July is here already and the weather is getting pretty hot and humid. That must mean only one thing! Yes, it’s time to head to Gopher Dunes for Round 5 of the Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals presented by Motovan. I can’t remember a Gopher race without some crazy kind of extreme heat. I hope the riders are in shape for one of the toughest tracks on the planet. That’s how John Dowd referred to the track a few years back. I get asked by a lot of riders outside Canada wondering if it’s really that rough. I usually say, “Why don’t you go and check it out on YouTube and get back to me.” It’s difficult to explain how a flat piece of land with some sand can turn in to a nightmare of a track. For the sand specialists like Matt Georke and Cole Thompson, this will be putting a smile on their faces. They know this track like the back of their hand. If you look at all the top MX1 riders, they are all decent sand riders. Colton by default knows that sand well and I am sure hope he can bounce back and get on the podium. Brett Metcalfe has had some great results in the sand, so I am expecting him to be up front too. How about Benoit? I saw him beat Jimmy Decotis straight up in the sand. Yes, it was on a two-stroke but you still need to know how to ride sand regardless. Mike Alessi, who lives in Florida, knows the sand very well, I expect him to do well too. I hear Vince might not show up for Gopher because apparently he is still struggling after his big crash at Nanaimo a few weeks ago. The big question is, how will Millsaps do in the sand? Well, I have heard from a few people that he is pretty damn good in sand. Okay, so it’s fair to say that all these riders will be excelling in the sand. So who is the best sand guy out there?
There has been a lot of talk lately about flaggers. Last weekend there was a poor lady that was taken out pretty bad at a race in Ontario. Thank goodness she will be okay. There was a jump on the track that was questionable. The promoter decided that only the riders entered in the Pro/Am class would be allowed to jump the uphill double/triple. Everything was going fine until a pro rider (who was riding in the Under 30 class) went for it! Yes, they said no jumping, but this rider didn’t hear the instructions at riders meeting! This is a huge problem. As the rider attempted to jump, he lost control and his bike was sent in the direction of the flagger. The flagger got the worst of it. This incident was on Saturday, and when Sunday rolled around there were a lot less flaggers volunteering their time. Kind of hard to blame them at that point.
The week before in Regina we had a situation where an MX2 rider went down on lap three. The rider slid out right on the face of the double and ended up swapping out and hitting his head on the ground. The end result, he knocked himself out. Keep in mind I said lap three, so you have thirty-nine riders still battling for position. As the rider went down the flagger on the inside started to wave the red cross flag. This means no jumping at all and you have to keep your wheels on the ground! THAT’S THE RULE! You guessed it. There were approximately eleven riders that jumped the double, right next to the downed rider. Why did eleven riders jump the double? That’s more than 25% of the riders on the track. Here is what I am thinking; the riders are setting up for the double and they need speed so they were railing the berm on the outside. By the time they looked up and committed for the jump it was too late to stop. If the double was 20 feet further down the straightway I believe most would have already had time to look up and see a red cross flag. Remember eleven riders jumped and that’s a big number. I also feel that the flagger could have jumped on to the track to wave the red cross right in front of the riders, or maybe not. This was not an easy one to figure out. It’s one of those events that we all can learn from.
Keep in mind these flaggers are volunteers. They get free food a few dollars for their day’s work. It’s not easy to sit all day in the heat and give 100% to what’s going on. Was the lady that was hit by the bike in the wrong area? Was the flagger in Regina in the wrong area? Was it the riders that made the mistake? I believe this will be a big discussion point this weekend. Let’s hope it’s all positive and we can watch and enjoy some great racing. See you at the races.