Fundraiser by Scott Donkersgoed : Support Steve Simms (gofundme.com)
Again, I’ll start this off by asking you guys to keep thinking about our friend, Steve Simms. He’s a fighter and quite literally as tough as they come. The man is in rough shape and I think there’s going to be a bit of a lengthy road of recovery ahead for him. There has been a GoFundMe page set up to help Steve and his family through this and if you are in a comfortable position to support, please do. He is the last guy on earth to ask anyone for help, but he is the first to give the shirt off his back to someone in need. He’s one of our own. What you guys have already done proves how incredibly awesome this motocross community is and why we always refer to it as one big family. The fund currently sits at just over $15,000 raised as I type this, and it gives me goosebumps. All of you are truly amazing, and I know Steve and his family will appreciate this beyond measure. When it comes down to it, we all have each other’s back, regardless of this, that, or the other things that take place at the races. You guys should be proud of yourselves and each other!
Now onto my mumble jumble…
365 days ago (ish) I was in Italy for my very first MXON as a mechanic. The path of my decade and a half long career never completely aligned with taking a rider to the world stage and representing our country. It was something that, after a while, was one of those things I really wanted to check off the bucket list. In 2013, I was working with the KTM Canada organization, and at the time they had brought Cole Thompson on board to fill in for 6-Time, Mr. Colton Facciotti who was injured earlier that year. With the success Cole and I had during the remainder of that season, he was chosen to represent Team Canada that year. After winning the final round in Walton, I prepared two complete race bikes to be shipped over to Teutschenthal in Germany. And then, unfortunately, I was unable to go. A missed opportunity that at the time didn’t seem like a big deal. But as I got older, and deeper into my career, it became something I really, really wanted to do. In 2014, I was a part of Team USA at the International Six Days Enduro, or ISDE, in Argentina with Husqvarna USA and my rider at the time, Mike Brown. Yeah, that Mike Brown. Lol, the pure fan of the sport in me still gets excited when I think about the fact, I actually worked with such a legend. That was extremely cool and all, being in South America, at an International event, but the flag on my shirt wasn’t my own, it wasn’t where I came from. Although I wore it proudly, and I represented it, it felt just like any other logo or company on a pit shirt. It just didn’t give me “that” feeling or sense of ultimate pride. Now, back to one year ago, an opportunity fell into my lap that changed all that. I remember being on the dance floor at Shawn and Robin Maffenbeier’s wedding and I got a text asking if I was vaccinated and interested in a trip to Italy. An abundance of paperwork later and I was finally a part of Team Canada to work with the 2021 Canadian 250 Champ, Jake Piccolo.
I was excited! I’d worked several high-profile races before in my life so the actual race itself didn’t do a whole lot as far as nerves or anything, I think that ship sailed many moons ago, but I’ve never experienced the feeling of representing MY country because of my ability as a mechanic. To be able to perform my greatest talent for my country, is just an extraordinary feeling that I don’t really know how to explain… This motocross shit isn’t just a hobby or a job to me, this is my whole life, and having that Maple Leaf on my back while doing something I’m so passionate about was a huge deal to me. I am so thankful and grateful to be able to put a checkmark in that box that had been empty for so long.
I told you that story, to get into this one.
This year, I had no association with a rider chosen to represent Team Canada and I was completely ok with it. There was an opportunity to help another country that had the use of the MX101 Yamaha semi and put another MXON experience in the file folder, but a scheduling conflict at home coupled with just simply not wanting to do it was enough to respectfully decline the offer. I had fulfilled my desire to work a MXON and represent my country. I preferred to attend the event and take it in as a fan rather than having a flag on my back that wasn’t my own.
There was a ton of hype leading up to this year’s MXON for many reasons, the first and most obvious was the fact it was taking place at the iconic Red Bud track in Michigan on American soil. Team USA was coming in with probably the strongest team they’ve had in many years, and they were coming to win. As I mentioned last week, Team Canada was also bringing an absolute A team mirroring the 2021 effort of two champions and the Captain.
On Friday afternoon, my wife and I, along with Pam and Liam O’Farrell, and our adopted son for the weekend, Wyatt Kerr, loaded up the soccer mom mobile and pointed that thing to the bottom corner of Michigan. I got hauled in at the border because a cousin of mine is apparently a complete criminal and we share a last name, age, and birth month, and if you didn’t know any better, we look identical. So, after we cleared that up with some documentation, fingerprinting, and a little harassment, we completed the trip and arrived at the hotel in Niles, which is about 15 minutes from the track. We chose a hotel because if you’ve ever attended the Red Bud national, or an MXON and you’re not there to party your face off, you really don’t want to be there when there isn’t racing taking place. Things can get wild, and that’s the understatement of the year! Lol
We got there Saturday draped in flags and dollar store Canadian neck and face tattoos. We walked around watching the practice sessions, trying to figure out who was who. Our guys were easy to spot, and we cheered and waved the flag as they went by. The boys looked good, and we were all expecting great things in their qualifying motos later that day. We went over and visited the guys at the Team Canada pit and gave our good luck’s and high fives and went to stake out a place to watch the first moto which had our best, Dylan Wright, in it.
Here we go! We weren’t able to see the start, but we heard it and as the group came around and we were wide-eyed searching for our guy, and then we kept looking, and then kept looking some more. He finally came around what seemed like an eternity later and we all just felt deflated before it even really got going. There is a picture floating around of the pack coming into the first turn and about 500 feet in the background was a small white figure picking up a red bike. Yup, the number 40 got about 30 feet out of the gate and he and the rider beside him were off balance and leaning into each other and Dyl got the short end of the stick and crashed. I didn’t know it at the time, but that picture would sum up Team Canada’s entire weekend. But before we go into that…The ride Dylan had after he got up would more than reverse our deflation. Our Champion not only picked himself up and got back going but put the damn thing into beast mode and charged his way back to 10th! In a 20-minute moto! To the rear wheel of the 500-time World Champion Antonio Cairoli! It was absolutely awesome, and the guy put on a display of exactly why he is a 3-time Canadian 450 Champion. That ride would later be the ride of the weekend for the red and white and one of the major positives to take from the 2022 MX Of Nations.
Next up was our 250 Champion’s first dance on the big stage, I’m sure the kid was shitting bricks on the line, and rightfully so. I said it last week and I’ll say it again, you cannot fault him, he is human! A 16-year-old human! But the little bugger went out there and rode like the champion he is and came away with a 16th-place finish! In my opinion, that’s damn impressive and I am pumped for the kid! Cap’n Canuck [Tyler Medaglia] closed out the qualifying motos on Saturday with a 25th which is definitely not where anyone wanted or expected the wily veteran to finish. I can throw some heat in the old man’s direction here because I know he can take it. He expected more, and so did we.
Sunday was a whole new ball game, it was raining, quite significantly at times which completely 180’d the track from the day before. The sunny, beautiful, perfect track vibe from Saturday was long gone as roll-offs and foam prep were taking place all morning. The rain let up for the most part, but isolated showers came and went all day making it just wet enough to be annoying, for riders and fans alike. The big question of the morning is where the F was team Canada!? The practice sessions came and went, and we only saw Dylan for a single lap. We were very confused… Now, it was clear to me, simply from looking at the ‘gram the night before, that “we” qualified 17th. The practice format was if you qualified an odd number, you were in practice group 1, and even number in group 2. Group 1 came and went, and I thought “hmm, that’s weird”, but maybe I missed something because I really didn’t look into it that much because I was only there to watch. But then group 2 was out there and we were all looking for the boys. Finally, we saw Dylan, but as I mentioned, just for 1 lap. So, after practice, I went over to the Team Canada pit to find out what happened. Well, turns out there was a paper printed, and given to the team that stated Canada had qualified 16th, not 17th, so they went up for group 2 practice and were told they missed their session. A small Canadian-style argument took place with a bunch of Sorry Eh’s and while said discussion was happening Dylan snuck around the guy and went for a lap! He was abruptly pulled off the track as he came back around and even though there was an official paper given, it was wrong, and they didn’t care. The team was told they missed their session and to go back to the pit, plain and simple.
So, the day started on a low, and it seemed like an uphill battle all day. In the first moto of the day, Dylan went down on the first lap pretty hard, got run over, and had a bike laying on him for a while. He was so far back by the time he got up and going again that it wasn’t long before he was lapped. A few more issues from Dyl, coupled with Ryder’s own struggles, the guys would go 30-31 in moto 1. Again, not what anyone wanted or expected. Next up was Ryder and Tyler’s moto and it came with some more confusion. Ryder stopped on the backside of a fairly blind jump on the hot lap which I thought was pretty odd because I know he’s smart enough to not put himself in that position, even if it was on a sighting lap. He got going again and looked to be ok from what we could see, but when the group came around the first lap, Ryder was nowhere to be found. From what I’ve read, and I don’t know if these are facts, but allegedly there were some issues with the motorcycle, and he wasn’t comfortable. Now, of all things, can fully understand that one, if a rider isn’t comfortable or confident in his machine how can anyone expect him to go out there? So, the Captain was riding solo in this moto but continued to struggle for unknown reasons to me and finished 29th.
For moto 3 we were all hoping for some redemption for the boys, and gosh darn it, our best guy, showed us precisely why he’s our best guy. A good start, solid laps, in a rain-filled heavy moto, Dylan rode himself into 10th again, between Cairoli, and Jago Geerts, who was absolutely hauling all weekend. THAT is what we wanted and expected! By this time, it was becoming clear Tyler had some issues, for a guy who chased Dylan around all summer playing bridesmaid, he was significantly off his expected pace. The heat I threw at him earlier I can retract a bit here because I feel it wasn’t a matter of something like bike setup, mindset etc. Something was wrong, I don’t have facts on the subject so I can only speculate, but I have to assume the guy was hurting. This just sucks because another MXON for Tyler, and another MXON that he was unable to ride at his full potential.
Overall, Team Canada finished 15th, which is quite remarkable all things considered. Try riding with the world’s elite in a 30-minute mud moto, at the largest motocross race ever, with only 1 lap of warm-up for the day! I’d say that’s pretty damn awesome. 15th also matches last year’s finish which was labelled a success. So, it ain’t that bad! Dylan finished 11th overall in the MXGP class on 31-10 scores. Ryder finished 18th in the MX2 class with a 30-DNS, and Tyler went 29-29 in the motos and would end up 16th in the Open class.
Although an end result they didn’t want, I hope at some point the boys were able to have that same feeling I had when I got to have my flag on my back while performing my craft. It is truly something unique and if they can remove the short comings from the weekend’s events, I think they’ll be able to have the same patriotic sense of pride. But man, I feel for the guys, and they need to know they didn’t let “us” down. They went, rode their best just like they would any other event and sometimes shit happens… unfortunately it was at an inopportune time but in the end, what can ya do? Hindsight says this, says that, but that’s why it’s called hindsight. I don’t want anyone to bag on the team, the members, or the management. There is a respectful and appropriate way to improve things for 2023, and I hope those that have a voice with weight behind it can find the way to do that. I was very happy to experience the 2023 version of the Motocross of Nations as a fan but, after learning of some things the team had to deal with throughout this operation, I have a small sense of guilt. I know I have a rather unique ability that just happens to be quite useful in said operation. Now, by no means am I trying to portray myself as the magic ingredient here at all, so please do not take it that way. But I do know that what I can give may be useful in another kick at the ol’ MXON can. And, I am undoubtedly not the only one, there are MANY that call Canada home with very special skills and knowledge that can greatly benefit the Team Canada effort, provided egos and bullshit are checked at the door. I think if we can come together, as a collective effort of our best, in all categories, we just might be able to finally show the world what we’re truly capable of.
Great work guys, I am proud of you.