Watching the Monster Energy Supercross series return to racing was nothing short of a holiday. Despite the civil unrest and riots not far from the stadium, Feld entertainment was able to keep their event on the schedule. Sometimes I can be critical of Feld, but lately, they are going above and beyond to keep the sport healthy. Seeing the riders in an empty stadium was strange; it felt a bit like a press day demo, but after a couple rounds, it won’t feel as weird, and we can focus on the racing.
(The riders struggled with their intensity levels without the fans, they lost that "Gladiator Effect" as Tomac called it.)
The on-track action was as good as ever, Eli Tomac showed the same maturity he has shown all year. He had a couple strange mistakes, but in years past, these would have been compounded, and he would have left us all scratching our heads in bewilderment. Instead, he showed his newfound composure and collected himself in time to win the race. The altitude was causing issues for many riders, but not Tomac. He trains on a track with similar dirt and at a higher elevation than SLC.
(The track resembled the 1990 Oklahoma Supercross)
Unfortunately, holding a race during the daytime in the summer creates some unfavorable track conditions. The racing surface was a throwback, the track surface was similar to the 1990 Oklahoma Supercross. This, along with the heat and altitude, presented issues for quite a few of the racers. The stadium altitude is at 4500 feet and has the potential to cause altitude sickness, but in the past, this hasn’t presented issues racers. Unfortunately, the combination of heat, altitude, and wearing those ridiculous masks has quite a few guys dealing with altitude sickness. Tyler Bowers, Vince Friese, Ryan Breece, and quite a few others were dealing with symptoms.
(Chad Reed looks more like someone about to rob a bank, rather than a Supercross racer)
One of the risks presented by wearing a mask is the lack of oxygen and increased carbon dioxide. I have to think the combination of riders adjusting to the higher altitude is difficult, but forcing them to wear a mask while competing (off-track wearing of masks on race day) in a grueling sport can be downright dangerous. If I were a team manager, I would get a couple oxygen concentrators and have my guys on oxygen whenever possible. I suffer from sleep apnea and altitude sickness, so I am very familiar with these concentrators and their effects. When I add oxygen to my CPAP machine, I wake up fresh and rejuvenated. Any time I stay at altitude, I bring my concentrator or rent one for the week. I strongly recommend these guys look into adding oxygen while they sleep and for recovery back at the truck.
(Weird conditions for a modern day Supercross, but for guys in the 1990s this was regular)
Unfortunately, common sense says to stop wearing the mask, but the world we live in will not allow these world-class athletes to not wear masks, despite the apparent carbon dioxide risks. These guys are professionals and will surely figure out these new challenges, that’s part of what makes them great! I am so excited to get another race this Wednesday, so I will keep it short. Keep in mind, many of these world-class athletes who look tired are actually dealing with altitude sickness brought on by the combination of altitude, heat, and those dumb ass masks!
(Shand McElrath might be the best hard packed rider in this generation, this dirt is a dream senario for him)
Photos - Feld Entertainment