By Chris Cooksey
The Monster Energy Cup is the most significant offseason race for 450 Supercross teams, allowing riders an opportunity to measure their progress with their existing team heading into the 2018 series. And we can’t forget the million dollar grand prize to any rider who finishes first in all three main events. For other riders like Justin Barcia, MEC is an audition for any future potential team exploring options. The unfortunate truth is riders get hurt while preparing for Anaheim 1 in January. If a team is in need of a last minute fill in, a standout MEC performance can move a rider to the top of the possible replacements list.
The MEC is unlike other Supercross races in format and track design. Adding in a Joker’s Lane that Marvin admitted in the postrace press conference he forgot about in his first race. Feld (the promoter) utilizes the Monster Cup as a trial to test format and track changes. It also allows for amateurs who qualified via Loretta Lynn’s Amateur National a chance to race on a tamed down (highly debatable) Supercross track in front of thousands of spectators, live on TV. While I enjoyed watching these kids take center stage I also wondered about the safety hazard of sending kids in the middle of puberty (makes them crazy and irrational) out on a track with such aggressive obstacles. The first couple of practices and qualifying sessions looked more like Russian Roulette than Supercross racing. The amateurs represent the epitome of “whatever it takes” and at such a young age unfortunately, some of them need to be protected from themselves. With that said I thoroughly enjoy watching them show off their incredible talents, but am conflicted if this is good for them or if they are being exploited for entertainment purposes.
It only took 7 years, but Marvin Musquin finally duplicated Ryan Villopoto’s inaugural MEC win. Heading into the first main event the biggest threat to Marvin was Eli Tomac, but Eli went down hard in the first race and was unable to continue the rest of the night. With Eli out, the race quickly became Musquin’s millions as he easily cruised through three wins to take home the million. The only rider who appeared to be formidable competition was Jason Anderson. Both Marvin and Jason train at the Baker’s Factory so it was difficult to imagine a pass from Anderson in the third main event, Anderson’s lap times reflected his lack of aggression. Let me be clear though, I do NOT think Anderson gave Marvin the win however, if Blake Baggett was the rider going for the million dollars JA would have charged a little harder. At the postrace press conference I asked Marvin what his thoughts were being “the man” heading into the offseason and in typical Marvin style he downplayed his ride. He expressed it felt great but it really didn’t carry much weight when Anaheim rolls around. What was more interesting was the look Jason Anderson shot me when I called Marvin “the man.” Jason looked as though I had insulted his mother. While I am sure he is happy for his teammate the truth is these guys don’t achieve the highest level of racing by accepting someone’s performance as better than them. I suspect tension will come to a boil at the Baker’s Factory this offseason.
Eli Tomac remains a mystery. At times he would lay down a few sections looking like the fastest guy on earth but then he would follow up with a major mistake. He has a few months to figure things out, but right now Marvin Musquin looks to be the favorite going into 2018. We all know Ken Roczen says he will be at Anaheim 1 and according to Jeremy McGrath he looks very fast. The MEC might have created more questions than answers heading into 2018. Let the bench racing begin, we have a few months to debate and lock in our predictions for 2018.
Nobody was taking a knee during this National Anthem! Great tribute to the victims of the Vegas shooting too.
After getting throttled by Stephane Roncada while testing out the new Supercross game I decided to sit back and learn. Game will be released Feb 2018 and it is insanely realistic!
By Chris Cooksey
I just finished the Monster Energy Cup press conference and practice session. It’s been a while since I have asked questions at a press conference so I was a little nervous. It was intimidating sitting next to Motocross Journalists Steve Cox and Steve Giberson (aka, GuyB) as they are the gold standard for print journalists in our sport. The pre-race press conferences are usually the most boring of any press conferences because the riders are focused on the upcoming race. I would love to throw a couple hardballs at the guys, but I don’t think that’s fair as they are in getting into their racing mindset. I really wanted to ask Eli if he was well rested after skipping the Des Nations, but this was not the time or place. I did ask Barcia why he was on a Honda, all summer he was campaigning to ride the Factory KTM. While that didn’t materialize I thought if he showed up on a privateer KTM and showed them what he could do on a KTM they might rethink their decision and add a third bike to the team. This was the most crowded press conference that I have attended, the room was jam packed.
After the Q&A the riders hit the track for about 30 minutes, they lined them up like a start and let them practice dropping down the 30 foot embankment onto the stadium floor. Unfortunately for Justin Barcia this is as far as he made it before swapping out and crashing hard at the bottom of the start ramp. He was alright but his new Honda was twisted up pretty bad. He missed almost the entire session. The surprise was Tyler Bowers on his #69 Kawasaki, he was the only rider consistently clearing a double coming out of the sand section and was one of the first riders to go 3-3-3 in the rhythm section coming back into the stadium. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Bowers get a podium. Eli Tomac looked like the same guy who rode his bike back in New Jersey (awkward and stiff), but that could change if he wakes up on the other side of the bed. Marvin Musquin looks like the “guy” this year, he has a quiet confidence and will no doubt win one of the 3 main events tomorrow. Jason Anderson and Tim Gajser both looked good and will no doubt be in the mix. I can’t wait for tomorrow to see who steps up and if anyone can want the million.
Eli doing his best “Blue Steel”
Bogle explaining how easy it was to join JGR
Barcia barley made it to the Dirt before sampling it...
Big man Benny Bloss showing off the Fly MEC LE Gear
Watch for Bowers tomorrow night, he is riding good!!!!
By Chris Cooksey
What should I ask the guys? You can watch live at https://livestream.com/SupercrossLIVE/events/7790575
By Chris Cooksey
Ken Roczen is riding again! Since his historic crash in Anaheim, Roczen’s career has been in limbo with only hints and speculations by industry insiders of his return. Ken continued to fuel hints via social media by documenting his surgeries and sharing with his fans his road to recovery since the horrific crash that severely damaged his left arm. To date he has endured twelve surgeries on his left arm leading many to question his future riding ability. Today at Mesquite Motocross Park while burning some Pre-Labor Day BBQ calories I noticed a clean looking Honda 450 with the number #94 plate. I had stumbled across the HOLY GRAIL, Ken Roczen on a motocross track! While he was clearly cruising and getting comfortable, his talent is undeniable in case anyone is wondering.
Ken did two Moto’s roughly 30 minutes in length. Until today I wondered if he would ever be the same rider he was before the accident. After watching him ride I am confident we will see a dominant champion return. I had the opportunity to chat with Ken, and while he did not want to answer any questions about his return, my guess is he will be ready for Anaheim 1.
By Chris Cooksey
Congratulations to Ryan Dungey on his highly successful racing career! He will go down as one of the all-time greats in the sport of Motocross and Supercross. While the sport is beneficial with Dungey’s participation, the sport will survive without it. After hearing his retirement speech, at his personal press conference, I am curious to see how he handles retirement. Retirement for professional athletes can be tough. Athletes define themselves by their skills and Dungey's entire life has been dedicated to the goal of winning. Once winning is no longer an athlete’s sole goal in life, depression can take hold. The identity of their professional self dies and they are forced to reinvent themselves. In the heat of the moment Dungey probably wished he was normal and didn't have the intense pressure or stress anymore. While this is true, he will still miss the adoration of so many fans. He will never be able to recreate the feeling of crossing the line to win a Supercross Championship. His life will be full of great joy and good times but the feeling of being Champion cannot be replicated.
Ryan Dungey will be remembered as one of the hardest working and determined riders in the sport’s history. This skill will help him moving forward or it will be his downfall. Unfortunately, professional athletes are not held to normal societal rules and many are socially inept. They are so used to everything being geared towards them and their goals. In retirement they are expected to instantly become regular people. They no longer receive special treatment or have an entire team geared toward assisting them reach their goals. They lose many “friends” who were there to feed off their fame and fortune. This is devastating to their psyche. Dungey will need to learn how to widen his focus. The tunnel vision required to be a Champion can alienate an athlete in regular society. Retiring athletes often have an identity crisis when it all ends. During their careers they have a team of people helping them focus and move forward. When they retire this giant support system shrinks to a few people and things can feel lonely.
In the next couple years Ryan and Lindsay will be challenged in their relationship. The divorce rate for professional athletes upon retirement is extremely high, their relationship dynamic will completely change. I have heard many people say, “He is rich and has a hot wife, life is good!” While this is true many professional Motocross racers don't have the money to sit back and reflect. Ryan has the money to allow the nothingness of retirement set in. Ryan doesn't need to enter the regular workforce and will have a lot of time on his hands. Ryan will have to find a new motivation for getting up in the morning, much like Kevin Windham. He might want to give Windham a call and allow Windham to explain the emotional roller coaster that lies ahead, and unlike his professional career this will be played out in private.
While we celebrate Ryan Dungey and his historic career achievements, I am concerned for him as a human being. I don't think Ryan will go very far from the sport, he has too much to offer. Hopefully he will make the transition and embrace his new life in whatever role he chooses. RD5 is no longer his identity, he is now Ryan from Minnesota. I personally appreciated Dungey this season as this was my first season in the Supercross media and he made it very memorable. He answered my press conference questions honestly and didn’t hide his emotions. I took a lot of heat after Glendale, but I wouldn't have it any other way. He showed his human side, something he never showed earlier in his career.
If you want a perfect example of the struggles an athlete goes through upon retirement, check out the documentary State of Play: Happiness.
(Photos by LC)