Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Monday Gate Drop. After several years of this column being sponsored by the incredible folks at Yamaha Motor Canada, beginning this week we’re happy to report that Sailun Tire will now take over. Sailun Tire is your one-stop shop for car and truck tires as they offer all types of tread patterns and styles of tires. If you require a new set of tires for your car, SUV, and or truck, please visit www.sailuntire.ca
Well, first off let me send my sincere thank-you to Yamaha Motor Canada for years of support with my Monday Gate Drop column. Yamaha and I really do go way back as they were my main sponsor during the first five years of racing in the pro class. Over the years I have met a plethora of amazing people at Yamaha Motor Canada and while they won’t be sponsoring this column anymore, I’m happy to report that my son will once again be a member of the Blu Cru in 2022 as he will be racing a new YZ125 in the Schoolboy, Two-Stroke, and 250 JR classes.
Let’s begin this week with perhaps Canada’s most popular Blu Cru rider at the moment Cole Thompson. Heading into Round 5 of the Monster Energy Supercross Series in Glendale Team Thompson was sitting 9th overall in the 250SX West points standings and with some solid finishes in the past few weekends, things were looking good. With Round 5 being the first Triple Crown event of the 2022 season and the riders having to race three main events instead of one, you could argue that although Glendale would give fans three times the excitement, for these riders it represented three times the risk. After getting through the opening four rounds virtually unscathed, Cole’s luck sadly came to an end in the second main event on Saturday evening. The cameras didn’t capture his crash as they were busy showing Christian Craig’s incredible come from behind ride, but in the late stages of the race, Derek Kelly jumped when he shouldn’t have and landed on Cole’s left side. The result was not only a DNF for Cole but also an injured shoulder and some cuts and bruises on his left side. I spoke to his wife/mechanic/trainer/pretty much everything Chloe last night and she said the Alpinestar Medical Crew at Glendale suggested that Cole get an MRI this week to see what damage might have been done to his left shoulder. As of last night, the chances of Cole lining up this coming weekend in Anaheim are slim but that could change as the week goes on. Let’s hope that he heals quickly and if we don’t see him on the starting line at A3, let’s hope we see him at the following 250SX West event in Seattle on March 26th.
Let’s stay with the 250SX West class for a moment and talk about the Craig/Friese incident from the second main event on Saturday evening. I mean, how can you talk about the 2022 Glendale SX and not talk about Vince Friese’s latest bad decision. It’s hard to even find a comparison to a rider like Friese anywhere on the planet. Now, I’m sure there are dirty riders in every series around the world but Friese has been crossing the line when it comes to making overly aggressive passes since I can remember. Even in the opening rounds of this series he’s been getting good starts and making life difficult for those who try and pass him. I know that isn’t a crime and you’re supposed to be hard to pass on the track. However, if you watch closely his ‘go to’ tactic to keep faster riders behind him is to go from one side of the track to the other, especially off jumps. This ‘cross-jumping’ technique has been around forever and I doubt there are too many riders out there who haven’t done it, but Friese seems to do all of the time and really has taken it to a new level. Also, Friese has always been a good starter so he’s constantly near the front and in a position where he needs to fight off faster riders. So instead of racing forward, Friese has always been a rider who races backward. If that makes any sense?
If we look at the incident from Glendale as soon as Craig attempted to ‘race’ Friese to the sand corner I suspected there was going to be some contact. Even though Craig was ahead and with any other rider he probably had the pass made, I feel like someone with Craig’s experience should’ve known that he was dealing with Vince Friese and when you’re racing him all bets are off. With the points lead as well as a lot more raw speed than Friese, another passing opportunity no doubt would’ve come along soon. It’s like going into a corner with Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson and then wondering why he smokes you against the glass. As a rider, you have to try and not put yourself in situations where you’re exposed. Craig put himself in a position where the dirtiest rider on the planet could take a shot at him and hopefully he won’t do this again. On the other side of it, how the hell is Vince Friese still allowed to race the Monster Energy Supercross Series? As I write this the AMA hasn’t even penalized Friese for this incident. How is that possible? I’m not exaggerating here but with the stadium wall not far from the outside of the turn he could’ve killed Craig. Friese should be fined, suspended, and even kicked out of SX if you factor in his history of doing stuff like this. When he raced the 450SX class he appeared to have a little more respect for some of the top riders so he didn’t mess with them too much, but now that he’s been demoted to the 250SX class by his Moto Concepts Team, he doesn’t seem to care about the health of any of his fellow riders. I know Feld Motorsports and the producers of this SX series love drama and they’ll most likely replay this incident 50 times during the Anaheim 3 broadcast this coming weekend, but like any cheap shot in any sport this in my humble opinion is yet another black eye. Also, as we’ve witnessed in other sports and life really when you let individuals like Friese constantly get away with things like this it only empowers them and then you just know there is going to be a next time. When is enough going to be enough and when will the AMA learn from their past mistakes. I mean, the AMA DQ’d Justin Bogle for being a jackass and knocking down Barcia in San Diego as he was retaliating for JB51 cleaning him out earlier the main event, but as of right now they cannot find a rule in their rule book that Friese broke on Saturday night. Maybe SX should bring back their department of rider safety that they tried to start several years ago and let them decide on what to do when these situations come up. Anyway, in the big picture, I’m glad Christian Craig was okay and I’m glad he didn’t lose too many points over something like this. Also, congratulations to Hunter Lawrence on taking the overall win at Round 5.
As far as the 450SX class goes I’m not going to take about it too much. On Saturday night it was truly awesome watching the pace at the front of the pack. Eli Tomac was just on rails, Jason Anderson’s corner speed and overall aggression is truly remarkable, and then in the third main event when the track was at its worst, Chase Sexton showed us why he will be a future SX Champion. Once again these three riders showed that they’re on another level and will be a threat to win at each race moving forward. Like everyone I’m sure, I was again disappointed with Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb as neither appeared to have much fight in them. Roczen does not look comfortable with the new pace of the big three (Tomac, Anderson, Sexton) as their speed is greater than what we’ve witnessed during the past few seasons. And Webb looks to me like he’s counting the days until the series moves east in hopes that his new KTM will work better as the tracks soften up. Like every year though, as exciting as the west coast swing is the 450SX Championship chase really doesn’t begin until Daytona or the rounds in early March. So technically the series is still wide open!
Moving from the 2022 Monster Energy Supercross Series to Future West AX Championship’s in Chilliwack, BC. It was great to see the gate drop again and for this entertaining series to resume this past weekend. The residents of the Lower Mainland of BC have been through so much during the past few months that I’m sure everyone enjoyed gathering once again in Chilliwack for these final rounds of AX. Although the turnout was low the racing was still excellent this past weekend and by the sounds of it, everyone had a blast. Ryan Lockhart messaged me last night and had this to say about the weekend, “Everything was great this weekend. We had a few unfortunate injuries, but nothing too serious. The entries were low but we expected that for this time of the year, but all in all it was great and we’re looking forward to this coming weekend and the final rounds.”
Well, I hope everyone has a great week, and as much as I’m jealous it’s great to see more and more Canadian riders heading south now to begin their training for this season. GDR Honda riders Ryder McNabb and Dylan Wright are both down south now and judging by their Social Media channels, they’re already up to speed. Also, Tyler Gibbs left Canada last week for ClubMX where he will be doing most of his off-season training. I feel like this will be a big year for Gibbs as he showed some good speed in 2021 and I think he’s only going to get better. Training and riding at ClubMX with his buddy Jacob Piccolo and all of the other fast riders there will no doubt help Gibbs find even more speed as well as some confidence and fitness. Watch out for Tyler Gibbs this summer, he’s going to be good! Well, thank you for reading, and again thank you to Yamaha Motor Canada for their support with regards to this column. Finally, thank you to Sailun Tires for coming on board. I’ve been running these tires on the truck for three years now and they’re excellent.