Monster Energy Supercross’ lone visit to California’s Bay Area brought the best dirt and one of the most difficult tracks of the 2014 season inside Oakland’s O.co Coliseum. There was great racing all night and it was the first time riders really pushed it to the limits and let their bikes do the work. The champ Ryan Villopoto made his biggest statement thus far while the racing gods continued to smile down on Jason Anderson.
Each week, The Holeshot will provide 22 takeaways – a full starting gate – from the most recent round of action.
1. Riders were vocal about how great the dirt was in Oakland and it was obvious simply by looking at it. Following three weeks of dry, hard-packed dirt that cool, moist air ultimately makes slick, the world’s best riders were greeted with tacky soil full of grip. For the normal fan, the dirt is something that is taken for granted when watching a race, but it can play a huge role in the level of competition.
2. Last week’s whoops section was cause for a lot of discussion, but so was the ominous-looking quad in the track’s first rhythm section. Ultimately, the whoops did play a factor when two riders were close on speed and battling one another, while the quad wasn’t used until the 450 main event when both James Stewart and Ryan Dungey pulled it off. Unfortunately for both riders it didn’t provide a huge benefit en route to their second and fourth-place finishes.
3. The addition of the split lane was a nice change that provided a cool visual perspective for the fans and some anticipation during heated battles to see who would go where. For the riders it was probably also a welcome change to see an entirely alternative racing line to catch someone. They appeared to be pretty equal, which only added to the competition.
4. You had to have a gut feeling that given how well he had ridden during the first three weeks, Villopoto was bound to lay down a dominant ride like he did in Oakland. All he needed was a good start and he simply checked out. Villopoto remains the best at setting a torrid pace at the start of a race to establish a gap and he did just that. He was perhaps the most vocal about how great the track was and it showed in his riding.
5. I wonder how much different the race could have been if Stewart had gotten a better start. He looked great all night and had the quad in his back pocket. Had Villopoto been in his sights from the get go we potentially could have had four different winners to start the season.
6. We’re seeing some vintage Chad Reed over the last two weeks and based on how well he’s been riding, he’s starting to reclaim the Mr. Consistency badge from Ryan Dungey. After starting the season hot with back-to-back podiums, Dungey hasn’t stood on the box since. He’s still in the thick of this title fight, but he’ll need to start battling for wins to ensure he stays in it. Reed on the other hand has surged to the forefront and now sits just seven points behind Villopoto in second.
7. For the first time this season we didn’t hear or see much from Ken Roczen. He didn’t get a great start and had to work his way forward from eighth and fought hard to get sixth, at the tail end of the five other riders who have risen to the forefront this season. All things considered it was a resilient ride to save as many points as he could.
8. Roczen’s effort is a sign of how difficult it is to gain ground in that lead group this season. If you don’t start up front it’s a tall task to find your way towards the front, which also emphasizes how impressive Villopoto’s ninth-to-first ride in Phoenix was.
9. Justin Brayton is quietly off to arguably the best start of his career. His results are rock solid and he’s gaining confidence every weekend. His consistency against four of the greatest of all time and a rising rookie star deserves recognition.
10. While Brayton is on the rise, it’s utterly confusing to see Justin Barcia missing from this group. Barcia’s rookie year was a great foundation to build from and with the exception of Phoenix, he has been virtually absent from the fight for the podium. This is likely frustrating Barcia and it his extra effort to try and get up there could be costing him late in the races. He’s had misfortune hit each of the last two weeks and you’ve got to think it’s because he’s just trying to do all he can to get up front.
11. We have yet to see Eli Tomac really show what he’s got this season as the other high profile rookie has been nursing a shoulder injury from his heat race at A1. We originally thought he’d be back in Oakland, but he chose to take one more week to ensure he’s returning as prepared as possible.
12. Privateer hero Weston Peick wasn’t able to keep the momentum going from his stellar ride at A2, suffering a brake issue and recording a DNF. Peick is not intimidated by his factory-backed opponents so don’t be surprised to see him bounce back.
13. The 250SX Class looked like it would have its third winner in Dean Wilson, but a freak loss of power on the final lap forced Wilson to roll into a triple, probably the worst and best place to have that happen, and allow Jason Anderson to fly overhead for the victory. At this point, Anderson can seemingly do no wrong even when he breaks a racing rule, while Wilson just can’t cut a break.
14. We’ve been waiting for Wilson to rise to the head of the class all season and challenge Anderson and Cole Seely. He finally got the start he needed and did just that, but it looks like the racing gods are going to make him wait a little longer for that victory. As gutted as Wilson had to have felt, he was impressively composed on the podium and instantly set his sights on the following weekend. That’s probably because he was spot on in Oakland and is confident things are heading in the right direction.
15. Despite the heartbreak Wilson experience, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki walked away from Oakland with some much needed momentum. Justin Hill complemented Wilson’s ride with his own breakout performance, which vaulted the team back into the forefront of the division.
16. I’ve watched Hill get better and better each week and his come-from-behind ride at A2 was enough to cement in his mind that he never wants to be in that position again. He nailed the start, took the lead, and led his first laps. A huge night that should result in more of the same.
17. Cole Seely had arguably his worst start of the season, albeit still a strong fourth, and just wasn’t able to keep up with the top three. Seely has always exceled on tracks like Anaheim and Phoenix that are hard and slick, so he will very likely be back up front this weekend.
18. Important note: With Anderson’s third win and Seely’s first finish off the podium, the seven-point loss Anderson had to Seely as a result of his A2 penalty has already been erased.
19. Exciting rookie Cooper Webb had a tough go of it in Oakland. His practice crash was scary and it was a pleasant surprise to hear he was racing that night. He didn’t start up front in the main and then had an early crash. He’s gone through a little bit of everything this season, which will only make him better as the season wears on. We’ll see if there are any lingering effects from his practice crash.
20. Malcolm Stewart also had a rough night. One week after finishing on the podium Mookie had misfortune in Oakland and finished 16th, which dropped him to seventh in the championship.
21. Zach Wilson gave Seely all he could handle in Oakland as the duo battled for fourth for most of the main event. Like Seely, Osborne didn’t have as great a start and he wasn’t able to get up near the lead trio. While it’s a nice improvement from his tough A2 outing, Osbornse seems to have lost a little of the momentum he had after the first couple weeks.
22. Each of the races in Anaheim so far this season have provided the best battles of the year, so will a return to the dry, hard pack dirt bring even more excitement?Monster Energy, Supercross