Good day and welcome to another edition of the Honda Canada Racing Monday Gate Drop. Time is flying along as we’re almost at the halfway point of March; another week and a half and it’s officially spring. Even though the calendar says that it’s spring time, Mother Nature is having none of it while she insists on giving us one more blast of winter. This past weekend in Ontario, we had weather that resembled mid-January, not mid-March. With any luck, once this passes, that will be it. Even in South Carolina, where I’ve been since Friday, there was a little snow on the ground yesterday morning as a cold front moved through. However, a few hours later it was 10c and the white stuff was gone. As you can imagine, even just a small amount of snow in a southern state like South Carolina can cause havoc on the roads. Thankfully it didn’t last long and today there is no more snow in the forecast.
As I mentioned, this week my family and I are down south for a few days of riding and visiting some friends that live just south of Charlotte. On Saturday, we made our way down to ClubMX for a day of riding. ClubMX is one of many training facilities that are scattered throughout the south, and like most, it is a must visit if you love riding an awesome track. Actually, ClubMX has a few tracks and each one presents its own set of challenges. My son rode the public practice track which has the perfect mixture of loamy clay soil and sand. It looked absolutely superb on Saturday and every rider appeared to be having a blast.
The ClubMX practice facility is also home to a few Canadians during the winter months as Kaven Benoit, Shawn Robinson and most recently Kyle Keast have all spent time there. On Saturday, I was able to watch Shawn Robinson spin some laps aboard his brand new Yamaha. Shawn has made the switch over to the Blu Cru for 2017 and judging by how he looked on Saturday, he’s going to be very fast this summer. Shawn is a strong kid so man-handling the bigger YZ450F should be no problem for him. The Yamaha is also very powerful, even in stock form, but I don’t think Shawn will have any problem with that either. Shawn and I also spoke about his buddy Kaven Benoit who will be back riding at the beginning of April. Benoit is healing up very well from the broken leg he suffered in Germany back in January. I actually ran into Kaven last weekend in Toronto and he looked fit and was walking around really well. You could just see the excitement in his eyes as we spoke about him riding again. We are getting to the time of year when our Canadian pros are beginning to get very serious about their preparation for this summer. With the gate dropping on the 2017 Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals in two and half months, it is ‘go time’ for their really hard training. Most have been riding now for over a month so they all have a good training base built up. Soon it will be time to drop the hammer and build even more endurance for those long national motos that they will have to endure in a few months.
Speaking of injured riders, if you watched the Fox Sports 2 broadcast of the Daytona SX on Saturday night, you hopefully caught the interview Ralph Sheheen did with Ken Roczen. It was Roczen’s first public appearance since his awful crash in January, and he was very detailed about everything that has happened since that fateful night. As Roczen stated on Saturday, he finally gets his fixator removed today and it will be his tenth surgery since he suffered his injuries. He also went into great detail to explain the extent of his injuries, and it sounded worse than I think most people thought. He was talking about broken bones, torn ligaments, cadaver parts and a bunch of other nasty things. In a nutshell, I think his arm is completely messed up and most likely will never be the same. The fact that he came very close to losing that arm in the days following his crash speaks volumes about just how serious his injuries were. He does have the absolute best physicians in his corner. I believe that this is all that gives him even a smidgen of hope to one day return to racing. Well, that and the massive amount of determination that he has. You could hear it in his voice on Saturday night.
To listen to Roczen speak to Ralph almost brought tears to my eyes as you could also hear the pain in his voice when he spoke about what he’s been through. Obviously everyone takes risks when they start a dirt bike and head into competition, or even to the practice track for that matter. These risks are understood by all of us, however. As humans we are programmed to believe that bad stuff isn’t going to happen to us. If we didn’t think like this then most of us probably would never ride a bike, or even get into a car. In the minutes, hours, days and weeks before his big crash, Roczen was at the top of the game and 2017 was looking like his year. But, as we saw, that dream was over in an instance, and his destiny possibly altered forever. Just like another Honda rider who was injured while at the very top of his game, I was at Gatorback Cyclepark when Danny Storbeck landed on Rick Johnson, destroying his wrist. At the time, Johnson had rolled into Gatorback as the winner of five of the first six supercross races in 1989. No one was on Johnson’s pace that year and it appeared to be a dominating year for the California rider. Then in practice at the season’s first outdoor national of the year, he was injured and was never really the same. Oh sure, Johnson came back in 1990 and still managed to win a few races, but his ability to ride the way he wanted to had vanished. If Roczen is able to return to the level he was at just prior to his crash, I think it will obviously take a very long time. Thankfully, he is young, determined, and he’s under absolutely the best care possible.
I thought the actual racing in Daytona was pretty good, maybe not from a normal fan’s perspective, but as someone who just enjoys watching the best SX riders on the planet race on the toughest track of the series. I read on Social Media that a lot of people were complaining about the Daytona track being one lined and miserable. While I’m not the biggest fan of Ricky Carmichael designed race tracks, the 2017 Daytona track looked okay. I feel like the Daytona SX is kind of like a fraternity onto itself, meaning that you can only know what it’s really like by racing it yourself. On television, or from the stands, the track never looks as bad as it really is. With the bomb holes, ruts, deep sand, and hucked out clay sections, it really is one of the most difficult races you can do. Passing has never been a Daytona attribute, and if a rider isn’t prepared to use their imagination, they’re going to get left behind. I think people just love to complain these days, that is the way we work now. I mean, Ryan Dungey found a way to make a few passes on Saturday night.
By the time the main events rolled around, the Daytona track looked absolutely nasty and in vintage form. Our Canadian SX hero Cole Thompson didn’t get off to a great start in the main event, however, he used his fitness and some smooth riding to finish in 13th place. It wasn’t a bad ride for Cole as I’m sure he gave it everything he had. With Eli Tomac and Adam Cianciarulo both putting terrific rides to win the 450SX and 250SX classes respectively, the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Series now moves back up north to the circle city, Indianapolis, IN. With cold temperatures once again expected this coming weekend, Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indy will provide a warm environment for the riders to battle.
Well, that is it for me this week and the Honda Canada Racing Monday Gate Drop. We are once again headed for ClubMX tomorrow to do some more riding before heading home on Thursday. Judging by the weather back home, we’re not missing a thing. It’s even cool here in South Carolina today as the high is only getting up to 8c, with a cold northwest wind. Tomorrow is supposed to be 12c though, so riding should be perfect. I hope everyone is enjoying their March break, and if you’re down south riding, please ride safe. Today, a few of our Canadian riders are racing the amatuer supercross in Daytona, so good luck to them. The Ricky Carmichael Amatuer SX in Daytona has turned into one of the most prestigious and expensive events on the calendar. Most of the USA’s top amateur riders are there and the racing, although a little wet yesterday, has been awesome. Have a great week and safe travels.