Welcome to 2017 and another glorious year in Canadian motocross. As we focus our attention on the Monster Energy Supercross Series for the first part of the year, it will be interesting to see how new Honda rider Ken Roczen fairs in his first season riding red. Ken Roczen, and his teammate Cole Seely will be racing the all-new 2017 CRF450R in Supercross and everyone at Honda couldn’t be more excited. Once the supercross series is complete, we’ll turn our attention to the Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals where the Honda Canada Fox GDR Racing Team will hit the track with their talented duo of Colton Facciotti and Dylan Wright. What an exciting 2017 we have ahead of us and we couldn’t do it without the support of Honda Canada Racing. Now it’s time for your weekly Honda Canada Racing Monday Gate Drop.
Good day and Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend. I noticed on Social Media that a few lucky riders actually got out on their bikes in Southern Ontario. With above average temperatures, a few sand tracks have actually been rideable, which is obviously very rare for this time of year. With just over a month until we get a real glimpse of spring, one can only hope that soon the snow will be gone and the sun will be out. We’re actually almost to the time of year when our motocross families start thinking about heading south to do some well deserved pre-season riding. With plenty of tracks and facilities to chose from all over the USA, finding a place that fits all of your needs should be no problem. Also, as I mentioned last week, Kourtney Lloyd has officially be named the Manager for Team Canada for the 2017 MX0N in England. Kourtney did a great job last year and we’re looking forward to seeing her effort this time around.
Alright, onto this past weekend’s news and the drama that unfolded inside Angel Stadium. After a very tame opening round in Anaheim a few weeks ago, round three of the 2017 Monster Energy SX Series provided two incidents that involved some series changing consequences. I guess I will begin with the first incident of the evening, and that was the heat race alteration between Vince Friese and Jason Anderson. As we all know by now, Anderson wasn’t at all happy with Friese’s riding and let him know it after that race by not only verbally assaulting him but also physically. These types of actions obviously have no place in our sport, so rightfully Anderson was DQ’d from the rest of the night and scored zero points at round three. Considering he was sitting fourth in the points standings, this penalty was a pretty big deal. With good reason, the message boards of our sport lit up with opinions and anti-Friese rhetoric. Even though I’m not a fan of Friese’s riding at all, in this case his move on Anderson didn’t really appear to be his fault. After going into the right hand corner on the inside, it looked like Anderson (who entered the same corner on the left) squared up and cut back down in hopes of passing another rider. When Anderson cut down, Friese’s Honda was there and they all collided, causing a pile up and then the subsequent blow up after the race. Friese has definitely pulled some idiot moves over the years and is widely considered by his peers to be the most dangerous rider on the track, but in this one instance, I don’t think he was to blame.
The problem is that, like most reckless riders, Friese has a reputation as a rider who always seems to get good starts and runs a decent pace, but when faster riders try to pass him, he then begins weaving all over track, taking riders out, and just generally being a complete moron on a dirt bike. This is the stuff that we just see on television or from the stands. Knowing riders like this quite well, I’m sure he also jumps across on other riders over jumps, blocks them during timed practice and goes out of his way to try and get in the other riders’ heads. We all saw this firsthand a few years ago at the Canadian Nationals when he acted like a bully right from the time he landed on Canadian soil. This is simply what Vince Friese is and he’s not going to change. If he was then he would have a year ago when Weston Peick almost knocked him out. It’s weird because off the track Friese is quiet and very introverted, sometimes even struggling to make eye contact when you’re speaking with him. However, on the track and with a helmet on, he takes on a completely different persona, one that puts other riders’ lives at risk.
With all of this said, I totally agree with Anderson’s penalty on Saturday night as he should’ve known better. Knowing that he’s an emotional guy, his team should’ve immediately grabbed him and made him calm down. He has much more to lose than Friese and he should know that better than anyone. But those moments following a race are adrenaline filled minutes, and sometimes reason and thought don’t come into play. Trust me, I’ve done some stupid things and said some stupid things in the moments after a race, only to reflect on them a while later and realize that I over reacted and must have looked foolish. The thing I don’t understand in all of this is why a rider like Vince Friese, who has such a long history of these types of incidents, has never really been punished. To me this is the real question in our sport as over the years we’ve witnessed sanctioning bodies all over the planet struggle with dealing with these types of riders. During the 2014 MX2 battle in Canada, Friese made his presence felt immediately by running his mouth on the podium, blocking riders in practice, and making contact with other riders numerous times. When I saw Friese wait for Jeremy Medaglia during timed practice in Calgary, block him and cause Jeremy to fall, it was clear that something had to be done, and fast. Well, other than some stern talk, nothing was done and we all saw how it escalated throughout the summer and then came to a head in Ulverton with Kaven Benoit. Whether Friese was to blame for the incident on Saturday night in Anaheim or not, when you have a rider who is constantly involved in this type of drama, I think he should be suspended until a comprehensive review of his riding can be done. Bring in a panel of experts in our sport and determine if he, and other riders like him, should be allowed to compete in SX. As we sadly witnessed in the 450SX main event with Ken Roczen, this sport is dangerous enough on its own without having to deal with goons like Vince Friese.
So with one major incident overwith at Anaheim 2, during the 450SX main event we had to witness this series take a dramatic turn for the worse when the points leader, Ken Roczen, had a massive get off. Over the years there has been a few big crashes by this sport’s best riders. Ricky Carmichael had a few, James Stewart had too many to count, Chad Reed, Ryan Villopoto, the list goes on. Basically, these guys are very talented, but they’re also human, and when they crash, it sometimes can be violent. Well, I think it’s safe to say that Roczen’s crash on Saturday night was brutal, and as much as his list of injuries from it are serious, I think we all can agree that he got very lucky. Whether it was strength, the limited rebound from his factory suspension, or just luck, the fact that he was able to keep his body level in air I think saved him from serious injury, or even worse had he landed head first. I’m sure the data acquired from Roczen’s LitPro device will tell his team just how hard his body and how many G’s he pulled on impact. I bet that data would absolutely blow our minds. Yes, it sucks that Roczen is now out, his list of injuries will require multiple surgeries over the next few days, leaving him off the bike for perhaps the remainder of the year. Sadly the air has been taken out of the series for now, something that will probably change in the coming weeks though as Dungey isn’t that much better than everyone else. His teammate is fast, Jason Anderson will be on a tear, Tomac should get better, Webb will be better, and Reed should be better in the East. There are a few riders who can win and I think there are still some great battles in the future. However, like the Friese incident, the officials in SX must learn from Roczen’s crash!
I think what happened to Roczen gave us the first glimpse of the downside of making the races longer. I love this idea from a fan’s perspective as it gives everyone a chance to see their favourite riders more. But, from a rider’s point of view I think this could be dangerous if something isn’t done soon. With an already tight schedule, due to the live television time constraints, proper track maintenance has become very difficult. Add in the fact that riders are riding more laps than ever before in the evening and these man made tracks are getting beat up. I’m not saying that is why Roczen crashed, but this is going to be an issue in the coming weeks and months as the series moves east and tracks are softer. Imagine a 25 lap main event in Toronto or Indianapolis? I’ve walked the Toronto track at the end of the night and it’s in rough shape. The jumps are rutted, you can see the floor in some places, it’s a mind field of trouble. Hopefully more time can be found to work on the track as it looked very beat up on Saturday night, even before the main event started. Obviously, Roczen hit a bad line on the take off of that jump. Whether it was bad luck or a momentary lapse of concentration, only he knows. That particular section looked bad, as did the whooped out sand section, as most riders commented after the race. The Anaheim 2 track was going away very quickly and most were just trying to survive. This sport is not unlike any other, it needs to be proactive instead of reactive, and it needs to take the necessary steps to ensure that these types of crashes are as preventable as humanly possible.
Well, that is it for me this week. I hope we never have to witness another crash like Roczen’s in Anaheim, or another incident involving Vince Friese. This is the top series in the world and it needs to reflect that with its rules and how it deals with incidents like we saw on Saturday. I hope everyone has a great week and a safe week. It was good to chat with Kaven Benoit on Friday and hear that he’s doing well and has begun his healing process. He’ll be back, and knowing Kaven, he’ll be back better than ever.