MXoN 2016 kicks off this weekend in Italy
Gates are about to drop this weekend at the iconic venue of Maggiora for the most prestigious event of the year, the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations presented by Fiat Professional.
Maggiora is easily one of the most raved about venues due to its epic clay track that sprawls out over a couple of massive hills, as well as the facilities it boasts, such as mountain bike tracks, down-hill, slopestyle, dirt-jumping, free ride arenas and pump tracks. It’s an adrenalin paradise. And if you’re a fan of the golden era, you will definitely have heard of Maggiora since it hosted one of the most memorable editions of the Motocross of Nations back in 1986 where America’s ‘Dream Team’, David Bailey, Johnny O’Mara and Ricky Johnson, nailed a perfect score with both riders finishing inside the top two in every race. Since it is 30 years since that fateful day, the entire Dream Team, Bailey, O’Mara and Johnson, will be present at Maggiora this weekend to celebrate.
This weekend the illustrious venue, which is situated approximately 40 minutes north of Milan Malpensa Airport, Italy, will host the 70th edition of the Motocross of Nations, where the usual battle of individual supremacy is turfed and instead the riders are put into teams of three’s where they will battle for the pride of their nation.
Since it’s in Italy, you can rest assured that the entire venue will be packed to the brim with thousands upon thousands of wild fans who have traveled from all over the world, with a firm grip on their flags and air-horns, to support their nation.
Onto the racing; while the previous editions of the Monster Energy Motocross of Nations have typically had some teams that appeared a lot stronger than the rest, this year that is not the case. Predicting the podium this time is not easy which is why we may as well start from the top with the defending champions, Team France: Romain Febvre, Gautier Paulin and Benoit Paturel.
The French have absolutely everything to play for this weekend as the reigning champions, and as the winners of the 2014 edition, they may have a hat trick in their repertoire this weekend. Paulin has represented France at this special event seven times and has topped the box on two occassions. Febvre made his MXoN debut last year and won, while Paturel, who has been called in to replace Dylan Ferrandis after he snapped his arm in Switzerland, will be the rookie but is sure to be spurred on and given the best guidance and advice from his fellow countrymen.
Febvre and Paulin took home the gold and silver medals in the premier class in the 2015 FIM Motocross World Championship, but both didn’t make the top three this year. It has been an incredibly frustrating season for both, so it may just ease the frustration if they end their seasons on a high note as the winners of the coveted Chamberlain Trophy.
Team Australia head to MXoN with Dean Ferris, Todd Waters and Mitch Evans. Two of this years team are familiar faces to the grand prix’ scene despite their absence in the 2016 FIM Motocross World Championship, Ferris and Waters. Ferris, in particular, will be one to watch as a rider who is determined to come back to Europe and give MXGP another crack, while Waters was called upon as a replacement for Kirk Gibbs, who broke his femur a few weeks ago.
After losing Gibbs, they lost another of their initial selection when Jed Beaton crashed while training in Lommel and broke his collarbone, which is why they have called upon a young hopeful Mitch Evans. With the assistance of Ferris and Waters, two riders who are both familiar with Maggiora, in fact, Waters landed on the podium at a round of MXGP right here at this track, Evans should take this weekend as a learning experience.
A quick glance at the history book would indicate that it is difficult to bet against Team USA as the nation with the most wins to its name. Team USA have topped the box a whopping 22 times, with their last win being on home soil back in 2010. None of their three riders this year, Cooper Webb, Jason Anderson or Alex Martin, have ever won a Motocross of Nations title, in fact two thirds of the team has not ever represented the stars and stripes before.
The captain, Cooper Webb, has had an epic season this year, he is the lites champion in both American championships, motocross and supercross, and wrapped up his Lites career with a FIM MX2 Grand Prix win at the Monster Energy MXGP of Americas, even against Jeffrey Herlings. Webb will make his second MXoN appearance this weekend in the MXGP class onboard a 450cc where he will face off against two of Europe’s most praised 450cc rookies, Herlings and Gajser, not to mention the array of mega fast MXGP veterans. As for Martin, he will be making his third MXoN appearance, after racing in 2013 and 2014 for Puerto Rico, while Anderson will be racing the ‘Open’ class as the rookie of the team.
Until two weeks ago, Team Belgium looked as though they would be the most potent team this year after announcing their line-up of Clement Desalle, Kevin Strijbos and Jeremy Van Horebeek. But then it happened; Clement Desalle, the most successful rider on the team with 20 grand prix wins to his name and 1 MXoN title, tweaked his knee and has withdrawn. Team Belgium has turned to Brent Van Doninck as their wild-card replacement. Van Doninck is typically an MX2 rider, but for some reason he has been bumped up to the MXGP class this weekend, while Van Horebeek, who is an MXGP ace, will be racing MX2. Looks like the Belgians are strategizing.
Another team that is more than capable of making the box is Team Great Britain, and for the nation that sits second place on the all-time wins list, it is long over-due. Since 1994, Great Britain has not laid a finger on the Chamberlain Cup, and also since then they have only made the podium once, and that was 10 years ago, in 1997. This year’s team will be Tommy Searle, Shaun Simpson and Max Anstie.
While Simpson and Searle haven’t exactly set the world on fire at any rounds of MXGP this year, those results aren’t really true indications of their abilities. Both lads have been blistering quick in their national series this year. Searle won his first ever title since turning pro while Simpson lost out by next to nothing, but dominated the last round. With the addition of Anstie, who on his day is easily one of the fastest MX2 riders in the world, these three are a genuine force to be reckoned with.
While those four teams, France, USA, Belgium and Great Britain, are the easy bets for the podium, don’t hold your breath because there are two more teams that are coming in all guns blazing. Team Netherlands is one, with their powerhouse squad; Jeffrey Herlings, Glenn Coldenhoff and Brian Bogers, and Team Switzerland is the other with their line-up of Valentin Guillod, Jeremy Seewer and Arnaud Tonus.
Jeffrey Herlings obviously needs no introduction; he is one of the most incredible riders in the world. The three-time world champ will be making his MXGP class debut this weekend, which is obviously one of the biggest talking points since he will go bar-to-bar with the current MXGP World Champion, Tim Gajser, who is riding for Slovenia, and the USA’s Cooper Webb. Backing the champ, Herlings, is fellow KTM star Glenn Coldenhoff who has looked excitable in latter stages of the season while Brian Bogers has proven a few times this year that he is a top three guy in MX2. If Team NL pulls this one off, it will be a first for the Dutch!
As for the Swiss army… Valentin Guillod has three GP wins to his name, from 2015, and has this insane ability to ride like a complete animal while maintaining a sense of elegance; it’s amazing to see. Seewer, on the other hand, has solidified the fact that he is one of the best as this year’s MX2 vice world champion, while Tonus is the third of the trio and despite having a few seasons disrupted by injuries or illness, he raced at the final round of the FIM Motocross World Championship at Glen Helen where he demonstrated he still can run the pace, no sweat.
Last but not least, it would be silly to do a preview without mentioning the hosting nation, Team Italy, especially since the Italian hero Antonio Cairoli will be lining up. Tony has gone on record to say, “my goal at the motocross of nations is to win both motos, I know we can’t win the overall, but I want us to have a chance at getting a good result and I know it’s up to me to win the races, so that’s my goal.” With that said, Tony will be carrying the torch for the Italians, while it will be fascinating to see how his younger teammates Samuele Bernardini and Michele Cervellin respond to the insane love they are about to receive from the eccentric crowd.