We’re in for a good one. It seemed like as soon as the checkered flag flew at Ironman last August, everyone’s attention turned to Supercross. The small window between the last National and the Monster Energy Cup was the lone chance to recover and reset after a long season of racing, but the work ramped up again in November. Through social media clips, test track videos, and some international events we were able to gauge the speed of the competition, but we went into the opening round of the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross Series with only a vague idea of how the field would shake out when the gates dropped.
Friday at the stadium had all the anticipation that one would hope for and the depth of talent was on display as soon as the riders were sat on stage for the pre-race press conference. All twelve riders there had stepped onto the podium at some point in their professional careers, an impressive look at the current generation, while there were many others with a similar record left off for space. Riders all noted that they were more prepared than ever, that they felt they figured out the formula necessary for success. Other than getting bikes dirty, the short riding session did little to set the precedent for Saturday and the buzz built overnight.
Track walk at Angel Stadium was the chance for the industry to catch up after the holidays and see what Dirt Wurx whipped up on the diamond-shape floor. The design had long rhythm lanes with combination options, two whoop sections, some sand, and a handful of 180-degree turns, built to be a test of skill but not so challenging that half the field could get eliminated in the very first race.
Does Justin Barcia seem at ease this year? The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider has every reason to be, thanks to Yamaha’s new open-minded approach when it comes to the YZ450F, some new staff on the team, and a clean bill of health. In Paris Barcia told us that he had pressured Yamaha into going back to the basics with the development of the blue bike, which meant starting with a stock bike and building from there through nonstop testing in Southern California. By Anaheim, they had figured out some modest motor work (some fine-tuning on the cylinder and head, a Pro Circuit pipe, a broad map in the ignition) and necessary suspension was all Barcia needed to be his best and it showed. Is this the year that the longtime rider claims a 450 championship? He held the red plate at different times in the past two years, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see him stay on the podium consistently; it will likely come down to if he can stay healthy and intact through all seventeen races.
Anyone surprised by Adam Cianciarulo? The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider did his best to downplay the hype ahead of his first 450 Supercross, but his domination of qualifying made it clear that Adam Cianciarulo will be one of the front-runners in 2020. Although his Main Event ride is going to get all of the hype (rightly so, he battled with Barcia and led laps before finishing in second place), it was his Heat Race that stood out to us. After an issue dropped him down the running order, AC quickly regrouped, logged in a series of fast laps, and picked his way back to second place. The Main Event was nothing short of stellar and we highly recommend you watch the GoPro footage from the race, which is posted on the homepage.
1489 – Will these two be the class of the field all year? Honestly, we have no reason to think otherwise. Barcia and Cianciarulo were able to gap the competition with fast laps in the opening moments of the Main Event, raced each other clean and close, and didn’t let their mistakes break their concentration.
When we talked to Cooper Webb on Friday afternoon, all seemed well with the defending champion. Our chat was apparently the first time he had heard the rumor of a failed anti-doping test that was circulated by a French website, and he seemed legitimately caught by surprise when we asked about it (search for Checking In With Cooper Webb). The defending champion told us that being a little overlooked in all of the preseason hype was something he turned into motivation and that he preferred the way he stayed low key while working with Aldon Baker and Zach Osborne in Florida. By Saturday morning, Webb was severely under the weather and so off the pace in qualifying that the team was hopeful for a top-10 finish from their lone rider. The illness didn’t seem to faze him when it mattered, though, because he finished third in his Heat Race and wore down the competition to claim the last podium spot in the Main Event. If Webb is in position to clinch a second consecutive title this year, it’ll no doubt be thanks to this A1 result.
It was obvious that Chad Reed took every opportunity to soak in the moment at Anaheim One. A past winner of the opening round, Reed felt a different sort of pressure this time around, as all eyes were on him when he addressed the large body of assembled media for the first time at the press conference, during his fitting opening ceremonies intro, and his chaotic run in the night’s qualifying races (a crash in the first turn of his Heat Race forced him to the LCQ, where a second-place finish advanced him through to the feature event). Reed later admitted that the nerves of the day and importance of the moment got to him on the track, which resulted in arm pump, slower laps, and an eighteenth-place finish.
On Friday afternoon, it was still unclear which rider Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha would put alongside Dylan Ferrandis for the West Coast. After telling both Shane McElrath and Justin Cooper to be ready for Anaheim One, the team left the decision up to Cooper: do you want to race now or wait until the East Coast? Clearly, he chose right. Already viewed as a title contender outdoors, the early run of West Coast races will mean that Cooper can turn his attention to testing for the summer months as soon as March. Find our Swapmoto Podcast with the 250 Main Event winner on the homepage for more insight on his night.
1W. Dylan Ferrandis was significantly faster than the rest of the 250 class in qualifying (he was one of four riders in the entire 250-450 field that logged a 56-second lap time in the afternoon) and looked set to sweep the night’s racing. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider’s Heat Race was solid, but a poor start and lack of pace in the opening laps of the 250 Main Event kept him from closing in on front-runners Cooper and Forkner. He brushed off the frustration of the second-place finish in the press conference by saying the result was better than his 2019 A1 score and that the nerves of the race played a part in his performance. Cool to see that his mechanic Alex Campbell has learned a few key phrases to share with his French rider on the pit board.
Dirty jersey and an aggressive patch on the pants. Austin Forkner was ready for a battle in the 250 Main Event.
Notice anything missing? The track crew didn’t have trophies or champagne on hand for the 250 podium, so all three riders made due with what they had for the photographer’s shots.
It’s always a mad dash for teams to get every detail of their program sorted out by the time the pit gates open on Saturday morning. The decision to run an independent effort for the farewell season put a load of work on Chad Reed, his wife Ellie, and friends Dan Truman, Ben Schiermeyer, and Travis Soules, but they had the Mountain Motorsports/ARMA/cbdMD pit area ready to go. Are thin vinyl sheets easier to apply than graphics?
There were a few new parts to scope out on the Monster Energy Kawasaki bikes, like this expertly machined holeshot device on Eli Tomac’s bike. Clearly ET3 doesn’t like to have the front-end yanked too down when it’s time for the gate to drop.
Personal touches from the Kawasaki machine shop.
Eli Tomac’s bike is once again outfitted with KYB suspension components, but there are some noticeable differences to the adjuster on the shock reservoir. Changes like this are to be expected in the second year of development on the KX450.
Kawasaki and Showa continue to keep the BFRC shock on the other factory bike, which means Adam Cianciarulo is this year’s chosen rider. Showa has clearly made progress with this part, because riders were not fans of the “dead feeling” that early versions of the shock created, especially in the whoops, but Cianciarulo told us that he like the current settings he and the technicians have developed.
Not sure who was behind the Australian accent at A1? That’s Leigh Diffey, a member of NBC’s announcing stable and widely known in auto racing circles. The former F1 commentator will be part of the Supercross broadcast for the first three rounds, while usual host Ralph Shaheen will return to his post at Glendale (per a post on former trackside reporter Juilanna Daniel’s social media, Shaheen’s absence came as an NBC decision related to their upcoming Olympic coverage).
This year’s pre-race press conference included time with the team managers of all six factory squads, a new detail that seemed straight from the F1 format. The panel explained the progress that their staffs had made with bike setup in the offseason and hopefully we get more formal opportunities to hear insight from the highest team levels in the future.
For a rider that missed almost all of the 2019 season with injury, Jason Anderson is highly touted in 2020. Rightly so, considering he is a recent champion and one of the fastest in the series, but it seemed like the attention wasn’t something that the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider really wanted. Every time he was asked if 2020 was going to be a year of redemption, he brushed off the query and said that he simply wants to enjoy riding this season. Is a push through the pack late in the Main Event for a fifth place finish enjoyable? We’d have to think so, because Anderson seemed comfortable and in control on the track.
Even though the entry list for A1 was one of the most stacked we’ve seen in years, the mood was light while riders waited for the press conference. Some longtime friends huddled together to share offseason stories or look at each other’s phones while others took a long look at the track through the windows of the club room. The attitude changed when they stepped onto the stage, as that seemed like the time most of the top-billed racers began to focus on the task at hand.
Martin Davalos’ deal with Team Tedder/Monster Energy/KTM came together in early December and he had under a month to get fully acclimated to the factory-level 450 SX-F (Team Tedder’s bikes are practically identical to Red Bull KTM). The veteran’s experience helped him in the stacked class, where he logged the twelfth-fastest lap time in qualifying and transferred directly to the Main Event through his Heat Race. The Main Event was eventful and after his fifteenth-place finish, he told us it was a reality check due to the power of the bike, the talent in the class, and the challenging track. With the opening round behind him, it’ll be interesting to see how Davalos develops as a 450 rider through the next few weeks.
Blake Baggett missed a good portion of the 2019 season due to illness, something the Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM rider told us was partly to blame on Epstein-Barr virus and a list of recently discovered food allergies. The upside to the time off the bike was that Baggett was able to develop a close relationship with his infant son, something that then became motivation, and the two circled the track together in opening ceremonies. When it was time to race, Baggett put himself in the right places at the right time, avoided any sort of chaos, and scored a fourth-place finish in the 450 Main Event, his best result at the opening round. Maybe this is the year Baggett battles at the front of the pack more often than not in Supercross.
Collab. Ethika has boomed from a small action sports project to the underwear brand of choice for musicians, models, and the like, but it’s cool to see that they’ve kept a close relationship to motocross and have made it a point to work with other brands in the industry. Their latest endeavor is with SCOTT, as the eyewear company gave them free reign to put their style on a limited-edition PROSPECT goggle that was debuted on Malcolm Stewart and the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team. Get it while you can.
It was great to see Dean Wilson back on the track. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider went silent after his Monster Energy Cup crash and spent the time since October going through therapy to heal his hip in time for Anaheim One. Wilson was one of the many that caught the illness that had gone through the paddock in the days ahead of the race and he was smoked at the end of the night, but still posted a thirteenth-place result for his effort.
There were many questions regarding Ken Roczen ahead of the weekend. Had he taken the proper measures to rid his body of the energy-draining illness that he faced in 2019? Did he and Honda find the perfect setup of the CRF450R? Will he get a win and break the near two-year slump? There were signs of speed from the Team Honda HRC rider on Saturday, evident in his sixth-place qualifying time and the single fastest lap time of 450 Heat Race Two, but he didn’t get in the mix the way many expected in the Main Event and battled against Anderson, Tomac, and Brayton for a sixth place result. Roczen later said that his race pace was due in part to a setting on his bike as he felt a stiff suspension setting would be the safest bet on a Supercross track, especially at the first race, and that they will continue to search for the ideal setup as the season continues.
Thoughts on the A1 track? Riders told us that the track was narrow in spots, which might have played a part in the tight turning lines that we watched develop in the turns. But as a whole, the track offered a wide variety of obstacles and made riders get creative-aggressive when it came time to make passes. And we’re glad that big bowl berms are slowly making their way back into the layouts.
Into the tunnel.
“If you had told me in 2013 that one day I’d be on a factory Suzuki 450, racing Anaheim One, I wouldn’t believe you,” said Jimmy Decotis while we sat at Answer Racing’s happy hour get-together on Friday night. With teammate Joey Savatgy on the sidelines for an extended period of time, the Suzuki team has offered Decotis the opportunity to ride the big bike for three races before he drops back down to the RM-Z250 and the East Coast region. With that said, podium finishes were clearly not to be expected of Decotis, but he had top-20 speed through the day and easily advanced to the Main Event, where various issues put him in twenty-second place at the checkered flag.
When Josh Osby was sidelined by a knee injury, the Gas Monkey Energy/AJE Motorsports/Husqvarna team had to scour the 250 class for a suitable replacement rider. They found Killian Auberson, a Swiss rider with lots of Supercross experience, and put him on the grey and green bike for the 250 West Coast region. If you’re a fantasy league player, you’ve probably picked him for you team at some point in the past, and rightly so. Auberson has long been a Main Event-level rider and should be capable of posting career-best results with support from the team. He finished in fourteenth place at Anaheim One.
Derek Drake got the top 250 rookie honors at A1. The Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM rider made it through his first-ever Supercross without much fuss and hovered around the top-10 through the qualifying practices and his Heat Race, then followed teammate Brandon Hartranft closely during the Main Event and logged an eighth place finish, the best of the freshman class. A long-time member of the TLD KTM development program, Drake is part of the team’s young line-up for 2020.
Jett Lawrence was the most talked about rookie of the 250 class at Anaheim One. The GEICO Honda rider has made a name for himself through social media clips that show his effortless style and witty statements that only a teenager would think to say, so he understandably received the industry’s attention at Anaheim One. Unfortunately, a bad trip through Chik-Fil-A on Thursday night left Lawrence with a case of food poisoning and he had to sit out Friday morning press riding session, but he and trainer Johnny O’Mara made the best of the situation on race day. All of the hype seemed to put a target on Lawrence’s back and we noticed that some competitors left him little room when they were near each other on track, but it didn’t seem to rattle the Australian. It’ll be interesting to see how he picks up the pace as series goes on, as he finished a quiet ninth at Anaheim One.
Always something new to see at Anaheim One. JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing put this small hole in the engine hanger on Alex Martin’s race bike in an attempt to change the handling characteristics of the chassis. GEICO Honda has something similar to this for their CRF250R bikes…
But the small hole in the 250 part pales in comparison to the intricately machined hangers that the JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing team has for their 450 class riders. These have been around for a while for the RM-Z.
Mechanix Wear started as a motocross company and continues to produce a line of MX-minded items for their massive, industrial-minded catalog. The idea behind the brightly colored pit board is so that riders can easily spot their mechanic in the signal area and read the written message on the background.
Justin Bogle is known for his starting prowess and a look at his Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM race bike shows that he aims to keep that going in 2020. The rear suspension is outfitted with a special pull rod on the linkage, which lowers the back of the bike down for the run to the first turn and releases under braking…
While the other end features a new holeshot device from Kite. One thing we noticed about Bogle’s bike is how low the button mechanism was located on the fork guard; clearly Bogle likes the fork to be locked down low when the gate drops.
We feel for Martin Castelo. The South American racer has made strides in recent Supercross seasons and looked good in qualifying practice on Saturday, where he was seventeenth-fastest in the 250 class. Unfortunately, the JMC Motorsports rider was in the wrong places at the wrong times twice on Saturday night: first when he got caught up with Mitchell Oldenburg in the Heat Race, and then when he was collided with Aaron Tanti’s flying motorcycle in the LCQ. Castelo’s two crashes put him on the sidelines for the rest of the night, but he told us he’ll be better soon.
Alex Martin’s Anaheim One was great, until the Main Event. The JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing rider was fourth-fastest in the 250 class qualifying sessions and then aced the start and led laps in his Heat Race over Justin Cooper and Austin Forkner, only to have a mistake and stalled engine in the Main Event put him deep in the field. Expected to be a podium-level rider on a weekly basis, Martin got back on track and climbed to tenth place at the checkered flag. He’ll have to be practically perfect from here out if he wants a shot at the 250 West Coast title in May, but he should be up for the task.
Mitchell Oldenburg should be on your list of riders to watch in 2020. After a stint in Australia with Penrite Honda, the rider and team have put together a deal for the 250 West Coast region and then a return Down Under in September. Often one of the faster riders in the field, Oldenburg was seventh in qualifying and looked at ease on the track. Unfortunately, a crash in the whoops during his Heat Race caused him to claw back to a transfer spot while another incident in the Main Event dropped him to sixteenth place at the finish. If you haven’t listened to our Swapmoto Podcast or SML Show episode with Oldenburg, we highly recommend that you do so. By the end of both interviews, you’ll see why he’s still at it.
Cameron McAdoo was assigned to the West Coast by Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki and by all measures, did well at Anaheim One. Now working with Nick Wey, McAdoo was fifth fastest in qualifying and stayed clear of any issues to score a sixth place result in the Main Event.
Christian Craig’s journey to race Anaheim One, from his appeal case for an anti-doping issue with WADA to his weekly work, has been well documented through his YouTube channel over the past few months and it was obvious that the GEICO Honda rider was just happy to be on the track. Thanks to some offseason development of the CRF250R, the team has found more power for the riders to blast out of berms and over obstacles, a necessity on the tight Supercross tracks. Craig was in the mix for a top-five finish in the Main Event and was ultimately awarded third place when Austin Forkner’s track cutting penalty was passed down by officials at the end of the night. This is a good start of the season for Craig and he could be a benefactor should the front-runners ever blast each other off track.
Justin Hill has a point to prove in 2020. Signed to SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda for the Supercross season, many are eager to see if the Tony Alessi-led team can help the former 250 West Coast SX champion get back to his 2018 level. Hill’s riding at Anaheim One was solid, as he was one of the top qualifiers in the 450 class (he bested Team Honda HRC’s Roczen and Brayton), finished fourth in his Heat Race, and raced his competition for every inch of the track. There were a few run-ins with Adam Cianciarulo, nothing that we would call over the line, but they were clear indications that he was trying to hold his spot on the track. Hill ended the night in eleventh place, right behind MCR teammates Malcolm Stewart and Vince Friese.
Malcolm Stewart made sure to remind everyone that 2020 was only his second time in at Anaheim One, so if you expected more of the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda rider, there’s an explanation. Stewart had some issues with starts at his overseas Supercross races and that seemed to be a factor at Anaheim, as he was often buried in the pack at the exit of the first turn. Speed isn’t an issue, a look at the lap times and a ninth-place result in the Main Event show that, but a start would help tremendously in this current field. It’ll be interesting to see how Stewart stacks up around week five, as he’s never really been in the swing of things at that point in the year.
Spotted. We were wondering what helmet the H.E.P. Motorsports Suzuki riders were holding in their preseason photo shoot with Feld, but we soon learned it’s a new lid from the crew at THOR MX. Though we’re still short on details, we can see here that it has Koroyd crumple-zone cylinders for energy dispersion. More to come…
It's good to see Luke Clout enjoying his time in the US. The Penrite Honda rider is on a six-race deal for the 250 West Coast season, then will return to Australia to race the 450 MX championship with the team. Clout showed flashes of speed through the day and ran in the top-10 during the Main Event until a late crash forced him to the sidelines.
Anaheim One didn’t go the way Benny Bloss hoped. Signed to run the full 2020 schedule with Rock River Yamaha, Bloss has spent the last few weeks working on the details of the YZ450F for his riding style. A small back injury and crash in the Heat Race added to Bloss’ setup issues, and he didn’t make the cut for the Main Event out of the LCQ. With time, Bloss should be a constant presence in the 450 Main Events.
Golden Hour at Anaheim.
Tip of the visor to GEICO Honda and their sponsors for putting together a special look for the opening round.
Vince Friese was quietly one of the most consistent riders at Anaheim One. The SmarTop/Bullfrogs Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda rider was tenth in qualifying, held off Malcolm Stewart and Eli Tomac in their Heat Race, then battled through the Main Event to a tenth place result. Don't think that Friese simply got a start and hung on; no, the MCR rider posted lap times that were on pace with the front-runners.
Answer Racing outfitted their riders in the new Pro Glo colorway of Trinity gear and Tyler Bowers made sure to complete the retro look with a neon and flames custom painted Arai helmet. Hopefully this is a lid that Bowers keeps in the rotation and pairs with Answer’s other catalog items.
It was good to be back at Anaheim. The heyday of three races at the A are gone, but there's still a buzz when the series starts in Southern California that we don't think would happen in any other city.
Eli Tomac entered the week with the honor of most hyped title contender. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider has won more Main Events than any of his current counterparts in the class and has openly said that the lack of a Supercross championship has caused some pressure, but that he worked through the offseason and feels ready for the series. The second-fastest rider in qualifying, Tomac seemed to struggle with starts in the Heat Race and Main Event, while arm pump issues made his push through the pack even more challenging. He ended the night in seventh place, which might not seem like much at first but is considerably better than his results at other opening rounds.
On Friday H.E.P. Motosports Suzuki announced that Ryan Breece will run the full Supercross series on one of the team’s RM-Z450 race bikes as a last-minute replacement for the injured Max Anstie. Breece’s night was saddled by issues, as he was part of the first-turn pile-up in 450 Heat Race One and was pushed out of a transfer spot in the closing laps of the LCQ, but he proved he will be one of those guys that will fight for a chance to be in the Main Event every weekend. As for Anstie, the team told us it’s possible he will be back for some of the final Supercross races and that the MXGP race winner quickly picked up the technique necessary on the challenging tracks.
Jacob Hayes had to bail on his Australian Supercross season due to a shoulder injury, but the Gas Monkey Energy/AJE Motorsports rider healed up in time for the Anaheim opener. The former Arenacross champion knows that steady progress will be best in the West Coast, especially in the six-round opening run, and an eleventh-place result at A1 is a good starting point.
Orange County's close proximity to the Pacific Ocean meant that the air was damp and cool on Saturday night, and you could see the moisture soak into the track and lay on the track banners. This, plus the recent rain in Southern California, made the track soft and challenging.
A Top-10 result in qualifying, a Heat Race win, and some close battles in the Main Event. We’d say that Justin Brayton had a solid start to his season in Anaheim. The Team Honda HRC rider has told everyone how he feels like he is in the prime of his life, thanks to his comfort on the CRF450R, his championship run in Australia, and a balanced program of training and family time off the bike. It showed in his riding, because he never looked out of sorts or off the pace. A run-in with Anderson late in the Main Event bounced Brayton back a few spots, but it was little more than a racing incident. The Iowa native will be one to watch when the series continues on, especially this weekend in the soft dirt of St. Louis.
We're eager to see Fredrik Noren this season. Signed to JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing for the full 2020 season, indoors and outdoors, the speedy Swede is looking to develop his Supercross skills in the 450 class and then again be a top-10 presence outdoors.
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.
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