2019 Motocross Offseason Event Guide | THOR MX Kickstart
PHOTOS | KTM & Husqvarna
Enjoy that weekend off? It was nice to not board a flight, rent a car, check into the hotel, and run 20-hour days with instant deadlines, but we missed the thrill and already are looking forward to the pro events that dot the calendar from September to December. Most require an international flight, as the attention of riders turns to the high-paying Supercross events that run in Europe and Australia, but two of the more popular are within driving distance of our West Coast HQ and take place within three weeks of each other. Below is a preview of the big events that’ll command some attention and we’re planning to attend our share of them.
2019 MONTREAL SUPERCROSS
For years the Montreal Supercross was a crown jewel in Canadian motocross and some of the biggest names in the sport spun laps against each other at the standalone event. But then the popularity and turnout took a huge hit and the promoters decided to put it on hold for six years. It was re-launched last year as part of the Rockstar Triple Crown Supercross Series and with the help of Eric Peronnard had a boost of popularity through the participation of American riders.
Since this race will be the first event of the offseason and is in a region not known for Supercross prowess, the track’s design is mellow, forgiving and makes good use of the Olympic Stadium floorspace. A one-night race that’s part of a bigger championship, its importance is determined by if the racer is in for the full series or not. We’re eyeing up a plane ticket because the allure of a Montreal, a Canadian town with a French feel, makes it sound like a good place to spend a September weekend.
Dean Wilson, Justin Brayton, and Malcolm Stewart are the three key US-based riders that have been used in the pre-race promotions and that’s a good idea as to what the podium will look like.
2019 MOTOCROSS OF NATIONS
September 28th & 29th
Assen, The Netherlands
By far the biggest race of the offseason and depending on how you feel, the biggest race of the year period. The Motocross of Nations brings the best riders from every country together to a different iconic venue for one weekend, whips the crowd to the verge of frenzy with patriotism, and lets everything get decided on the track. To get close to the Chamberlain Trophy is an honor, to hold it over your head on the top step of the podium a reward for a weekend well done.
This year’s race at Assen is shaping up to be one for the ages. Youthstream, the promoter of the race, have pushed to bring traditional motocross into a stadium-like setting for years so this manmade sand track inside the Assen TT Circuit will be their biggest attempt yet. It’s no secret that the riders in the World Championship series have far more experience in sand than the American-based riders, so while many see Team USA at a disadvantage, the riders selected have come up with a plan to get comfortable in the conditions. And since the race comes just after the still-running MXGP championship, European teams are at risk of their riders getting injured, which is exactly what happened to France and Great Britain.
No matter what, though, all eyes will be on Assen come late September. How much the results impact the sport as a whole really depends on your personal preference, but there’s no denying the vibe that is created when everyone gets together for one weekend.
2019 RED BULL STRAIGHT RHYTHM
One of the few times of year that a racer can put some of the competitive spirits on hold, ride a bike they would not touch any other day of the year, and enjoy the battles with a buddy. The Red Bull Straight Rhythm was a popular event in its initial launch until growing pains with the half-mile long Supercross event and a lack of full industry support almost put it on hold. A two-stroke only class addition in 2017 saved it from being a memory and now the energy drink giant has committed to the premix burning program. Some of the top riders are committed to the race for 2019 (defending SX champion Cooper Webb, recent retiree Cole Seely on a home-built Honda CR, Ken Roczen on Jeremy McGrath’s last factory Honda CR250, Travis Pastrana and Tyler Bowers on 500cc beasts) and all have been encouraged to embrace the spirit of the 90s with their bikes, gear, graphics, and pit rig.
This could easily be the most fun race of the entire offseason for the common fan. Every ticket is a pit pass that allows them to get feet away from the bikes and box vans, the drinks are stiff and the food is delicious in the VIP packages, and you never know who you could see at the bar or in the bleachers. Seriously, if you can come, get a DD and enjoy the day.
2019 MONSTER ENERGY CUP
Las Vegas, Nevada
Want to see what the future holds for Supercross? Then watch the Monster Energy Cup. Feld Entertainment uses the October race as their test ground for event formats, track configurations, and other new ideas, but hides all of that with the chance at a million-dollar payout from the exciting three-race program. Ryan Villopoto, Marvin Musquin, and Eli Tomac have all added seven figures to their bank accounts with clean sweeps of the MEC, while James Stewart, Ken Roczen, Davi Millsaps, and Justin Barcia have each taken the overall victory with steady scores.
This year’s Monster Energy Cup might be the most daring yet. Feld has managed to design a track that can be run in three configurations with two different starting gate locations, so it’ll be a true test of a rider’s race craft to memorize each design, remember the Joker Lane, and run at the front of the pack.
Since the race comes right after most new contracts are announced, it’s the first chance to see riders with their new teams. Adam Cianciarulo will use it as his debut on the Monster Energy Kawasaki, Joey Savatgy should have a deal done by then, Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM should have their second rider selected, and SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda will likely have a third rider added to their roster with hopes of a secured spot in 2020. All that, plus the addition of MXGP racers Tim Gajser and Jordi Tixier.
If you need a vacation and have some money to drop, it’s hard to argue against a weekend in Vegas for the Monster Energy Cup. There are plenty of world-class restaurants to dine at, bars to get loaded in, hotels to pass out at, casinos to gamble, and opportunities to relax. Hell, you might not even make it to Sam Boyd Stadium. If it’s something you can swing, do it. But don’t have FOMO, because you’ll have to know a guy that knows a guy to get a pass for the best spots at the official afterparty. You know showing your race entry ticket at the front door doesn’t mean VIP access, right?
AUSTRALIAN SUPERCROSS SERIES
Five Rounds, October 12th – November 30th
Australia & New Zealand
The last two decades have been an eventful time for motocross in Australia and New Zealand, but it seems like everything is on the right path with the current promoters, support of the FIM and OEMs, and a healthy field of competitors. The five-round championship in Australia has become a great way for riders to make some money, build the speed and stamina, and build confidence ahead of the American series at the start of the new year. Justin Brayton, Jace Owen, Jacob Hayes, and Bradley Taft are among the American riders that will fill spots on the gate in the SX1 and SX2 classes starting in the middle of October, but they’ll be joined by even more top-tier riders (Chad Reed, Dean Wilson, Jason Anderson, Joey Savatgy) at the big city rounds of Melbourne and Auckland.
We’ve heard the Australian promoters have made strides for 2019 and that all five races will be in multi-use sports venues, which shows the sport is gaining momentum down under. This is one of the series that we follow closely because it can be a gauge for how riders are developing in the offseason and allow talented young Aussies to make a name for themselves.
The S-X Open Auckland and AUS-X Open have quickly become top events in the offseason. Fans in the region know it’s rare to see riders from the US in person and the riders know that a good result here can determine how the rest of their preseason prep will have to go. Now that both races are in full-size stadium settings, it’ll be a good chance to check their settings and speed, too. We’ve yet to make the trip, but stories from others that have gone make it sound like a great time.
2019 PARIS SUPERCROSS
November 9th & 10th
Nearly every icon in Supercross history has made the trip to France for the Bercy/Lille/Paris Supercross. The lights, lasers, smoke (both premix and cigarette), cheerleaders, and close quarters of the original Palais Omnisport venue were inspired Supercross as we know it. The event has passed through three venues in 37-years, but no matter where it’s held, the same excitement builds the moments the lights go off. Now held in the Paris La Defense Arena, the soccer stadium is filled with a nearly full-size Supercross track and the pit area; just a curtain in the middle of the room separates the two.
Ever since the race returned to Paris, the promoters have done their best to bring the most popular racers to the starting line. The 2019 list of competitors is one of the best yet, with Dylan Ferrandis, Zach Osborne, Justin Barcia, Malcolm Stewart, Joey Savatgy, and Chad Reed all confirmed.
Held over two evenings, you can watch the track change from Saturday to Sunday. What starts out as soft, rutted, and loaded with traction soon becomes dry, slick, and tricky. Riders that can make that adjustment, along with the unique event format of multiple races in one night/a SuperPole lap/Main Events that run late into the night, are the ones that always come out as the newly crowned King of Paris.
2019 GENEVA SUPERCROSS
December 6th & 7th
The last race of the offseason is a favorite of many riders. You step off of the airplane after 12-16 hours of transit into the frigid air of the Swiss mountains, shuttle to the nearby hotel, grab a tiny 5 franc latte to warm up, and walk over to the Palexpo to pick up your passe de presse. By nightfall, the venue is packed with Swiss and French fans, all of which crowd around the beer vendors, the candy stand, or the numerous autograph sessions until finally, the half-hour long opening ceremonies presentation begins. At that moment, you know you’re at the Geneva Supercross.
Like the Paris Supercross, Geneva is part of the French SX Tour championship and is one of the two rounds that pay the cost to get the American riders. The line-up for 2019 is still to be announced, yet we’d say it’s safe to assume that Justin Brayton, Malcolm Stewart, Justin Barcia, and Zach Osborne are probably part of the roster due to their long history at the event. Bigger than an Arenacross but not quite a Supercross, the track designers make good use of the Palexpo’s floorspace with a big finish line, a long rhythm lane, and perfectly formed whoops.
Riders are anxious by this point in the offseason and it’s common for tension to build between the Heat Races, head to head bracket battles, and the Main Events. Yeah, it’s really weird when all of the riders are pitted within a few square feet.