Features 3 Oct 2013

The US Report: 39

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

There’s simply nothing like a Motocross des Nations, nothing at all in motocross can touch its passion, uniqueness, format and pressure. It’s the very best riders in the world riding not for money, not for next year’s contract, but for their country. The best of the best and once again this year in Germany, the race didn’t lack for any skill, drama and excitement.

It’s now the day after the race, I’m sitting in my airline seat somewhere over the Atlantic ocean and I’ve composed some thoughts, opinions and observations from the race.

Firstly though, the track and the event itself. Having attended the GP here in 2009 I knew what to expect but the German fans outdid themselves from that cold day in ’09. Coming off their first ever win last year, the fans were packed into the Tuetschenthal track like never before and they were there to drink, party and watch the races in that order.

It as a fantastic atmosphere at the track and German vunder-kind Kenny Roczen gave them what they wanted with two great rides in winning the MX2 overall for the fourth year in a row and even the third MX2/MX3 moto overall, joining the likes of Antonio Cairoli, Steve Lamson, Ryan Villopoto and Sebastian Tortelli in doing that on the small bike.

Crashes and injuries to Jan Ulrich, the third German on the team kept them off the podium but the fans got to see Roczen dominate so I’m sure they were happy.

The track underwent some pretty big changes from the GPs of the past few years. In keeping up with an American tradition there was a lot of soft dirt brought in, watered and till up with the existing hard pack. It made for a very rough track (as did the no-grooming policy put in place for this race apparently) and one that seemed to favor the 250Fs.

The 67th edition of the Motocross of Nations in Germany. Image: Ray Archer.

The 67th edition of the Motocross of Nations in Germany. Image: Ray Archer.

It couldn’t have been a coincidence that race in and race out the MX2 riders won motos, had the fastest times and seemed to be able to get around the tight, rutty circuit better.

In talking to USA’s Justin Barcia afterwards, he made mention that it was harder to get the bigger bike in and out of the corners and stay in the ruts. There were a few theories thrown around by different riders throughout the day but no matter what, the proof is there. This track favored the smaller bikes.

Team Belgium won the whole shooting match with solid consistent rides from Clement Desalle, Ken De Dyker and Jeremy Van Horebeek. The team was one of the countries that people knew had a good shot at winning the whole thing and although they didn’t win an moto, the trio was good enough to win by three points even with dropping Desalle’s 40th place in moto 3 when he crashed in the first turn and dislocated his shoulder.

Big Ken De Dyker was really the hero for the Belgium’s with a fantastic ride in the third moto as he fought hard to eventually get second behind Italy’s Antonio Cairoli. De Dyker had just a so-so moto in the first MX1 race with an eighth so for him to step up and do what he did was key. The Belgium’s won for the first time since 2004 and hooray for them, they earned it with five steady and fast rides.

Team USA is once again wondering what happened after losing for the second year in a row after a eight year win streak. And truthfully the red, white and blue were a bit lacking in raw speed this year. Well for two out of the three members anyways.

GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac was fantastic in both of his motos as he charged up from the back and set the fastest time in his races. But a massive crash in the first moto while right behind Ken Roczen hurt him and although he caught the German rider twice in the third moto, props to Roczen for stepping up and holding Tomac off. Tomac was a rookie on the team but his second overall in the third moto and the speed he showed was really something.

Hometown hero Ken Roczen won the MX2 ranks. Image: Ray Archer.

Hometown hero Ken Roczen won the MX2 ranks. Image: Ray Archer.

Justin Barcia was pretty good on the day but a first turn crash in the third moto held him back. He put in a great charge to get back to 11th and thanks to Desalle’s crash he was able to win the MX3 class but there was no doubt that Desalle was the better man on this weekend. Catching Barcia and passing him in Saturday’s qualifier as well as in the second moto of the day showed us that. Barcia rode well, showed heart in that third moto, but it wasn’t enough.

And then there was Ryan Dungey. There’s no doubt that the Red Bull KTM rider is one of the very best riders in the world but this is now two straight Motocross des Nations where we haven’t seen his best. Dungey got good starts, he was right up there but went backwards in both his motos and finished with a pedestrian 6-7 score in the MX1 class.

And it wasn’t really close either, Dungey struggled out there and one wonders what he can do to correct the problem in future MXDNs. The bike certainly didn’t look great out there but he’s better than what he showed. This won’t go down in the Ryan Dungey career highlight package when it’s all said and done.

And even with all these troubles, had Barcia not crashed in the first turn and just gotten a fifth or if Tomac had gotten a second behind Roczen in the first moto Team USA would be champs again. There’s a tendency to over-react to these things (for more proof check my Twitter feed) but the bottom line is that a lot has to go right for a country to win the MXDN and when you lose, it makes you appreciate the wins that much more. Team USA will be back and they’ll win again one day but on this day, it wasn’t happening.

Italy ended up third and on the box at the MXDN for the first time since that 2004 event in Leirop. Of course their anchor was Antonio Cairoli who swept his class and won two out of the three motos overall. The 222 now has a four moto win streak at the sport’s most prestigious race.

For those people who just can’t accept the fact that Antonio is one of the very best riders anywhere in the world, just read that stat back to yourself. The question mark going into the event was could ex-anchor and former world champion David Phillipaerts do enough to help the team out. On the wrong side of 30 now and his best days behind him, the Italian had a great third moto and was third overall in the MX3 class to help the Italians.

Aussie Dean Ferris was a standout of the 2013 event.

Aussie Dean Ferris was a standout of the 2013 event.

Without question (and despite Chad Reed berating me on Twitter for stating this) Australia’s Dean Ferris was the surprise rider of the weekend. Riding his Dixon Yamaha that is the envy of many in the paddock, Ferris was the fastest qualifier in practice, finished a close second to Roczen in his Saturday race and got second overall on Sunday in the MX2 class with 5-4 scores in the combined motos.

In an interview with Ferris after the race he mentioned that he really wants to come over to the United States and race supercross and motocross. The GP winner this year in MX2 is moving to MX1 next year and then, well then I think we’ll see Ferris try to follow his fellow Aussie’s and make the move to America. He opened a lot of eyes this past weekend.

And my home country, well what can you say? I thought that perhaps there was a chance for a top ten for Canada- they had it all, their own race bikes, great support from Sarholz Honda and three of the very best riders in the country. And trust me, these things haven’t always lined up for the maple leaf.

And unfortunately for me the guys didn’t make the A final and suffered an epic collapse on the last lap of the B final that saw them go from first to fourth. All they washed away was the prize of the winner getting to go to the A final.

Thanks to Josh Coppins, Roger Harvey, Eli Tomac, the USA mechanics and all my fellow media members from other countries for their consoling and well wishes. I feel like Charlie Brown lining up for a kick with Lucy holding the ball. Oh well, there’s always next year right?