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Salt Lake City for Dummies

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Salt Lake City for Dummies
Rice-eccles Stadium Salt Lake City, UT Salt Lake City Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship

Disclaimer: Racers, fans, and keyboard warriors alike, don’t let this article hurt your feelings. Racers, you may not like the honesty here. Fans, you may not agree with or understand my point of view, as you were not the one out there on the battlefield. Keyboard warriors, well, there’s nothing I can tell you that you don’t already know, right? I have to go through the LCQ to get to the main event; what do I really know?

Track: Sketchy. I feel like we say this every weekend, but we are just being dealt some crappy hands this year for tracks. I will call out Dirt Wurx when needed, but in my opinion, this was something that was out of their control. In fact, I think they did a great job for what it was. The track layout was a good one with a racey feel to it, and I thought it flowed quite well. An 85-degree day, terrible dirt, and wind gusts strong enough to make the birds fly backward is never an ideal situation for a dirt bike race. The track crew did everything in their power to keep working the dirt to keep it soft and added water throughout the day. Was it great conditions? No, but I’ve ridden in far worse. Then you have the rocks.... About a million tiny little rocks made it feel as though you were riding on marbles the entire time. It felt more like the Erzberg Rodeo than an SX race at times, but as a racer, you have to remind yourself that everyone else has to ride the same track. 

Daytime Race Schedule: Track walk at 7 a.m. is not one of my favorite activities, though it is nice to get done early and have time to go eat a proper dinner. As a fan, I don’t think the ambiance is as cool as a night race. I’ve watched over 100 opening ceremonies in my lifetime and I still get the chills when the lights go off at the beginning of the show. It’s just not quite as awe-inspiring in the middle of the day. 

Lots to talk about this week, including some chokes and some broken spokes. Let’s hit it in chronological order.

250 Heat Races: Fairly uneventful racing here, but clearly what you can pick up from watching is that the whoops are going to be the make or break. 

The correct way to hit whoops is to keep your chest forward and not lock out your elbows. You’ll notice that when the riders begin to hesitate and get nervous in the whoops, they will transfer their weight back and extend the elbows. When your weight is all the way back, the only direction for it to transfer is forward, and this is the exact thing to do if you want go over the bars (a common misconception in whoops is to hold it wide open and lean back—that couldn’t be more false). Just pay attention throughout the night to the guys who are hitting the whoops the best, as opposed to the guys who are struggling. 

450 Heat 1: Sitting on the line, they announce Marvin Musquin and the whole crowd boos. Who’s the only person clapping? Cedric Soubeyras, who’s lined up next to me. The French stick together.... 

The track is really falling apart already. I rode fourth the first laps of the race before deciding to ride like a sissy, and even being toward the front of the pack, I couldn’t see anything in front of me due to all the dust. 

Musquin went on to win the 450 main event.
Musquin went on to win the 450 main event. Rich Shepherd

450 Heat 2: Weston Peick is looking like a beast! His whoop speed is on another level, and it’s all coming from his commitment to the entry. He’s probably moving 7-10 mph faster on whoop number one than Vince Friese. 

And Jason Anderson almost gets killed. Had Christian Craig hit a couple of inches further left, that could have been a broken leg for JA. Would every fan have been calling Craig dirty at that point? Probably, and they would be WRONG. This is a perfect example of an accidental T-bone. Let me explain….

Being that it’s in the early laps of a race, Anderson probably shouldn’t have cut down that aggressively, knowing there would be riders very close behind him. He was on the move and just thinking about going forward. Craig was dealing with a battle of his own with Justin Barcia and was protecting his inside line, and absolutely could not have predicted Anderson to cut down that hard. Kind of similar to the Ryan Dungey/James Stewart incident a few years back. If anyone’s fault, it’s Anderson’s; however you can just mark this one down as heat race chaos. Jeff Emig doing a good job again on picking up on this one quickly.

Look at Craig and Eli Tomac’s body position in the whoops compared to Friese’s. They are balanced on the bike with their chest over the handlebars, while Friese is riding scared and moving away from his handlebars. Don’t worry, Vince, I was doing the same thing! Friese knows how to hit whoops, as he is one of the fastest supercross riders in the world—just goes to show you how scary these whoops were to enter with speed. 

Side note: No idea how Tomac is able to attack that track the way he is in this heat race. So incredible to watch. 

Rich Shepherd

250 LCQ: Case in point on my explanation of the whoops. #149 gets his weight too far back, misses a whoop with his front tire, gets kicked in the butt by his seat, and goes down. 

450 LCQ: I got hit on lap one and blew my back wheel into pieces, so I was out of this one early. My turtle technique would have 100-percent worked in this LCQ, too. Spoiler alert: Not the last time tonight someone would blow out some spokes.  

How about Josh Hill slowing down to wait for the countdown clock? I would have never thought to do that—pretty smart of him if he had timed it slightly better.  

250 Main: Where do you find that balance between riding too hard and not hard enough when you’re leading in points? That is the main question going through my head as both the 250 and 450 mains are set to go off. 

Right away it is evident that Aaron Plessinger is being safe in the whoops section. He is always the fastest 250 rider in the whoops, yet in the first few laps of this main, that is his weak spot. What did I say about these whoops being the make-or-break section of the track tonight?

The halfway point of this 250 race is when it seemed like the middle line (the “V”) in the second set of whoops was getting treacherous. The rut was starting to get too deep and the whoop faces were getting too steep—riders needed to start searching outside of that middle line. Changing up lines in the whoops halfway through the race is no easy task. Taking an unknown line can be scary, but necessary at times. I think that after watching the footage back, Joey Savatgy and Adam Cianciarulo would both agree that they should have moved out of that line earlier. 

Rich Shepherd

Shane McElrath just has perfect technique. He might be boring to watch as a fan, but for someone who knows every in and out of riding, you just have to respect how flawless his style is. I imagine his riding style will transition nicely to the 450 class in the future.  

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Cianciarulo’s podium speech is so spot-on. He’s able to give you some cool insight on the track and keep the mood light while still being professional. As a fan, this is exactly what I would want to hear. (Adam, you better get your butt to one of my schools this summer.) 

450 Main: Being in Anderson’s shoes, I cannot imagine what is going through his head on that line. Do you just hang it out there and ride like you have all season and risk a big crash and an injury, or do you just play it safe and go for a fifth- or sixth-place finish? This is a bad head space to be in. These riders train every day of their lives to be riding at 100 percent of their capability. They do not simply ride a dirt bike at 75 percent. Riding at 75 percent is where mental mistakes happen. Lucky for Jason (sarcasm), he wasn’t left with that option, as he immediately crashed in the first turn. If I didn’t know better, I would think this was scripted.... 

I feel for Anderson. Sitting in that pit area waiting for his wheel to be changed must have felt like an eternity. For those saying he should have just kept on riding it, no. When a couple spokes go missing in supercross, you do not just keep riding. They will continue to break/fall out and will most likely will get stuck in your brake caliper, meaning you could get seriously injured. As hard of a decision as that was, it was a smart one for Anderson to pull in. I was hit in turn one of the LCQ and lost a couple spokes, but I didn’t realize it happened. I rode three laps, but the couple of spokes turned into nine of them, which eventually stopped my wheel completely. I was extremely lucky to not be injured, and it is a risk that no rider should knowingly take. 

Anderson eventually worked his way up to finish 17th.
Anderson eventually worked his way up to finish 17th. Jeff Kardas

“Aren’t you scared to ride with Tomac? When he rides, he looks scary and mean.” This is a quote from my girlfriend, who knows very little about the sport, but I have to agree with her on this one. There is something about the way that he rides that just screams “beast.” Just look at the way he hits the turn before the finish line. He is steering with the rear end and initiating his acceleration before the corner even begins. I wish I could ride with that type of intensity.  

The way this season is going, anything can happen. I’m sure Vegas will bring some drama, and with weather forecasts showing near 100 degrees, I’m sure the track will be a nightmare. Can’t wait. 

See you all in Sin City!

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