Matthes Observations from MXDN...
By Steve Matthes
Photos by Allison Kennedy

(Here is my latest column, When you read it, you will see that I was hung over when I wrote it. I am not hung over anymore. Sorry for it coming out so late but Allison Kennedy is STILL in Baltimore with car problems, Danny Brault is too busy ripping sleeves off of people and the USA crew had the magazine deadline right after the biggest race of the year. So if you're still mad at the delay, cram all of this up your cram hole.  Have a nice day.) 

Well it finally came and went. The Motocross Des Nations (I’m NOT calling it “Of Nations,” so sue me) and it was in a word: cool! Everybody had been looking forward to this race since it was announced that it was coming back to America for the first time since 1987, and I don’t think anyone can walk away disappointed. Sure, the outcome was a tad anti-climatic but still, it was just cool (there’s that word again) to have it here and soak in the sounds and sights of the worlds best riders. The Motocross Des Nations at the Creek Des Budds—it just sounds cool.

When I first saw the track I thought that there might be some problems for the Euro riders—it was watered and ripped deep. Exactly the type of thing they don’t do across the pond. When the AMA National visited here earlier in the year, they came under some criticism for how hard and fast the track was. Back then it was explained that the FIM mandated the track to be that way, along with a redesigned start. Well, the FIM official must have been distracted by a pack of Chesterfields when the Budds Creek track crew—made up of NPG promoters and Mark “the Bomber” Barnett, working with Greg Atkins—was prepping for this weekend because it was USA-style.

I was kind of scared about the traffic getting in and out of the track, along with the parking that I thought would cause some problems but it all seemed good really. There was some construction on a bridge coming in one way to the track that caused some delays, and in the words of Gord Downie, “It couldn’t come at a worst time.”

But then how would I know? I had a great parking pass and an All-Access media pass, I could pretty much go anywhere I want. I should have asked some fan that had to park miles away and get charged for a shuttle to the track. Then wait in a tunnel for 30 minutes to get to the other side of the track.

How many people were there? I dunno, I heard a few estimates that were from 25K to 50K. If somebody was holding a gun to Hank’s head and I had to guess, I would say 30K. I really hope that Jonathan Beasley (the promoter) made some money on the event because there were some people a little worried due to the high costs Youthstream wants to hold the race.

 

 

Team USA won the event...no big surprise here.  

Allison Kennedy photo

 


To absolutely nobody’s surprise Team USA won with a score of 8. The lowest possible score is 7 (you take the best 5 out of 6 motos) and France came in second with a 34. It wasn’t close really. We should have known after Saturday when Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto and Tim Ferry all won their classes by 20+ seconds. The only hope the rest of the world had was if crashes or mechanical DNF’s hurt the USA.

Wait, scratch the crashes part… RC and Ferry both went down after the first turn in both their motos and came from dead last to 3rd (RC) and 4th (TF). That was honestly the best thing from a spectator standpoint; we got to watch these two charge through the pack in remarkable rides.

Villopoto stole the show on his Monster/Pro Circuit Kawasaki 250F; he won both of his motos in a dominating performance. He was simply un-freaking-believable. In the MX1/MX2 moto he took advantage of RC crashing to take the win. I’m honestly not sure if it would have mattered whether or not RC crashed, he might have beat the GOAT straight up on this day! The Kid was 20 seconds ahead after THREE laps.

 

The Ferry/Ramon battle was awesome in the final moto. 

Allison Kennedy photo

 

Tim Ferry was taking a beating on some message boards about being the weak link on the team but he shut those people up with a couple of great rides. His last to fourth was amazing, and the second moto he hunted MX1 World Champion Steve Ramon down slowly and passed him and pulled away. I was his mechanic at the 2003 MXDN in Zolder Belgium and that race didn’t go well at all. The team was disorganized and chaotic; add in the fact that Ramon passed Red and pulled away in the race to help Belgium beat USA and Sunday’s events had to be hella-sweet for the one-five, because he did the exact same thing to Ramon, the MX1 World Champ. Good things happen to good people, I’ve heard.

RC was his usual incredible self but I was talking to some people and we all agreed that he looked a little off. He fell on Saturday in qualifying briefly giving Grant Langston the lead and also again on Sunday. You can still count on a 95% RC to destroy the field but he just seemed a little hesitant to me. He did admit to coming in rusty and a little unprepared… can’t imagine what “fully-prepared” would have been like for the rest of the world!

 

 

Colton Facciotti was the big surprise for Team Canada.  

Allison Kennedy photo

 


Team Canada did good. I spoke with some guys that were a little disappointed with the Maple Leaf Marauders but I think it was a showing to be proud of. Tenth overall is nothing to sneeze at, with Canada’s best finish of an 8th without Team USA there a few years back, 10th ain’t bad.

Blair Morgan didn’t finish either moto either. He crashed in moto one and hurt his head and wrist, the second one out he twisted an already jacked up ankle and couldn’t stand the pain.

Jean-Sebastian Roy was his usual fast but the star of the team was Colton Facciotti with a 5th overall in the MX2 class—maybe DC wasn’t completely joking when he picked him to win on the Racer X Motocross Pre-Show….

Blackfoot Yamaha was running Team Canada and they were their usual professional, organized selves. The bikes sounded and looked good and I heard they even got some mousses for the tires at this race. Facciotti is too big for a 250F but I watched him carefully and his bike really didn’t give up much to anyone else’s. One thing they brought with them was the peculiar habit of running the privacy screens around their tent when no one else does. It’s like they have a rare Chinese Panda that they are shielding from people.



I noticed that in the MX1/MX2 moto RC gave up his starting spot to RV so that the 250F rider wouldn’t get buried in the pack (like on this day, it would’ve mattered for RV).  Ferry gave his spot to RV also in the MX2/Open class, but when USA lined up for the MX1/Open moto, RC took the advantageous inside gate. Team manager Roger DeCoster told Ferry that it would be for the best if RC had the inside gate. I guess because Timmy is such a good starter? Actually, they knew another “1” would wrap it up, and since it was RC’s last race and all, well…

The trickest bike award goes to Akira Narita. The Yamaha Japan/Jubilo Racing rider showed up with a YZ 450 that had a different tank than stock, one piece subframe and a steering stabilizer. My sources tell me that it had to have a different tank because of how radically different the frame is than the stock YZ450F. One look at the welds around the frame and you could see some different things being done there. It was still carbureted however. Runner up was Steve Ramon’s RMZ450.

There was the Thor/Parts Unlimited Party, the Red Bull party, and the Fox party after the race was over. So there were officially as many parties as there was motos. Nice!

There was all these what-ifs and who cans on the moto-x message boards of the world and they all centered on a possible upset of Team USA. Specifically which country could do it? The two consensus picks were Australia and New Zealand and things couldn’t have gone any worse for either one. Where to begin, let’s see here first off, Kiwi Josh Coppins banged his shoulder up six weeks ago, which hurt the country’s chances of winning.

Not too worry however, they replaced him with Darryl Hurley. Well, Ben Townley hurt his shoulder trying to scrub Henry Hill and Hurley knocked himself koo-koo on Saturday, neither one would start the qualifying motos on Saturday. Cody Cooper raced on Saturday to an eleventh. So the guys couldn’t even field a healthy enough team to race on Sunday. Not to worry they did win something, more on that later.

Team Aussie had Chad Reed, Michael Byrne and Andrew McFarlane. Pretty good team on paper and CR even got a second in the first MX1/MX2 moto. McFarlane crashed into a fence off the start of his moto and actually got airlifted to a hospital with a back injury (He’s fine). Burner was running well in his first moto before blowing a motor late in the race. CR had transmission problems in his second moto and DNF’d. So they only scored in 2 out of a possible six motos and finished 20th.

The Kiwis were so distraught on Saturday night that Ben Townley, Cody Cooper and Moose rider rep Steve Van Zylun went touring around the camp sites. Let’s just say that BT has a whole bunch of new fans now that he was hanging out with the locals. The American fans were pumped that BT and Coops participated in the locals’ liquid games.

Speaking of BT101, he pulled me aside to rib me a bit on Ferry winning and how I must be so happy. Then he told me that my last couple of columns have been “weak.” He didn’t like the Texas one where I just had pictures of vendor’s row. That one was fantastic, if you ask me. I will do you a favor here, Ben: No photos from the after-party. Wow. Hope you got that Alka-Seltzer Morning Relief that DC sent your way…

And Josh “The Lizard” Coppins told me that my British Magazine DBR’s columns haven’t been very funny. What is with these guys? Are they riders or literary critics?

I don’t think we got to see MX2 World Champion Antonio Carioli’s real speed. He looked just ok to me and never was all that impressive. On an interview he did with RacerXill.com he mentioned that he didn’t like the grooming of the track, but whatever the case may be, he has to be faster then what he showed. Either that or a lot of people are really wrong about him. He didn’t look too upset at the Red Bull party after the race either, or maybe the Italians have a funny way of being bummed out.

Parts Unlimited “Rocket” Rob Buydos
did a great job of announcing the event. I wasn’t happy with the lack of enthusiasm about Team Canada but on Sunday morning, I went over and he let me talk about the Canucks and some other riders for a bit. He even threw in a “Rollerball” reference for me.  That was sweet.

After I was done announcing, I went over and watched practice with Ron Lechien for a bit. If you would have told me that I would announce at a MXDN and then watch practice with the 1988 MXDN champion 10 years ago, I would’ve punched you in the liver for being so crazy.

Speaking of the announcer, the FIM had “their” guy also announcing with Rob and Tim Cotter. Nothing wrong with that except the guy was speaking in French! I mean how many people there were primarily French speaking? If anything, have a Spanish announcer seeing as how we had so many Latin American teams there. I’ve been to quite a few European announcers and don’t remember any English guys there.

Grant Langston had a MXDN to forget. He briefly led the qualifying moto on Saturday when RC tipped over and looked to be able to get in the mix on Sunday. I spoke to him on Sunday and I asked him to tell me about his day. I honestly lost track of the amount of crashes that he said he had! Every third sentence was, “So then I went over the bars”.

Thanks to Mario Marini for my media pass, I got to go into an air conditioned, free Red Bull tent and get all the results. I’m kinda not really media and I noticed that there were a lot of real serious, quiet conversations going on a lot. I liked it though and wish we had that over here but it would only have five guys in it every week.

Team Mexico was in the house! For the first time ever, they fielded a team and the riders didn’t have the best of luck for sure. Everybody’s favorite banquet speaker Erik Vallejo, Ricky Jurado and Juan Hector Collins comprised the team. Jurado hurt his knee and Collins took a header on Saturday which greatly hurt their chances. Team Factory Connection leased out their truck and bikes to the guys so they had a top notch effort behind them.

There was a great disparity between the USA and some of the slower countries. Team Iceland was a little sketchy but at least they showed up on bikes and not dog sleds. In practice Einar Sigurdarson was 37 seconds slower then Tim Ferry on his best lap!  It still is cool seeing all the different riders and gear show up though. Iceland got last in the “B” final by the way. The other riders on the team were Vladimar Thordarson and Aron E-something. I couldn’t read his last name as I dropped a piece of mandarin chicken from Panda Express on the paper while in Houston on the way back home.

There were some reports a few ugly incidents in the campgrounds at night. The American people are not that familiar with the Brits and their love of getting naked, or so it seems.

My buddy Ron “He wasn’t that fast” Hyde came down from Victoria to hang out with me for the race and he asked me to introduce him to The Dogger if we saw him. Not only did I do that, but Ron got to hear a few stories as well. Ron had a pretty good weekend if you ask me. Here’s what he got to do:

- Go anywhere he wanted with an all-access pass.
- Got to speak to his hero the Dogger.
- Got to talk to a Yamaha guy all about his 2008 YZ450F. (Ron is into the mods)
- Got to listen to Larry Brooks and Chad Reed tell me some stories I cannot print.
- Got to arrange a deal between a guy from Akrapovic exhausts and himself something about ‘08 gear and a free exhaust.
- Got to finally tell Jeff Emig that he cut the track at Hollister Hills in 1988 when Ron was racing him. Fro pleaded the fifth and gave him a weird look.

Remember when I said that team New Zealand won something? Well, they won the best team celebration after the race for sure, hands down. Townley, Cooper and Coppins and all the Kiwis of the world were WFO at the Thor tent. It was great! They really know how to drown their sorrows. Rueben, BT’s manfriend was the “star” of the show for sure. Other highlights that I can tell you about-

- Mitch Payton being presented with a cake for his b-day and getting it in his face. Which resulted in a massive cake fight.
- Mitch telling Townley that he was fired for throwing cake in his face, and to give all his bikes back ASAP. Townley is going to Honda next year.
- Racer X Canada’s Danny Brault ripping sleeves off of Buydos, Little D from FMF, Cody Cooper and Denny Stephenson.
- Denny carrying on a 10-minute conversation with Brault and right when Danny went to walk away, Denny rips his whole shirt off.
- Danny hugging Denny saying, “That was awesome man, good job.”
- I threw a cookie at Buydos and hit bajillion time champion Stefan Everts by mistake.
- Bigwave Billy, Kevin Tyler and Johnny from MX101 getting to see Danny be Danny.
- Myself and Jason Weigandt getting to meet the first rider to win titles in all three world championship classes, the legendary bad ass Eric Geobers. We got a photo of the three of us. Look at Weege, just absolute joy!



I was giving Eric credit for being one of the only euros to win a USGP in the ‘90s when he won 1990 Glen Helen 500GP. He said that he was very happy to win that race and after that he “took the key out of the ignition.” Whatever that means, it sounds cool though.  I also got him a Red Bull pass after he got kicked out by security—the guard didn’t seem to care that he won all those world titles.

Ok, I’m not going to lie here people; I was working on 3 hours sleep and was really hung over when I tried to write this Monday. I got some help from Bad Billy Ursic of Racer X for some more observations from the race:

Observations from the MXoN
By Billy Ursic


Matthes asked me to fill in for a bit since he overdid at the Thor tent so here’s what I’ve got. I’ve never done this before, and I admit I’m kind of nervous. Well, not as nervous as when Jason Weigandt wrote it a few weeks back. The Weege was all stressed out and spent the entire Monday writing it! I was like “Dude, it’s only a column by Steve Matthes. Just write a few things that’ll piss people off and make others chuckle, and you’re fine.”

I think it’s pretty safe to say that almost everyone in the motocross industry attended this event. Well, except for some American riders, and Ludo from One Industries. In fact, I talked to Andrew Short about a week before the event, and he told me the last thing he wanted to do after the outdoor series was get on another plane and travel across the country to a race just to spectate! Point taken.

But I did see Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey hanging out, taking in the action. While watching Saturday’s qualifiers I also spotted Pedro Gonzalez in the crowd along with “Bengt.” I really don’t know Bengt’s last name; all I remember is that he was a member of Ryan Hughes’ entourage when Ryno was racing the 125cc Nationals for KTM a few years back. Josh Coppins was also there checking things out. Man, I feel bad for that guy. But you can show him support by checking out his website, www.joshcoppins.com. It’s rad.

I also saw two-time Plus 25 Loretta Lynn’s champion Jimmy Evans in the crowd showing his support for Team USA. If you heard a really, really loud air horn, it was him. He had a fire truck horn with two external tanks which can deliver a constant blast for like five minutes straight. He was near the top of Henry’s Hill surrounded by a bunch of pissed off spectators.

 

The American fans...well all the MXDN fans... were really dedicated.  

Allison Kennedy photo

 

In the spectator’s area next to Henry’s Hill I also saw a guy climb up between two trees to catch the action. He had to be about 40 feet in the air, and he stayed up there for like three hours! The dedication of American fans is unbelievable!

I’ve also been ribbing Ping about not going to the race. His excuse? “I want my first des Nations experience to be in Europe.” What a jerk. He’s still hoping to maybe represent Team Puerto Rico at an upcoming MXoN.

Since Maryland isn’t too far from our headquarters in Morgantown, WV, a few of us road tripped it down to Budds in our company vehicle—a 2007 Toyota Tundra. (www.toyota.com)  I joined Managing Editor Bryan Stealey, his wife Susan (AKA, “Sarah Whitmore”) and Racer X designer Dave Brozik, and what a blast we had. All I can say is this: You got to check out The Racer X Motocross Show on Motocross.com! (Yes, it’s an inside joke.)

Brozik decided to camp out at the track Saturday night to get the full MXdn experience. “It was like the High Point of old,” said Dave on Sunday morning, with his eyes half open, reeking like camp fire and stale Budweiser. What he means is that it was one hell of a party scene. The police report is not available at this time.

What about the hospitality at this event? I’ve never seen anything like it. Racer X Publisher Scott Wallenberg had exactly 83 different bracelets on his right arm, allowing him into the various hospitality areas on site—he looked like one of those women in Africa who walk around with jar of water on their heads, arms covered in bracelets.

As for myself, I only had five. Thanks to Mario at Red Bull for the liquid energy, Terry Baisley at Fly for the H20, Randy Richardson at Michelin for the chicken, Lou Lopez at Parts Unlimited for the pasta and Mike Farber at Racer X for the comedy. I love you guys!

Speaking of Red Bull, I was chatting with Mario over there, who drives the show hauler, and he told me that he had the same last name as one of the riders on Team Greece, and he’s not related to the guy. In America, a common last name is Smith or Jones. Do you know what Mario’s last name is?  Panagiotopoulos!

If you’re a regular reader of Racer X, you’ll appreciate this: I finally got to meet the legendary Johnny O’Hannah. You know, the guy who sends in pictures wearing a fro and old-school motocross apparel. We haven’t run any Johnny O’Hannah stuff lately because he’s in the Navy and has been serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan the past several years. O’Hannah grew up in Woodstock, NY, and attended the ’87 MXdN, and this is a race he definitely didn’t want to miss. It was a good time and a pleasure to meet you, O’Hannah!

The vendor’s area was slammed all weekend long, and I noticed people in the crowd eating French fries and mayonnaise! Nice!

One more observation: the music. To be honest, I kind of dug it. Well, not really all the country music, but I thought the European techno stuff was pretty cool that they were playing over the PA system. Heck, they even left it on for like the first 10 minutes of the third moto on Sunday. I think it helps pump up the crowd and the riders and makes for a better show.

Overall, I thought the event was a grand slam! I just wouldn’t have wanted to be in charge of the litter crew today. And I can’t wait to go to Northern Ireland in 2008!


Okay, thanks Billy!  As usual send your questions to matthes@racerxcanada.com and I will try my best to get back to you guys. Look for my next column from the U.S. Open in a few weeks.