A-Mart’s 9th was Team USA’s best finish of the day. Photo by: Chase Yocom

The 2016 Motocross of Nations got underway today in Maggiora, Italy, and from start to finish, it was one of the toughest days in Team USA’s decorated Motocross of Nations history. As you know, the MXoN can be as much about luck as it is about riding. Today the Americans were fighting uphill in both categories and paid for it with a 15th overall qualifying position.

To start the day, Team USA drew the 30th gate pick for the qualifying races in the FIM’s lottery-style gate pick ballot. In the morning warm ups, Alex Martin (MX2) was second fastest and Cooper Webb (MXGP) was fifth fastest in their respective timed practices and Jason Anderson (Open) logged the fastest overall lap out of everyone, but it plummeted straight downhill from there for the young team.

In the MXGP class qualifying race number one, Cooper Webb got out of the gate well from the 30th pick and quickly charged his way up to front. By the midway point of the twenty-minute qualifier, Cooper had worked his way into the top five, but he met a downed Canadian Kaven Benoit and was thrown off the track and to the ground.

A frustrating day for the team captain.
A frustrating day for the team captain.

It took a while for the #4 Yamaha to fire back up, and Cooper remounted outside the top twenty. Coop put his head down and charged, but with very little time left on the clock, the 250MX AMA National Champ could only climb back up to 18th by the end. To make matters worse, Team USA’s toughest threat, Team France, rode away with just one point with a win from Romain Febvre. It was not the start Team USA needed, but with one throwaway score, they still had a decent shot of regaining a solid gate pick for Sunday.

When the gate dropped on the MX2 qualifying race, Alex Martin turned his 30th gate pick into a solid top ten start. Like Webb a moto before, Martin was charging up into the top five, but the tip overs that have plagued A-Mart this season bit him again. Alex crashed early in the race, went back to twelfth, started charging back and crashed again. In the end, Alex made some passes and was only able to cross the line in ninth. Fortunately for Team USA it was enough to keep them in the hunt for a top five qualifying position for Sunday.

Again, though, the French were up front with Benoit Paturel finishing third, and the strong Belgians showed they came to compete for the win as well with a win from Jeremy vanHorebeek and a third place finish in MXGP from Kevin Strijbos. After two races, the French and the Belgians were tied atop the nations leaderboard with just four points apiece and Team USA was way down in thirteenth with 27 points.

While Webb and A-Mart both struggled, Team USA had one last chance to put it all behind them in the Open class qualifying race. When the gate dropped, Anderson grabbed a decent jump from the outside, but we lost sight of the #6 in turn one. When the bikes left the first turn and the dust cleared, the New Mexico born rider was on the ground picking up his Husqvarna. Yes, sir, three races and four crashes later, Anderson had a lot of work in front of him if he was going to try to save the day.

Will Jason Anderson's injury end Team USA's chances in '16?
Will Jason Anderson’s injury end Team USA’s chances in ’16?

To Anderson’s credit, he twisted his right hand like his life depended on it and battled back from 38th to 14th in the short twenty-minute moto, but the damage was done. With Webb’s 18th as their throwaway score, Team USA will go into Sunday with the 15th qualifying spot. That will give them the 15th and 35th gate pick in all three motos. To add even more pain to Team USA, we were just told that Anderson may have broken his foot in the first turn crash. No matter how you slice it, tomorrow will be a long, uphill battle for the Americans.

Up front in the Open class qualifier was the three time MX2 World Champion, Jeffrey Herlings, for the Netherlands. Jeffrey showed everyone he is ready for the MXGP class in 2017 when he decimated the field by 18 seconds on the KTM 450. Jeffrey’s win was huge for the Dutch team, giving them the third overall qualifying spot behind race favorites France and Belgium.

Team France will take a two race win streak and the #1 qualifying position into Sunday. Will this Chamberlain trophy stay with them for the third straight year? Tune in tomorrow on CBS Sports

Click here for full results from all three motos and check out the overall nation results below.

2016 Nations Qualifying Results After 3 Races – Top 19 Nations Transfer Directly to Sunday

1. France – 3 pts
2. Belgium – 4 pts
3. Netherlands – 6 pts
4. Switzerland – 6 pts
5. Italy – 9 pts
6. Great Britain – 9 pts
7. Spain – 10 pts
8. Australia – 10 pts
9. Sweden – 18 pts
10. New Zealand – 18 pts
11. Japan – 19 pts
12. Russia – 19 pts
13. Denmark – 19 pts
14. Austria – 23 pts
15. USA – 23 pts
16. Estonia – 24 pts
17. Lithuania – 26 pts
18. Canada – 29 pts
19. Czech Republic – 31 pts –

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Dan Lamb is a 12+ year journalist and the owner of MotoXAddicts.