Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. In almost every part of the country, it’s starting to feel like spring. Our days are getting longer, the temperatures are rising, and the snow is beginning to melt. If you haven’t already, soon it will be time to load up your bike and head to your favourite practice track. Yes, another year of riding is about to begin in Canada and like all of you, I can’t wait.
Hopefully, most of you were able to watch the Daytona SX this weekend as the racing was excellent. From the opening lap of the first 250SX West heat race to the final lap of the 450SX main event, the action was both exciting as well as unpredictable. Through the heat races riders were crashing, red flags were coming out, and I think every rider was forced to battle hard for a transfer position. Heck, even the LCQ’s were exciting as both featured a couple of top riders. One rider in particular that I felt bad for during qualifying was one of our honourary Canadian’s Joey Crown. His attempt on Saturday evening to try and make the 250SX West main event showed just how cruel this sport can be. After getting a great start in his heat race, Crown was inside the Top 3 and in an easy qualifying position. Things appeared to be falling into place for the Michigan rider as a direct transfer to the main event seem imminent. But then Crown made a small mistake coming out of a slippery corner and was forced off the track. Unfortunately, this mistake allowed other riders to pass and Crown slipped out of a transfer position. In about 30 seconds Crown went from making the main event with a pretty good gate pick to having to go to the dreaded LCQ.
When the gate dropped on the LCQ Crown managed to get himself out front on the opening lap and again it looked like he would be able to finish strong and qualify for his first-ever Daytona SX main event. But then disaster struck when on the opening lap Crown came up short on a rhythm lane triple, got out of shape, and crash into the face of another jump. The force of the impact appeared to knock Crown out momentary and just like that his night was over. Thankfully, he got up and was able to make his way off of the track and back to the paddock. Crown suffered a bad concussion last year and it took him a long time and a lot of work to get healthy again. He did reach out to everyone on Social Media to say that he was okay and he would keep us all updated on when he might return. I hope it’s soon, but at the same time, I don’t think it will be.
In the 450SX class, I’m curious to see if we just witnessed Cooper Webb taking a big step towards winning this 2021 Championship? Since the beginning of this series, we’ve seen a cooler and calmer Ken Roczen as he battled through wins, lappers, as well as a bad start in the Orlando 2 main event. Roczen has been the best overall rider so far in the 450SX Series and that is why he carried the red plate into Daytona. However, in recent weeks we’ve seen Webb ride better and his double win in Orlando most certainly proved that. By all accounts, Webb and his KTM Team went back to his trusty spring rear shock after the three Indianapolis rounds (up until that point he’d been running the new WP air shock). This switch back to a spring shock has given Webb a boost of confidence and comfortability on the track and his recent results have reflected that. However, with that aside, Webb has proven in the past few seasons that he’s is a racer both on and off of the track. What I mean is that on the track he’s not afraid to mix it up with anyone and he doesn’t take any crap. At times, he even instigates things the way Damon Bradshaw used to. But off the track, he’s very aware of when it’s a good time to try and get into another rider’s head. Some of the things Webb has been saying recently and of course his move in Turn 2 of Saturday’s main event all appear to be designed to get into Roczen’s head and to break down the German rider’s newfound confidence and demeanour.
As I mentioned above, up until Saturday night Roczen had been taking everything in stride. But obviously what Webb did to him in Turn 2 bothered Roczen so much that when NBC Sports interviewed him after his fourth-place finish he did exactly what he shouldn’t have done. By calling out Webb’s move and saying ‘well if Webb wants to play like that then I can play that game also” (or something to that effect) he’s basically giving Webb the reaction was hoping for. To me this is comparable to playing a game of hockey and letting the other team’s “pest” suck you into taking a retaliatory penalty. I know Roczen was upset and sometimes when a microphone is stuck into your face you don’t always say the right thing. But at this point in the series when you have two riders battling for a title, the mental game is almost more important than the physical one. In my opinion, Roczen shouldn’t have even acknowledged what Webb had done and instead commented on how hard the track was to pass on, or something else. Or as Tom Brady used to say after a difficult loss, “We’re onto Dallas now.” I’m sure when Webb heard what Roczen said it brought a big smile to his face and when he arrived at the Baker’s Factory this morning to begin his preparation for Dallas, I’m sure there was some talk about how they were now in Roczen’s head.
I think it goes without saying how important these next three rounds in Texas are for Roczen and his 2021 Supercross title hopes. Webb has finished in front of him in the past three races and has now moved to within just two points of the Honda rider. Roczen needs to stop the bleeding and take back the momentum in the series. But how does he do it? Well, other than getting back to holeshotting main events and running away from everyone, he needs to quit talking about Webb off of the track and start taking care of him on the track. If Webb wants to run him wide in Turn 2 of a main event, then he needs to run Webb wide in Turn 3. At this point words are not enough for Roczen to regain mental superiority over the field, it’s going to take action! I for one cannot wait to see how this plays out. Will the tenacious pest Webb come out on top, or will it be smooth and calculated Roczen? Cowboy Stadium this coming weekend seems like the perfect place for their next showdown.
The Monster Energy Supercross Series wasn’t the only thing going in or around Daytona this past weekend. The Wild Boar GNCC took place yesterday and our own Tyler Medaglia was on the line in the pro class. Unfortunately, Tyler had some bad luck and didn’t finish. It’s a challenging race and to even finish you need a lot of luck. The 2021 GNCC Series moves back up to Georgia this coming weekend and hopefully, Tyler will be back on the starting line. In the WXC Class, Shelby Turner crossed the finish line with an incredible 5th place finish. Also going on today is the Ricky Carmichael Amateur SX event in Daytona. There are a few Canadian rider racing including Josh Bryan, Evan Stewart, Noah Viney, Wyatt Kerr, and Ryder McNabb. This event seems to grow each year and this time around there are over 1000 entries.
Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great week and hopefully you’ll be able to get out riding. The weather for Southern Ontario is calling for very mild temperatures this week so my fingers are crossed that Gopher Dunes will open this coming weekend for their first ride day of 2021. I’m sure Derek Schuster will be sending an update out soon and letting us all know what his plans are. Anyway, have a good week, and thank-you for reading!