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The Monday Gate Drop Presented By Yamaha Motor Canada

So, how is your May long-weekend going? I hope everyone is doing well and having a great Victoria Day weekend. My family and I were considering going to Sand Del Lee for the AMO Race, but the weather forecast had us debating making the 6 hour drive to the Ottawa area. Then, just as we were about to make our final decision, I received the call that everyone who has elderly parents dreads. My mom fell in her home near Hamilton on Friday evening and ended up breaking her hip. She had to have emergency surgery on Saturday, so we spent the day visiting with my Dad and making sure he was okay. My Mom’s surgery went well, and now she’s on the road to recovery. Life can sure change quickly.

Yeah, so no racing for us this weekend, which obviously wasn’t ideal. However, we have a lot of racing coming up in the next few months, so I’m sure we’ll once again get our fill this summer. Last week was another interesting week in our industry, as we (the media) were invited over to Walton Raceway for the photo shoot of the new WLTN/Kawasaki/Seven MX Race Team. Sadly, the team’s American star Justin Bogle wasn’t there as he’s still back home in California recovering from the injuries he suffered in a practice crash. With no hard timetable for Bogle’s return to racing, the team decided to move Tanner Ward to the 250 class for this summer. Ward was a 250 title favourite back in 2021 when he rode for the GDR Honda, but for whatever reason he was unable to take home the big prize. Well, after some discussion’s during the past few weeks, it was decided that Tanner would be a great fit in the 250 class this summer. I’m honestly on the fence with this one.  Toward the end of last summer Tanner was riding his KX450 very well, especially at the final round at Walton Raceway. So, you’d think with the same bike, Tanner would be even better this summer in the 450 class. However, as Tanner told me on Tuesday, he likes this move as he feels like he has some unfinished business in the 250 class. It sounds like Tanner is extremely motivated to battle this summer, and he’s definitely going to need it as the 250 class is stacked with talent in 2023.

The WLTN/Kawasaki/Seven MX Team’s entry in the 450 class will be rising Quebec star, Jeremy McKie. A talented rider who spent the final rounds last summer under the KTM Factory Tent in the 250 class, and ended up getting some podium finishes for the orange team. Well, McKie is now a 450 rider and as you will read this week in an interview I did with him, he feels 100% ready to battle for not just podiums, but race wins also. For the past year I’ve speculated that McKie might be a better 450 rider than a 250 rider because of his size, and the way he rides. He’s always had smooth throttle control and I feel like he sees the track really well. I guess only time will tell, and we’ll all get to see how he does this summer. Regardless of how McKie finishes in his rookie 450 season, I can guarantee that he’s going to be exciting to watch. I had a great day at Walton Raceway and it was not only exciting to see the boys ride, but also to see the team’s new race shop. Over the years, Walton has been so many different things to all of us, and now it’s cool to see this famous facility as the HQ of a factory race team.

My championship pick in the 250 class in the USA is Star Racing Yamaha rider Justin Cooper. Photo by Matt Wellumson

This week all the teams and riders are making their final preparations for the opening round in Edmonton. Most of the teams are based in the east so they will spend this week loading up and then this coming weekend, they’ll hit the road and head west. Like any opening day of any sport, the first gate drop of the summer is always exciting. This year the Triple Crown Series has added even more excitement to Round 1.  It will feature a hybrid SX/MX track as well as a sprint-moto format. It’s almost time to go racing and it’s hard to believe that another summer of national motocross is almost upon us. In fact, this coming weekend the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships will kick-off at Fox Raceway in California. The 450 class has been slightly decimated as several top riders are out with injuries, including the defending champion Eli Tomac. However, the battle between last year’s runner-up in points Chase Sexton, and rookie 450 rider Jett Lawrence, should more than make up for the other riders absence from the series. I believe Jett will win some races, but I still like Sexton for the title. In the 250 class, my pick for the championship is Star Racing Yamaha rider, Justin Cooper. It should be fun as the gate drops this coming Saturday.

Could Maff be better than ever in 2023? Photo by @unitednihilists

Going back to Canadian moto and the final ten days of preparation before everyone heads to Alberta. One rider that I’m interested to see race this summer, is the cagey old veteran Shawn Maffenbeier. Shawn is armed with the all-new 2023 YZ450F, a bike he’s loved from the first moment he threw his leg over back in October. When you’ve been at it as long as Maff has, you need to find reasons (other than just racing your dirt bike), to get motivated and grind it out like your younger competition. Maff is also a cerebral rider so his bike, and his program have to make sense in order for him to be at his best. Well, if his riding yesterday at the Sand Del Lee AMO race is any indication, then 2023 is going to be a very good year for the Saskatchewan native. After a great off-season of testing his new bike and training in California with Doug Dubach, Maff looks ready to go! With his announcement several months ago, that 2023 will be his final year of pro racing, I’m sure Maff wants to go out with a bang. So, whether or not this is his final season (a solid season might just energize him to keep going), I’m looking forward to seeing it all play out.

Ryder McNabb is now back on the bike and doing his best to get ready for Round 1!

Well, that is it for me this week. With my birthday being this Sunday, the next time I sit down to compose this column I will be a 50 year-old human being. It’s hard to fathom that I’ve even made it this far, as there has been some questionable moments in the past 50 years. But, in golfing terms; I’m sadly entering my Back 9! Thank you for reading this week and if you have any questions or comments, please email me at Oh and one last piece of news, Ryder McNabb has just started riding again after breaking his lower leg several months ago. Obviously, he’s going to enter the opening round not quite as prepared as he would like, but he told me this past week that the plan is to get through the three west rounds, the best he can, and then make a big push once the Triple Crown Series heads east in July. Seems like a good plan to me. Good luck to Ryder and to all of our pro riders as they navigate their way through these final days of preparation.


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