10 Things to Watch: Hangdown

US Pro Motocross 2016

maddix park mx

www.racerxonline.com By Jason Weigandt and Aaron Hansel

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All In the Wrist

When it was confirmed in Las Vegas that Cooper Webb indeed had a broken scaphoid (that's a bone in the wrist motocrossers refer to as a navicular) his chances of competing in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross seemed slim. Well, we asked his trainer, Gareth Swanepoel, who has been through surgery on his scaphoid before, and he says Cooper's break was smaller and right through the center of the bone, which makes it much easier to heal. Weekly CT scans indicate it keeps getting better, even after racing in Las Vegas. Webb then said it can't get worse so he's planning on racing all 12 rounds. “I’ll do the best I can, not expecting too much the first few rounds but we’ll try to get better as the year on,” he said yesterday. “The plan is to be here all summer. So just have to stay in it, and I feel like I have a good shot.” So now the bigger worry isn't if the wrist can hold up, but if Webb's lack of riding and testing time will slow him at the races. He's only ridden one time since Las Vegas, but he said he did get a lot of outdoor testing in before the injury. Can he stay in the hunt? –Jason Weigandt


We don’t even need to mention Jeremy Martin much here, because while everyone else shows up with some question marks, you know the two-time and defending 250MX champ is rock solid. If Webb was 100 percent, he could make a title run, and if the wrist holds up, maybe he still can. But if he can’t, who else could try to prevent a JMart three-peat? There are several riders hoping to find a higher level this year, such as Joey Savatgy, Christian Craig, Jessy Nelson and Zach Osborne. Martin usually doesn’t make big mistakes, but if he opens the door at all, these are some of the riders who will hope to push through. –Weigandt

Rougher is Tougher

Teams have been testing and practicing on outdoor tracks for a while now, but practice tracks don't get as rough as race tracks. That point was pounded home—literally—during yesterday's press day, as rider's marveled over how crazy bumpy the Hangtown was compared to what they’ve seen the last few weeks. We saw riders pulling into the mechanic's area for changes after one lap! “It’s one of the nastier tracks on the circuit,” said Eli Tomac. “A lot of square edges and choppy holes. I think these first two—this one and Glen Helen—are two of the toughest on the circuit.” It's largely a guessing game on settings heading into Saturday; don't be surprised to see some surprises in the results. –Weigandt

Switch Flipper

Last year, Justin Barcia’s supercross season sucked, but he turned it all around in motocross with two overall wins and third in 450SX points. Can he do that again? He talked about it in Thursday’s press conference. “That’s the plan for sure, flip the switch and start from fresh,” said Barcia. “Happy with my bike setup, I’ve been out here in California, doing those stopwatch nationals as they say. I’ve been having fun and keeping it simple. Supercross was terrible for sure. Really happy to be here and be healthy. Last year was good, I was able to turn it on at the middle of the season, hopefully this year we can get it started a little earlier.” –Weigandt

Back to Back

Hangtown sucked for Ken Roczen last year. Stress fractures in his back and a way-off bike setup led the number-one plate holder to 19-5 moto scores. “Last year was a bit of a struggle with the injury coming in here,” he said in the Thursday press conference. “We’re off much better this year. We’ve done a bunch of testing but not too much—we found a bunch of things that I really liked and I feel like we’re in a good position. I’m definitely a lot happier, and also from everything I’ve learned I feel like I’m a lot smarter coming into this season.” Roczen appeared to be getting stronger as the supercross season ended. Is he strong enough to take the title back? –Weigandt

The Hunted

Another Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, another year of Ryan Dungey being the man to beat. The three-time 450MX Champion was in full chase mode early last year when Eli Tomac came flying out of the blocks, but Dungey hopes it’s different this time. “Last year we had some challenges and a little bit of a slow start, but the team did a good job and we were able to get better,” he said. “To be able to build on that a year later, with everything, the bike setup, the engine package. Everything feels right on point but the first round will tell us more. I’d rather be in this position (as champion) than trying to get it back.” As always, Dungey will be in this one for the long haul. Can anyone beat him? –Weigandt

The Question

Will Eli Tomac have the same speed at Hangtown that produced those merciless beat downs of 2015? A lot has changed since then, he’s on a new bike with a new team, and while he didn’t have a great indoor season, he was really starting to come on strong at the end. He also won Daytona, the most motocross-like supercross race there is. It’s nearly impossible to think anyone is going to blow Ryan Dungey’s doors off right now, but if you’re going to put your money on someone you’ve got to put it on the man who did it at the opener last year. –Aaron Hansel

How will Stewart do in his return to Lucas Oil Pro Motocross?
How will Stewart do in his return to Lucas Oil Pro Motocross?Jordan Roberts

Forward Focus

It’s been a tough year so far for James Stewart, and that’s putting it lightly. The Yoshimura Suzuki rider crashed out of the first supercross of the year, and things only got worse after that, ultimately causing Stewart to pull the plug on supercross late in the season. But that was then, and this is now, and right now he’s tied for the points lead in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. “From the first race at Anaheim, getting hurt, it was a struggle from there,” said Stewart yesterday. “Seemed like every time we built some momentum something would happen. So we took the last few races off to get ready for this one. I’m just happy to be here right now.” We’ll see if he’s able to put his supercross troubles behind him and focus on getting back to form at the Hangtown Motocross Classic. –Hansel

Fashionably Late

There was a time when Adam Cianciarulo was considered to be the can’t-miss kid, but thanks to multiple injuries, things haven’t exactly gone as great as everyone expected. But that doesn’t mean Cianciarulo isn’t going to meet the expectations that were placed on him even before his first pro race, and this season is his opportunity to prove it. Hangtown just might be the perfect place to kick off a championship run too—Cianciarulo was leading last year before a small mistake put him in the dirt. Look for Cianciarulo to start off strong on Saturday. –Hansel 

Major Debut

Most new seasons mark the beginnings of new pro careers, and we’ve got a big one getting underway this weekend at Hangtown. How big? We probably haven’t seen this much hype surrounding a rookie debut since guys like Webb and Cianciarulo turned pro a few years ago. Talking about Austin Forkner here, and if you still don’t know who he is you’re about to find out. He’s been smashing through the amateur ranks for years, and now the time has finally come for him to see how he stacks up against the working professionals of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross.  –Hansel

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