is going to win 450SX main events!”

Not only do some fans think this, I was just in Geneva and heard a mechanic for a great rider tell me this. Just as I have written about on this very website, Stewart has to walk before he run and did you know he’s never made a top five in 450SX? He has only got seven top ten finishes in his career out of thirty-three career races. Yes, he’s in better shape than he has ever been in those thirty-three races but let’s hold off from no top fives in his career to winning two or more rounds okay?

3) “Ken Roczen and Adam Cianciarulo will become enemies!”

These two as we all know are riding and training together in Florida once the series heads east. We have seen riders who are close to each other lost their friendship over the years, there is no doubt about that. Fans seem to think Adam is going to emerge as a better rider than Kenny and this is going to cause issues. There’s no stopping the Adam hype train in 2020, that is for sure. Yes, we have seen two elite level riders be unable to stay training partners a few times but we have also seen many other riders work it out. Look at the Baker Factory guys, look at Ryan Villopoto and Ken Roczen when Roczen was a rookie. Both of these guys are as real as they come in terms of personalities, so they will be fine. Relax everyone!

4) “Cooper Webb just got busted for a PED!”

Yes, I’m serious and “getting busted for a PED” is the new, “I heard that he crashed at the track” rumour. Whether it’s Broc Tickle or James Stewart, I think we have seen that the FIM (via WADA) has no problem issuing a press release when a rider has failed a test in the past. Yeah, please stop this.

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5) “Ryan Dungey is a spy for KTM with his new role at GEICO Honda!”

Yes, I’m serious and please stop this.

6) “Martin Davalos is the sleeper of 2020 supercross!”

Oh wait, this was something that I started! Yeah, I’m all aboard the Marty train for 2020. Will he win races? No. Heck, I bet he doesn’t even podium unless a lot of injuries hit but he’ll be top ten more times than not and maybe even get a heat-race win. His bike is good and he has got skills.

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: KTM Images

A Matthes Report: HEP Deals

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It is the Geneva SX this weekend and this one marks the final off-season race of the year. Now, finally, everyone will be hunkered in for Anaheim 1 and the gruelling start to the USA season will begin. This weekend’s race, one of the longest in Europe at this point, looks to be shaping up pretty good with Paris SX winner Justin Barcia probably being the slight favourite for the win. He is up against Smartop Bullfrog Spas Honda’s Malcolm Stewart and Team HRC’s Justin Brayton, as well as Mike Alessi, Josh Hill, Martin Davalos (a potential sleeper), Vince Friese and more.

One of the things that struck me at Paris was how damn close guys like Barcia, Stewart, Dylan Ferrandis, Justin Hill and Vince Friese were. All the racers were close and the actual battles on the track were pretty good. This weekend we should see more of the same I think. After showing so much speed every time he lines up on the track, it would be great to see if Stewart could actually win one of these things. Crashes and/or bike problems have doomed him at these overseas races the last few years.

Davalos will be interesting to watch as he’ll be on a Monster Kawasaki but by all accounts will be on a Team Tedder KTM come Anaheim. I’m sure a Monster sponsor wanted a green Monster rider out there and the money probably spoke well enough to Marty for him to put the KTM aside for a weekend. This race is always pretty fun: It’s two nights, the track is big and dirt is good so buckle in for one last wild ride of supercross before the real stuff starts.

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Ray Archer

Also coming out this week was the news of the H.E.P Suzuki team for 2020. Like JGR Racing, this teams been in a bit of a lurch waiting for Suzuki to figure out what they are doing with racing and who they can give support to. If you are a Suzuki fan you might want to enjoy 2020 and soak it in, because by all indications they might not be racing at a high level in 2021. Anyway, H.E.P announced that they have added the 12-round motocross series to their program for next year (they just did supercross in 2019) and that they are also keeping Adam Enticknap.

The new additions to the team are journeyman Kyle Cunningham and a fresh-off-the-MXGP-series Max Anstie. Interesting picks for sure: Cunningham is a solid veteran at this point more than capable of being in every main event. He’s a lot like the rider the team had last year, Kyle Chisholm, where you may not notice him a whole lot out there but at the end of the night he is in the main and close to the top ten.

Anstie is an interesting hire for sure  he did supercross early in his career over here but the last time he raced indoors was seven long years ago! That was in the 250SX class where he logged some decent results but certainly never indicated anything really special. It’s hard to see him really setting the world on fire in 450SX but he’ll be somewhere around the top ten one would think once he gets up to speed. The outdoors are where he should do a bit better of course and at tracks like the WW Ranch and Southwick we might even see Mad Max land on the box.

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Ray Archer

Maybe I’ll be proven wrong but it’s refreshing to see a team hire a rider for his motocross skills like H.E.P did with Anstie. I mean, I hope that was the case. The thought of Anstie doing anything in supercross seems a bit far fetched to me. Riders generally don’t get better at the indoor stuff seven years later. Enticknap will have to really work on his outdoor prowess to end up going outdoors with the team but both Anstie and Cunningham will be in the top ten most weekends.

No matter what happens, it’s interesting to see the addition of Anstie to the series over here and it’ll be something to observe all year long. It’s a step up for the H.E.P Suzuki team to get someone who will have worldwide appeal as well. I’m not sure I would’ve signed Max up myself but it’s a roll of the dice that could prove to be great.

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Ray Archer

A Matthes Report: Thanksgiving

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Holiday time here in the USA! Thanksgiving is underway and it’s a big deal here in America. Me being Canadian, we have our Thanksgiving on a different date than the USA and it’s not that big of a deal. The USA does this holiday right with football, food and fun. Well, until that uncle that you only see once a year gets hammered and starts talking about politics. For me it’s a time to be thankful for many things, one of them that I get to watch a sport that I’ve been involved with my whole life and get paid at that!

Some other things I’m thankful for at this time of the year…

– I’m thankful that I get to see some of the best racers in the world push themselves each race to try and, well, win. To have a trackside seat and watch Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen, Jeffrey Herlings, Antonio Cairoli and others dig deep. Man, it’s cool when these guys push themselves and get out of their comfort zone.

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Monster Energy/Octopi

– I’m thankful that I got to see James Stewart’s entire career in the sport. Seriously, he’s been gone a while now so some fans don’t really remember what it was like to watch a rider change the way people race motorcycles. The things he did in practice and at his house in Florida during the week (that I got to see a few times) were amazing. He was on another level man.

– Speaking of Stew: I’m thankful that I got to watch him, Chad Reed and Ricky Carmichael go at it a few times for the 450SX title. This was a real rivalry with some real hatred involved. We don’t really have that now in our sport, good or bad. These three dudes had some gnarly races and I got to be there to see almost all of them.

– I’m thankful that racers that my heroes like Damon Bradshaw, Rick Johnson, Ron Lechien are now in my phone and I’m able to call them to BS. Like, seriously, how cool is that?

– I’m thankful that I got to see two-strokes race and also got to see the rise of the four-stroke. There are lots of good and bad things about both of these events but if you were around in 1997 or 1998 when Yamaha unleashed the YZ400 then you know what I’m talking about. Four-strokes have hurt pro racing, there’s no doubt about that, but they are also easier to ride and pretty damn trick now.

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Monster Energy/Octopi

– I have a few issues with the Motocross of Nations from a Team USA standpoint but I’m thankful that I get to cover the race year-to-year. There’s something about that race that’s special as a journalist (but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect!).

– Speaking of that, I was able to be a mechanic on Team USA in 2003 for Tim Ferry and although my memories are mostly sour (Ferry crashed and Team USA got second) the fact that I got to wrench on a MXoN team was pretty cool and I’m thankful for that.

– I’m thankful that I got to catch the last half of the great Jeremy McGrath’s career. I started wrenching in ’96 and although he made many a race pretty boring, at the time you had an appreciation of his skills. He was just so much better than everyone else it was silly. Always a cool, classy guy the whole time as well.

– My job as a journalist in the sport has allowed me access behind the curtain many times and I’m thankful for that. To be at Ryan Villopoto’s place or Chad Reed’s during the week and watch what went on, go to dinner with these guys and shoot the shit with them has been pretty cool. You get a sense of what makes them tick and also some of the real things going on in the sport.

Those are just a few things that I can think off the top of my head, it’s been a hell of a ride and I’ve been pretty lucky along the way also.

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Monster Energy/Octopi

Matthes Report: Malcolm Stewart

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This past weekend in Paris it was Yamaha’s Justin Barcia who took home overall honours after six races and won his third King of Paris trophy. He rode well for sure but there wasn’t anyone there who didn’t think that Malcolm Stewart, on his Smartop Bullfrog Spas Honda, wasn’t THE fastest rider there this weekend. Mookie won the overall on Sunday and his very first race of the weekend where crashed in the first turn and could only make it up to ninth ruined his chances for the overall.

Other than that he won three times and ripped through the pack a ton to get up front. His speed in the whoops, especially Saturday when they were USA-style big, was phenomenal. He looks ready to go and in shape coming off his femur break early last season. There’s nothing to not like about him in 2020.

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Ray Archer

“Mookie’s speed and ability are nearly as good as his brother. If he had the fitness, he would be a weapon” is what one top rider texted me when asked for a quote on Stewart. We didn’t really get a good look at Mookie last year, he got seventh in the opener in the mud at Anaheim after running second for a bit and then he did himself in at round two. His work with trainer Gareth Swanepoel that we had heard about wasn’t proven. His new team and bike, that he had been on all off-season for once, didn’t get a chance to shine.

The jury is out on Stewart still because if you just look at his 450 career since winning the 250SX title in 2016, it’s a disappointment. Thirty-three career 450SX races with zero top fives and only seven top tens. He hasn’t raced the outdoor series in four years so no real results there that you can count on. Stewart’s programme has always been a bit loose  twice he hasn’t been on the line at Anaheim 1 because he didn’t have a ride. Once he had his own team for SX and another time he was a fill-in at JGR Suzuki.

Simply put, the talent doesn’t equal the results for Stewart. See that quote above for some of the issues he’s had in 450SX.  2019 was going to be THE ultimate test but alas, he got hurt and here we are again. We are wondering if Stewart can put everything together and not win a race – to me that’s a bit much to ask  but can he get on the podium? His raw speed and skills say yes but crashes, fitness and perhaps a bike that hasn’t always been that good have resulted in Mookie being the king of bench racing with your buddies as in, “What if he figured it out?”

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Another rider texted me, “Malcolm is a good dude, one of the few guys who doesn’t take himself too seriously and clearly enjoys riding and racing. That’s refreshing to see in a world full of robots. Whether he’s third or tenth, you always care about his results regardless. He’s got that aura around him.” I couldn’t agree more. Malcolm is a breath of fresh air in the pits and you want him to succeed. His first love was not motocross growing up and I imagine that he’s loving all of this. He’s funny, he’s outgoing, the fans love him and the sport needs a dude like that.

Just like last year, he appears to be ready to bust out. He’s done the work off the bike, his team has given him some good equipment and as we just saw he’s riding maybe as good as ever. It’s time for Malcolm Stewart to put some results down on paper in the 450SX class. I think he will.

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Ray Archer

Matthes Report: Change Up

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Interesting to see a couple of riders who are switching things up for 2020 in an effort to break through and capture their first 250SX or MX title. Jordon Smith and Shane McElrath were teammates the last few years on the Troy Lee Designs Red Bull KTM team and gathered wins and podiums for the team but could never break through and grab a title. Both racers really started to emerge once they went to TLD and, at times, things looked pretty good for both of them.

Injuries, some bike mechanicals and, in some cases, just getting beat led to both riders being unable to seal the deal and this past year the wheels just came off. McElrath started the year indoors strong but then tweaked his back and couldn’t get onto the podium again. The team eventually benched him for a couple of reasons: One being to get his back healthy again and the other was to not point out of the 250SX class again, which – due to his great results the last few years – he was on the verge of doing.

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KTM Images/Simon Cudby

Smith, like McElrath, started the 250SX East series strong but then crashed and hurt his wrist. He sat out for a bit but came back and couldn’t ride anywhere near his potential. He rode a couple of nationals but packed it in early for surgery and then a follow-up surgery afterwards. Smith’s grand total of seven races in 2019 made it one of his worst seasons.

McElrath came back for the outdoors and just could never get it going like he had in the past. In fact, he was logging some of his worst motocross results of his career until late in the season at Budds Creek when he dominated on the day going 1-1. It really came out of nowhere and was a great day for Shane and the team. A lone bit of sunshine in a dark year.

Underneath all of these off-kilter results were both riders not being that happy with their bikes and some hard feelings developing between the riders and the team. There were rumours of KTM Austria getting involved and wondering what was going on with the team’s results and both riders seemed to be unhappy with the chassis/suspension. However, to me, I get it the results aren’t there but in 2018 both riders won and were close to titles. What could’ve changed in one year?

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Well neither Smith nor McElrath are going to stick around to find out because they bolted for greener pastures. McElrath is going to Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha while Smith is joining Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki. The TLD guys are revamping their programme, going young and that will be interesting to watch as well.

The departure of McElrath in particular rankled some within TLD, because the team had worked with him to sit him out of races he could’ve raced in order to save him for 250SX in 2020. Now that he’s been “saved” he could be beating all of the riders on his old team! Plus the fact that the TLD guys discovered Shane and gave him his first shot on a team. For his part, Shane’s done nothing but publicly handle himself with class and operate the same way leaving as he did getting there. Make no mistake about it though, there are some hard feelings here.

Smith got out of a signed contract with GEICO Honda to head to TLD, and he and team manager Tyler Keefe seemed to hit it off. Jordon’s issue isn’t with the team as much as he felt the bike was holding him back. If you go back and look at his GEICO departure, that was the reason he left there. He showed though that he might’ve had a point as his results got better on KTM than they ever were on Honda.

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I think 2020 is pivotal for both riders, because when you become a veteran of the 250 class and you have factory equipment you are expected to win races. The experience you gather while some of your top competition graduates puts you naturally in a spot where eyes on focused on you. Both riders wanted off that KTM and both feel like they got an upgrade with their new teams.

Fascinating to watch all the principles here and see who made the right or wrong choice. Buckle up!

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: KTM Images/Simon Cudby