SX: The holeshot – the biggest takeaways from Saturday’s season opener

The 450 field lines up for the start at Anaheim.

Steve Giberson sgiberson@vitalmx

The 2015 Monster Energy Supercross season is officially underway and – after all the hype leading into the season about what many consider to be the most wide open championship in history – both main events turned into dominant rides to victory and some assertive podium performances.

Both Ken Roczen and Jessy Nelson led every lap of their respective main events, making huge statements as we head into the second stop in Phoenix this weekend.

Here are some of my biggest takeaways of the weekend:

450SX Class

– Any doubts that may have surrounded Roczen’s move to RCH Racing are pretty much gone. It was hands down the German’s most commanding performance since moving into the premier class. His performance was so strong that it actually forces you to think that if he’s able to start up front consistently then we could see more of that.

– While Roczen’s win was as definitive as they come, we saw other great rides. Jason Anderson grabbed a relatively quiet runner-up finish in his very first 450SX Class start and it proved what he’s capable of if he can get up front early. There’s no doubting how strong the Husqvarna is. Additionally, Trey Canard battled his way from an eighth-place start to fight his way onto the podium. That’s no easy task in this loaded field and Trey has to be happy with the result. Justin Barcia also turned what could have been a bad night into a respectable one, climbing all the way from 14th to sixth. He moved forward in a big way and the team should be able to build from that.

(From left) Trey Canard, Ken Roczen and Jason Anderson celebrate on the podium.

– On the flip side, Ryan Dungey may have let a podium finish slip away. He started fifth, but lost ground to both Eli Tomac and Davi Millsaps before each rider crashed out of contention. He then got passed by Trey Canard and had to settle for fourth. He found his way and looked solid at the end, but it took some time to get into a groove. Don’t be surprised if he comes out swinging in Phoenix.

– As for Millsaps and Tomac, it’s obviously a night both riders want to forget. Tomac looked to be the class of the field on Saturday night, but his race was over before it really even began with a crash on Lap 1 while battling for fifth. Millsaps appeared on his way to a battle for the podium until he went down on Lap 4. To make matters worse, both riders went down again and had to salvage 19th and 20th-place finishes. They face a deep hole only one race in, but if there’s ever a time to get bad luck out of the way it’d be in the opening round. Keep an eye on these two this weekend to see how they bounce back.

– I think the ride of the night came from Andrew Short. The veteran did what he does best and rode as solid as ever. He won his heat race, a huge surprise, and then stole the lead early before giving way to Roczen. He proved how valuable a good start can be this season.

– Mike Alessi did the same, getting back to his old ways by grabbing the holeshot. He was scrappy and fought valiantly throughout the main event to finish ninth.

Rookie Jason Anderson put on a stunning performance to finish second in the 450SX main.

– Many had hoped Chad Reed would get his season off to a flying start, but the former champ was never really a factor. He started 12th but still took home a top 10. Reedy is bound find his form this season, so just be patient.

– Anderson’s second-place effort was by far the best ride by any of the four rookies making their full time 450SX Class debuts. Blake Baggett got a terrible start but was very aggressive in a charge forward that earned him a 12th-place finish. Cole Seely needed the LCQ in order to make the main event and then got involved in the second incident with Millsaps, but he still earned a resilient 14th-place effort. Dean Wilson had arguably the roughest night. He was fifth fastest in qualifying and just missed out on transferring out of his heat, but then had to go all the way to the LCQ in order to make the main event. His night went in the wrong direction and you have to think he was pretty worn out in the later stages of the main event. While a 15th-place finish surely isn’t something Wilson wanted, he definitely learned a lot and will come back stronger in Phoenix. In fact, I expect all the rookies to step up this weekend with a race under their belt.

250SX Class

Jessy Nelson led every lap en route to the 250SX Anaheim 1 win.

– You could see Jessy Nelson starting to come into his own at the tail end of the AMA Motocross season last summer, so it’s not as surprising as it might seem to see him ride well. However, given that his average finish was just 9.4 in 15 previous starts, it’s quite an impressive leap forward. His career best finish prior to Anaheim was fifth, so he took care of his first podium result and win on Saturday.

– Zach Osborne deserves the tough man award for everything he went through on Saturday. He was forced out of the lead in his heat race after contact with Tyler Bowers, breaking his thumb in the process. He transferred through the LCQ and brought home a runner-up finish, holding off a hard charging Bowers at the end. If he doesn’t experience any setbacks with his thumb, he has to be feeling confident heading into Phoenix. A pair of runner-ups in the 450SX Class and 250SX Class isn’t a bad way for the new Husqvarna team to start.

– In his return to full time supercross competition, Bowers sure made his presence felt. The four-time AMSOIL Arenacross Champion is more than talented enough to succeed in supercross and he was a factor all night long in Anaheim, winning his heat race and overcoming a sixth-place start to land on the podium. The incident with Osborne was the most memorable part of his evening and was trademark Bowers style coming from the arenacross ranks. He’s not here to mess around and stated just that in his interview following the heat win.

View 3D track for the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross season

– Another rider with arenacross experience enjoyed a great night. Aaron Plessinger earned his way into supercross through AMSOIL Arenacross’ Road to Supercross program and made his debut on Saturday night. The main event didn’t start well in 14th, but he battled all the way to fifth. Plessinger has raw speed and as he continues to acclimate to supercross he could become a major podium threat.

– Given how well he rode en route to victory in his heat race, I’m surprised Justin Hill let a podium finish slip away late in the main event. Hill’s going to be one of the riders contending for the title this season so it’s not something to read into too much, but I’d bet he’s a little disappointed in that fourth-place effort.

– I expected Cooper Webb to be in the thick of the battle for the win given how fast he was all afternoon and evening leading into the main event, but he got a bad start which made him vulnerable to carnage, which is exactly what happened. Webb got collected in an incident with Malcolm Stewart and was unable to make things happen as a result. A seventh isn’t a bad result, but he’ll have to hope he didn’t give up too much ground in this short regional title fight.

– I also expected Stewart to be a factor, but much like Webb he didn’t get a great start and went down trying to fight his way forward. He was banged up and recorded a DNF. Not something you can afford to do with only eight races, but that doesn’t mean we still won’t see a breakout season for the younger Stewart. Unfortunately his title hopes might be dashed in earning just one point.

Riding dirty: NASCAR stars enjoy Supercross season-opener

– Josh Hansen has more experience than any of his fellow competitors in the West Region, but he had an overall frustrating day in his first outing with his own team. There appeared to be bike issues in practice and he just wasn’t at the Hansen level we’ve come to expect. He soldiered home to ninth, but he also started third, so Hanny will look to bounce back in Phoenix. We’re bound to get some memorable moments from him this season because like Bowers, Hansen isn’t going to sit back and let nights like last Saturday continue to happen.

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