The Hard Truth: The Opening Round Tells Us Quite A Lot

Updated: Jan 8

(450 Main Event Start, Vince Friese is back to his holeshoting ways)

The opening round of the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross series delivered amazing action, surprises and drama. Of all the contenders heading into the race, Justin Barcia was probably the least likely to win the opening round. This past off-season Barcia had rededicated his life to the sport, he lived out of a motorhome while testing his 2020 YZ450F in California. He didn’t like the 2019 Yamaha settings and devoted himself to ensuring his 2020 YZ450F worked to his satisfaction.

(Team Manager Jimmy Perry Celebrates as Justin Barcia wins)

Justin Barcia could very well be in the twilight of his career and not necessarily because of his age; teams think he has already peaked. Teams almost always hire riders on their potential rather than their results. If Barcia cruises around in the back half of the top ten it would almost guarantee teams wouldn’t hire him in 2021. He knows if he doesn’t finish either the Motocross or Supercross series inside the top three in the overall standings he will no longer be a factory racer. His current contract has an automatic renewal clause if he finishes inside the top three and with the current landscape I don’t see any openings on other teams if Yamaha lets him go.

(Adam Cianciarulo was riding the wheels off his KX450F)

The not so surprising result was Adam Cianciarulo who backed up his Monster Energy Cup performance by being fastest all day and if not for a mistake late in the main event he could have won. Adam isn’t your regular rookie; he is seasoned and ready to contend for this championship right now! He is joining amateur rival Cooper Webb as they are looking prime to displace veterans Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen as perennial contenders. Webb was nursing a nasty illness and looked slow all day, after timed qualifying he was 15th. I don’t know if any defending champion has ever qualified this low at the season opener, what’s strange is nobody at KTM seemed the least bit concerned. Webb has a knack for showing up when he needs too, slow and sick all day his competitors were hoping to gain an early season points advantage. Instead the tough as nails Webb came through with a gritty performance as he finished third. This is the type of ride that makes champions, champions.

(Ken Roczen missed his setup and had an unremarkable night)

Both Roczen and Tomac had rough nights. Tomac has a tendency to experience arm pump in the opening rounds and this year was no exception. As for Roczen, he is the first rider in 2020 to blame “setup” for his underwhelming performance. After his horrific accident in 2017 he has started running stiff suspension settings for safety reasons. He said he went too stiff on Saturday night, “I felt like I was riding a BMX bike(laughing emoji), No excuse though!” For the first time in a while Eli Tomac didn’t look like the best rider in the field. His window of opportunity is closing, it’s not closed yet but much smaller than in previous years. If I had to bet, I would say Tomac never wins a Supercross championship.

(Eli Tomac looked out of sorts from press day throughout the main event, is the end near?)

The way Adam Cianciarulo and Cooper Webb are riding, Tomac and Roczen could be relegated to podiums instead of fighting for wins and championships. Add the talented riders entering the 450 class in the next couple years and time could be running out for these two iconic outdoor champions. In the next three years we should see Austin Forkner, Jeremy Martin, Dylan Ferrandis and a few other talented riders entering the 450 class. Roczen will be limited because of his physical ailments and Tomac is starting to look unhappy at the track. This past weekend Tomac looked similar to Damon Bradshaw in 1993, a guy who was supposed to win but was burnt out and retired after the season. Tomac has been at the highest level for quite a while now and the stresses and demands of being the “guy” weigh heavy. It looks like he isn’t enjoying things and that’s never good for results.

(both Tomac and Roczen were burried in the extremely talented field)

The days of one rider domination look to be over, the top ten rider’s lap times are separated by just over a second. This means the days of starting 18th and carving through the field in a couple laps is virtually impossible. Starts and consistency are more important than ever and it makes for some exciting racing! Year after year I don’t think I can get any more excited about the season, but I am again more excited than ever to see how the season plays out. Who do you think wins round two in St. Louis?

(Barcia has won the season opener two years in a row, can he keep up the momentum this season?)

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