There is no sugarcoating what happened in England this past weekend: The USA got smoked. Now, sure, Zach Osborne rode great and almost won the MX2 class and, yes, a rider tore his ACL on Saturday and another had two mechanicals. There was no way, however, that without the injury and DNFs, they would have won. A fifth or sixth was definitely possible for the USA, looking at the results, but once the rains came victory was not going to happen.
As usual with professional sports after a defeat, the second-guessing begins. It has for Team USA, who lost the Motocross of Nations for the sixth straight year after a winning streak of twenty-two years in twenty-eight races that they sent a team.
This past Monday night, on the Pulpmx Show, my co-host David Pingree, himself a very accomplished former pro racer, questioned whether or not it was time for USA manager Roger DeCoster to step aside and let someone else manage the team. Things have changed over the years for Team USA, as they used to pit together, and now they are spread apart with the different teams and OEMs they work with. I know when I went as a mechanic in 2003 for Tim Ferry, I never saw team rider Ryan Hughes all weekend long except in the Park Ferme as he was over with the KTM guys all weekend long.
Even DeCoster himself seemed weary at yet another USA loss telling me that losing is “not fun" and that he is “at the point I don’t feel like putting all this effort and work into this event if I’m one of a few that is trying to make it happen in a right way. I think like I said, the factories also, they want to see more for their money." I have to admit that in Belgium in 2003, when I was on Team USA, I was a little shocked at how little I saw DeCoster at the race. It did not meet my expectations as a manager, but maybe that was my programme and not Roger. I just thought it would be more of a team effort.
Here is the thing: Removing DeCoster is not going to help USA win at the race next year. He just has not had the elite riders in the USA the last few years, like he used to have. Ryan Dungey ha passed twice, Eli Tomac has passed twice, there have been injuries to top riders and, hey, stuff happens.
Unless Mitch Payton (a choice that Ping made), Broc Glover or whomever comes in and can convince the riders and teams to give a shit about this race, then them deciding on who gets the inside gate pick and walking the track with the riders is not going to matter. By the way, remember Ernee a couple of years ago? It was Cooper Webb, Justin Barcia and Jeremy Martin all pitted under one truck with Yamaha. Although they all rode great, they still lost. So much for team unity, right?
DeCoster got the Team USA effort bump-started in 1981, when apathy had struck the teams and riders and was a part of many great wins. He has earned the right to keep doing it as long as he wants to. I wish he was not handcuffed with team choices every year, but you cannot hold that on him.
I was surprised to see that there is not a USGP on the 2018 MXGP calendar after the partnership between MX Sports over here (who run the nationals) and Youthstream. Maybe it is the fact that the Motocross of Nations is going to be in RedBud next year, so the thought was to not water down the USA market with MXGP races and also at the same time save the MXGP teams from one more flyaway race?
It will be interesting to see if the race comes back in 2019. The event this year at WW Ranch in Jacksonville, Florida, seemed to be pretty well attended (granted the attendance bar is pretty low for a USGP) but the event was not without its snafus as the original track, Gatorback, fell through after some disagreements with the landowners and promoter. That has been solved with said promoter, Wynn Kearn, reaching an agreement to run the track again.
I said it before about a USGP, put it somewhere that is not a hot spot of American motocross. Youthstream needs to sacrifice some of its usual fees to hold an MXGP and a USGP could work year to year. Giuseppe Luongo, president of Youthstream, said that he is hoping the lack of a USGP makes racing the Motocross of Nations more appealing, because of one less race for the American riders, but I do not think that will make a difference. It is the date that is mostly an issue for the USA-based riders and teams. I guess we’ll see, but I’ll lean towards not seeing Eli Tomac and others at Redbud in the fall of 2018.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: ConwayMX