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The Monday Gate Drop Presented By Yamaha Motor Canada

Good Day! I hope everyone had a great opening weekend to the first month of our summer season. June is always when the temperature begins to heat up and finally the kids are done with their long school year. Also, in Canada, June is when our Pro Nationals begin and this past weekend my family and I were in Edmonton for the opening round of the 2023 Triple Crown Series. From there, we drove to Calgary on Sunday and then early Wednesday morning we’ll make the drive west to Kamloops for the WCAN. It should be a fun week ahead as my son Ayrton is very excited to race on the famous Whispering Pines track. It’s also going to be a hot week as temperatures are forecasted to exceed 30 degrees Celsius in Kamloops this week. Yes, summer is here and I’m sure everyone is excited!

Friday’s press conference was a cool part of the opening round. Photo by James Lissimore

As I mentioned above, on Friday we flew to Edmonton and once we landed, we headed straight to Rad Torque Raceway for the official Triple Crown Series opening round press conference. All of the top riders were in attendance so it was good to hear their thoughts on the upcoming summer of racing. From there, we headed out for dinner with rookie pro-rider Josh Bryan, James Lissimore and his wife Claudie, and Billy Rainford from DMX. Obviously, the dinner talk consisted of some endless bench racing as after all, this was the opening round and we all were excited. After dinner it was time for bed as Saturday was going to be a long day at the track.

With Rad Torque Raceway being a multi-purpose facility there was a lot going on during the day and evening on Saturday. There was the Triple Crown Series event, drag races on the drag strip, and there was also road racing on the adjacent paved course. It was a busy day at this cool venue but my main focus was obviously on the newly constructed motocross track. The opening round for 2023 was unique with the track being an SX/MX hybrid track as well as the riders racing three shorted ‘sprint’ type motos. The schedule was also a unique one with the opening 250 moto not starting until 4pm local time. The SX portion of the track also sat in front of large grandstands that were pretty full by the time the gate dropped for the first 250 moto. By all accounts, just over 2000 spectators came out to watch the opening round on Saturday evening. That isn’t too bad for a first-time event.

The track for the opening round had a lot of potential but the soil was very hard packed. Photo by James Lissimore

So while there were a lot of positives and future potential with this type of event, the one area that was lacking was the track itself. Overall, the riders hated it and most couldn’t wait for their final lap to come. The soil on the infield portion of the track was beyond hard packed and almost impossible to maintain. Also, with a super tight race schedule there just wasn’t time to do any track work once the night show began. The track crew did have the track raceable and looking good prior to the opening 250 moto, but that was after an hour or so of grooming and watering. As I said, once the racing started there was barely 10 minutes to spare for track work and once it began to deteriorate, it went away quickly. Mid-way through the program the track surface was blue-grooved and very unforgiving. However, the back (outdoor) section remained in decent shape all evening and most of the riders thought it was pretty cool. As I mentioned above, this event holds a lot of potential moving forward once the track issues are addressed. Whether it has to be constructed sooner and then watered and tilled up consistently all week long leading up to race, I don’t know exactly what the solution is; all I know is that the soil in that area of Alberta is like nothing I have ever seen before and it needs constant attention.

It was tough day for a few riders including Mitchell Harrison who went DNS-2-DNS in the 250 class. Photo by James Lissimore

Once the gate dropped the racing was tentative at best, the riders were extremely cautious all night long. When poor Jacob Piccolo crashed in the first turn of the opening 250 moto and walked off with a dislocated shoulder, I feel like Piccolo’s crash was a big red flag for the rest of the riders to chill out and make it through the night unscathed. There were a few more crashes during the evening but no other big injuries to my knowledge. Jess Pettis had a huge moment during the final 450 moto when his back end got kicked in the whoop section in front of the grandstand. He did a big endo in the air but thankfully was able to save it. Somebody was definitely watching over Pettis on that one, as it no doubt would’ve been a season ending crash. Overall though, the racing was okay and it was great to see our top riders back at the track and kicking off the 2023 Triple Crown Series. Eve Brodeur dominated both WMX motos while Brock Hoyer took home both Thor Pre-mix motos. Now it’s onto Round 2 in Kamloops and with it, will come a rough track and long motos. If the riders didn’t enjoy this past weekend in Edmonton, then they’re going to get the exact opposite in Kamloops. To help kick-off the opening round of the Triple Crown Series here are my thoughts on the top ten overall riders from Rad Torque Raceway.

It was a great day for the KTM Canada Team as their 250 riders finished first and second. Photo by James Lissimore

250 Class:

1. Kaven Benoit: 1-1-2

What a story this could be this summer as Kaven Benoit attempts to write one final chapter in his racing career. I think everyone knew he would be fast at the opening round, but I’m not sure if too many people picked him to dominate. The battle between Benoit and his young teammate is sure going to be fun to watch in the 250. However, this week we’ll celebrate Kaven’s win and we look forward to seeing the red plates on his KTM this week in Kamloops.

2. Ryder McNabb: 2-8-1

Coming into the opening round Ryder admitted that he was not 100% and had only been back on the bike for about two weeks. But, even though he was recovering from a broken leg and unable to ride during the past two months, Ryder’s dad told me yesterday that he worked his butt off to be as ready as he could. All of that hard work looks to have paid off as Ryder looked very good Saturday. The true test will come this weekend in Kamloops where it’s supposed to be very hot, and we’re back to long motos.

3. Josiah Natzke: 4-4-3

Like every rider I’m sure, Natzke came into the opening round not really expecting the extreme conditions like what we saw. He seems like a smart rider who doesn’t like to take chances and also knows that the Triple Crown Series is a long one. Natzke got good starts in all three motos and rode smooth and smart all day to take the third step on the podium. I’m excited to see what the Kiwi can do on the rough Whispering Pines track this coming weekend.

4. Quinn Amyotte: 3-7-4

Last year, Quinn was one of the most improved riders in the 250 class as his speed and starts were much better than in years past. For 2023, Quinn is looking to build on that success and by all accounts he put in a lot of work during the off-season. On Saturday, he had a great opening moto, and then backed it up with a last lap pass on Racine in the final moto to secure 4th overall. This could be an incredible season for Quinn as his confidence appears to be at an all-time high.

5. Sebastien Racine: 5-5-5

This was Racine’s first big race aboard his new MX101 Yamaha and boy was he ever solid. This kid is a racer and a fighter and he’s going to be tough all summer long. On a day where it was difficult to find any consistency, Sebastien did what most could not.

6. Hunter Schlosser: 6-8-7

After a decent SX Series in the USA Schlosser made his way to Edmonton from his home State of Texas to compete in the Triple Crown Series. Hunter got good starts in Edmonton and rode well to finish up in 6th overall. I’m curious to see how he does this weekend on a true outdoor track.

7. Zach Ufimzeff: 10-11-8

After a solid off-season down south Zach came into Round 1 better prepared than he’s ever been. It’s taken a couple of seasons for Zach to get some solid footing in the pro class, but if he rides all summer like he rode on Saturday it’s going to be a great year for the likeable rider from BC.

8. Tyler Yates: 11-13-9

I didn’t see a lot of Tyler Yates during the motos on Saturday, but when I did see him he looked smooth on the challenging Rad Torque Raceway track. Tyler is a good technical rider so when the track get tough I feel like it really benefits him. Look for him to battle for top ten finishes all summer long.

9. Dylan Rempel: 7-15-11

With the way the track was set up as well as how hard packed it was for Round 1, I honestly wasn’t expecting much from young Dylan Rempel. This kid excels on rough and soft tracks as that it what he’s spent most of his time training on. Dylan’s first moto this weekend was very impressive as he got off to a solid start and remained inside the top ten. Watch out for this kid once the series heads east as I feel he could be a solid top five rider.

10. Sam Gaynor: 8-12-14

This finish by Sam was pretty impressive considering he not only worked all week and flew in late Friday evening, but up until two weeks ago he wasn’t even going to be racing the entire Triple Crown Series. Sam is a grinder though and as he’s gained more and more experience in recent years, I feel like he knows how to navigate his way through a national moto. Right now, he’s in a good spot and I hope he remains healthy and enjoys his time under the TLD/GASGAS/SSR tent. A fit and happy Sam Gaynor is a fast Sam Gaynor!

What a terrible start to the series it was for Jacob Piccolo. Let’s hope he heals fast and can return to racing asap. Photo by James Lissimore

Notables:

Tanner Ward: 11th overall

I’m not sure if Tanner took one look at the track and decided that for him Kamloops was going to be his opening round next weekend, but Saturday looked like a challenging day for him. His starts weren’t good at all and on this track you had to start up front in order to finish there. Tanner worked extremely hard during the off-season to recover from his knee injury and to be ready for this series. I’m sure he’ll go home this week and work his butt off and coming out swinging this weekend in Kamloops. Not only does he need to finish well this weekend to get back in the points battle, but also I feel like Tanner needs something real good to happen for his overall confidence.

Mitchell Harrison: DNS-2-DNS

There isn’t much to say about Mitchell Harrison’s day in Edmonton, it was terrible as far as points go and about the only good was that he left the opening round healthy. I don’t know what the issue or issues were with his bike in moto one as well as the final moto of the day, but it was tough to see the entire class leave the gate without him. I’m sure he’s going to be very tough to beat this weekend in Kamloops as he has some points to make up.

Jacob Piccolo: DNF (Dislocated Shoulder)

Jake’s day didn’t last 200 feet as he crashed in the first turn of the opening moto and injured his shoulder. It was just so sad to see and I know how much work Jake and his team put into this 2023 championship title chase. Unless he needs surgery on his shoulder I’m sure we’ll see him back on the track later this summer, it’s just a question of when. Until then I hear that the GDR Team won’t bring someone else in to fill-in for Piccolo if he’s able to come back for the east rounds.

Dylan Wright had a good day and came away with the overall win in the 450 class. Photo by James Lissimore

450 Class

1. Dylan Wright: 2-1-1

Well, I guess the only thing that went wrong for Dylan at Round 1 was that his win streak from last year is now over. After getting off to a poor start in moto one he was unable to catch Pettis for the win. In the second two motos Dylan looked comfortable and up to any challenge put to him. He told me after the race that he just wanted to get through round one and not make a big mistake on the tough track. He also wasn’t too impressed with the contact Pettis initiated on him in the first turn of the final moto as it cracked the header pipe on his CRF450R. You could hear his bike getting louder and louder as the race went on. If it had been a 35 minute moto I don’t think it would’ve lasted. I would expect the champ to be even better this weekend in Kamloops as it’s supposed to be hot and the track will no doubt be rough.

2. Jess Pettis:1-2-2

I first have to say that it was awesome to see Jess Pettis back on the track this weekend. I’ve known Jess since he was a little kid and he’s always been a polite and likeable person. It’s been difficult to see him go through so many injuries during the past two seasons, so I’m glad he’s fit, healthy, and ready to race this summer. Like in 2021, I believe that Pettis is one of the only 450 riders with the pure speed to challenge Wright for moto wins this summer. Whether he can win enough motos to be a championship threat to Wright is another story though. I know Pettis has a 450 title inside him for sure, but the most important thing for him this summer is to remain healthy and build confidence for years to come. In the meantime, it’s going to be fun to watch these two battle all summer long as there already appears to be some friction.

3. Shawn Maffenbeier: 3-4-3

During Friday’s press conference Shawn spoke at length about how much he loves his new 2023 YZ450F, as well as about what a great off-season he had in California. With this new bike Maff has been able to change and modernize his riding style so coming into this summer he feels rejuvenated. He looked great on Saturday and I cannot wait to see what Maff does this weekend in Kamloops. I don’t know if he can be a championship threat in 2023, however, I do think he’ll win at least one moto in what could be his final season as a professional motocross rider. We are so lucky in this country to have top pro-riders that also serve as such great role models for our young riders. Whether it’s Wright, Pettis, Medaglia, Brodeur, or Maff (just to name a few), all of them are great riders and people to try and emulate.

4. Tyler Medaglia: 4-3-4

Unfortunately, Tyler came into the opening round not feeling 100% as he was battling some illness. Also, he hated the track and couldn’t wait for the opening round to be over. However, like a true professional he did his best and actually rode quite well. Look for Tyler to recover this week and be back to his normal self at Round 2.

5. Keylan Meston: 5-7-5

I was impressed with Meston’s day as he just quietly battled through all three motos and came out with one of his best finishes of his career. Let’s hope Meston can keep it going this weekend as well as the remainder of the summer.

6. Jeremy Mckie- 7-6-6

For a rider that came into the opening round with high hopes of finishing on the podium, I’m sure Jeremy wasn’t happy with his overall on the day. I saw Jeremy on Sunday morning in the lobby of our hotel and although he wasn’t happy with his day, he was thankful that he got through all three motos healthy. Once this kid gets comfortable in the 450 class I expect him to join the top riders as they battle for podium finishes all summer long.

7. Daniel Elmore: 10-5-7

Daniel Elmore came into the opening round in very good shape after a solid off-season of training at Club. This will be the first season for Elmore under the tent of a large team so he’s no doubt very excited about 2023. This weekend Elmore admittedly didn’t gel with the track so at the end of the day, he was pretty happy with his results.

8. Julien Benek: 6-9-8

For the most part, Benek had a quiet day in Edmonton and rode solid all day long. However, with all of the injuries that he’s had in recent years Benek needs some more quiet and solid days like this all summer. Hopefully he can continue to build his training base and work on getting more comfortable on his KX450. Julien has a ton of talent and I wish him all the best in 2023.

9. Tyler Gibbs: 8-8-9

I don’t think any rider in the field this past weekend went through what Tyler has gone through in the past two weeks. From deciding to move on from the TLD/GASGAS/SSR Team, to buying a KX450 last week, I’m sure it’s been a roller coaster of emotions for the talented kid from BC. With only a few days on his new bike, Tyler looked predictably uncomfortable at the opening round. Hopefully, as he gets more time on the bike, his comfort level will improve and he’ll be able to log some solid results this summer.

10. Andy Truyts: 9-10-10

Prior to Saturday I didn’t know much about Andy, but it’s always cool when riders from Europe come over to Canada to race. Andy looked smooth and fast all day and did quite well for his first race of the series. I’m sure he doesn’t have much experience on dirt like we saw in Edmonton.

It was tough day for some of our Team Managers. Photo by James Lissimore

Here are some quotes from a few of the Team Manager’s regarding Saturday in Edmonton.

Brett Lee: WLTN/Kawasaki/Seven MX Team

I love the fact Jetwerx is thinking outside the box. This event could be awesome. I think that it needs more preparation time and equipment to make it a national caliber track, but the idea is good. With so much going on between the motocross, drag strip and road bike course it could really be awesome. I am not unhappy with our weekend, but I wish we were in the fight more. I know how much I learned this weekend and that will make us better next weekend. Tanner and Jeremy are motocross ready and Kamloops is going to be good for both guys. To see this from other side now, running the series with CMRC back in the day, running Walton Nationals and now the team. I see it from every side and the things I may have known, I now feel I understand better. It was a real learning experience for me.

Kevin Tyler: MX101/FXR/Yamaha Team

We were pleased to come away with solid points, solid rides and all our guys healthy.   That was the mandate.  We are excited to start the real outdoors in Kamloops this weekend. 

Alex Parker: Thor/GASGAS Racing Team

We knew going into Round 1 that it was going to be tough, but we had no idea it was going to be three blown engines kind of tough. We do our very best to make sure we send our riders out on fast and reliable motorcycles, and unfortunately Saturday we caught a streak of bad luck with three different failures on three different engines.

Time to regroup for Round 2 and come out swinging. It was great to see Eve ride so well and Tyler battle all night long to finish fourth overall.

Ryan Lockhart: Honda Canada/GDR/Fox Racing Team

Unfortunately, Jake washed the front end on the start of Moto 1 while heading into the first turn with the holeshot. He was then run over by another rider which resulting in a dislocated left shoulder. After many attempts to get it back in place Jake was transported to a local hospital and his shoulder was put back in. The health and well-being of Jake is our number one priority at this time and as of this morning the earliest return will be Round 4 at Gopher Dunes. As for Dylan, he just did what he usually does and rode smart to take the overall win. See everyone this weekend in Kamloops.

Whispering Pines
Onto to Kamloops now for the WCAN and Round 2 of the Triple Crown Series. Photo by James Lissimore

Well, that is it for me this week. We had a great weekend in Edmonton and now it’s time to think about the WCAN this week in Kamloops. It’s going to be fun to watch my son race on the Whispering Pines track as he battles the fast riders of Western Canada. Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions please email them to me at chris@mxpmag.com.

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