PulpMX's Steve Matthes checks in direct from the US every Thursday, presented by Fox.
With the cancellation of the Mexico Grand Prix, the World Championship calendar opened up quite a bit and us people in America benefitted greatly from that. In some sort of NAFTA-type move, we were graced with the presence of a couple of world class riders at Lakewood, Colorado.
Rockstar Suzuki riders Clement Desalle and Kevin Strijbos brought their suspension, exhausts and controls and raced round two of the AMA nationals. They were supported over here by Rockstar Racing, the team that the injured Davi Millsaps rides for (a bit of a curious move and indeed gives you a look into the relationship between Suzuki and Rockstar) and they brought a good chunk of their team over as well.
It was pretty cool to see both of these riders over here with Desalle now racing his third career USA national (plus his time here for the Lakewood MXDN) and having scored on the podium in three out of four motos he had raced. Strijbos had never been over here before and would be a rookie to the scene.
Desalle qualifying second certainly opened some eyes and Strijbos was inside the top ten so it seemed that things were set up for both of these invaders to mix up the overall points on the day. Indeed there was some heavy betting action around the pits with industry people – most had agreed that Desalle would be on the podium but not have anything for the two Ryan’s – Villopoto and Dungey.
And Desalle was very good in the first moto as he hung with the lead pack of the two Ryan’s, Justin Barcia and Trey Canard. He rode strong and pressured the riders at times. A fifth was very good for the Belgium who seemed to carry his indifferent attitude to the media over the pond.
Strijbos was perhaps more impressive than Desalle because of being down in the first turn. He was 25th after lap one and ended up 10th in a ride that saw him come from a ways back to catch and pass riders like Dean Wilson, Broc Tickle among others.
“I just tucked the front end and lost it,” Strijbos said about his first turn crash. “After that I had a good ride and pushed hard to get tenth. But I was really tired with the altitude.” Without much of an intermission due to live TV (about an hour) the Europeans did appear to be affected by the altitude of Denver (over 5000 feet or 1655m above sea level) and didn’t appear to be as strong.
Desalle had a good start but was hunted down and passed by Mike Alessi and Strijbos bettered his moto one result but not by much as he brought it home in 8th. All in all, a sixth overall for Desalle and ninth for Strijbos -not too shabby indeed.
“The second race, I couldn’t push that hard in the beginning,” said the chatty Belgian (and that wouldn’t be Desalle). “I knew it was going to be a long race so I slowed down a bit. But first time here, I’m really happy with the way things went.”
Strijbos went on to talk about the need to get more dialed in for round three this weekend at Muddy Creek, Tennessee. “We tested the bike only two days and we have more work to do. I need to work on the starts. There’s a little difference between factory bikes and production bikes. I feel really good on this bike here but it is a bit different.”
Something that we over here have heard from European riders who make the trek over here (and even for quasi-European Zach Osborne) was the one day format and quick, timed practices take some getting used to. Learning the tracks, taking your time with bike set-up is not something the American riders do and it’s an adjustment. Strijbos noticed it big time.
“It’s definitely tough, I need to get used to it. I’m not a guy to jump everything on the second lap and here I had to. I like how they do everything in one day here, but it’s a little more intense. It’s a bit higher intensity than the GP’s as the riders go all out right from the start.”
Both riders showed that no matter where a race is held, they’re among the very best and the American racers and fans were presented with a gift this past weekend. Can’t wait to see what both guys can do with one more week of being acclimated and knowing how everything works.
Although neither guy is going to claim a win while they’re here, I think that we’re winners for being able to see them and those guys definitely did open some American fans eyes with their performances.