2020 Golden Elbow Awards- Toughest National

When you look back at this past year in Canadian motocross there are many great stories and many great performances. In both the amateur and pro classes, we all witnessed riders push their limit on the racetrack while battling for moto wins and championships. Even though it was a shorter season, it didn’t lack any of the great race action that we’ve been accustom to seeing in Canada. As I’ve done for the past six seasons, this is the time of year that I sit down to compose my annual Golden Elbow Awards that celebrate the memorable moments from the past year. Whether it was Dylan Wright’s Championship-winning rookie season in the 450 class, or Jess Pettis returning from injury to captured his second 250MX Title, there were multiple moments worth talking about. With just over a month remaining in 2020, I’m going to take the next few weeks to celebrate this year’s Award winners. To kick it all off here is my choice for the Toughest National of 2020.

Toughest National- Gopher Dunes (Round 1 of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series)

As is the case each year, during the MXTour Series the riders encounter many challenging conditions, whether that be heat, humidity, sand, mud, or at times all of the above. Our outdoor series is one of the most difficult on the planet as our tracks can be downright tough. As you know, for 2020 the MXTour Series had to be confined to Ontario because of all of the concerns and restrictions surrounding the Covid-19 Pandemic. Once the MXTour Series began in July, it visited Gopher Dunes, Walton Raceway twice, as well as Sand Del Lee twice. Three tracks, five rounds, and 14 motos are what decided our National Champions in 2020. It was an interesting season, to say the least, and it’s one that will be remembered for a very long time. Between the riders, the teams, the track owners, the series sponsors, the sanctioning body, and numerous other people, 2020 was able to be completed and it was just as exciting as it has been in the past.

When we look back at what the conditions were like at each round, the riders most certainly got a taste of everything. The opening round at Gopher Dunes was hot and challenging, the muddy conditions at Walton Raceway gave everyone fits, and this year the two rounds at SDL were particularly difficult. As I said, the riders got it all this summer, including racing under the pressure of a shortened series. The room for error in 2020 was smaller than it’s ever been before, and the riders definitely felt the urge to push their limits during each moto. So, when I looked back at each round of the MXTour and taking into account all of the factors, the winner of the Golden Elbow Award as the Toughest National of 2020 was Gopher Dunes!

This isn’t the first time that Gopher Dunes has won this award, and when you considering that the sand that makes up the track probably isn’t going anywhere, this won’t be the last time it wins. There are a few factors that went into my decision this year, including the timing of the event, the conditions, as well as the format that was used in 2020. All of these combined to make this race in my opinion, the toughest one of the summer.

Racing a national at Gopher Dunes is a challenging endeavour at any time of the year, but when it’s the opening of the series, as it was this year, it makes it extra tough on the riders. Even though they had more time to prepare for the MXTour than ever before, there wasn’t much the riders could do to prepare for the conditions of this race. With the event taking place in late July, the Ontario summer was wide open and the temperature was hot, especially on Sunday. Also, with the new format, the riders for the first time had to deal with a three moto format, one moto on Saturday morning, and then two on Sunday. In some ways, this extra moto on Saturday was good for the riders as it gave them a chance to race once and then have the rest of the day and night to regroup and refocus. In talking to some of the riders, most didn’t mind the new format, but they all also all agreed that at Gopher Dunes the final moto on Sunday was very difficult, By the time the gate dropped for the final moto on Sunday afternoon it was hot, humid, and the track was as rough as it’s ever been. With two long motos already completed, many of the riders, okay, let’s say all of the riders, went into survival mode halfway through the third moto. The second half of that third moto was hard to watch as it was obvious how much the riders were suffering. However, all of the riders dug deep and found their way to the finish. It was one of the most challenging opening rounds that I can remember. With the heat, humidity, as well as the rough track, the riders and their machines were truly tested. Outdoor nationals are always difficult, but the opening round of the 2020 Triple Crown MXTour Series at Gopher was most certainly the toughest of the year!