Features 11 Oct 2012

The Matthes Report: 40

Pulpmx's Steve Matthes checks in from the US every single Thursday, presented by Fox.

The AMA national motocross series is just a memory, the 2012 MXDN is gone (and one the Americans would like to forget no doubt. As a proud Canadian I’d love to be “ashamed” at the Americans third place finish. There’s nothing wrong with getting beat at a deep sand track that a lot of your competition lives and practices nearby.

Some countries *cough* Canada, don’t even have teams or suck badly when we do…third place? Sign me up!) and so next up on the off-season calendar is the Monster Energy Cup.

This is the second year of the unique format and track held at the same site as the Las Vegas Supercross. Last year you’ll remember there were three main events, a hybrid of supercross and motocross track and some unique obstacles that saw the riders go into the stands ala the old Pontiac supercross from back in the day.

Ryan Villopoto won all three main events last year and took home the $1 million dollar prize in what was a pretty timid night in Vegas. Ryan Dungey debuted on the KTM and rode around a ways back in second, Brett Metcalfe finished third and the longer lap times produced an almost-30 minute main event that spread the racers out too far.

Can Ryan Villopoto do the unthinkable and take hom the 'Monster Million' two years in a row? Image: Simon Cudby.

For 2012, the folks at Feld Motorsports have made some changes to the track that won’t make it as long, they’ve introduced a joker lane full of sand that should add about six seconds to a riders lap time and has to be taken once at some point. The part of the track that goes into the stands is better suited for passing and there won’t be any qualifying, all three main event entrants will come from practice times.

All of these changes look to be pretty forward thinking and seem like they’re going to work out. The ME Cup itself is a nice change of pace in the off-season and a chance for the racers to make some extra cash at the same time. But the thing that I’m most excited about is the entry list to this race- it’s shaping up to be a good one.

Now knock on wood, we’re over a week out so anything could happen but the racers that are signed up and vying to win should make it a great event.

First off is defending champion Ryan Villopoto who’s making the ME Cup his first race back from his ACL injury suffered at the end of SX. RV’s been on the bike for a couple of months and according to everyone, is absolutely right back at his old level. RV’s made a nice comeback from a serious knee injury and is determined to show that he’s made it all the way back. If this was a healthy Villopoto, I would put him as the favorite but his first race in six months make him an underdog.

In a recent appearance on the Pulpmx Show, Chad Reed made a comment that he was more into go-karting than sx testing. He sounded bummed out about not being able to get a title sponsor, another rider for his team and his recovery from his knee/leg injury suffered in sx was complete but it sounded like Reed needed his spirit repaired as well.

James Stewart is back testing on his Yoshimura Suzuki, but is yet to be confirmed as a starter for the upcoming MEC event. Image: Simon Cudby.

He was pretty non-committal towards racing the ME Cup but recently jumped into the mix and headed to California for some testing on the all-new 2013 CRF450. There’s no way that many people will be talking about Reed as a potential winner of the ME Cup but I look at it like there’s no way he even bothers to go if he doesn’t think he can win.

I’ve made the mistake of counting him out before and if there’s one thing you can say about Chad Reed it’s that he’s a racer. When the lights come up and the gate drops, he’ll be up front because well, that’s what he does.

I got to think that Ryan Dungey would be the odds of favorite to win the event if Vegas placed odds on these sort of things. Wait, they actually might. And the reasons I’d go with Ryan is because he’s been doing the stuff that the other guys haven’t been- which is racing.

Coming off his second 450 motocross title, Dungey went right into MXDN prep and is only a couple weeks off that before lining up in Vegas next Saturday night. Ryan’s fit and on top of his game, unlike last year where he was still learning the bike and the team was learning him. Dungey’s got the fitness and the speed to come out on top after the three motos are all wrapped up.

Although he hasn’t officially committed yet, James Stewart has been testing sx in Southern California for a possible inclusion into the ME Cup. I know that the promoters are counting on him being there but I wouldn’t be so sure. Stewart’s not going to show up unless he feels 100% and his crash at Unadilla was a bad one that re-aggravated his hand and he possibly hit his head.

Chad Reed has always been about winning, will we see him at the Monster Energy Cup? Image: Simon Cudby.

I think that Stewart will be there but that’s just a personal opinion and one that I’d say has a 40% chance of being wrong. But if he’s there, it’s a chance at Stewart to test out the Suzuki on a sx track and get it working for him. Like Chad Reed, you can never, ever, ever count out James Stewart when he shows up.

And yet another exciting development for the ME Cup is the 250F debut of amateur sensation Adam Cianciarulo. AC’s won everything there is to win on the 80’s and 105’s and has finally grown enough (barely!) to get on the 250F and line up for the amateur race that has the very best B and A riders from the year in a battle.

Cianciarulo is probably the most hyped amateur kid since James Stewart and this is going to be a good indication of what he can do. If he’s like so many other hotshots than he should immediately run up front with guys that are bigger and older than him, talent is talent.

So we’ll all have a look at AC and judge him as a star or bust right then and there from a one-night main event. Because that’s what we seem to do in this internet age. No matter what the results, Cianciarulo will be “next” and you’re going to hearing a lot more from him in the coming years.

All in all, the ME Cup is looking to be a real showdown and I’m excited to check it out. Or maybe it’s just because I don’t have to travel anywhere…