Back in December of 2019, Dylan Wright headed over to Geneva, Switzerland for his first-ever overseas Supercross. At the time Dylan was relatively new to Supercross and with the Geneva track being a little on the technical side, his learning curve was steep. Although Dylan didn’t finish as well as he would’ve liked over the two days of racing, his raw speed and aggression earned him a plethora of new Swiss fans. This week Dylan will head back overseas for his first 450 European SX only this time he will be in Paris, France to compete against riders like Chad Reed, Marvin Musquin, and Justin Brayton. So as Dylan prepares to once again board flight and head over the Atlantic Ocean, we look back at the 2019 Geneva SX through the words of Dylan himself as well as the photos of James Lissimore.
By Dylan Wright
Photos by James Lissimore
Geneva SX: One to grow on!
As many of you may have heard, this past week I was privileged enough to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to race the Monster Energy Geneva Supercross. It was my first time travelling to Europe and my first time participating in a truly international race.
This opportunity came up when Eric Peronnard and I first started talking after the Montreal Supercross. I can’t thank him enough for inviting me and for everything he did to provide me and many other riders with a warm and professional welcome this past weekend.
Although the race weekend did not go exactly as we had hoped or planned, it was still an amazing experience! Let me walk you through yet another important “first” for me.
The whole trip started at the Toronto airport with Derek, who would be coming along with me as my mechanic. Our first flight was the long one, taking us to Zurich, Switzerland. We left Toronto at 6 p.m. local time and landed in Geneva at 8:30 a.m. local time there. Needless to say, the 6-hour time change made the travel day seem longer than it actually was. The flight from Zurich to Geneva was surreal with amazing views of the Alps.
When we landed in Geneva, we were greeted by Eric and a few other industry people who gave us a ride to the hotel. In hindsight, we probably could have walked to the hotel because it was so close to the airport. Not only that, but when we arrived at the hotel, I realized that the stadium was basically attached to the hotel. It could not have been more convenient!
This meant that we could get settled in and get right down to business in record time. Approximately one hour after we arrived, our bike showed up, ready to be worked on. Derek, Jay Moore, James Lissimore, and I walked over with the parts and suspension that we had with us to start piecing together a brand-new stock Honda 250 (compliments of Honda Switzerland) and to make it race-ready. It was pretty cool to have a few familiar faces there with me.
Derek got to work with putting our parts on and building the bike. The trick would now be to do some testing so that I would be as comfortable as possible to race during the weekend. Once the bike was assembled, we headed over to check out the track. The crew was nearly done getting it built and the track looked really good. One thing was immediately noticeable to all of us: it had a pretty long whoop section, with some pretty “big” whoops. It was clear I was not in Canada anymore! It was also clear that we might have to make some significant suspension adjustments to adapt to these.
After assessing the track, it was time to do the press conference and talk to the media for the event. It was all very professional. I quickly learned that the official language in Geneva is French. It didn’t take long for them to realize that I spoke the language and I was suddenly extremely grateful to be bilingual. As result, I proved to be a racer in demand and was lucky enough to conduct quite a few interviews with the francophone media. We also had to record a few small video clips that would play on the big screen for opening ceremonies. For the most part, those proved to be pretty funny and informal clips that really entertained the crowd.
Once we got all the press stuff out of the way, it was time to head out for dinner. Fellow Canadian turned American Steve Matthes of Pulp MX fame joined us. It was now our turn to be entertained. By the time we wrapped things up and made our way to the restaurant, we missed our reservation. It felt like showing up late at the line for gate picks. We were turned away and had to find another spot. We ended up finding this very nice Italian restaurant, which allowed me to load up on some much-appreciated carbs! It also allowed me to maintain my pre-race day ritual of chicken and pasta. It took everything I had to stay awake given the time change. Needless to say, when my head hit the pillow, I was out.
I woke and realized it was race day! We had our breakfast at the restaurant and then headed over to the track to get ready. In the first practice, I knew I would just need to send it through the whoops right at the beginning to get them dialed in as much as possible. The first 3 or 4 times through went very well for me. It was clean and with good speed. I was feeling pretty confident, that is until the next lap when I missed one of the whoops with my front wheel, making me drop right into the bottom of the following one and right over the bars into the berm. Even though it may have looked bad, I was able to roll out of it pretty well, but it was a pretty clear indication that we needed to make some more suspension changes to get through that very challenging section.
The next time out was the qualifier. I was able to get out and get some good clean laps in and actually clock the fastest time in the MX2 class heading into the night show. How awesome was that at my first European SX race!!!! The heat race went not too badly, with a decent start and a quick set of maneuvers to make my way into second. I started catching up to Joey Crown a bit but ran out of time to try to take the lead. Then it was the main event. I got a decent start and was making my way forward until I got punted off the track and lost a few positions. I regrouped, but a couple of laps later, the whoops were super cupped out and I got all sideways and went off the side of them into the wall. My bars and other parts on my bike were super bent, forcing me into the mechanics’ area for repairs. I couldn’t continue safely without the pit-stop and came to the cruel realization that my night was basically over. As I undressed and Derek worked on getting the bike ready for the following day, we lifted our spirits by joining the organizers and racers for a catered dinner organized by Eric and his team of event organizers. Then it was off to the hotel for another good night’s sleep.
The following day, we only had one practice. I went out and instantly felt very good on the track. I put in some very good lap times and earned myself the pole position, once again, heading into the night show. In the heat race, I got a pretty good start and made a pass into second behind Joey. I started putting the pressure on to make a pass but the whoops would get the best of me again. Once again, I missed one of the whoops with my front tire and got sent to the ground hard on my back. It took a while for me to catch my breath. So, that was it for that race and off to the LCQ I went. Fortunately, I ended up winning the LCQ but had to start in the second row for the main event. Not ideal, but at least I was there! The gate dropped, and I made a few key passes putting me into a decent position. Things were looking up until another rider got cross-rutted beside me and collided with me in the air, severely damaging my front brake. The brake was sticking on me, making it unsafe for me to tackle the track at the speed required to truly compete. My heart sank, I had to call it a night.
While I was disappointed with the final results, there is nothing like a huge line of European fans in front of your pit asking for autographs, despite those results, to lift your spirits. I have a big bruise on my back as a souvenir of my Geneva Supercross experience, with pain that will remind me for a few days to come that I was there.
Fortunately, I also have many other fond memories to go along with that bruise and new friendships established with some awesome racers from around the world. Add to that the beautiful sights I got to see as I played tourist in Geneva with Derek for a couple of days, and I walked away from the experience having learned a whole lot more about supercross and our sport in other parts of the world.
I really hope to get invited to other events like this one in the future and am looking forward to being given the opportunity to head back to Geneva again next year!