2019 supercross preview
Another year and another talented, deep field of riders enter a new supercross season with positive hopes and dreams built off a winter of hard training and testing. But by 10.30 on Saturday night in Anaheim the reality of results will fuel their future motivation.
In what may be a curious scenario for Jason Anderson, the defending champ my not necessarily start as favourite! While Anderson won the title last year he only won four races compared to the eight of Eli Tomac but mistakes are what cost Toma the title for the second year in a row. But it’s that that speed creates the perception that, if he stays away from mistakes, he is the favourite for the title if it comes down to who the fastest rider is.
Tomac had been rumoured to have suffered a pre-season injury, but the reports were never confirmed with Tomac keeping his cards close to his chest. In terms of speed based on the last two years Tomac should win but his bad days are still pretty bad and a mistake is still in his locker. It gives the rest hope and is becoming an increasing frustration for Tomac who doesn’t want to go down as another Damon Bradshaw or Kevin Windham, as one of the best riders to never win a supercross title.
It’s why reigning champ Anderson is smart though, just like Dungey the year before, he held back and didn’t take unnecessary risks with the points lead and managed his championship lead. But will he go for more wins again this year and show extra speed he didn’t need to have in the second half of the year? In a sense the pressure is off Anderson, he has won the title of his dreams, the box is ticked, and people don’t really expect him to win again so he can ride free compared to the rest of his rivals who are still looking for their first title.
Two former GP world champions are still still looking for their first 450 supercross title and both have the talent to do it, but will Marvin Musquin and Ken Roczen put a full season together?
Musquin looked to be in the box seat after winning A1 last year but a shoulder injury and small mistakes plus his whoop issues meant he just came up short of his ultimate goal, but that title chase experiance and riding tips from David Vuillemin should give Musquin his best chance yet of lifting the title. But his window is right now and might now be open much longer as he head towards his 30s, Musquin has to get the job done soon.
We all know the injury trauma Ken Roczen has suffered over the last two seasons. But we all know that he has the most talent of any rider on the supercross track, he should have been champ by now but it’s amazing he is still even out there after the damage to his arm. Roczen is so talented, that even though he may not get back to the level he was before that crash in 2017, he is still good enough to win this title if he stays away from injury.
Roczen should be better than he was last year after admitting he never felt totally comfortable on the bike, and with a full winters testing and a healthy body, the newly married German seems to be in the best place he has been his big arm injury. His positive attitude, talent and self-confidence mean Roczen is very much coming in as a title contender again.
Four rookies are down to three with the injury to Zach Osborne but Justin Hill and Aaron Plessinger in particular are expected to hit the ground running. Hill already showed good speed last year and still maintains his career starts in 2019 now he is finally on a 450 full time. His attitude and love of supercross over motocross is reminiscent of a certain Jeremy McGrath but know he has to deliver on his belief he can win races in 2019.
Aaron Plessinger is coming off two 250 titles and has the size and skills to tame the big 450 Yamaha but how will he come with 17 races in 18 weekends? Joey Savatgy is a solid pick who works hard and has speed as shown in the Monster Cup, he never quite recovered mentally from losing to the 2017 250 supercross title to Zach Osborne and a new class and new goals might rejuvenate Savatgy especially with no real expectations.
Cole Seely was second in the points last year until a huge injury and question marks will be more about his ability to mentally overcome the memories of the crash, but when it comes to talent and precision Seely has the stuff to be a front runner.
Cooper Webb has the most important year of his young career this season. After two years of frustration and injury at Yamaha, Webb has moved to Red Bull KTM, is training with Aldon Baker and practicing with supercross champ Anderson as well as former bitter rival turned teammate Marvin Musquin. He is seeing what it takes to win and is on a bike that should suit him better, Webb has to show what he can really do on a 450 and he has left no stone unturned to find the missing piece.
Justin Barcia is coming into 2019 a lot more prepared that 2018 when he was a fill-in rider for Yamaha, and he came out swinging then until a broken hand ended his title aspirations. Barcia has had a year on the Yamaha is as motivated as ever but you feel good starts will be crucial to his success, if he gets momentum early in the year Barcia could well be a consistent podium contender.
Chad Reed is back on factory equipment and back to full health after a tough 2018 on privateer equipment and riding with an ankle injury. At 36 no-one except Reed expects him to win races but never short on self-confidence, like Barcia if Reed gets the start and some momentum he could spring some surprises!
Malcolm Stewart finally has a team to star the season and by all accounts has finally been taking his fitness training seriously. Stewart’s supercross talent has never been in question but will the rest of the pieces in place now it will be very interesting to see what he can do in 2019, he could be the wildcard of the season.
Add in Dean Wilson doing his own program, the always there’s Justin Brayton, a rapid starting Vince Friese, Justin Bogle and the unassuming but usually fast Blake Baggett and you have deep hungry field ready to hurtle toward turn one on night one of 17 rounds of intense indoor action as they all strive to be the best supercross rider in the world.