Features 23 May 2013

The US Report: 20

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

After a long grueling Supercross season, the riders get one week off to prepare for a long and grueling Motocross season. Yeah, the tour doesn’t stop for anyone to heal up and it just marches on like some sort of Terminator of Motocross.

You may remember that recently I wrote a column about the Winners and Losers of the Supercross season and of course, living in the times that we do, I got some flack for calling people ‘losers’ event though I meant it in a, ‘Mike Alessi lost in the game of Supercross’ and not ‘Mike Alessi is a loser and should retire’ type of way.

But of course people didn’t get that and a few angry emails and Tweets later, I’m not convinced any of these people were swayed by my explanation. We just always think the worst of people and if you’re not praising someone, you must hate them. Sigh, this is the world we live in these days.

Okay with that in mind, let’s talk about Hangtown and this week I’m just going to name off the guys that most impressed me at Hangtown. Yeah, that’s right, no ‘losers’ this week. God I’m disgusted in myself. Here we go!

Well, I, and so many others, are not surprised that Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto won Hangtown but the way he won it was indeed a surprise. 1-1 on the day and two soul-crushing defeats for his competition. He was very, very good and it was surprising really with the ease that he won with.

If you’re James Stewart or Ryan Dungey, you’ve got to be a bit discouraged with the way the opening round went, not doubt about it.

Ryan Sipes was a standout performer at Hangtown in place of Davi Millsaps. Image: Simon Cudby.

Ryan Sipes was a standout performer at Hangtown in place of Davi Millsaps. Image: Simon Cudby.

Rockstar Racing’s Ryan Sipes only found out that he was riding 450s the week after the last round of Supercross. Filling in for the injured Davi Millsaps, Sipes went out at Hangtown and busted out a sixth overall.

Great job for him and he’s a sleeper pick for this summer. I don’t think he can podium but he can be right there most weekends as he’s in shape and he’s fast. Don’t forget, the last time Sipes rode the 450 nationals for the full year he was just outside the top five at season’s end.

Ken Roczen was fast. We all knew this. But like Villopoto, the Red Bull KTM rider’s 1-1 ride was more than the usual impressive-cause-he-went-1-1-type deal. Nope, Kenny came from ninth to first in the first moto and checked out.

Roczen was gone out there and there wasn’t anyone who stop the former world champ. Last year he was fast but faded at the end, this year there doesn’t appear to be any fading. The German was a surprise, no doubt about it.

And way back behind Roczen was Motoconcepts’ Jake Canada, who won’t get much press for his 16-17 day, but you have to be at the race and look deeper than just the results.

Canada fell in both motos and all told passed over thirty riders combined to get those scores. That shows a lot of heart and determination and you could tell at the end of the day, he was worked. Do I think Jake can win or podium? No, but he caught my eye at Hangtown for his rides. Some good stuff for the privateer.

Still in the 250 Class, I thought that Star Racing Yamaha’s Cooper Webb was pretty good also. On a day where many were anticipating his amateur rival’s debut (Adam Cianciarulo didn’t make it, he was sick) it was Webb who made a name with his very strong fifth in the first moto.

Webb was 10th in the second moto when he stalled it on the last lap. Heartbreak as eight riders passed him on the last lap and his overall score put him 11th overall but if you give him his last lap spot of 10th, he’s seventh overall and a lot more people are talking about him. His fitness was very good as was his speed.

Cooper Webb made a promising professional debut. Image: Simon Cudby.

Cooper Webb made a promising professional debut. Image: Simon Cudby.

We’ll see, generally speaking the rookies who have been focusing on outdoors get the jump on the vets at the first round so I’ll be watching Webb to see if he fades at all but I’m thinking he’s pretty legit.

We’ve seen N-Fab/Ti-Lube Yamaha’s Phil Nicoletti run up front before in the 250MX class in years past but for whatever reasons, he’s rarely been able to be consistent. The New York privateer is fast but he just suffers from bad luck time and time again.

Nicoletti was like Charlie Brown going to kick the football, just when you think he’s going to do it, the ball gets yanked away from him. But at Hangtown, in his first ever 450MX national, ‘Filthy’ Phil went 11-11 on the Yamaha for, yep, 11th overall.

Nicoletti also came from the back to get those scores. Phil’s really coming into his own this year, his first on the 450, and we saw that at Hangtown. I was impressed, no doubt about it.

Travis Preston came back after five years or so of retirement for one race and scored points in both 450MX motos which is probably better than most thought. Preston was also the top scoring JGRMX rider, which probably caused owner Coy Gibbs to down a bottle of Tums afterwards.

And Weston Peick, as much of a real privateer as there is these days, again got a top 10 overall ahead of a lot of fast guys who have better bikes and make more money. Peick’s not able to do all the nationals due to the costs but the ones that he does do, he gets top 10s. And then he continues being a privateer for some reason. Someone hire this guy!