Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. We are now just a few days away from another new year and with how unpredictable 2020 was, I’m sure everyone is excited to turn the page on the calendar. So will 2021 be any better than this past year? I certainly hope so!
I hope it’s the same with everyone who is reading this, but I think despite all of the uncertainty of 2020 there were some highlights and a few positives to come out of it. First and foremost, most of us were able to spend more time with our families. Obviously, I can only speak to how my year went, but with no western nationals and no in-person media functions, it’s been almost a year since I drove to the airport to get on a flight. I love the process of travelling so I have to admit that I do miss it, but like I said, during all of those days and weeks that I normally would’ve been away, I was able to spend them at home riding with my son. As they say, “when life throw’s you lemons, all you can do is try and make lemonade.” So with that in mind, and nothing else to write about this week, here are some of my highlights from 2020.
Anaheim 2 and WP Suspension Test
As I was saying above, the last time I hopped aboard a plane was way back in January when I flew out to California. The purpose of that glorious trip was to pack as many things as I could into my short time there. On the Thursday before Anaheim 2, I flew into San Diego, rented a car, and made the stunning drive up to the coast to Irvine and the Fox USA HQ. Once there, I met Jason Moore and James Lissimore and together we toured every inch of the very cool building. We also got to hang out with Canadian bicycle legends Drew Bezanson and Jackson Goldstone who were also in California to get some sun and watch Anaheim 2. It was a great first day of my California trip and by the time my head hit the pillow I’d been up for almost 24 hours.
The next day Jason, James, and I made our way out to Fox Raceway where we met up with the boys from WP Suspension. The second part of my trip was a suspension test with WP and their new Pro Component Suspension. As you can imagine that day was incredible as it was just me and two technicians from WP testing all sorts of suspension settings. It was a riding day I will never forget and thankfully I had James Lissimore there to document it. That night I went over to the Viney’s house to have dinner with Ulf, Bjorn, and Noah. It was great to catch up with them and see their sick SX track that sits 100 feet behind their house. The following day I drove to Anaheim to watch the race and then the first thing the next morning I flew back to cold Ontario. It was a great trip, but who knew at the time that it would be my final one for the year.
Spring Riding Season and First AMO Race
Even though we were under our first Government imposed lockdown back in late March and early April, Spring thankfully arrived early where I live and we were able to ride at our home track. With no racing at the time, it gave us a good amount of time to just ride, have fun, and not have to worry about rushing to get ready for a cold Ontario spring race. Those early season spring days were just spent riding and working on technique and skills. Even through May there was still no racing on the calendar, so we just rode and had some competitive ride days with other riders coming over. By the time the gate dropped on the first AMO race in June, my son was more than ready to race!
As the entire country probably heard back in June, the opening two AMO Ontario Provincial events at Gopher Dunes and Walton were incredible. Both races had over 700 entries and there was an excitement in the air that we haven’t seen in several years. They were also the first races on Canadian soil in 2020 so they did prove at the time that events like this could be run safely. On the track, everything was the same as it always was with great racing, but off of the track, everyone onsite had to adapt to the new Social Distancing rules. Masks were also mandatory when you left your pit area and went to the starting line, and people were parked in the paddock with a little extra room between them. These races were different than anything we’d ever seen, but they worked and they set the tone for the remainder of the season. Every Region in Canada deserves a ton of credit for going above and beyond to hold events in 2020. I know it wasn’t easy, but you did it and you should be proud.
Opening Round of the MXTour at Gopher Dunes
With the AXTour and the early western rounds of the MXTour getting cancelled, at one point it looked as though there wouldn’t be a pro series in 2020. Through May things were looking pretty bleak as Jetwerx were trying to figure out if it was worth having national events with no fans. It was also challenging finding tracks to hold races at as each region was under different Covid-19 restrictions. However, in the end, it was decided to keep the series in Ontario and run events at Gopher Dunes, Walton, and Sand Del Lee. There was supposed to be a round at Deschambault, but it cancelled at the last minute and the final weekend was moved back to Sand Del Lee. Despite all of the hurdles it turned out to be an entertaining series and I will never forget the opening round at Gopher Dunes and the first 450MX moto of the series. To hear the bikes rev up and to see the gate finally drop on the 2020 series was very special. Actually, the entire Triple Crown Series was entertaining, right from the opening round at Gopher Dunes to the final SXTour race in September. So many good battles and so many stand-out performances most certainly made the 2020 series an unforgettable one.
I remember asking Walton Raceway owner Brett Lee back in April if there was even going to be a TransCan in 2020? Brett’s reply was a very determined, “We will do everything we can to have a TransCan this summer.” Well, that was all I needed to hear and as we all know, a few months later families travelled from across Canada to Walton, Ontario to compete against each other. It wasn’t easy for Brett and his Walton crew to pull off this event, after all, he met resistance numerous times along the way. But in the end, they pulled it off and it was one of the most special events ever in Canada motocross history. With a pro-national scheduled at both ends of the TransCan, the week had a feel like no other event before it. Although it did rain for the pro races, the amateur’s had perfect weather all week long and as you would expect, the racing was superb.
There were numerous battles all week at Walton Raceway in almost every class, but perhaps the most entertaining one came in the final 30B moto of the week. With Steve Simms and Devin Train (both riders live near me and spend every Wednesday night riding together) heading into the final 30B moto tied in points, it all came down to who was going to finish better in Moto 3. These two warriors did not disappoint as for the entire final moto they weren’t more than a bike length apart. With Simms out front, Train tried everything he could to get by, but each time he tried Simms would shut the door as if he had eyes in the back of his head. It was a spirited battle that lasted right up until the checkered flag. In the end, Simms won the battle and the war with Train close behind. On the podium, both riders were tired and humble as they gave their post race interviews. This was also one of the final motos of the 2020 Walton TransCan and it most certainly represented everything that we know and love about this sport. As I said, it was a great week at Walton Raceway and I know I’m not going to forget it for a long time.
There were obviously more memorable moments from 2020, as it was definitely an interesting year. Moments like Tanner Ward winning his first-ever pro-national at Walton Raceway was very cool. Watching Jess Pettis and Dylan Wright dominated the 250 and 450 classes this past summer was inspiring, as was Eve Brodeur’s winning the WMX class. Having the opportunity to test ride and race Tyler Medaglia’s Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki was a moment I will never forget. Tyler’s bike was just awesome and to be able to race it at the final round of the SXTour was a lot of fun.
So many great memories from 2020, but now it’s time to say good-bye to another year and welcome in a new one. By the sounds of it, the first few months of 2021 won’t differ too much from what we saw in the late stages of 2020. Covid-19 will still be an issue and until people begin to get vaccinated on a grand scale, the media and the Government messaging won’t likely change. The good news is that hopefully by spring will begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel and we will be able to head into the 2021 race season full throttle. For now, let’s be thankful that we made it through another year (sadly some fine people didn’t), and let’s look forward to the future. Thank you for reading all of my Monday Gate Drops this year and thank you to Yamaha Motor Canada for their continued support of this column. Happy New Year and all of the best in 2021!