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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Sean Ogden

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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Race Kawasaki

– 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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Race Kawasaki

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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KTM Images

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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Ray Archer

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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KTM Images/Simon Cudby

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

A Matthes Report: MEC

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The one off Monster Energy Cup has just wrapped up here in my hometown of Las Vegas and we saw some great racing. Monster Energy Kawasaki teammates Adam Cianciarulo and Eli Tomac finished first and second with the rookie getting the win by somehow holding off Tomac for almost the entire main event. Smartop Honda’s Malcolm Stewart won one main event and was tied for the overall going into the last main so that was impressive, plus his teammate Vince Friese led laps!

We are set for 2020 450SX, right? This race showed us what we needed to see. Not exactly, this is a one-off exhibition race that doesn’t really mean that much. Gajser can not come to the USA and run top five in the real Monster Energy Supercross series and, no, AC is not going to pull a Jeremy in 1993 here and win the title. The track design, the amount of prep everyone put into it and how comfortable guys are with the new bikes all came into play at a race like this. You simply can’t count on the MEC results as a harbinger of things to come.

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Monster Energy/Octopi

Now if you want to move this race to the beginning of December when the riders and teams are more ready for the start of supercross, now THAT would be a real test of what we are going to see. It would also help with Team USA’s MXoN “problem” and it might help with attendance also. Anyway, I digress. Want some proof that the MEC, although we see some good racing and seeing who forgets to take the Joker Lane is good humour, doesn’t really matter all that much? Here is some proof.

2018

The Result: Cooper Webb, on his new Red Bull KTM and coming off two so-so years at Yamaha, goes 6-19-9 for twelfth overall and honestly you barely noticed him. Yeah, the new bike/team is obviously not going to work for Webb.

What We Missed: In case you don’t know: Webb rode great at Anaheim 1 in the mud, won a main event at the Triple Crown a couple weeks after that and then racked up wins on his way to the 2019 450SX title. No one was talking about his first ride on KTM at the MEC come Las Vegas at the end of the season.

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Monster Energy/Octopi

2017

The Result: Justin Barcia, fresh off a terrible year at Suzuki and dropped by the team, shows up on a privateer Honda and crashes on the very first practice start on press day. He, like Webb last year, rides to some unremarkable 10-6-5 finishes (getting beat by 250SX rider Jordon Smith) and yeah, his career seems to be on the verge of heading south fast.

What We Missed: Barcia got a factory Yamaha fill-in when Davi Millsaps got hurt and got on the podium at three out of the first four races before he got hurt. Barcia totally rejuvenates himself (he won Anaheim 1 in 2019 also) and his privateer Honda MEC results don’t even matter.

2016

The Result: Mike Alessi rides well to 8-6-5 results for fifth overall beating Blake Baggett, Chad Reed, Ken Roczen (although to be fair #94 went 1-21-1), Benny Bloss and others. Mike’s never been great at whoops but he’s been great at starts so the MEC track with no whoops and shorter mains works out for him.

What We Missed: Mike’s result didn’t propel him to a great season. In fact, it was one of his worst ones with injuries and a best result of a ninth. All in all he ended up nineteenth in the points and didn’t race supercross the following year.

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2014

The Result: Monster Kawasaki’s newest signing, Davi Millsaps, goes 3-4-1 for the overall win and surely that highlights that he’s going to crush it for the team in 2015, right?

What We Missed: Yeah, actually it didn’t. Millsaps didn’t ride nearly as well on the green machine as he did on the Rockstar Suzuki the previous year and didn’t get any real results before being fired by the team three-quarters through SX for being caught having a substance in his locker that he didn’t have a prescription for.

Those are just a few results that I could find looking through the years. Another one you can bank on is that Ryan Dungey never won this event despite winning a ton of 450SX races and championships throughout the years. I know it’s fun to look at the recent edition of this race and think about how it’s going to be amazing watching Adam Cianciarulo run with Eli Tomac all year long – and he may do that at a race or two – but let’s hold off on making some hot predictions. Just as I showed you, the MEC is predictably unpredictable.

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

A Matthes Report: Off-Season

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It’s early October and not much is going on right now, outside of some prep for the upcoming Monster Energy Cup, so let’s empty the brain of some random thoughts about random things, yeah?

– The Red Bull Straight Rhythm just concluded and although I wasn’t there this year, did it seem to you dear readers that this year’s event had more hype/interest/care level than ever before? Maybe it was the inclusion of Ken Roczen or the way that just about everyone bought into the retro vibe, but it seemed that this race moved the needle in terms of interest like it never had before. I have to admit that although I’m not one of those two-stroke kooks that are out there with the tin-foil hats, the decision by the folks at Red Bull to make the event two-stroke has helped.

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Red Bull Content Pool/Chris Tedesco

Getting Travis Pastrana and Tyler Bowers there to race each other on 500s was great, Honda’s effort with Roczen was huge, the track seemed to flow a bit better than before and all in all this race works. The stars are just hanging out in the pits also  there are no semi trucks allowed by the way  and I think the fans want to revel in nostalgia and the riders/teams don’t take this thing as seriously. There’s just a vibe to it that no other event has. Not sure how much truth there is to this but I had heard a couple of years ago that the event was close to going away but seems to me its just growing. I told Jeremy Mallot at Red Bull many times that I see this thing getting set up in or close to a downtown core. Watch the exposure it gets then!

– Just as I mentioned, the Monster Energy Cup is coming up here in a couple of weeks and is it just me or has this event been lacking a bit the last few years? The dichotomy between the RBSR and the MEC is striking in that when this race rose out of the ashes of the old US Open, the hype was real and it was always supposed to be different from the regular Monster Energy Supercross series. The hopes were to get some European racers here, build a track that won’t be carting anyone away in ambulances and open it up for technology that isn’t allowed in the regular series.

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Red Bull Content Pool/Chris Tedesco

We have the three main-event format in the regular series now though that’s nothing unique – and it hasn’t attracted the European racers like they had hoped (Tim Gajser is coming to try again though). The track – while indeed keeping the riders upright  lacks innovation and challenges, the buzz is pretty low amongst the teams and riders and it just seems to be a bit blasé if I’m being honest. Maybe a move to the new football stadium in a couple of years would help? I think a complete re-think of this race, including moving it way closer to the start of the season (that would also help out the Team USA MXDN effort) is needed.

-What the heck is going on with JGR Suzuki has been one of the biggest questions in the industry. This podcast I did with Chad Reed about his 2020 plans with JGR didn’t sound good nor was the fact they have one rider under contract for 2020 (Alex Martin) and haven’t signed anyone else. From what I understood things were moving in a positive direction for JGR to have a title sponsor next year in a casino but one would think that would be done by now, right? The team was on a hold from testing or riding the last little while, because of Suzuki’s inability to move forward with their end of the deal, but slowly JGR is coming back to life.

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Suzuki Racing

Reed’s moved on by getting a Honda and racing the MEC, then maybe Anaheim 1 as a privateer. JGR guys have been cleared to ride now and Joey Savatgy is heading out there this week or next to ride the bike. It’s expected that Savatgy and the team will be able to work out a deal and it may just be him and Martin in a really small-scale operation in 2020. From what I’ve been told 2020 is the last year of Suzuki’s deal with JGR and they will honor it at the most basic level and then be done with racing at a high level in 2021.

You have got to feel for JGR who have tried to do everything right in the sport but cannot get a title sponsor, cannot hit home runs on the big money riders they have signed, had one solid guy suffer a career-ending injury [Weston Peick] and have Suzuki cutting back or pulling out of just about everything. Yet owner Coy Gibbs is there employing people and trying to go racing. I’d look for JGR to be on a different OEM in 2021 and go with two riders for 2020 (Savatgy and Martin), but there is still a chance I’d say that they just cease operations totally. Yikes.

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Suzuki Racing

– In my opinion, one of the more intriguing riders in the 250 class for 2020 is RJ Hampshire. RJ’s a good dude and seems like he has worked very hard but also, I would say, has underperformed for a rider that had a GEICO Honda deal. Four podiums indoors and out (with a win at Budds Creek MX last year) is okay but, again, he should have more. A typical RJ race is a crash or bad start but then some impressive lap times in the same race that leaves you with a feeling of, “If only…” That’s just it.

There are mistakes and inconsistency more times than there should be with Hampshire. However, those moments of speed do point to something being in there. I know he, like other riders on that team, has not been happy with the new CRF250 platform the last couple of years but the bike has won races with Hunter Lawrence and Chase Sexton, so we are not talking mid-80s Suzuki 125s here you know? For 2020 he’s taking his talents over to Rockstar Husqvarna and we have seen that bike do very well with Zach Osborne and others.

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Geico Honda

He is jumping into the Aldon Baker programme as well, which should give him a jolt of something new and exciting. It’s time for Hampshire to be what he’s going to be. Will this be something that propels him to new heights or more of the same very fast but inconsistent rider we have seen? Sometimes change is good for people and wakes them up from something that maybe they have taken for granted. I’m not sure which direction RJ will go – I’m leaning towards him busting out this year and maybe being more of a podium guy than ever before.

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Red Bull Content Pool/Chris Tedesco

A Matthes Report: MXoN Picks

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It’s that time again! Time for the annual Motocross of Nations prediction column! Okay, look, last year’s column could not have gone any worse. Well, I did get the Dutch right in second place so there is that but I had Team USA winning and ended my prediction with this gold nugget: “If the USA guys don’t pull this off then I don’t know when their winless streak will end.”

I stand by that statement. After that abomination of a race by Team USA last year, I have no idea when they are going to get back to the top step of this race. Let’s just worry about them getting back on the podium, yeah? I told you in that column that France will pay dearly for leaving Marvin Musquin off the team (spoiler alert: they didn’t) but I did say Australia was my sleeper pick of the event and they were winning going into that third moto. By picking USA to win and saying that France wasn’t going to make the podium, it was still a garbage column.

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Ray Archer

With that said, we are back for redemption this year! Here are the official Steve Matthes predictions for the 2019 MXoN coming up this weekend in Assen, Holland.

1) Holland: Yeah I know, pretty boring but I mean, come on! How can any other country be picked to win this race but the hometown one? They haven’t suffered any injuries like many of the other countries, the race is in sand where they are so good, they have perhaps the best motocross rider in the world on their team and they almost won last year with just four scores!

I mean, the King of Holland is coming to this race too. Talk about pressure! The only thing that can stop [Jeffrey] Herlings, [Glenn] Coldenhoff and [Calvin] Vlaanderen from winning this thing is an injury to one of the riders that prevents them from racing. Even then they may still win. They are the heavy favorites to bring home their first ever MXoN win and if they pull it off, things could get nutty down at the speedway.

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Ray Archer

2) USA: Things are breaking right for the red, white and blue to get back on the podium. Namely injuries to some key riders from other countries that will allow the Yanks to do pretty well. Obviously we know from the videos and such that they are all in this year and that will help. The IceOne Husqvarna guys have been a huge help and all three riders need to be commended for the sacrifice that they have made for this race. It’s great to see!

I think they have a very good race, but it won’t be enough to beat the Dutch. Second would be nothing to be ashamed about, that’s for sure. If I see any USA fan slag these guys on social media for not winning, I’m gonna track them down and light their houses on fire. Bravo to the three guys for the work they are putting in.

3) Belgium: I think the Belgians get the last spot on the podium in a bit of an upset. I think if all things were equal we would see France and Great Britain battle this out but they have been hurt by injuries and curious decisions by the French (again). [Jeremy] Van Horebeek has had a nice comeback season on the Honda, [Jago] Geerts is solid and [Kevin] Strijbos, whilst definitely on the backend of his career, is on a factory Yamaha for this race and is good in the sand. They had a bad race last year but they are usually always around the podium and this year won’t be any different. Sneaky pick here! I guarantee you Lewis thinks this is nuts but you watch.

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Ray Archer

4) France: Yes, the winning streak finally ends here. I know, I know… We have counted them out before but losing [Tom] Vialle and [Romain] Febvre will just be too much for them to overcome. I think if you add one of those guys to the team, along with [Gautier] Paulin, then you have a potential second or third place team but I can’t embrace [Jordi] Tixier and [Maxime] Renaux doing that well. I just can’t! If they win again, it’s official: They are the best motocross country in the world forever and ever.

5) Great Britain: The original team of Max Anstie, Ben Watson and Shaun Simpson was great and looked to battle for a runner-up spot. Despite an off year, Simpson is very good in the soft stuff as we all know. Alas, injuries to Anstie and Watson have hurt the Union Jack’s but grabbing Ben’s brother Nathan [Watson] is a real power move straight out of France’s playbook from the MXoN at Matterley Basin. This is the one country I’m the most unsure about because I have no clue about Nathan Watson’s motocross skills. He has great in beach races so if there’s a sixth gear whooped out straight, we know he’ll be great there.

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Ray Archer

There you have it, the top five countries this weekend in Assen. A few other news and notes about the race:

– Australia would’ve been great with their original team of Hunter Lawrence, Mitch Evans and Jed Beaton but they have been decimated by injuries.

– The Swiss could’ve been sneaky good but the [Arnaud] Tonus injury will hurt them for sure. With him, they are top five easy.

– My own country Canada is a sh*t show and coming off a very good RedBud, politics held them back from sending a team. I can’t really get into it any more than that because I’ll probably smash my laptop but, yeah, way to go Canada.

– I’m looking forward to seeing Jorge Prado ride the 450 this weekend and where he stacks up. After a dominant season in MX2, I want to see where the kid will finish. Same with Tim Gajser, I think the MXGP champ has been cruising a bit since wrapping up the title and it may be hard to pick it back up but you know he’ll be sending it.

– Finally, you KNOW Estonia will be top ten again doing the most with the least. They will have star rider Tanel Leok riding for them again for the seventy-third consecutive year. Bravo to the Estonian team, even if they need to do it with a converted Finnish dude [Harri Kullas].

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer