Quick thoughts: Anaheim 1

Late nights, bright lights and plenty of fireworks – and that’s after the opening ceremonies! Just where do you start with that madness?! A year of no Anaheim combined with a slightly quirky track complete with whoops that seemed to come from the year 2000, and it was race after race of drama and incident all throughout the night. Supercross was back with a bang at Anaheim!

Except, Ken Roczen missed it all! The German holeshot the main event and only teammate Chase Sexton could stay with him and, once Chase crashed (twice), chasing Roczen, Ken had a 12 second lead and cruised to victory with that smooth, effortless style that was in complete contrast to everyone and everything else that happened in the main event! He will have to watch it on TV to understand the drama.

Sexton showed he has the speed but impatience cost him and he admitted to getting too emotional after the first crash that lead to crash number two. Once he gets that first win, though, look out! His determination to come back to fight, and nearly get fourth on the final line, underline how badly he wants it this year. He has the speed to get it too with just a touch more calmness.

Cooper Webb did it again. Not great in practice or the heat, nor even the first few laps of the main, he re-grouped despite the carnage around him and pulled back through to second. This was mental strength and making the best of a relatively bad day for the champ. I asked Cooper in the post-race press conference what was going through his mind early in the main and he said he wanted to work out who would be there in the end, not panic, be aware of who was around him and work out the passing places. That cold analysis in the heat of the moment, even if things aren’t going his way, is why he doesn’t make many mistakes and figures out the best way around the riders and the best way around track as it deteriorates. It’s impressive that Webb ended up with his best result in the first round of the series in his 450 career when speed wise, that didn’t look likely for most of the day. Webb just makes it happen.

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Star Racing Yamaha had a relative disaster in the context of their ambition – except for Christian Craig’s brilliant and flawless race win in the 250 division. He was superb all day with that silky smooth riding style and flow but for everyone else the day was a struggle.

Poor Colt Nichols was injured while leading the first heat when he went over the bars in a violent endo crash in the big whoops that means both arms needing surgery.

Two bad starts in the main event for Tomac and Ferrandis ended with Tomac coming home sixth, benefitting from staying up when many went down. Ferrandis actually passed Tomac on his way through the field, and had a chance of the top five only to stall when Sexton passed him and ultimately end up a disappointing 16th. The debrief wouldn’t have been pretty in that truck and this week won’t be easy either. Star Racing don’t do losing and with all the investment in riders and tracks, these results simply won’t cut it for another two or three weeks in a row if they want to be in a 450 title challenge. Solutions, especially starts, need to be found soon.

Justin Barcia lived up to his Bam Bam title to put Jason Anderson down – then say it was a great racing pass in the press conference and he only touched him a little bit! Barcia, though, it must be said, rode really well again to get on the box but you had to feel sorry for Jason Anderson who looked set to take second until Barcia, who admitted Anderson was faster, made a quick re-pass because he feared Jason would pull away. Anderson showed, however, that he has adapted to the aluminium framed green machine and will be a factor this year.

Aldon Baker had an interesting day. Firstly, Cooper Webb had a cartoon drawing on the back of his helmet of himself lying on the couch eating crisps and having a great off-season. Baker of course trains Plessinger, who didn’t have a great day although turned it around a bit in the main to take a top ten, but no Aldon no doubt saw Webb’s tongue-in-cheek helmet design all day long in the KTM truck!

Image: Align media

Interesting situation number two for Aldon involved another former rider, Marvin Musquin, who took out Malcolm Stewart in an aggressive pass that didn’t quite work out. Marvin was fast all night and still took fourth but credit must go to Baker for the performance of Stewart all day – he was flying. Malcolm looked superb, leaner and meaner as (Marvin’s ears will attest) when Malcolm marched over and screamed in his face after the main! The normally jovial Stewart has his game face on this year, he’s serious and he has serious talent. Baker might just take him to the next level this year.

Shane McElrath really impressed as well, especially early but the intensity is high in 450 supercross and McElrath eventually finished 18th. Adam Cianciarulo rode in third for longer than I expected with a sore shoulder and just missed out on a top ten in 11th, not bad for less than a week in the bike. Joey Savtagy was a quietly effective eighth with Max Anstie a good 14th in a #deepfield.

Hunter Lawrence also impressed after his crash in the 250 main to come back to third and nearly take second at last turn. Hunter got more comfortable each time out and was trucking at the end – he might be Craig’s biggest title rival. Although Michael Mosiman might have something to say about that! The Gas Gas rider was flying until Dylan Walsh hit him early in the main forcing Mosiman to come from the back, but you would think Mosiman’s day on top of the podium isn’t far away if he can gate better and stay out of trouble.

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It was a bad day for Justin Bogle who went for an unnecessary rushed pass for the lead in the LCQ and went down, missing the main by a spot. Little Alex Martin also missed the main just when it looked like he would qualify, until he got completely taken out by Cade Clason – that was a ruthless move!

Round two at Oakland has a lot to live up to, but there might be even more motivation from some riders to right the wrongs of the opener and some scores for others to settle. It can’t come soon enough.

Article: Jonathan McCready

Images: Feld Entertainment Inc.