Honda Canada Racing Presents the Monday Gate Drop

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Well, where do I begin with this past weekend and the opening round of the 2018 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series in Calgary? I guess I should probably start with the weather as it always seems to play a major role in Calgary. Even though the national was three weeks earlier than usual, the weather was absolutely perfect all weekend long. The morning on Saturday started off with a strong and cool wind, which gave the riders and the moisture in the track fits during practice, however it soon dissipated and the temperature warmed right up. As I said, with the sun and the wind so ever present on Saturday, keeping the Wild Rose Track in good racing condition was very difficult all day long. But as tough as the meteorological conditions were, the crew did their best to keep the track raceable for Round 1.

Welcome to Calgary folks and all of the beautiful things that go with it. Photo by James Lissimore

Obviously, with this being a new series and with the races now taking place on Saturdays, a lot of things were different than in years past. However, even with so many different things and a few different faces, there were some things that haven’t changed. The first and perhaps biggest item that has remained is head ref Paul Kingsley who is back for the rest of 2018. Now, I’m not saying that Daryl Murphy didn’t do a great job during the AXTour earlier this year, but he needed help for the outdoors and thankfully Jetwerx called upon ‘Kinger’ and his years of experience. He always runs a fair and tight program and the riders and teams really appreciate that. The event in Calgary is always difficult as practice isn’t allowed to begin until at least 9am. This means that right off the bat the schedule is behind an hour, and it’s impossible to catch up. This was the case on Saturday as the already very condensed race schedule ran a little behind and it never caught up. But this was just Round 1 and I’m sure things will be much improved next weekend in Popkum and beyond, Paul Kingsley and Jetwerx will make sure of it.

The action was intense at Round 1 of the 2018 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series. Photo by James Lissimore

Another item that was no different than in years past was the incredible race action on the track. From the moment the green flag was waved for the first practice session of the day, all of the riders were flying. Don’t get me wrong, I love SX and AX and everything that goes with it, but there is just something that is so cool about outdoor motocross. The speed, the ruts, the rough track and how the riders navigate them all is just incredible to watch. I can tell you from my vague memory bank that racing a pro outdoor national is an experience that is hard to put into words. It’s so many movements and emotions packed into just eight or so hours. In the span of just a few hours, you’re up, you’re down, you’re tired, you’re hungry, you’re nervous, you’re sore, and as I said, your body and mind go through everything that it’s capable. And then you have to do this nine times in a few months. Outdoor pro motocross is amazing and it was great to see another season of it begin this past weekend in Calgary.

I don’t normally do my Monday Gate Drop like this, however I’m sure that everyone out there is curious about how and why the riders finished the way they did on Saturday. As I said above, it was a long day but it was an incredible day of racing. The opening round is always exciting in its own right, and this was no different. After months of anticipation, the 2018 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour is now underway. Here is how and why each rider found their way into the top ten on Saturday.

Jess Pettis was in a league of his own on Saturday and took home the win in the 250 Pro/Am class. Photo by James Lissimore

250 Pro/Am Class

1. Jess Pettis 1-1

After a few successful rounds of SX during the winter, you just knew that Pettis would come into this series confident and ready to go. On Saturday, Pettis was just simply faster than everyone else and he wouldn’t be denied the victory. With one round now complete, Pettis needs to find a way to carry his speed and flawless riding through the next eight rounds.

2. Shawn Maffenbeier 2-2

As it was last year, Maff’s speed and consistency was great at the opening round. He looks comfortable on his new Kawasaki; he appeared content to finish second and to let Pettis have the spotlight at Round 1. No one knows better how long and gruelling this summer is going to be as the 250 class races towards the final round in Walton. Although I’m sure Maff would’ve liked to win in Calgary and take the bonuses that go with it, the second overall was just fine for the defending champion.

Racing for the first time in Calgary, Joey Crown rode smart all day and found himself on the podium in the 250 Pro/Am class. Photo by James Lissimore

3. Joey Crown 4-3

We can’t forget that Joey Crown has won a national in Canada before, so you know this kid is going to be fast all summer long. Considering that he’s never even been to Western Canada before, Joey rode great all day long. If he can stay out of trouble in the west, look for him to be very good in the east and challenging for this 2018 250 title.

4. Josh Osby 3-4

Josh was another rider who came into Calgary after some successful SX races over the winter. Like Crown, Osby looked fast all day long and kept the leaders in sight. Josh was good, but just not good enough to challenge for the win at Round 1. I’m sure he’ll take his fourth overall and look forward to next weekend.

5. Jared Petruska 6-6

With so much going on up front, I honestly didn’t notice Jared much of the day in Calgary. When I did watch him, however, he was riding fast and consistent on the rough track. Fifth overall is a great finish for Jared and his new Sky Holeshot Racing Team.

Marco Cannella had a decent day in Calgary and is now looking forward to Round 2 in Popkum, BC. Photo by James Lissimore

6. Marco Cannella 5-8

Other than this being his first time in Calgary and the fact that he came from behind in Moto 2 to finish in 8th, I’m sure Marco is a tiny bit bummed with his day at Round 1. I love the way this kid rides and I love how hard he works. His race craft is that of an experienced veteran, and because of this I think he will get better as this series goes on. Moto wins might be difficult for him this summer, but I’m sure a few podiums are in his bright future.

7. Casey Keast 7-7

Considering this was the opening round of the series, I will say that Casey Keast’s 7th overall was pretty good. It was a hot and nasty day in Calgary and I’m not sure if those conditions suit him or not. This is a very important summer for Keast, and this ultra-talented kid needs to find a way into the top five on a consistent basis.

8. Tanner Ward 8-9

I’m quite sure that Tanner wasn’t happy with his day in Calgary, as his finish didn’t represent his speed. Tanner did holeshot the opening moto, only to crash in Turn 2 and have to play catch-up. In the 250 class, you must start up front if you want to finish up front. With the nerves of the opening round gone, I’m sure Tanner will be better next weekend in BC.

9. Hayden Halstead 9-11

I didn’t see Hayden after the race but I’m sure he was happy with his day in Calgary. In both motos he rode hard and didn’t give in to the difficult conditions. Also, regardless of where Hayden finishes, he still has the best hair in the pits, and I’d personally drink a litre of race gas to have it.

10. Teren Gerber 12-12

For the opening round of this series, and on a very difficult track, Teren’s finish was pretty darn good. Normally a 12-12 won’t get you into the top ten, but with a few riders being a little inconsistent on Saturday, Teren got his name inside the coveted top ten. Well done!

After winning the first 450 moto by over 30 seconds, Colton Facciotti grabbed the early lead again in Moto 2 and never looked back. Photo by James Lissimore

450 Class

1. Colton Facciotti 1-1

I must be honest and say that during practice I came to the quick conclusion that Facciotti would win at least one moto in Calgary. It wasn’t that he was able to turn fast lap times in practice, it was how easy those lap times appeared to be coming to him. When you’re a rider like Colton who relies on riding smooth and being ultra-precise, you just can’t waste the days that you’re ‘on’. Well, Colton didn’t waste anything and he cruised to two dominating moto wins!

2. Matt Goerke 6-3

To say that Goerke’s day was very difficult would be a massive understatement. After getting caught up in a first turn pile up with about ten other riders in Moto 1, Matt put his head down and charged back to sixth. In Moto 2, he also rode well but couldn’t find his way around his teammate. I’m quite sure he left Calgary an unhappy rider and will be back with a vengeance at Round 2.

3. Tyler Medaglia 5-4

How do you not just love this guy? On a day where his speed wasn’t quite as good as most of his competitors, Tyler once again got the job done. His 5-4 moto scores might not look great, but this third overall looks amazing. Tyler rode strong throughout the day and never gave up. Also, next to Halstead, Tyler has the best hair in the paddock, and it must be very difficult for his teammate Maffenbeier to see it every day in the truck.

One of the best moments of the day in Calgary was Keylan Meston’s first moto holeshot podium celebration. Photo by James Lissimore

4. Keylan Meston 4-6

What a day for hometown hero Keylan Meston in Calgary. In Moto 1, he holeshotted and led for a lap, and in Moto 2 he again rode strong and finished in 6th. The podium holeshot celebration was one of the best ever and it had the crowd cheering loudly. This sport and this series needs riders like Meston finishing well each weekend. I hope he can find this type of success all summer long as he definitely deserves it.

5. Cole Thompson 3-7

Cole Thompson was part of the big Moto 1 first turn pile-up in the 450 class, and because of this he basically started the race in last. With lap times that were close to those of Facciotti, Thompson charged hard and was able to work his way up to third in the opening moto. I didn’t see what happened to Cole during the start of Moto 2, but his seventh place finish could not have left him very happy. Coming into this summer, Cole is more fit and prepared than he ever has been before. It will be interesting to see how his speed and race craft stacks up against his more experienced competitors throughout the summer.

6. Mike Alessi 8-5

I know that I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but Alessi was also caught up in the large first turn pile-up of Moto 1. Mike charged hard and his overall finish doesn’t really represent how well he rode. No doubt, it won’t be long before Alessi is back to getting good starts and then we’ll see how his speed is compared to the riders who finished in front of him this weekend.

7. Cade Clason 7-8

With the 450 class being so darn fast this summer, if Cade can’t find a way to get great starts, this is where he’s going to finish. However, considering that this was only Round 1, I’m sure he’ll take the 7-8 moto scores and move on to his new team’s hometown race next weekend. Cade does look very comfortable on his new Honda so look for him to get better as the series goes on.

In his first national since last summer, Kaven Benoit had a mixed day in Calgary and went 2-14 for 8th overall. Photo by James Lissimore

8. Kaven Benoit 2-14

I will start this off by saying that it was awesome to see Benoit back at the races healthy and happy. In Moto 1, he rode great and if it wasn’t for the out of this world performance by Facciotti, Benoit probably should’ve won the first moto of the year. Unfortunately, Benoit’s second moto didn’t go very well and he could only finish 14th. Despite his poor second moto, I’m sure Benoit left Calgary feeling good that he’s back and that his speed is where it should be.

9. Mike Brown 9-9

I told Mike Brown on Friday afternoon that I had him going 9-5 on Saturday. He looked at me like I was hopped up on Rockstar and he said that he’d be happy if was inside the top twelve. Mike didn’t get the best of starts in Calgary but he charged hard all day and eventually went 9-9 for ninth overall. There definitely aren’t too many 46-year-old riders who could show up in Calgary and finish as well as Brown did on Saturday. Good job Brownie and we can’t wait to see you again this summer.

10. Ryan Lalonde 10-10

I hate to say this but with all of the action up front, I didn’t really notice just how well Ryan rode this weekend in Calgary. With so much speed and experience in the 450 class this summer, finishing near or inside of the top ten is going to be pretty tough. Congrats to Ryan on his great ride at Round 1.

See you all in Popkum!

So, there you have it. The top ten from both the 250 Pro/Am and the 450 classes in Calgary. It was a great day of racing and I’m sure the riders were excited to finally kick the MXTour Series off. Also, Calgary was the opening round of the MRC West Women’s Series and Yamaha rider Kennedy Lutz absolutely dominated. Behind Kennedy was the hard charging duo of Brittany Gagne and Dominque Daffe, who kept things very interesting. I kind of missed the Women having their own day as they have in the past, but on the other hand it was cool to see them out there in the same conditions as the pro men. So, Round 1 of the 2018 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series is now a part of the Canadian motocross history books. This new series is off and running, and now everyone moves west to Popkum, BC for Round 2. As of right now the weather doesn’t look great for Saturday, but I’m sure that will change a few times before the weekend. I hope everyone has a great final week of May and we’ll see you next weekend in beautiful BC.