Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. As we saw on Saturday evening in Anaheim Christian Craig drew first blood in the 250SX West class and took a convincing win. Craig was riding the new 2022 YZ250F for the Star Racing Yamaha Team and the new bike looked great all day long.
Well, after an exciting opening round of the Monster Energy Supercross Series in Anaheim where do I even begin? First off, attending the opening round of SX at Angel Stadium should be on the bucket list of every motocross fan in Canada. I’ve had the opportunity and privilege of going to the opening on a few occasions both as a child and as an adult and I think it’s one of the greatest motocross adventures you can go on. Everything is cool about the opening round in Anaheim, including the scenery, the weather (most of the time), and of course the vibe of just being at Round 1 of Supercross. However, my favourite part of being in Anaheim has to do with Angel Stadium itself. I’m a creature of habit so when I find something I like I generally try and stick with it for as long as possible. So whenever I go to the Anaheim SX I try and stay in the same hotel each year, eat at the same restaurants, and when I drive to Angel Stadium I always take the same route. Whenever I drive to the track from my hotel I always enjoy driving north on State College Blvd, then turning right on E Orangewood Ave and immediately Angel Stadium appears on the left-hand side. Complete with the large baseball hat as the centerpiece for the main entrance, Angel Stadium is a very unique place and a perfect spot to launch the SX series.
Other than all of your favourite factory riders I’m sure everyone in Canada was keeping a close eye on Cole Thompson this past weekend in Anaheim. As Cole told us exclusively in an interview last week, he decided to race these West Coast rounds for two reasons. First, from the first time he threw a leg over his 2022 YZ250F he fell in love with it. I think every rider knows that feeling and when you really enjoy riding your bike going racing is just a natural progression. This is where Cole was last month as the more he rode his new YZ the more he loved it and soon he wanted to go and race it. This brings me to the second reason Cole is currently in California racing SX. The moment Cole decided that he wanted to race his new YZ he knew that he wanted to race against the best riders as well as on the biggest stage. Well, there is no stage bigger than the one inside Angel Stadium so he packed up his motorhome and headed west. As the saying goes, “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.”
So, how do you think Cole did on Saturday night? Even though Ryan Lockhart predicted Cole’s finish at the opening round almost perfectly, I didn’t know what to expect from CT in Anaheim. I figured with it being his first race in a long time and the fact that he was racing on a new bike that the first round would be all about getting his feet wet. However, all of that didn’t seem to matter and overall I thought that Cole’s 14th place finish in the main event was excellent. If you look at which riders were in front of Cole, most were factory or at least semi-factory riders. Throughout the main event, Cole was able to maintain solid lap times. His fastest lap time came on Lap 6 and even on Lap 14, Cole was still turning in fast laps. Obviously, Cole’s fitness is strong and I believe once he gets a little more comfortable a Top 10 finish is in the near future. Just as a reference, Carson Mumford finished 10th on Saturday evening and his best lap time was less than a second better than Cole’s. That isn’t too bad. Also, let’s not forget that on Saturday Cole was doing everything without a mechanic. I chuckled when he said in one of the videos we posted that he had to ask a couple of the other mechanics to help him engage his starting device on the line. You know you’re doing it on your own when…..Also, let’s not forget that the track at the opening round was fairly technical and by both main events it was in pretty rough shape. The dirt they use in Anaheim is a little strange in that it has a lot of little stones in it. This is what makes the Anaheim tracks break down so much as the day goes on, especially at the opening round when the dirt is still so fresh.
So Cole will no doubt hit the practice tracks this week with a ton of confidence and I think he will be even better in Oakland this coming weekend. Actually, I’m quite sure all of the SX practice tracks will be wide open this week as the riders make adjustments after the opening round. Unless you’re Christian Craig or Ken Roczen I don’t think any of the riders could be completely happy with their opening round. Pretty much every rider made mistakes on Saturday evening and that could be attributed to either set-up issues or even nerves. I don’t care how good you are or how many times you’ve lined up at the opening round in Anaheim, nerves play a big part with how you ride. For Craig, he’s a California kid and as he said on the podium he’s always dreamed about winning the main event inside Angel Stadium. He was fast all day and when a few of his fellow competitors started crashing, the main event was really Craig’s to lose. I’m now looking forward to seeing how Craig manages this 250SX West Championship now as the pressure grows with each race. In the past, this has been Craig’s undoing so if he wants to win this title he’s going to have to find a way to stay off of the ground and remain healthy.
For Ken Roczen, I feel like he got a little fortunate on Saturday night when his teammate (Chase Sexton), who appeared to be a little quicker in the early laps of the main event, treated him with kid gloves. If Sexton had pushed the issue a little harder and forced his way past Roczen I feel like Chase could’ve gone on and won the season opener. However, I understand why Chase wasn’t as aggressive as he needed to be when racing his teammate but it really did cost him. Once Sexton went down and Roczen got a decent size lead, all he had to do was ride smooth, avoid lappers, and take what the deteriorating A1 track gave him. As we saw on numerous occasions, this was not the track to be battling on as the harder you tried to ride it the more challenging it was. Sexton’s speed impressed me, Roczen’s patience impressed me, Cooper Webb’s determination impressed me, Barcia and Tomac also impressed as both riders hung in there and scored some important points. Now everyone has a chance to regroup before they head north to Oakland for Round 2. The weather for this weekend in Oakland looks great as the forecast is calling for sunny skies and temperatures of 15c.
Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a healthy and happy week. Before I go here is a great photo that Blair Morgan posted to his Social Media this weekend. Blair was at the Snocross race in Minnesota this past weekend and much to the delight of everyone in attendance he hit the track again. For so many reasons this just brings a big smile to my face and by the sounds of it, Blair was smiling also. So thank you for reading and please keep checking mxpmag.com for another week of solid content. Tomorrow I will post an interview I did with Derek Schuster who was in Anaheim and looking fit. Also, we’ll of course get Cole Thompson’s thoughts on how the opening round went. Donk will check in on Wednesday with his second Dialed In column, Gauldy is back on Thursday with his Flood 2.0 blog, and then on Friday, I will once again ask Ryan Lockhart some important questions. If you have anything you want to ask Newf please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading and have a great week!