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10 Things to Watch: MXoN

MX des Nations 2014

maddix park mx  By Chase Stallo, Jason Weigandt, and Aaron Hansel

Leading by Example

Having represented the United States every year since 2009, Ryan Dungey has a ton of experience at the Motocross of Nations, and is undoubtedly the team leader heading into the weekend in Latvia. That said, Dungey has struggled to find his true form the last two years—he went 6-7 last year in Germany and 7-9 the year before that in Belgium. American fans know Dungey is much better than that, and hopefully after the weekend the European fans will too. – Aaron Hansel

The (MXoN) Man

While it’s Roger DeCoster who’s nicknamed “The Man,” it’s Tony Cairoli who has been the man to beat at the MXoN the last couple years—he’s swept every single MXoN moto he’s raced in since 2012! If you’re a Cairoli and/or Italian fan, it’s a streak you’d love to see extended. But the now eight-time world champ has added another wrinkle this year by volunteering for the MX2 slot for his team. But just because he’s on a 250F doesn’t mean his streak can’t continue. – Hansel

Cairoli is dropping down to the 250F for the Motocross of Nations. Photo: Sarah Gutierrez
Cairoli is dropping down to the 250F for the Motocross of Nations.Photo: Sarah Gutierrez

Start Strategy

Team USA will pit Jeremy Martin up against Cairoli in MX2. He’s a wise choice to fill the MX2 slot since he won the 250 national championship and has close ties with Dungey. Of course, he’s never raced the MXoN before and hasn’t raced outside the U.S—until now. But the real issue in the 250F class is often starting gate selection. Each nation will get one good gate and one bad one. Do you put your 250 guy, already lacking in starting power, on the better gate? Or do you assume he’ll be buried anyway and put your 450 rider into the prime spot? The GP starting lines are generally less even than what we see in the US, so the first gate pick is much bigger advantage. The team strategy on gates could make as big an impact on the results as the actual riders themselves. – Jason Weigandt

Team USA

It wasn’t the world’s biggest shocker to see the Americans lost in the deep sands of Lommel in 2012, but the loss in Teutschenthal the following year was a bit of a surprise for the American fans and a big disappointment for Team USA. It’s going to take a whole lot more than a couple of losses to challenge the American spirit, though, and you can bet that the recent sting of defeat will only fuel the determination and drive of Ryan Dungey, Eli Tomac, and Jeremy Martin this weekend. Will it be enough to get the Chamberlain Trophy back? – Hansel 

Team France

It was a puzzling move when France chose to leave Marvin Musquin and Christophe Pourcel off their MXoN team. After all, both riders have experience at the MXoN, and both did very well this summer in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. Even newly crowned MX2 world champ Jordi Tixier was left off the team. What on Earth was the selection committee thinking? Of course, if Gautier Paulin (MXGP), Steven Frossard (Open), and Dylan Ferrandis (MX2) somehow pull off a victory, it’s going to look like a very smart decision. Will it be validated or just look silly after the weekend? – Hansel

Dungey looks to bring back the Chamberlain Trophy to Team USA. Photo: Sarah Gutierrez
Dungey looks to bring back the Chamberlain Trophy to Team USA.Photo: Sarah Gutierrez

One Man Wrecking Crew

Let’s play a quick game. I’ll give you blind results from the last two Motocross of Nations, you guess the rider: 2-4-6-17… Give up? Try Estonia’s Tanel Leok. At Lommel in 2012, Leok carried the small Northern European country to a seventh overall finish—better than Great Britain and Australia. Last year, he rode well again and Estonia finished in the top ten for the third year in a row. Estonia is without the services of Erki Kahro (who raced Lucas Oil Pro Motocross this year). Can Leok lead Estonia to their fourth straight top-ten performance in Latvia? – Chase Stallo 

Singular Standout

Not every nation is stocked with three studs, but the ‘Nations is known for creating new heroes after amazing individual rides. Just last year Dean Ferris holeshot both MX2 motos (against 450s, to boot) and rode well. Based on that, he secured a Red Bull KTM factory ride in the U.S. Many, many legends were built with success on this grand stage. Chad Reed and Ben Townley announced they were coming to the U.S. with strong Euro sendoffs at the MXoN. In the small bores, we can think of Johnny O’Mara in 1986, Sebastian Tortelli in 1995, Ryan Villopoto beating everyone in 2007, or Ken Roczen running wild at Colorado in 2010. These were career-launching or career-defining rides. Will we see another this weekend? – Weigandt

The Brits

If the US were to slip, one team that could be right behind would be Great Britain. Scotland will remain a part of the UK, which is good news for the future of Team GB as two of their riders (Dean Wilson and Shaun Simpson) are both Scottish. Wilson is back for the first time since 2011, when GB finished 2 points behind Australia for third. With Simpson and Wilson on 450s and Searle dropping down to ride the 250, the Brits have their strongest team in recent memory. Will it lead to a podium finish? – Stallo

Australia is looking to return to podium glory.Photo: Sarah Gutierrez
Australia is looking to return to podium glory.Photo: Sarah Gutierrez

Aussi, Aussi, Aussi

Ideally, Australia would enter Latvia with a combination of Chad Reed, Brett Metcalfe, and/or Dean Ferris and Matt Moss. Unfortunately, for the Aussies, Ferris broken his femur at the MXGP of Brazil and Metty pulled out because he would have had to fund his way there. Australian MX2 champion Luke Clout will replace Ferris, with Reed and Moss (Australian MX1 champion) providing veteran presence. Will Australia secure its second ever podium—the first since 2011—in Latvia? – Stallo

The Champs

The winners of the last two events, Germany and Belgium, have been ravaged by injuries. Germany, last seen celebrating Ken Roczen’s moto win on home soil a season ago, is now without the services of Roczen (visa issues) and Marcus Schiffer (injuries). The onus is now squarely on the shoulders of Max Nagl. Nagl was hot down the stretch in MXGP—winning the overall in Brazil, his first since 2010—but without Roczen and Marcus Schiffer (both members of the 2012 winning squad), Germany is down to Dennis Ullrich and Henry Jacobi. Can Nagl carry Germany to a top-five finish?  

Two of the three members from last year’s Belgian squad (Clement Desalle and Ken De Dycker) are out with injury, and the third member (Jeremy Van Horebeek) was nursing an injury toward the end of the MXGP season. The team is also missing Joel Roelants, who sustained damage to his vertebral column at the MXGP of Italy. But Belgium, like the U.S, is deep and will be a formidable threat. Anchored by Van Horebeek and Kevin Strijbos, alongside Julien Lieber, the Red Knights are arguably USA’s biggest threat. Can they repeat and hand the U.S. its third straight loss? – Stallo

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