Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. As we get ready to drop the gate on the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Series in the USA this coming Saturday, all eyes will be on the Blu Cru. With a solid lineup of talent in both the 250MX and 450MX classes, we will most certainly be seeing Yamaha riders on the podium all summer long.
Well, as I mentioned above the opening round of the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship blasts off the gate this weekend at Fox Raceway in California. Heading into Round 1 it was confirmed on Friday afternoon that Cole Thompson will be joining Tyler Medaglia and Burg Gilliomee are the only Canadian riders on the entry list. We’ve known now for a few weeks that Tyler and Burg would be lining up at Fox Raceway but until Friday I had no idea that Cole had been thinking about racing the opening round. As you’ve might have seen on Social Media, Cole has been down south training since before Christmas so I can understand him getting antsy to line up for a meaningful race. Although Cole won’t have his normal mechanic Steve Beattie with him, he will have his full race bike as KTM Canada has shipped it down to California for him to use. I think it’s great that KTM Canada is doing this for Cole as having your own bike with you at a big race like this could be the difference between battling for a Top 10 finish or settling for a lesser result because you don’t feel completely comfortable with your bike. I’ll wait to do a full interview with Cole until after Saturday but I reached out to him this morning and he sent me this quote. “With racing being pushed back in Canada it’s given me this opportunity to race in the AMA series again. I’m also very thankful my team was able to make it happen so quickly. I’ve had an awesome off-season and ready to see where I stack up against the best.”
Like I said above, I was surprised to hear that Cole would be racing the opening round at Fox Raceway, but with no racing up here until early July I think this is a great move. I’m sure he’s feeling as fit as he ever has as to my knowledge Cole’s training has been getting better and better each year. If he can quickly get comfortable on the rough and slippery Fox Raceway track then Cole should do quite well in the 450MX class. The weather is forecasted to be hot and sunny so let’s assume by the second moto the track is going to be dry, slightly dusty, and choppy. With Cole’s smooth style superb throttle control the conditions will most likely suit him very well, so if he can get some decent starts and stay out of trouble then I do expect him to have a solid finish. Especially in Moto 2 when the track will be beaten up and a few of the top riders will start to fatigue. If I had to make a prediction (please keep in mind that I’m usually really bad at this) then I will say that Cole’s moto finishes this weekend will be 15-11. Of course, given that he hasn’t raced for months, the level of talent in the 450MX class, and that he’s unfamiliar with the track, anything inside the Top 15 will be a solid finish for Cole. So good luck to CT16 and also Happy Birthday to our 2018 Triple Crown Champion as today he turns 28 today.
It’s also great to see Tyler Medaglia and Burg Gillimoee racing the opening round as well. I’m not sure how Burg’s speed is compared to the other riders in the 250MX class but hopefully, he can qualify and ride two solid motos on Saturday. As for Tyler, well who knows how he’s going to do? Knowing Tyler that way I do he could finish anywhere from inside the Top 10 to outside the Top 20 in either moto. The downside for Tyler is that he will on a borrowed GASGAS MC450 and will have limited support on Saturday. However, he will have his own suspension and set-up parts and in the past when Tyler enters a race as the underdog, he almost always surpasses expectations. One thing that we can all count on is that if Tyler’s bike is still running then he will be giving it 100%. Also, you know he’s fit and I think having Cole racing will give Tyler a little extra motivation to finish each moto as the top Canadian. Basically, whatever place Cole is in, Tyler will want to be in front of him! Whatever happens, the opening round is going to be fun to watch on Saturday.
One more rider that we might want to keep an eye on is our former 2019 Triple Crown Series Champion Phil Nicoletti. After two years of racing in Canada, Phil is competing in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Series this summer, and judging by his recent interview in MXP Magazine with Andy White, Phil is happy to be back in the USA. Like most of us in Canada, I’m excited to see how Phil does this summer down south. He was a great addition to our Canadian Series and he will be missed in 2021. Here are a few quotes from Phil’s recent interview with us:
Andy White: How is your Yamaha for 2021? Is it similar to your 2020 from Canada?
Phil Nicoletti: My Yamaha is around about the same. There really isn’t much that is super special about it they come pretty bulletproof. I’m trying to keep it as much as I can like my Canadian set up as far as power and chassis.
AW: The competition in the U.S. is obviously much tougher. Way more teams and top-level riders. Where do you think you fit in?
PN: It’s always hard to tell where you will fit in. Deep down I’d obviously like to be between 5th-12th for the first two or three. Just to shake out some of the cobwebs and see where I’m at. Like I said before, I haven’t raced since the last Sand Del Lee round at the end of August, so this will ultimately be like getting thrown to the wolves. I’m really excited and of course a bit nervous. At the same time, it’s not like I haven’t raced these guys a million times before!
AW: You have raced most or all the U.S. outdoor tracks in the past. What tracks are your favourite and not so much?
PN: I have a few favourite tracks that I’m really looking forward to getting back to! Red Bud, Millville, Ironman, and Unadilla. Those tracks are next level as far as layouts and facilities. I’m NOT looking forward to Pala, Thunder Valley, and Hangtown. I’ve never ever gelled well with those tracks, so for me, it’ll just be about collecting as many points as possible.
AW: What type of training do you do to prepare for the outdoors?
PN: There’s a lot that goes into it as far as training, but first and foremost, having quality days of practice on my dirtbike are most important. Anything outside of that is just a bonus to help get better on the dirt bike. There’s still a lot of cycling and a lot of gym work that goes into it. It all depends on what sort of training block I am in and that determines what weight program I’m doing. That stuff always changes every four weeks.
AW: You hang out with quite a few top riders, so you know their training programs and their weaknesses. Does it motivate you?
PN: It does help motivate me in some ways but with training it’s not, ‘one size fits all’. Everybody has different strengths and weaknesses on and off the bike. There are a lot of guys that I can smash on a bicycle and in the gym but riding a dirt bike for 35 minutes is a completely different beast. You do have to be unbelievably fit to race a dirtbike but at the same time, it is still a skill-based sport.
AW: How old are you now? How many more years do you have left in you?
PN: I don’t like to think how old I am! I get nauseous every year on my birthday . I am currently 32 years old. I’m not really sure how many years I have left in me. I guess when it comes to the point where I don’t feel competitive or feel like I don’t want to put the time into it anymore. But I still enjoy riding in training. And that’s a good thing about ClubMX because I’m around younger kids all the time so it makes me feel young as well.
AW: If ClubMX says, ‘hey we want you to ride SX’, are you in for 2022?
PN: I would definitely entertain the idea. As a racer, there’s always a piece of you that wants to still accomplish more and do more things. I do enjoy Supercross, I really do. I get this rap where I don’t like it because I call it deathcross. I’ve had some good success with it, and I can still ride it fairly well. All I’m saying is if it makes sense, I’d entertain it. I’m not totally kicking the idea to the curb.
AW: Back to the Canadian program. What will you miss about Canadian series?
PN: I’m just going to miss some of the people. It’s weird, you know, at the end of 2018 when I signed to go to Canada for 2019, I was worried about how I was going to fit. Worried about signing with a team and people I’ve never met. Now it’s switched and I’m gonna miss those people. Weird how it works.
So between our three Canadian riders and Filthy Phil, there will be a lot to keep an eye on this weekend in California. Well, that is it for me this week. In Ontario, Gopher Dunes opened back up this past weekend and I would expect the rest of the tracks to do so either this weekend or in the coming weeks. As for racing, that is still up in the air as you’d need a Bombe Machine to decipher Ontario’s reopening plan. Anyway, at least tracks are open for practice, and hopefully racing will follow soon. Thank you for reading and I hope everyone is enjoying their Victoria Day weekend!