Pulpmx's Steve Matthes checks in direct from the US every Thursday, presented by Fox.
As I type this somewhere over the middle of America on my way to the Motocross des Nations, I think back to some of the more memorable MXDN’s I’ve been lucky enough to attend or work at. The count is at seven for me as either a media member or as an actual real live member of Team USA.
Although I would have loved to have been lucky enough to go to the Unadilla 1987 event (I guess mom and dad couldn’t make it happen), let me offer this advice on the event: if you can ever go, try to make it to one in Europe as opposed to the USA.
Nothing wrong with the USA ones, they’re great but they lack the multi-cultural patriotism that you get at the ones in Europe. There’s something to be said for seeing people from all over converge on one country to cheer for their countrymen.
And also the European riders seem to be a bit slower at the USA ones for whatever reason-or maybe the USA riders are faster (probably more likely) so the racing is better over there. And also, the USA ones does not have those small little waffle stands so there’s that. I’m just trying to cover all the bases.
I thought I’d take you readers down memory lane with some of my experiences at the various MXDN’s with the fresh outlook of years away from the event. Okay, get ready and buckle in. Here we go…
2003 – Zolder, Belgium
This was the one and only time I got to be a member of Team USA (and pardon my pessimism for thinking it’s not going to happen again. Then again some American media members seem to think they’re on the team judging by the amount of jackets and shirts they wear. What? Us be objective?) and honestly I mostly remember it as a pretty miserable experience.
Team USA was not all-in back then like they are now. Ricky Carmichael brought a couple of guys from Honda, Ryan Hughes brought some guys from KTM and it was me, a suspension guy and a helper for Team USA helping out Tim Ferry. I don’t think I saw Ryno or the KTM guys much, RC and the Honda guys pitted out of a van and us in the paddock garages that had no security at all.
It was a fractured team in a sense and not like it is now. Although I do now have a sense of what it’s like to be one of those rock stars as the flash bulbs going off for Team USA in the waiting area was insane. Seriously, I had to put sunglasses on, it was nuts and a scene that I will never forget. The USA hadn’t gone to this event in a few years and the European press was very excited to see us.
It was very cold also and I chased the jetting all day on the Yamaha YZ450F as the temperatures changed drastically all day long. And Ferry crashed on the first lap of the first practice and tore ligaments in his thumb.
So he struggled all day long and the format was one moto-that was it. Of course Carmichael rode phenomenal out there in chasing down and beating Stefan Everts but it wasn’t enough as Ferry crashed 63 times, Hughes had a chain fall off and we finished second. And that may as well have been 42nd as we were all pretty depressed. A lot of work and not very much fun is what I take away from that day in Zolder.
2007 – Budds Creek, USA
I was now out as a mechanic and simply able to enjoy these races for what they are. As a Canadian living in America I wanted my friends on Team USA to win but if they didn’t, hey that was okay also. I had plenty of friends on other countries also. And this one you’ll remember wasn’t even close.
RC, Ferry and Ryan Villopoto waxed the field and the expected showdown between Villopoto and then MX World Champion Antonio Cairoli didn’t happen as I don’t think Antonio even saw Villopoto out there all day long. RV won both his motos on the small bike (joining Steve Lamson as the only other rider to do that) and it was a rout.
I was happy for my friend Tim Ferry to finally get his MXDN revenge as he put in two good rides coming from the back to win the MX3 class. And the after party right there at the track was also pretty amazing and a lot of fun. I drove from the party right to the airport smelling of booze and with birthday cake stains on my clothes courtesy of a food fight.
2008 – Donington, England
A good race on not a very good track (it had been built just for this race) but it was easy to see, I remember that. Team USA once again pulls off the win when it didn’t look very good at one point due to James Stewart crashing and not being able to start his bike. But my buddy Tim Ferry came through with enough passes in the third moto to clinch it for Team USA.
Ferry was now an American hero and I was now jealous that I couldn’t be on a winning Team USA. I can think back and be surprised that Sebastian Pourcel was very fast as was Tommy Searle on the sawdust-laden jump-filled track. Zach Osborne was now forced to the GPs and he rode well on the 450 as did a French kid named Boissiere.
2009 – Franciacorta, Italy
Team USA won again but I can’t honestly remember much more about this race other than Chad Reed was very fast on the Suzuki, Cairoli was good but he crashed out and Jake Weimer rode surprisingly well. In fact, right now I can’t remember if I even went or not. Weird, right?
2010 – Colorado, USA
Back in the USA once again the American team of Trey Canard, Andrew Short and Ryan Dungey trailed going into the third moto to Germany but then Short holeshot, Dungey was not far behind and the red, white and blue did it again.
This was billed as the match-up of Cairoli and Dungey and although Cairoli wasn’t prepared 100 percent (due to an ankle injury and he didn’t think he was going as the Italian Federation was being difficult) he put in a good showing as he diced with Dungey in the first moto.
Admitting afterwards that the altitude had gotten to him, he had to have impressed a lot of Americans there with his strong riding. Also Ben Townley absolutely cleaned out Andrew Short in one moto and bent the bike up so bad the Honda guys were forced to go to the back-up bike as there wasn’t enough time to change all the parts needed. BT was not a popular guy with Team USA right there and then.
The Red Bull after-party was once again fantastic only interrupted by Josh Hansen attempting to goad me into fighting him (I walked away, it was too nice of a night to fight anyone) for something I had written about him. Eventually around 4:00am I called No Mas (although there were still plenty of riders there) and headed back to my hotel.
2011 – St Jean D’Angely, France
This one was on a track that was narrow and very rocky. I was surprised that it was a GP track, I didn’t think it was very good. The Americans showed good speed as Ryan Dungey, Ryan Villopoto and Blake Baggett all did what they had to do to bring home the trophy.
Baggett struggled most of the day (especially after the rains came) and I believe Team USA was trailing after two motos. But then the last moto Villopoto and Dungey destroyed everyone to make it happen. I remember Sebastian Pourcel was fast but unlucky and his countryman Gauthier Paulin won a moto outright as did Chad Reed.
The Aussies finally made the podium at this event after years of fielding a strong but unlucky team and the bread and warm meats in the press room made my wife squeamish. I also met a whole bunch of fans of Pulpmx and Pulpmx Show here, enough that it started getting weird for me as I kept getting stopped everywhere and posing for photos.
2012 – Lommel, Belgium
And finally last year, this one wasn’t even close. Held on the deep sand track, we all knew Team USA (Ryan Dungey, Justin Barcia and Blake Baggett) was going to struggle to win but it was surprising just how far off America was.
They had been over there testing for a week or two but it seemed that definitely didn’t pay off as right from the first practice on Saturday the guys were in trouble. And it didn’t get any better from there as the holding-the-mxdn-on-the-local-practice-track-for-many-of-the-fast-Europeans seemed to be a key to success.
With all the hype of Jeffrey Herlings coming in it was cool to see the still somehow underrated Antonio Cairoli come out on top after a terrific charge from the back from Herlings in the third and final moto. Nice to see Germany be there and win their first ever MXdN. I saw more than a couple of German fans crying and it was a fun race all around and Team USA took their defeat in stride.
Hope you enjoyed my little walk down memory lane and I hope this weekend in Germany, I can once again experience the magic that is the MXdN.