Jason Thomas: Yes and no. The good news is that he’s the fastest rider in the class. That's always a good remedy for any problem. The bad news is that he has already suffered some of the same adversity that he faced in supercross and we saw how that panned out. With 20 individual points paying races left, the variance should be more favorable for him and it also helps to not be facing Ryan Dungey, too. This title is his to lose.
Jason Weigandt: Nope. Look, he got a bad start and took a second in the first moto. We should be praising Eli for "taking the podium when the win isn't there" like we do with others. Second moto, he had a bike problem that wasn't his fault. He's still going to be the fastest guy more often than not so 15 points isn't a lot to make up. Don't forget he actually started behind Jason Anderson in the first moto and caught, passed, and left him, so just because Anderson got a second-moto win, or Marvin won the overall, I don't think Eli has to worry about anyone turning the tables on him.
Steve Matthes: Not at all. JT went on and on in our wrap up podcast about the points that he's down and how he's got these Husqvarna and KTM riders to fight through, but there are 20 motos left. That's a ton. He'll be fine. Eli looks great, he's fast every time he hits the track and I know from talking to the team they feel better about their bike than they did last year. I expect Eli to carry on winning these next few weeks and be set up to win this 450MX title.
Thomas: For 99.9 percent of the field, no, it won't matter. Fitness is fitness and the good guys are all in shape anyway. With a high of 81 degrees on Saturday, I don't see the conditions being a big factor. Yes, riders will feel a bit short of breath and if you are one of those unfortunate few trying to race their way into shape, 6000 feet of elevation won't help. For the main players, though, they will all be on a level playing field.
The one exception to this, of course, is Jason Anderson. He’s had troubles in the past with altitude sickness. Outdoor Nationals have a way of exposing weaknesses so I don't think he will be able to mask it like he did at Salt Lake City Supercross. If there is a story on altitude, Anderson is certainly the headline.
Weigandt: I think it's a little overrated as a storyline these days. When this race first hit the schedule, it was held in the middle of the summer so the temps were hotter, and the early four-strokes ran terribly when they got hot. Fuel boiled, engines overheated, and the carbureted engines struggled. It's come a long way. The early June date has led to cooler weather (it snowed there two weeks ago!) and fuel-injected bikes require pressurized fuel systems, which greatly reduces the chance of boiling fuel. Overall, four-strokes are much more reliable and refined than they were 10 years ago.
The only difference I see these days is in the 250 Class, as the altitude reduces power and further magnifies any power advantage a team might have. One telling factor: for years, Mitch Payton always got his team on the Thunder Valley press day schedule, to get an extra day to tune for altitude. As things got easier, the team eventually stopped going to press day, but Monster/Pro Circuit Kawasaki has returned to the schedule this year. Clearly they're working on something.
Matthes: I liked Weege's answer so much that I just copy and pasted it. “I think it's a little overrated as a storyline these days. When this race first hit the schedule, it was held in the middle of the summer so the temps were hotter, and the early four-strokes ran terribly when they got hot. Fuel boiled, engines overheated, and the carbureted engines struggled. It's come a long way. The early June date has led to cooler weather (it snowed there two weeks ago!) and fuel-injected bikes require pressurized fuel systems, which greatly reduces the chance of boiling fuel. Overall, four-strokes are much more reliable and refined than they were 10 years ago.”
Bigger guys like Adam Cianciarulo and Aaron Plessinger will definitely be wringing their 250Fs for all they have, but it's the same for everyone. Anderson's going to try the SLC SX thing and get in the morning of the race to try and lessen the effects of the altitude. How weird is it that he's affected by this when he's from New Mexico, which is also at elevation?
Thomas: I think he will have good days and bad days. In that thought process, he is right on track. He had a big crash at Hangtown, which caused him to net zero points on the day, while Zach Osborne threw 50 on the board. Ferrandis was lights out fast at Glen Helen, but keep in mind he has also ridden Glen Helen more than any other track on the calendar. These other tracks will be brand new to him and the Pro Motocross series doesn't give anywhere near the amount of pre-race riding time that the MXGP series did. He will be forced to learn a new track and also find the elite pace very quickly on tracks that these other riders have multiple years on. It's a definite disadvantage that I don't see him able to overcome for a championship, let alone the 50-point head start he gave at Hangtown.
Weigandt: I'm not surprised to see this ride from Ferrandis; people have been buzzing about his outdoor speed for a while. I really, really would have liked to see what would have happened if Jeremy Martin had not crashed in the second moto. Would Ferrandis have been able to roll him, also? Anyway, I think we'll see more motos like this from Ferrandis, but I don't think we'll see it all the time. It will depend on the track, the day, the weather, and a variety of factors as he adjusts to life here in the U.S. The 9-1 scores he logged at Glen Helen are kind of all you need to know.
Matthes: Confidence is a scary thing and don't forget, before he crashed out in Hangtown he was very fast. So he's good. We know that. But as JT mentioned, Glen Helen is by far the track he's had the most time on so let's see if he can dominate at some other tracks. Either way, I would think he's at least a podium threat from here on out.