Behind the Lens: Sand Del Lee

By Danny Brault
Photos by James Lissimore

Is Canada’s Capital city of Ottawa, Ontario becoming the ‘Capital of Canadian Motocross’ as well? It seems that way after the action and response we saw from racers, fans and the MX101 staff at last weekend’s Sand Del Lee event, Round 6 of the Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals. Let’s start with the track and facility: every weed was whacked, every banner and stake neatly lining the course and a beautifully laid out vendor row and ‘off track’ entertainment (two beer tents, woohoo!). Then there was the $700 raised towards Team Canada’s effort for the 2014 Motocross of Nations in Latvia. Awesome support from the folks in Eastern Ontario!

Since 2006, when Sand Del Lee hosted their first round of the Canadian Nationals, it’s obvious that a lot of heart and sweat goes into this event. Not to say other tracks don’t take a lot of pride, but SDL is right there with the best of them in Canada. We don’t have official numbers to report yet, but I’ve been going to SDL since the very first one and there’s no doubt it was the busiest one ever. Fans got their money’s worth, with awesome weather, great racing in all four motos and the ‘Hot Cream Holes’ were out of this world!

Let’s flip back through some of James Lissimore’s best images from the 2014 Ottawa Motocross National and relive the action….

 

Ross Pederson would have said screw it and ran a paddle

Ross Pederson would have said screw it and ran a paddle

LIFE IS ALL ABOUT CHOICES: And one of the biggest choices for race teams is which tire to use … do you go with the full-on sand scoop, as shown here, or go with a more intermediate pattern, since Sand Del Lee does pack up underneath the loose stuff? Most opt for the paddle as the starting line is tilled down deep, and since it’s 95 percent of a race, riders are not willing to give up an inch in the first corner.

The start is always the most exciting part of the race ... for many reasons.

The start is always the most exciting part of the race … for many reasons.

LET’S GET IT STARTED IN HERE! With a packed house, handful of hometown heroes and excellent weather, Ottawa fans were treated to one of the best nationals this summer at Sand Del Lee. Eye candy was out in full force as usual as well.

Bobby Kiniry wasn't smiling like he normally does at Sand Del Lee. Both he and his teammate Kyle Chisholm had a difficult weekend, which included both of them starting from last in the first MX1 moto.

Bobby Kiniry wasn’t smiling like he normally does at Sand Del Lee. Both he and his teammate Kyle Chisholm had a difficult weekend, which included both of them starting from last in the first MX1 moto.

Bobby Kiniry’s Sand Del Lee experience in 2014 was a lot like his time in 2008, when he was riding on an OTSFF Suzuki and DNF’d both motos. This year, it wasn’t quite as bad but the first moto was a painful one. After going down on lap and getting up in last, Kiniry charged up to 16th but then came to a halt when his YZ decided to take a nap. The second moto saw Kiniry go from sixth to tenth after a crashing a few laps in. Normally contending for the title, Kiniry is back in 7th in the points. It’s an uphill battle to score a series podium finish, but if anyone can do it, it’s this hard charging New Yorker.

Machine Racing's John Nelson says that Vince Friese is a "give'er." We tend to agree when looking at this photo ... the guy isn't afraid to get a little sideways to get the job done.

Machine Racing’s John Nelson says that Vince Friese is a “give’er.” We tend to agree when looking at this photo … the guy isn’t afraid to twist the throttle.

SECOND’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Most would be more than happy with a second-overall finish in this year’s competitive MX2 class, but not Vince Friese. The Smartop MotoConcepts is fighting hard to cut down Kaven Benoit’s points lead, which was 8 points after Gopher Dunes. With Benoit taking the overall win (2-1) and Friese finishing second at SDL (4-2) that increases Benoit’s lead to 15 points. It wouldn’t taken much for things to flip around, but with four races left, Friese needs to limit every point loss, especially with Benoit preparing to race on two of his home province’s tracks (Deschambault & Ulverton) over the next three weeks.

Kudos to Devils Lake Riverside Yamaha's Dylan Kaelin for recovering from a crash at Gopher Dunes and finishing 6th overall at Sand Del Lee.

Kudos to Devils Lake Riverside Yamaha’s Dylan Kaelin for recovering from a crash at Gopher Dunes and finishing 6th overall at Sand Del Lee.

HE’D BE THIRD, IF IT WERE CANADIANS ONLY: Dylan Kaelin continues to show that he’s the ‘real deal’ against the big boys in the MX1 class. After a miserable, body banging weekend at Gophes Dunes, Kaelin took the week off to heal up and regroup in SDL. It worked. Despite feeling a little “off” in practice, the Yamaha rider put it together for 7-7 and 6th overall. He sits 8th in points (and third Canadian).

Even with little to no time on a bike this summer, privateer Nathan Bles showed some top five speed at Sand Del Lee. Granted he couldn't hold onto that lead group, but he still finished top-10.

Even with little to no time on a bike this summer, privateer Nathan Bles showed top five speed at Sand Del Lee. Granted he couldn’t hold on to that lead group, but he still finished top-10.

SURPRISE, SURPRISE: We know that Ontario’s Nathan Bles can ride a bike, but with very limited training and not much racing this spring/ summer, nobody really expected to see Bles even race a national. Well, good thing he decided to join the fray as he’s put in two top-10 results at Gopher Dunes and SD on his KTM 450 SX-F. Last Sunday, his biggest highlight wasn’t the overall result (a 9th is good) but hanging tight with Medaglia, Facciotti and Alessi during the opening laps of the first 450 moto. Bles didn’t have the strength to hold on for the full 35 minutes, but he showed he has the speed and talent; now he just needs the fitness and time on a bike.

Local heroes Jeremy Medaglia (4) and Dylan Wright (34) rode tight together during the second MX2 moto.

Local heroes Jeremy Medaglia (4) and Dylan Wright (34) rode tight together during the second MX2 moto.

HOMETOWN HEARTACHE: Neither Jeremy Medaglia (4) or Dylan Wright (34) were able to get it together in front of their hometown crowd at SDL. Both had speed and were putting down the lap times, but crashes and bikes troubles kept them from a podium or win. Medaglia was able to put his Monster Energy Leading Edge Kawasaki onto the box in the first moto, but failed to finish the second moto after DNFing with bike troubles. The story wasn’t much different for Wright; a fifth in moto one and DNF in the second.  Fans were hoping to see paint rubbing materialize in moto one, when Wright and Medaglia were racing close together, but they kept it clean for the most part.

Ask any rider, there's no denying that the MX101 crew puts some of the most effort into creating an excellent race track and facility.

Ask any rider, there’s no denying that the MX101 crew puts some of the most effort into creating an excellent race track and facility.

DIGGING DEEP: Sand Del Lee prepares riders well for this Sunday’s Deschambault National, as it too features a mix of sand with a harder, clay base.

Keeping it cool at the MX1 starting grid with Tyler Medaglia and his KTM mechanic, Steph LeBlanc.

Keeping it cool at the MX1 starting grid with Tyler Medaglia and his KTM mechanic, Steph LeBlanc.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT? Is Tyler Medaglia giving Mike Alessi the stare-down here? I’m not sure, but I hope so – who doesn’t enjoy some “healthy hate” between top racers!

The 'rookie' Dylan Wright really wanted to impress in front of friends and family at his local national. He rode hard to a 5th in the first moto, mucking it up with Vince Friese and teammate Jesse Wentland. In the second race, bike problems caused Wright to score no points with a DNF. He sits 10th in MX2 points.

The ‘rookie’ Dylan Wright really wanted to impress in front of friends and family at his local national. He rode hard to a 5th in the first moto, mucking it up with Vince Friese and teammate Jesse Wentland. In the second race, bike problems caused Wright to score no points with a DNF. He sits 10th in MX2 points.

ROOKIE MISTAKE: Sitting 10th place in your very first professional motocross racing series is great, but not for the ultra competitive Dylan Wright. The MX101 Yamaha isn’t shy to say that he’s expecting to win–and it would have made for a heartwarming story if it had came during his hometown national at SDL. He hasn’t won one of these things yet, but Wright belongs right there with Wentland, Medaglia, Friese, Maffenbeier, Benoit, and the rest of the ‘vets.’

They don't call Mike Alessi (800) "Holeshot" for nothing! He would take the $300 Royal Distributing cheque in the first moto, but wiley veteran Mike Brown stole it in the second moto on his Husky 450.

They don’t call Mike Alessi (800) “Holeshot” for nothing! He would take the $300 Royal Distributing cheque in the first moto, but wiley veteran Mike Brown stole it in the second moto on his Husky 450.

CANADA VS USA: Mike Alessi has forever been nailing holeshot after holeshot in the US and abroad. Canada’s Tyler Medaglia could be considered our ‘Holeshot King’ as he’s normally out front no matter which class or bike he’s on. At this point however, Alessi remains the one to beat to the first corner in this year’s Canadian Nationals.

Monster Energy Leading Edge Kawasaki's Josh Hill looked better in the sands of Sand Del Lee, compared to Gopher Dunes two weeks ago. That's good, because the series hits another sand track this Sunday at Deschambault, Quebec!

Monster Energy Leading Edge Kawasaki’s Josh Hill looked better in the sands of Sand Del Lee, compared to Gopher Dunes two weeks ago. That’s good, because the series hits another sand track this Sunday at Deschambault, Quebec!

REDEUX: After an okay weekend at Gopher Dunes, Josh Hill kicked it up a gear at SDL, finishing fourth overall and even passed Tyler Medaglia late in the second moto for third. Not an easy thing to do at Medaglia’s home track. We have yet to see Hill really challenge for a win, but the likable kid is a blast to watch and is only 13 points out of third in the series. My bet is we see him grab a win or fight for one at the jumpy River Glade track in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Colton Facciotti wasn't as fast as Mike Alessi at SDL, but that didn't matter - he still took home a moto win and the overall in MX1. His points lead remains 28 over Alessi.

Colton Facciotti wasn’t as fast as Mike Alessi at SDL, but that didn’t matter – he still took home a moto win and the overall in MX1. His points lead remains 28 over Alessi.

 

GO AHEAD AND SMILE: The last time we saw Colton Facciotti at Round 6, it was 2011 and he was riding a Blackfoot Yamaha. Injuries suck, but that’s in the past for the calm and cool “Lightning Bolt Colt!” He and the GDR Troy Lee Designs Honda Team are fitting together perfectly, as shown by his third Overall Win at SDL last Sunday. It’s true, Colt did get a bit of gift thrown his way with Alessi losing a handlebar grip and slowing down enough to let Colton go by for his fifth moto win of the season. As they say, luck comes from good preparation and Colton and the GDR team are prepared.

 

For finishing as the Top Canadian and winner of the MX1 class, Facciotti was awarded the Dale Argue Memorial Cup!

Facciotti has reason to smile this summer – he’s fit, healthy and on his way to another MX1 title.

BONUS MARKS: For finishing as the Top Canadian at SDL, Facciotti was also awarded SDL’s Dale Argue Memorial Cup.

This is Lissimore's favourite shot from Sand Del Lee: Benoit vs Friese! Two-stroke vs Four-stroke!

This is Lissimore’s favourite shot from Sand Del Lee: Benoit vs Friese! Japanese vs Austrian!

DOWN TO THE WIRE: I think we’re going to see the MX2 championship go right down to the final moto at Walton, between these two warriors right here: KTM Canada’s Kaven Benoit and MotoConcepts Vince Friese. The two-stroke is proving to be a good choice for Benoit, as he finished second at Gopher Dunes and then grabbed the overall at SDL. Friese had a good weekend, but not good enough and his points deficient went from 8 to 15 points. It’s going to be a madhouse in Quebec this Sunday if these two get out front with Benoit’s local fans on the sidelines!

Wow, what a crowd we had at SDL! The MX101 staff says this is the biggest national they've had yet. The stands and grounds did look busy right from the first to final moto. Good job, team!

Wow, what a crowd we had at SDL! The MX101 staff says this is the biggest national they’ve had yet. The stands and grounds did look busy right from the first to final moto. Good job, team!

BIGGEST YET? Many are saying that this year’s SDL Ottawa Motocross National is the most well attended of this year’s Canadian Nationals–and in the event’s eight-year history. The MX101 crew put on a marketing push and it appears to have paid off. Kudos!

Jesse Wentland was the top finishing MX101 Yamaha rider, taking fourth overall in MX2.

Jesse Wentland was the top finishing MX101 Yamaha rider, taking fourth overall in MX2.

BUSY WEEKEND: Every time you looked for #27 Jesse Wentland, it seemed that he was nose down in a battle two or more riders, going at it for the third place position. He had the speed to win, but Wentland couldn’t get free to get chase after the leaders.

I think one of the toughest thing about SDL is the rutted jump faces. Kevin Tyler keeps them groomed up for the most part, but after 25 minutes of 450s digging in, it's not long before they re-appear. Teddy Maier shows us easy (it looks) to keep things straight.

I think one of the toughest thing about SDL is the rutted jump faces. Kevin Tyler keeps them groomed up for the most part, but after 25 minutes of 450s digging in, it’s not long before they re-appear. Teddy Maier shows us easy (it looks) to keep things straight.

WORK IN PROGRESS: When asked what he needs more of to get in the hunt with Alessi, Facciotti and Medaglia, Teddy Maier commented that he is struggling with suspension set-up. He says the Monster Energy Leading Edge Kawasaki Team did lots of testing before the season started, but he’s still not feeling 100 percent comfortable on the bike. Maier’s been in the top 5 every weekend, except Kamloops, and sits fourth in the MX1 series.

Mike Alessi soaks down the Sand Del Lee fans. Can the fast American cut down on the 28 point of Facciotti before the final moto at Walton?!

Mike Alessi soaks down the Sand Del Lee fans. Can the fast American cut down on the 28 point of Facciotti before the final moto at Walton?!