With so much energy and hype surrounding the opening round of the 2018 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series, it was hard to focus on one aspect of what went on throughout the day. For the past few years our national series has kicked off at the Whispering Pines track north of Kamloops, BC., but for 2018, there is a new series in town and for Round 1, they chose to use Wild Rose MX Park as their launching point. As anyone who has ever been to this city knows, Calgary is an incredible city that has been built around outdoor activity. Well, there are very few outdoor activities better than motocross in Canada. So, with that said, Calgary seemed to be the perfect place to kick off this summer long series. For this week’s KTM Canada Style Check, let’s take a look at what really happened at the opening round in Calgary.
Walking into the paddock at any pro race is exciting. The sights, the sounds, the smells, walking through the pits at the opening round definitely created an explosion of your senses. Right from the first moment I passed through the gate in Calgary and saw the big team trucks and their tents all set up, I was like a kid in a candy store. All of the team bikes were shiny and new and looking great. As most of the mechanics were busy making some final adjustments to their rider’s machines, all other team personnel were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Even though we were still 18 hours away from the first bikes hitting the track, it was still a very busy time in the paddock. The opening round is always like a small family reunion as everyone is happy to see each other once again. After taking a few hours to roam the pits, I asked Dylan Wright if he wanted to go and walk the track. Walking a national track with a pro rider is always a cool thing to do as I love getting their perspective on lines and how they think the track will turn out. After my track walk, it was time to do a little socializing before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the following day.
This year is a little different than in years past as almost every rider in the pits competed in the AXTour last month. Usually, the opening round of the outdoor nationals is the first time our riders race that year. So, while they’re in shape and ready to go, sometimes their racecraft is a little rusty. But this year that wasn’t an issue, and pretty much every rider was race-ready in Calgary. I always thought having a few gate drops prior to the nationals beginning was very important. Back in my era this was never an issue as we all had raced about ten times prior to our nationals. These days, riders have to be very picky about where and how often they race in the weeks leading up to the nationals. With the AXTour taking place earlier this year, most riders were race ready and much more comfortable with their set-up. It’s always interesting to me how chilled out and relaxed the riders are the day before the race, but then as the day goes on they all seem to get more antsy, no doubt in anticipation of the following day’s gate drop. Anyway, if you’re a fan and you want to meet your favourite rider, try to make it to the track on Friday.
Regardless of what changes have been made to the outdoor national schedule in 2018, the quality of the racing in Calgary was as good as ever. Whether it was Kennedy Lutz’s dominating performance in the Women’s class, Jess Pettis’s double moto win in the 250 Pro/Am class, or Colton Facciotti’s wire-to-wire win in both 450 motos, those in attendance on Saturday had to be impressed with what they saw. Behind the leaders was a tenacious pack of two-wheeled warriors all looking to get themselves into the spotlight. Racing on a very challenging track in Calgary, with temperatures that exceeded 25c, all of the riders had to battle through some very difficult conditions. However, this is outdoor motocross, and let’s face it, sometimes the days are tough and sometimes the riders have to dig deep. Even with all of the racing that I’ve been a part of in my life, I still marvel at how awesome our riders are at riding these rough national tracks. The bumps, the ruts, the long motos and the stiff competition, there is nothing quite like the difficulty of an outdoor national. Unfortunately, as it always is with the opening round, some riders had good luck, while some had some bad luck. GDR Honda’s Dylan Wright was running near the front in Moto 1 when the cases of his CRF250 got hit with a rock, moments later he was on the sidelines watching the race. Others riders that struggled in Calgary with Lady Luck was about half of the 450 class during the start of their first moto. In years past, it’s usually the young and anxious 250 riders that get overly excited off the start of their first moto of the season. This time it was the 450 class as Cole Thompson, Mike Alessi, Mike Brown, Matt Goerke and Dillan Epstein all went down in the first turn of the opening moto. It was definitely a frustrating way to start off the MXTour for a few of the series top stars. However, all would remount and make a great charge into the top ten by the end of the moto. There were great battles throughout all of the motos on Saturday as the riders once again introduced themselves to outdoor motocross.
With one round now in the history books, the 2018 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series moves west to BC for Round 2. I can’t wait to arrive at the Popkum track on Friday and do this all over again. The track this coming weekend looks to be quite a bit different than it was in Calgary, but with this group of talented riders, we’re sure the racing will be exciting. I sure hope to see you there on Saturday as the MXTour travels to Popkum, BC for the first time.