Features 2 Sep 2011

The Matthes Report: Contrasting Aussies

U.S. columnist Steve Matthes checks in with an Aussie update at the business end of the AMA nationals.

U.S. columnist Steve Matthes checks in with an Aussie update at the business end of the AMA nationals.

At the recent Southwick AMA national, it was some of the best of times and the worst of times for a couple of Australian riders.

Team Suzuki’s Brett Metcalfe, after years of coming so close, finally managed to grab his first win in America and Honda’s Chad Reed saw his amazing and inspired run to the 450 title end with a double DNF.

First up Metty and what a race it was for the solid hardworking vet. Brett’s been fast for a long time, we all know that. From his beginning’s at KTM to Pro Circuit Kawasaki to GEICO Honda (we’ll just forget about that Yamaha of Troy ride on a YZ125 for now. Poor Brett, it was like taking a donut to a gunfight. Not even a knife!).

Metcalfe’s been right there and stood on the podium many times. It’s just never been the top step. From Ryan Villopoto and Ben Townley to now Ryan Dungey, his teammates have often been his toughest battles out there.

But now it’s over, with 3-2 scores, Brett captured the overall at Southwick and in front of his dad Steve as well. It was Steve’s first race over here in three years and how proud he must have been of his son going out there and winning.

Metty’s time here in America hasn’t always been the easiest. There have been plenty of injuries spread over the years to go along with those podiums. And of course there was the gas problem last year at Southwick (as in running out of it on the last lap while leading), which had to have been tough to take.

Australia's Brett Metcalfe enjoyed a breakthrough AMA win last weekend.

Australia's Brett Metcalfe enjoyed a breakthrough AMA win last weekend.

One year later, revenge was Metcalfe’s as he wasn’t perhaps the fastest guy on the track but he was the most consistent and when he had to get by the one rider who was in the way of the overall win (Villopoto), he made it happen. It was a well-earned victory.

Metcalfe’s year on the factory Suzuki team has been probably just ok if you ask him. In supercross he led a race early on (L.A) which was good and he even got into the top five once in what some people call the deepest field in years. But there were also the crashes that eventually took him out of the series altogether.

In the outdoors, we saw what he did last year (second in the series) and coming into the series he was one of the guys that you thought would challenge for more podiums than he has.

It’s been Villopoto, Dungey and Reed this summer and everyone else was fighting for the scraps that those three gave up. However Metcalfe’s been getting better lately with some solid right outside the lead pack rides before it all came together at the Wick.

There wasn’t anyone (outside of maybe Dungey and Villopoto who are battling for the championship) that wasn’t happy to see Brett win this past Saturday. He’s a friendly guy, an asset to any team and does it right by all accounts. He’s always got a nice word for the fans, his fellow riders and media folks.

There aren’t too many better people in the pits than Brett and his wife Sheena and it’s good for Metty to get a win. I’ve always felt that he’s been underrated even among Australian moto fans.

There’s of course Reed who outranks Brett (as he should) but I run into Aussie fans all the time who cheer for Michael Byrne, Tye Simmonds, Dan Reardon or Jay Marmont when the latter two were here.

I honestly don’t run into very many (if at all) Aussies whose favorite hometown rider is Brett Metcalfe. Maybe now, those numbers will grow.

And as far as Reed, well he’s a ton of points down and his window has closed to win this 450 MX title. And that’s a real shame, after the first moto at Millville, Reedy was looking very good as he outrode hometown hero Ryan Dungey to take the win.

Even as it sits right now, he’s won the most amount of nationals on the season but ever since his flight at Millville, it’s been a downhill deal for Reed. Consider this stat, before the crash Reed had made the podium in 12 out of the 13 motos that had taken place.

Since the crash? Zero.

The incredible effort he put in after hitting the deck in Minnesota was heroic for sure but for all purposes, his title went bye-bye sometime he was thirty feet in the air. Injuries affected him the next race in Washougal and there was Unadilla and then Southwick where his motor let go in both motos but make no mistake about it, he wasn’t going to make the box in either moto.

But as I’ve been consistent in saying, even though Reed’s not going to win either title-indoor or outdoor- this year has been an incredible success for the 22. He’s proved that he can contend for race wins and championships with his own team (and a little help from factory Honda) and that’s a massive step-up from last year.

TwoTwo Motorsports team owner/rider Chad Reed has struggled since his Spring Creek crash, but his year has been one of his best yet overall.

TwoTwo Motorsports team owner/rider Chad Reed has struggled since his Spring Creek crash, but his year has been one of his best yet overall.

You remember, when he rode for Monster Energy Kawasaki and was, shockingly, just another guy out there. Yeah he was injured early in sx and yeah he got sick late in the nationals but there were many who wrote him off.

Myself, while not writing him off, definitely had my doubts as to whether Reed could ever get back to the level that he’s currently at. His deal was put together too late, there wasn’t enough time to peak, his bike was going to hold him back and so on and so forth.

He’s proven many others and myself wrong. His crash at Millville, while I’m sure not fun was a seminal point in American motocross. Everyone and everybody was talking about it, it was on ESPN, Yahoo News, Fox News – the crash was everywhere it seemed for a little while.

I’m not saying that the crash was a good thing (seriously) but I am saying that in Reed’s 2011 world, even his get-offs are beneficial to him if you get what I mean.

Rumors are that Reed’s courting some different manufactures for next year as well as he’s pulled in a big energy drink sponsor. This is a marked change from a year ago when no one was calling and Reed was forced to put together his own team and spend some of his own money to head to Anaheim 1.

No matter how he does in the standings, he’s the big winner in 2011, no doubt about it.

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