And just like that, we’re three rounds into the 2019 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and ready for the first break in the schedule. After two weeks in California, the trucks packed up and started the trip east with a quick stop in Colorado for the 2019 Thunder Valley Motocross, which is easily one of our favorite rounds of the schedule. Denver is a cool town and it’s always a quick trip over the Rocky Mountains (Saturday night flights home are wonderful), but we love the way that the season shapes up at this race. Riders are eager to prove their point, teams have the challenge with the elevation’s effect on the performance of the motorcycles, and the track tends to create excellent racing. And once again, all that happened. Here’s some of what we saw or heard in Colorado…
CIANCIARULO VS COOPER
Although they’re the only two riders to win 250 class motos so far this summer, Adam Cianciarulo and Justin Cooper had their first real day of head to head battles in Colorado. They once again traded moto wins, as Cooper got the checkered flag in the storm-shortened first race and Cianciarulo came out ahead in a controversial race two. AC’s short trip off the track and where he re-entered caused some frustration for Cooper and the team, and who knows if that played a part in the mistake Cooper made later in the moto. There was some tension around the podium and a lengthy post-race protest and discussion about the matter, but in the end, the results stood and Cianciarulo took the overall win. Look, we’re not the ones writing the rule book so we’re not going to get into the technical part of what Cianciarulo did or what he should have done (he explained his side in How Was Your Weekend), but we get the frustration from both sides, see each person’s point, and wonder how this will impact what’s been a cordial rivalry for the rest of the year.
ROCZEN RETAKES THE RED PLATE
The summer has started off very well for Ken Roczen. The Team Honda HRC rider has claimed two moto wins, two overall victories, and is back in control of the championship chase. Maybe it’s just something we’ve noticed, but Roczen seems more laid back than he ever has and is enjoying all that comes with racing this summer, which is nice to see amid his still unanswered health issues. During our post-race talk, we asked Roczen if winning the first motos is part of a strategy to put himself in a good place early each day and then see what happens in the second moto, but before we could get the question all the way out, he explained it’s not a part of any plan and it’s just what’s happening when the gate drops.
Parts in the Pro Circuit pits.
As trick as carbon fiber fuel tanks are, they are prone to different sort of wear and tear than a plastic or metal unit. To prevent rub between the seat the top of the tank, teams like Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki will add a layer of soft material to the contact points. A two-dollar fix for a problem that could cost thousands of dollars.
It’s no secret that GEICO Honda is still working to perfect the power of the current generation CRF250R. The team has tested extensively through the first weeks of the Nationals and have made some gains in performance, but it’s required some long days at the shop and full rebuilds of their engine package. On Friday afternoon, the team took delivery of fresh motors for every bike and the mechanics completed their builds just before going through tech inspection.
There are a lot of carbon fiber shots for some reason this week. Don't ask why, something about the material really caught our eye.
A free way to increase power. GEICO Honda cut away some plastic material around the side panels, which allows more air to flow into the intake. We noticed this on their bikes at Fox Raceway and expected a bigger hole for the altitude at Thunder Valley, but it looked to be the same size.
Parts in the GEICO Honda pits.
Much is always made about Eli Tomac and the Colorado round, so we don’t need to rehash that same storyline again. Instead, have a look at the apdesigns painted Bell Moto 9 that shows the scenery at the ranch and the Colorado “C” around the sun.
Drilled washers, works footpegs and shift lever, safety wire around the countershaft sprocket, a Nissin hydraulic clutch unit, coatings on the engine cases, and tons of titanium bolts. What do you see on the Team Honda HRC engine that stands on the most?
To keep Justin Barcia in the sweet spot on the bike, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing cut away sections of the seat foam from the front and carved in a bump in the back. The material taken away from the part that covers the gas cap is there to give him a reference of where to sit during the start, while the hump holds him in place when he’s on the throttle. If you look closely, the shock reservoir on the bike looks like a stock KYB unit and it’s something that he and the team have tested with quite a bit for the outdoors.
Notice how the carbon fiber skid plate is shaped around the frame spars and goes up near the underside of the engine. Respect to the craftsmanship on this one, because the easy way would have been to just make the piece a smooth, flat piece that left a larger space between it and the engine.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing has gone back and forth between a standard cable-actuated clutch and a hydraulic system, and for this summer, the hydraulic piece is on Justin Barcia’s bike. In the past, the US team has made use of a system developed by Rinaldi Racing (the factory team of the MXGP series), but this looks to be a more production-style unit by Brembo. Is this a hint for what could come stock in 2020?
We’ve always been impressed by the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing uses a mix of works parts and stock pieces. This is a good example of it, as the factory KYB forks on Dean Ferris’ bike are held in place by a stock triple clamp.
Here’s a difference between the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha bikes. Colt Nichols prefers the feel of Neken’s SFS “Smooth Feel System” triple clamps, which uses a pair of air shocks and oil dampening to absorb energy and reduce feedback to the rider…
While Dylan Ferrandis opts for a standard solid triple clamp.
Doesn’t matter who the rider is or what sort of suspension they have, the mannerisms to describe how the bike feels are the track is universal.
Thoughts on Ty Masterpool? The teenager was a rather unexpected addition to the 250 class this year and has scored points in all six motos so far, which is solid for a rookie, especially one that has no A Class experience. We’ve got something in the works on the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider that’ll hit the site soon.
Did you catch our GoPro video with Eli Tomac? Hit the blue hyperlink at the top of the post if not. We are pumped the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider was willing to run the HERO 7 during the Friday riding session, because it’s rare to see any sort of POV footage from him. We had to think back to the last time that ET3 wore a camera for us and the only time that came to mind was in Latvia in 2014 at a small test track before the Motocross of Nations during the TWMX era. If you search “Eli Tomac GoPro” on YouTube, it’s the first result.
After a few weeks on the sidelines with lingering injuries (the hematoma on his thigh from the Las Vegas Supercross was the problem), Joey Savatgy was back on track at Thunder Valley for his first-ever 450 outdoor pro race. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider has a history of good rides in Colorado, but issues with bike setup and general comfort at race-pace kept him from finishing either moto. Expect an improvement by High Point…
It’s obvious that the dirt at the Thunder Valley track is not like what you would see if you went a half-mile down to a “natural” part of the hillside, because lots of organic material like mulch and sand have been mixed into the track. The use of mulch is becoming a very common thing in US MX, and in our opinion, it’s starting to get a little overdone because as you’ll seen in the next photo…
Much of the topsoil on this jump is wood chips. It would be interesting to see just how different the terrain of tracks in other parts of the country would be if the use of foreign matter was limited.
Where were we again?
Locked down. With the uphill start at Thunder Valley, it’s common for teams to lower the position of the holeshot device than what’s “standard.” For Alex Martin, the forks on his JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing bike were just a few inches away from the bottom of the stroke.
After a solid ride at round two, many expected a duplicate performance from Hunter Lawrence at Thunder Valley. Unfortunately for the GEICO Honda rider, a crash while attempting to pass for sixth in Moto One and issues with altitude kept him from finding the front of the pack. Lawrence will spend the full summer in California, a smart move considering he’s still getting used to his surroundings in the US. Hit the homepage for a podcast with the Australian.
Stylin’. Colt Nichols is always good for a shot on a track’s bigger jumps and the backdrop certainly adds to it…
Although Tomac wore the Colorado paint job on Friday, he had a freshly finished Moto 9 on Saturday…
Complete with a cartoon of his dogs, Gnarly and Barron, on the back. Bell commissioned Instagram artist Beeg Creations for the graphic, while apdesigns laid down the paint.
The start of the summer has not gone well for Blake Baggett. His crash at Fox Raceway mangled the front-end of his KTM 450 SX-F and left the Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM rider with a sore hand, which bothered him through the day at Thunder Valley. Although it sounds like the injury is not as bad as his thumb was a few years ago, it’s still having an impact on his riding, so the one-week break is coming at a good time.
We liked the big letters and font that Troy Lee Designs used for their gear at Thunder Valley, because it was clean, was a little old school, and was a break from their standard style of Sarah Script (that’s the name of the font they normally use). As you can see, the name and number for Seely’s jersey was sublimated into the fabric.
Marvin Musquin was solid, albeit quiet at round three. The Red Bull KTM rider was fifth-fastest in morning qualifying, had issues in 450 Moto One but battled back to an eighth-place finish, and then claimed third in 450 Moto Two, which put him fifth overall for the day. All in all, it was not a bad day, but the Moto One result and lack of a win so far has pushed him down to fourth in the championship standings. If the past is any indication, expect Musquin to push to the front during the middle and late parts of the season.
Master cylinder covers are a common part in the pits now, all due to Eli Tomac’s issues with roost damaging the parts a few years back. While many make their protectors out of carbon fiber, JGR went with a 3D-printed piece that has their company name added in to the material.
Carbon fiber cover to protect the rotor, a billet Nissin front brake system, and coatings on the fork tubes. Bitchin’.
Teams changed a lot of parts to cope with the alititude at Thunder Valley. Some, like a bigger rear sprocket, were easy to spot. But there were some impossible to see things, like lighter flywheels in the engines, mapping changes, and even different fuels. The intent for teams was to free the engine up so that it didn’t feel like it was under a heavy load everywhere on the track.
To fight higher operating temperatures, JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing has added a fan to the back side of their right radiators and wraps crucial areas where fluids flow (under the fuel tank and around the radiator hoses) with heat reflective material.
Pirelli is making another big push in motocross this year through their renewed relationship with the JGR team and ties to the TPJ effort. Doug Schopinsky knows rubber, as he was influential in Bridgestone’s past presence in pro racing and has helped Pirelli tremendously since joining the Italian brand a few years ago.
Ben LaMay does it all. Compared to the piston swap he did at round two, filling up the fuel tank before practice is a small task for the Alaskan Assassin.
Monster Energy Kawasaki must have the hookup when it comes to carbon fiber, because these caliper and rotor covers, plus the chain guide are all badass…
And then there’s the multi-purpose intake/cover over their bolt-on oil cooler. We especially like the small louvers that allow the hot air to flow out and away.
Monster Energy Kawasaki pull-rod on the work bench. The small holes and added material are where the sensors for the suspension data loggers mount to the part.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Toshiki Tomita’s helmets are next-level and you really should follow artist colorsdesigns on Instagram to see more. The Japan artist is known for his incredible attention to detail, hand-drawn works, and wide variety of inspiration. Seeing his work on the Team Honda HRC rider’s Arai helmets is something we look forward to every summer.
Compared to the other Team Honda HRC bikes, Tomita’s ride is not quite as exotic, but it still has a mix of factory and high-end parts that the general consumer will never get their hands on.
Low-hanging header for a different power profile, the additional spar at the front of the frame for rigidity changes, a carbon fiber skid plate, and Nihilo titanium pegs with some “dull” by comparison teeth. Just a few things to note on Jason Anderson’s Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing FC 450.
Other stuff we saw on Anderson’s bike are the custom bend Fuzion handlebars from ProTaper, a 2D GPS tracker that works alongside all of the data acquisition equipment, and a carbon fiber transponder mount that bolts onto the triple clamps.
This year has not gone the way that Thomas Covington and the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team expected. We talked with him a little at Thunder Valley and it seems to be a collection of issues that are working against him. The one-day format of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross is one of the things, as he has a very limited amount of time to learn tracks he’s never ridden before putting in a fast time. “Over there, I had a 20-minute free practice to cruise, then a timed practice, and a qualifying race on Saturday. On Sunday, I had a morning warm-up and then the motos. So it’s a big change,” he told us of the MXGP weekend format. On the Racer X review podcast, Jason Thomas said that a mistake by Covington shot him off the track and where it happened made it very difficult for him to turn around and rejoin the race.
Mise en place. Look it up.
Carbon fiber covers over the radiators to keep Marvin Musquin from damaging the top of his radiators. Per Frankie Latham, Musquin’s grip with his knees is so strong that he can damage the cooling units.
We always like it when the point leader in a class accents the red number plates with their gear, like Adam Cianciarulo did with the SCOTT goggles and Fox Racing gloves this weekend. The bright color stood out with the soft blue-green hue of the gear.
2019 has been a career-rebuilding year for Justin Bogle. The last-minute hiring as a fill-in rider for Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM put him on factory-level equipment and his results steadily improved through the Supercross season, evident in his top-ten rides and Heat Race wins. The summer has been much the same, as he’s gone 10-9-12-12-10-10 through the first six motos and is ranked ninth in the series standings. Although there has been some uncertainty lately regarding his ride when Benny Bloss comes back, team owner Forrest Butler told us that there has been a vocal agreement that Bogle will run the rest of the summer under their tent.
Cooper Webb hasn’t been as prominent in the pack as some would have expected, but there’s no sense of panic from the 450 SX champion. It’s fair to assume that he and the Red Bull KTM team didn’t test a ton for the Nationals, but he’s logged six top-10 rides through six motos (3-6-6-6-3-8) and is sixth in the point standings. The break between rounds three and four will give him a chance to get everything sorted out as the series heads to tracks he’s historically done well at.
Props to Chris Alldredge. With a full-time job in Oregon, racing at this point is just a hobby that he’s very in to. Alldredge made the long drive from Oregon to Colorado (it’s 1,142 miles one-way from his place in Deschutes to the track), only to crash hard in qualifying and mangle himself and the bike. Either way, we’re just glad to see him at the track and enjoying racing again after a few very stressful, injury-riddled years.
Wilson Todd got another week in his short time with the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM team, but the Australian had some more misfortune in Colorado. Roost in the morning practice busted one of his top incisors in half and exposed the nerve. Undeterred, the Australian rode with a mouth guard during the races and went 12-19 for 15th overall. With the Aussie outdoor championship set to resume, it’s unlikely that Wilson will remain in the US.
Jordan Bailey had a forgettable day at Thunder Valley. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider experienced an issue with his bike just before the gate dropped for Moto One and he was stuck on the line while the pack pulled away. The same thing happened before the second race and with that, Bailey’s day was done. From what we were told, the bike severely bogged when it was given throttle.
With this shot, it’s hard to argue that the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha bikes have a horsepower advantage over others on the gate. Many of us expected the blue bikes to be strong at Thunder Valley, especially at the start, and it showed in both motos.
This shot sums up the first part of the season well, don’t you think? Adam Cianciarulo and Justin Cooper are the only two to win motos in the 250 class and they’ve put some points on the rest of the riders in the championship. The two have been complimentary of each other in the past, but Cianciarulo’s mistake and the way he rejoined the race in 250 Moto Two caused some tension and controversy between all parties involved. Cianciarulo’s moto win and overall stood after a protest and long discussion, so it’ll be interesting to see the dynamic going forward.
RJ Hampshire had an up and down day. A mechanical issue caused him to rank poorly in the first practice, but he rebounded incredibly well in the second session and posted the fastest lap of 250 class. 5-11 motos put Hampshire seventh overall on the day, something he pinned to issues with the altitude (Florida is flat, after all) and a crash.
Considering this is the first time that Jacob Hayes has raced outdoors in quite some time, the CycleTrader/Rock River Yamaha rider has done decent through the first three rounds and has scored points in five of the six motos. With the series now headed east, the North Carolina native will be more in his element with softer dirt and deeper ruts.
To say that Dylan Ferrandis’ mood was dour at Thunder Valley would be an understatement. After two decent rounds to start the season, the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider was expecting a breakout performance and some wins in Colorado, but instead he seemed at odds with the track and went 3-5 for fourth overall. That on its own is not a bad day, but when you’re expecting a win, it’s not something to smile about.
The Thunder Valley dirt is already thick and heavy, but the chance of a mud moto meant that riders and gear guys had to work quickly to prep helmets, goggles, and other pieces of apparel. Ken Roczen’s V3 was outfitted with thin sheets of foam and a goggle lens extension…
Zach Osborne had a much larger, coarse piece over the top of his FLY Racing Formula lid…
While Justin Barcia and Cole Seely had fabric covers that were wrapped around the visor and tucked into the back of the helmet between the shell and foam. Seely’s cover featured Troy Lee Designs branding, which makes us think this could either be a very trick piece for the team rider or something set for production in the accessories catalog.
Three races in, third overall on the day, third in the championship. Zach Osborne has started his first 450 outdoor season very well and we, like many, think a moto win is on the horizon for the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider. There’s a sense that Osborne has limited time to make a run at an outdoor title and that it’ll need to happen within the next two years, which is strange considering he’s in his late 20s, but after the last few weeks we think he could make that happen very soon.
Although the results weren’t as good as the week before, Justin Hill is on the come-up. The JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing rider has shifted his weekly program and has spent more time just riding around unmarked “locals only” spots with brother, Josh. Both brothers have faced their share of criticism and accusations of not taking things seriously, but believe us, you’d be hard pressed to find two people that enjoy the simple act of riding more. If Justin can keep an easygoing outlook through the summer, he can be a consistent top-five finisher.
After two tough weeks, Dean Ferris posted results that back up his High Point performance from 2017. The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider went 6-9 at Thunder Valley and ran the pace of guys that are considered podium contenders. After the race he told us that the altitude was hard for him, because there’s nothing in Australia that comes close to what he faced in Colorado. “You’d basically have to climb the tallest mountain in Australia and race there to be like this,” he joked after the race. We’ve said it before, but if Ferris was on a motocross-only contract, he’d be worthy of a factory ride for any team.
All things considered, we’re probably sure that Eli Tomac is happy to get through the Thunder Valley round. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider seems to get more attention at this race than any other rider does during their “home town” round, even more than the Martin brothers do at Millville, and he was constantly interacting with the local media, fans, friends, and the race announcers. Goggle issues in Moto One required a pit stop and hampered his results (and ultimately cost him the championship lead), but he bounced back to win Moto Two and salvaged second overall on the day.
Justin Barcia has had a rough go of the early rounds. The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider is still nursing a pair of sore wrists and then came down with a cold before the Colorado round, but he went 11-6 in the motos for ninth overall. Considering the less than stellar season Barcia has had in 2019, he’s taking it all in stride and there’s no sense of panic or pressure about the future of his career. It probably helps that he currently holds a multi-year contract with Yamaha…
There’s always a sense of concern at how Jason Anderson will fare at Thunder Valley. The elevation seems to hamper the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider more than anyone else in the field, but this year he kept low-profile, didn’t seem too fazed by the thin air, and ran to 4-5 motos for fourth overall. Never known for being a burly outdoor rider, it seems like Anderson is determined to change the public perception that he’s a Supercross specialist and a few moto wins could come his way over the summer.
“When you crack an OG Rockstar.” We got one out of the way for this month, Zach…
Get it dirty, hose it down.
Benny Bloss is set to make his return to action at High Point, but the Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM rider told us he felt ready to race at Thunder Valley. If Bloss can get back to his summer 2018 pace quickly, then the top-10 of the 450 class will get even more competitive in a short period of time.
Some of you may have noticed a new black box mounted to riders or bikes at the Nationals. This is the latest iteration of the LITPro personal data logger, but it’s a bit different than the predecessor thanks to some internal improvements and can download information from a moto to the app in half the time as the previous unit. However, the speed does come at a cost and this version is not capable to work with a heartrate monitor or measure personal g-forces on the body.
Since the 125 race was held during intermission this week, we were able to catch the closing laps and saw Kaeden Amerine win in dominant fashion. We got to know the Kansas kid over the last few years thanks to his participation at our Mini Major amateur event (which will be run again in 2019) and dude laid the wood to the field on the small-bore two-stroke.
Seriously, if you have the chance to catch the Colorado round, do so. The racing is always great, the scenery is awe-inspiring, and it’s one of the few rounds where you have an unobstructed view for much of the track.
These next few races will be important for Shane McElrath. While Anton was a guest on Matthes’ Moto60 show last week, a caller said that there was a rumor of rider having an offer from Star Racing, and through the weekend we learned it was McElrath. TLD KTM is the only team that McElrath has raced professional for, but setup issues with the orange bike and his own health issues have kept him from riding to his potential and being the title contender so many expected in 2019. From what we’ve heard, fixing the flaws of the bike will determine how the future unfolds.
Michael Mosiman’s rise continues. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider has been solid through the last few weeks, something that we’ve kept an eye on, and he battled to 4-3 finishes and third overall in Colorado for his first career outdoor podium. Like many, this is a contract year for Mosiman, but we would be very, very surprised to see him on something other than a Husqvarna in 2020.
Michael Antonovich has a wealth of experience with over 10 years of moto-journalism under his belt. A lifelong racing enthusiast and rider, Anton is the Editor of Swapmoto Live and lives to be at the race track.