Everything You Need To Know: Top Ten 450 Riders And Their Stories Heading Into A1

This year Feld has started something cool; Power Rankings. Feld surveys team managers, media members and industry experts and asks them who they think is the strongest heading into the weekend. They will be posting these rankings weekly, giving us plenty to argue about. I took it one step further by breaking down each rider heading into the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross opener. Check to see what the story is with your favorite rider.

1. Eli Tomac: I was surprised that Eli was ranked number one heading into the 2020 Supercross Series’ first round. I don’t think he can continue the dominance he has exhibited throughout the last three years. He has been in contention but should have won the championship at least once in the last three years. He has proved enigmatic if not loony toons. No rider in the history of the sport has been faster or had more weird moments. In the last three seasons Eli has won 23 of 51 main events and still has not taken a series championship. Taking the champion of the last three years and combining their win’s totals they only have 14 wins [Dungey(3), Anderson(4)and Webb (7)]. Tomac truly is an anomaly, it’s not easy to avoid the title with that many wins. If he can’t get it done, he will always wear the label as best rider to never win a Supercross Championship. When we look back on the Eli Tomac era we will marvel at how exciting he made racing.

2. Cooper Webb: Last year’s champion came in second in the power rankings. His unlikely run was one of the most surprising in the history of the sport. In 2019 Webb wasn’t even on stage for the pre-season press conference, he was a complete afterthought. He showed surprising speed at the opening round and turned that into a win by round three. This is what was expected of him a couple years ago when he entered the class coming from back to back 250 championships. Once he regained his championship swagger the hardheaded Webb fought through injuries, inner team conflicts and held off Tomac’s run to win his first 450 Supercross Championship. Webb is one of the mentally strongest competitors and the last thing his competitors want is him gaining momentum. His excellent race craft prevents mistakes and when he does make them, he still seems to salvage a decent result. He is returning to racing after a long layoff from a knee injury sustained during the outdoor series, but he should be 100% for the opener.

3. Ken Roczen: He looked to be off and running in 2017, claiming the first two victories and looking almost unbeatable on his new Honda. Then at round three Ken’s life changed forever as he suffered a catastrophic injury to his left arm. It was so severe there was a real possibility of amputation. He was able to return in 2018 but then suffered another serious setback when his right hand was caught in Cooper Webb’s wheel which resulted in his second serious injury in as many years. His hands and arms are something that would make Robocop proud. Ken still hasn’t won a race since 2017 but I believe he will finally put it together and win the championship in 2020. He has showed speed, but not the ability to close out races. If he can close one or two out early he has the talent to make the series a runaway, considering the hell he has gone through I think everyone would be somewhat happy for the likeable German.

4. Adam Cianciarulo: This is the most heralded rookie in quite some time and in his inaugural 450 ride he bested Eli Tomac in a head to head battle at MEC. Adam thinks he should have advanced to the 450 class years ago, so don’t expect him to be comfortable just learning. His tall body frame seems to be a good fit for the powerful 450 machine and I expect him to get multiple wins and be in contention until the end. Don’t expect him to play the supporting second guy on the Kawasaki team. Watch close when he and amateur rival Cooper Webb - whose infamous statement, “He cracked, I didn’t,” go head to head as there are sure to be fireworks between the two. There is no love lost and Webb will be looking to welcome him into the class where he is the current “Alpha Dog.”

5. Jason Anderson: It’s surprising that a guy only one year removed from being the series champion is all the way down in fifth, but he missed almost all of 2019 and didn’t exactly look good before a broken arm took him out for the season. Jason could easily win the 2020 championship, but he needs some success early. He needs to regain the confidence he had in 2018. This sport is almost like prize fighting in that confidence and self-belief make or break the guys. He needs to prove to himself that he can still be the best Supercross rider on earth.

6. Zach Osborne: I didn’t vote him this high in the rankings, not because he doesn’t have speed. On any given night he could easily break away and take a win, but it’s the style in which he rides the 450 that has me concerned. He sits further back on the bike than other guys and while he goes fast it also makes him vulnerable to big mistakes. If he were 23 or 24 years old I would feel better about his chances. Unfortunately Zach is on the wrong side of 30 and father time isn’t kind to this type of riding style. Riders who experience success in their thirty’s usually have a tight and calculated style. Look at Justin Brayton and his surgical precision for example, it’s no wonder he is the oldest rider to ever win a main event. Unless Zach can tighten up his style I wouldn’t expect him to be there for an entire season.

7. Justin Barcia: He is in the final year of his Yamaha contract and if he finishes in the top three overall in either the Supercross or outdoors series he gets an automatic contract extension. Justin is at the point of his career when teams would rather invest in younger racers who have more potential, so if he doesn’t end either series in the top three this could be his last season as a factory racer. Barcia has had a good offseason and looks rejuvenated, let’s not forget he won the opener last season. He has the talent, but will he finally realize his potential or are we seeing a rider on his way out? I think he can indeed reach the top three but not in Supercross, look for good things next summer. I predict he will end up third in the outdoor series.

8. Malcom Stewart: This guy has the talent to be a winner and even champion. I have been extremely critical of his effort in the past as he came into the series late and overweight. Last year he teamed up with Tony Alessi and the MCR Honda team. They had Malcom looking like a lean mean fighting machine as he battled at the front during the first round of 2019. He looked like a contender, but when he suffered a broken femur at the second round of the series we were all left thinking about what could have been… He is back with the team and looking ready to realize the potential we saw last year. The only issue I see with Malcom are his starts, they were horrific this off-season! He was consistently the fastest rider on track, but with horrible starts it won’t matter. He has to figure out a way to start in the top 5 consistently.

9. Blake Baggett: After Glendale 2019 Blake looked like the championship favorite, but oh how long ago that was! He hasn’t raced since the end of last year’s outdoor series and I haven’t heard the usual test track hype from Blake. He has a chronic wrist issue and I wonder if it’s going to spell the end of his career. Is he just riding out his current contract, or can he regain the speed to win races? Will his physical limitations be too much to overcome? I hope not, but am very skeptical about his health, sometimes the body just doesn’t cooperate.

10. Dean Wilson: It was very surprising to see Wilson on this list, not because he isn’t fast enough but the dislocated hip he suffered at Monster Energy Cup is a huge obstacle to overcome. I hear he is going to be able to line up at the opener, I just hope he is able to stay healthy and build as the series moves forward. Dean’s personality is what every marketing director dreams of, but in order for it to matter he has to be inside the top ten. Personally I would have put Justin Brayton, Justin Hill, Martin Davalos or Vince Friese ahead of him simply because of the severity of that injury. Don’t get me wrong though, Grandpa Earl can ride!

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