Photo by: JP Acevedo
The Motocross Des Nations is the most storied event in the sport of motocross and the days of USA dominating this event are beginning to seem like a lifetime ago. Now before everyone gets up in arms with their blind USA patriotism, let me explain why this is good for the sport and the event. I have been very vocal about the changes I want for this event, so I won’t beat a dead horse and focus on the reasons we should not attend the event. Instead, I will keep things on track, for the most part.
This event has been USA vs the world since the 80’s when we established our dominance—winning 13 in a row from ’81 through ’93. The gap between USA and the world peaked in 1986 when the USA finished first and second in every moto. In the second moto Johnny O’Mara caught and passed reigning 500cc world champion Dave Thorpe on a production-based 125cc machine. At the time the USA had just abandoned works motorcycles and were racing production-based machines against the European’s full factory motorcycles. To have a guy riding a production-based 125cc motorcycle and who wasn’t even being retained by his current team heading into 1987 pass the 500cc world champion solidified that USA had the best riders in the world. That mindset has remained in the USA until recent years, even if it was not entirely accurate.
The rest of the world has been closing the gap since 1986, even though the USA suffered a considerable number of defeats throughout the 90’s and early 00’s we were still considered the team to beat year in and year out. The tide turned in 2012 when the USA’s seven-year winning streak (’05 through ’11) came to an end. The following year was quite alarming as Ryan Dungey appeared to be riding extremely conservative as the team could only muster up a second-place finish. Over the next few years, we alternated podium positions without a win, and the world recognized the MXGP riders had closed the gap. But in the USA, we were still in denial.
In 2017 and 2018 the wheels completely fell off for team USA in our own backyard at RedBud in Buchanan, Michigan. We went from contenders to what looked to the rest of the world like pretenders. We heard rumblings of scheduling conflicts and sponsor obligations (all completely relevant) interfering with race prep, but in reality, we didn’t appear to care as much as the rest of the world.
During our years of domination, our motivation was never a concern. Seeing the USA getting dominated at home in less than stellar conditions—what many call “old school motocross”—is not going unaddressed by team USA. One-sided dominance does not make for a good rivalry, and the best thing for this event is to have the USA struggle for a couple of years and then fight back.
This year we started fighting back by preparing properly. The next USA team that brings home a victory in this storied race will be etched in history. Not since our first win in 1981 have we been more of an underdog than we are now. This is now an opportunity for three young American riders to become legends and make history again.
This year we received the same ass-whooping on race day as 2017 or 2018, but the preparation and attitude towards the event were much different. Our guys got there early and did everything they could to improve their chances of a good result. Unfortunately, the sky opened and the track went from something pictured on a motocross dream board to a disgusting quagmire. The conditions nullified all the hard work our guys put in before the event.
While the extra effort in 2019 didn’t yield the results we hoped for, I think we are all proud of their effort. How can we not be proud of guys who have willingly forgone their offseason vacations in order to spend their own money participating in an event that only offers a trophy and pride?
Despite how proud I am of the effort put forth by Justin Cooper, Jason Anderson and Zach Osborne, a part of me does still wonder if the USA should continue fielding a team. I love this race, it is fun feeling like these guys are racing for me. American motocross fans bond together and claim these riders as our own for one weekend a year. That is a lot of extra pressure on guys who could be resting and preparing for Supercross. Monster Energy Supercross is where USA riders make the majority of their money.
I still stand by my previous statement that the USA should skip this event until some changes are made like adequately paying team USA’s expenses or having the event on a bi-yearly schedule. Between event sponsorship, ticket sales and streaming revenue there is plenty of money available to continue the growth of this fun and historic event. All that aside, I will watch and cheer every year USA fields a team.