It’s that time of year again when the MXGP makes its way across the pond to the United States, and this past weekend I got to sit back on the sofa and watch the US MXGP live from Jacksonville, Florida. When I saw the track on TV I thought, wow, that doesn’t look like the track I was at a few years ago. It’s amazing what a whole lot of money will do, or is it the camera angles and all the banners and billboards lined up around the track? I was happy to see that they really stepped it up for this GP. The track is basically a sand track with a ton of jumps that were built up for this oneoff event, but I thought the jumps seemed a little extreme for a GP race. It looked more like an outdoor supercross track, which explains why the MX2 America riders did so well. If you can ride sand and ride supercross at the same time, you had a good chance of doing well, but I can’t imagine the other world class riders were very excited to compete on a track like that. I somehow always think that a MXGP track should look like Unadilla.
In qualifying on Saturday, I was surprised to see Tomac way back in 13th, because I kind of expected him to be around the top 5. Was this a bit of a game or does it not really matter what happens on Saturday? I know there is a strategy; you need to do half decent so you get a good gate pick but you don’t want to burn out on Saturday. The way the starting gate was positioned, if you were in the top 15 you were safe. I was now looking forward to seeing if Tomac would hang it out on Sunday or were the Euro riders that much better? The week before we saw Herlings go 1-1 for the overall at the final round of the AMA Nationals at Ironman. Okay, yes, I know Tomac didn’t need to win the event, all he had to do was finish in the top 10 to be crowned the 2017 Champ. There was no reason for Tomac to get sucked into a battle with the 3-time MX2 Champ. Strange as this might sound, Tomac said in an interview, “I was leading and Herlings made the pass on the first lap, and I thought, ‘okay mister, let’s see what you have’ and before I knew it I was laying on the ground. I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ I need to smarten up and focus on the championship and not my EGO. I picked up my bike and I noticed my clutch lever was bent and pointing down. I tried moving it back but it was jammed and I would have to ride the balance of the race with no real clutch. I was so mad when I returned to my pit after the race. Why did I risk throwing the championship away?” As we all know now, Eli regrouped and rode smart for the second moto and ended up the 2017 AMA outdoor champ.
Race day came on Sunday and it was a two-moto format. The gate drops and Tomac is up front. Wow, I knew this was going to be exciting. Herlings and Cairoli were back in sixth and eighth. Would Eli be able to stretch out a lead and pull away, or would the sand specialist reel him in? I was pumped to see the factory Kawasaki AMA Champ hold off the Euro duo and win the first moto. That was a great race and I was happy to see that Tomac didn’t just roll around because he had to be there. Moto 2 will be the real test. The gate dropped and Cairoli was out front and looking like he was on a mission. Herlings wasn’t too far behind and Tomac was in tow! By the half way mark Herlings made the pass and checked out for the win. Tony finished a solid second and the AMA Champ cruised in for third overall. Not at all what I expected to happen. I am pretty sure Eli will be pissed that he wasn’t able to win in front of his fans. I don’t think the fans were disappointed though. They knew it wouldn’t be easy to beat Herlings in the sand, especially after seeing his display the weekend previous. Overall, I thought the USGP went off well. Do I think there are better tracks in America that could have hosted it? No question, of course there are.
Looking at the calendar, the next big event is the MXoN in England. The best of the best will be there representing their countries. I sure hope our Canadian riders don’t have any issues or bad luck. If they ride to their full abilities I don’t see why they can’t finish in the top 10. Shawn Maffenbeier is looking smooth and fast, lots of confidence after winning the CMRC MX2 Championship. Then we have the four-time MX1 Champ Colton Facciotti. You know he will give it 110%. I think this track is perfect for Colton. You need to be smooth and technical. He rode at Matterley Basin the last time the MXON was held there back in 2006, so he’s already somewhat familiar with the terrain. Then we have Tyler Medaglia. I know he will give it everything he has to put his team first. I hope they get good gate picks. That really makes the difference between getting a great start or starting in the back. If you’re a true Canadian and a true MX fan, I am sure you will be yelling at the TV like I will be on October 1st. Good luck guys.