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The Monday Gate Drop Presented By Yamaha Motor Canada

Good day, and welcome to the final Monday Gate Drop of May. This past month sure has gone by fast! It seems like yesterday that I was excited about my favourite month ahead. Also, with yesterday being my 50th birthday, yes, I said 50, my weekend was truly an unforgettable one. Thankfully, I woke yesterday feeling no different than I did the night before so hopefully my 50th year will feel just as good as my 49th did. Anyway, thank you to my family and friends for making my birthday a special one, and thank you to everyone who reached out to me yesterday with their best wishes.

It was great to see Cooper Webb back on the gate. However, he was no match for the red riders.

First up this week is the opening round of the Pro-Motocross Championships which took place on Saturday at Fox Raceway in California. I’m not going to spend long talking about this as I have a lot of Canadian news to get to, but I will say that I was blown away while watching qualifying and parts of each 450 moto. I’m not saying that I’m an expert on riding styles, or who has good technique on a dirt bike; but, I feel like in some ways I do have a good eye.  While watching people ride. I can pick out certain good habits and bad habits that riders have. However, I’ve been involved in this sport for a very long time, and while I love watching the unique styles that every rider brings to the track, it takes a lot to make me pause and think “Wow, that rider is truly impressive.” Well, this happened on Saturday while watching Jett Lawrence race his CRF450R for the first time in this series. His flow, his technique, his line choice, his complete control of the motorcycle, all of it was impressive, and in the end, it was no surprise that he won both motos. During the Monster Energy SX Series I always thought that Chase Sexton rode the 450 well and was a step above everyone else when it came to technique. But, after watching the two of them battle during the second moto, I feel like Jett is on another level technique-wise. I think we’ll see more speed out of Sexton in the coming weeks as he did have a pretty hard crash in practice and I’m sure that detuned him a little. However, I’m sure Lawrence will also improve as the series goes on, so we’re in for a pretty good summer of racing in both classes in the USA. When all was said and done at Fox Raceway, it was another Lawrence-Brother day and both found themselves on the top step of the podium. Onto Hangtown now!

The track map for Round 1 has been released.

Okay, let’s talk about Canada now and the most exciting weekend of the year. Yes, on Saturday the gate finally drops on the 2023 Triple Crown Series at Rad Torque Raceway located a stone’s throw from the Edmonton International Airport. After months of anticipation, I cannot wait to jump on a plane Friday morning and head to Alberta’s capital city to take in the opening round. My wife and son are also flying out with me, we’re doing a big family trip and staying out to race the WCAN the following week. This morning the Triple Crown Series released the schedule for Saturday as well as the track map for Round 1. With a unique track and schedule this only adds to the excitement of the opening round. Also, I was excited to learn last week that Head Referee Paul Kingsley, and his talented Assistant Referee, Daryl Murphy are back for 2023. These two have been a vital part of this series for years and things just wouldn’t be the same without them. The riders trust them, the teams trust them, everyone on site trusts them, and you need that at any event. I mean, if you can’t trust the officials, who are you going to trust? So Kinger and Murph are back and I’m also delighted to see that Tech Inspection is back! I questioned last year why don’t we do tech inspection anymore and it seems like my wish has been granted. I don’t think we need sound testing or anything serious like that, we just need some sort of bike, helmet, and jersey inspection prior to the race. This is professional racing and it should be treated as such. Like everyone, I’m excited for this weekend and it all gets underway Friday evening with a Press Conference.

After his perfect season last year Dylan Wright enters 2023 as the favourite to win the 450 title once again. Photo by James Lissimore

It would take me hours to write out which riders I feel will be fast this weekend and where they might finish. As I said, it’s a unique format this weekend with the three shorter sprint-type races so, if any of the rounds open the door for something unexpected to happen, it’s this one. Will the short motos, and a tighter track allow even the best riders to get to the front after a potential bad start? We will have to wait and see. If I’m Dylan Wright, and I’m looking for another perfect season then this race most certainly has my attention with its narrow margin for error. Also, we’ve had this format a few times over the past few seasons, but up until now it hasn’t been used at the opening round when every rider is just a little more excited than normal. Meaning, I believe we’re going to see a little bit of everything on Saturday. Oh, and let’s not forget that the first 250 moto doesn’t begin until 4 pm local time, so that will no doubt add a little extra spice to the racing. As of right now the forecast calls for rain on Thursday in the Edmonton area, however, the weekend looks great so hopefully the spectator turnout will be strong. I really hope this weekend runs smooth and we have a safe and exciting opening round of the 2023 Triple Crown Series. I also hope that the local fans embrace this event and then maybe it can be the opening round for years to come. Anyway, we will see you all in Edmonton on Friday and if you cannot make it, don’t forget the racing as well as Friday’s Press Conference will be live on RydeTV.

With the departure of Tyler Gibbs from the TLD/GASGAS/SSR Team Sam Gaynor will be back in the tent at Round 1. Photo by James Lissimore

In other Canadian moto news, we had a team and rider change last week as Tyler Gibbs and the TLD/GASGAS/SSR Team mutually decided to part ways. A situation like this is never ideal, but when you’re two weeks away from the opening round it has the potential to be a disaster. If there is any good news out of the split, it’s that both parties have found a new way forward. Sam Gaynor has replaced Gibbs on the team and will race in the 250 class full-time. Also, as of late last week it was reported that Gibbs has purchased a KX450 from the WLTN/Kawasaki/Seven MX Team and will compete as a Privateer this summer in the 450 class for the first time in his career. I’ve spoken to both Tyler Gibbs and Steve Simms, and each of them are excited for the opening round and their programs moving forward. As unfortunate as this is, it’s a good learning situation for all riders, especially our younger riders who dream about getting under a factory tent. Like it or not, once you sign a contract, you’re abiding by a program that the team has set out for you. The days of doing your own thing are mostly gone and if that’s a struggle, then you might as well do what Gibbs is doing and buy a bike and run your program the way you feel is best. Certain riders excel in the high pressure and regimented environment of a factory team, while some may find it too restrictive. It doesn’t make them a bad person or a bad rider, it’s the way they’re wired. However, the formula for success hasn’t changed in decades and as we’ve seen countless times over the years, if you want to win or even be a podium rider, then you have to follow certain steps. At the end of the day, there is a business side to any sport and it’s not always fun. I’m excited to see a healthy and motivated Sam Gaynor in the 250 class, and I’m looking forward to see how Gibbs can use his talents to find success in the 450 class.

One of the most iconic James Lissimore photos came from Rad Torque Raceway in Edmonton. Here Brett Metcalfe leans his Kawasaki over in a deep rut back in 2013.

Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great week and a solid start to June. Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please email them to me at chris@mxpmag.com. Finally, congratulations to France’s Charles LeFrancois on winning the Riviere du Loup AX this past weekend. It looked like another incredible event and barring any major situations in my life, I’m heading there next year to be part of the festivities. I haven’t been to RDL since 1997, so I’m excited to head back and check out how far this amazing event has come since the late 1990s.

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