Hanging out at Hangtown

Things don’t slow down over here in the USA. The racers that did well in the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross series, a grueling 17 races in 18 weeks, got about a week off and then it was onto the 12 round Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship which launched this weekend in Northern California.

Quite a shock to the senses to see the racers whipping up and down the hills, getting into fourth and fifth gear and hanging it out: if supercross is a ballet then motocross is a football game.

Here’s some highs and lows from a wet opening round:

HIGH: Ken Roczen. The German captured his first overall win in two years and although he had won motos before, never an overall win in that time frame. It also signifies a comeback of sorts from his 2017 crash in supercross and it was clear from the start of practice that Roczen was feeling it. Fastest qualifier, dominant moto one win and although he wasn’t able to sweep it (Eli Tomac took the win in a rainy moto two), he showed everyone that he was on his game to start the series.

Roczen’s been up-and-down indoors this year attributing his down days to a physical condition that makes him feel tired. I asked him about that after his great ride. “I – kinda – surprisingly felt pretty damn good today. I covered all my bases,” he said. “It had something to do with the lime and all the antibiotics that I was on that wiped me out completely, literally. Struggled big time with it, and now though there’s nothing that I can do right now. So I almost have to work myself back up. We’re doing some smart training and good work and see where we can be week in, week out. Right now I just kind of have to work myself back up.”

HIGH: Jason Anderson. The 2018 450SX champion likes to put out the slacker image but he had obviously been doing his homework while out with an injury as he went 2-5 for third overall. The first moto was very impressive as, on a mostly dry track, he got caught by Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac and if he had been passed by them in his first race back after being out for months, it would be forgiven. But nope, the #21 rallied, passed and pulled away from both of those guys. Third overall on the day was very impressive.

HIGH: Adam Cianciarulo. The kid rebounded from his crushing Vegas SX defeat pretty well huh? From all over Yamaha’s Justin Cooper at the end of moto one to running away with moto two, AC captured his second career national win in style and after all that happened a few weeks ago, maybe it was his most important win as well. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider was, for the most part, a picture of controlled riding all day long. AC losing the SX title but winning the MX title would be quite a surprise.

HIGH: Star Yamaha. Between Dylan Ferrandis, Justin Cooper and Colt Nichols, it was quite a day for the Star Yamaha guys at the opener. Cooper won moto one with his two teammates right there. Second moto it was again the Yamahas up-front everywhere you looked with Cooper and Nichols ending up on the box overall with Ferrandis fourth. Yes, it’s going to be a great summer for the BluCru yet again.

LOW: Baggett. What would the opening round of motocross be without Blake Baggett struggling a bit? Seriously, it’s a trend here the last few years as he just can’t seem to get his KTM near the front. It can’t be a California thing because Blake’s from there but there’s no doubt he gets better as the series goes on. In Hangtown, he was in the top ten but barely.

HIGH: Todd. Wilson Todd could be forgiven for the AMA spelling his name “Todd Wilson” on the pre-entry lists because he was that unknown. The Aussie’s been really good ‘down under’ this year and showed up as a full privateer at the opener. At the end of the day a lot of people knew his name as he went 15-9 for 12th overall out of a van. In the sloppy second moto he looked right at home holding-off much more experienced racers.

LOW: Covington. The Rockstar Husqvarna rider elected to ease-off the Supercross and was supposed to shine outdoors but Hangtown didn’t go well and the mystery as to why Covington can’t seem to get it together here in the USA continues.

HIGH: Rookies. Derek Drake made his debut for the TLD KTM team and Ty Masterpool did the same for the Star Yamaha guys. Both rookies had some shining moments out there and showed they fit in with the pros. How they go from here we’ll see but flashes of speed were noticeable. Drake has been projected by many as having title potential while Masterpool’s jump to the Pros was unexpected by the people that follow the scene. Interesting subplots for both of the kids.

LOW: Judgment. As in, making hard and fast decisions about riders after one round of the outdoors. We’ve seen some weirdo results at Hangtown both good and bad as riders either have a supercross hangover or they’re not used to the adaptation to motocross. Things settle down a few rounds in and we see more normalcies in the class so I’m not going to take everything I see at Hangtown as gospel, that’s for sure.

HIGH: Wacko. Zach Osborne’s first ever 450MX race went really well. Like, he was pretty much the fastest rider on the track in the second moto in the mud and in the first moto he wore down the two-time 450MX champion Eli Tomac late in the race to pass him for 4th. He then tipped over and gave it right back but either way, Osborne just missed a podium overall but his eyeball test was pretty good. “I’m happy with it. The only thing that I can be bummed-on is I fell with two to go in the first moto, which cost me a podium,” Osborne told us afterwards. “So it would have been 4-3 for a podium but to start 5-3 and have some good sensation and kind of find my feet right-off the bat is really nice. It’s a total switch around, opposite deal to supercross where I was struggling. So I feel really good about it. I think next weekend is going to be good again.”

By Steve Matthes @pulpmx

Photos by HRC/Husqvarna/Cudby/Monster Energy