McThoughts | Gopher Dunes National
By Jeff McConkey
Photos by Billy Rainford
The East is here. The CMRC Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals returned after a short 1-week break and kicked off their East Coast portion of the series. Round 5 was held at Gopher Dunes. Lots of riders say that they look forward to the sand. And then reality sinks in and they realize that Gopher isn’t just sand. It’s bottomless sand with car-size bomb holes that make the best riders look like Junior-level riders. The racing was very good, and there were battles all throughout the pack. Let’s take a look at the results and see my thoughts.
1st Shawn Maffenbeier 1-2: Shawn showed that he is still the fastest no matter what the terrain is. He’s so confident right now, and that is showing in his starts and how aggressive he has been. He still has a big points gap to chip away at, but this is motocross and anything can happen.
2nd Cole Thompson 3-1: Cole has a very big points lead, and knows he doesn’t have to win every moto. His starts were decent, and he rode very good. He some how manage to stay smooth all day, even during that nasty second moto. I don’t see him throwing it away or crashing out, if he’s going to give up the red plate, it’s going to have to happen by a mechanical. Cole leads the way in points with 279.
3rd Dylan Wright 2-4: Dylan is getting his groove back. He is looking more and more confident and his results are improving. He’s out of the title mix, so now it’s wins that he will be looking for. He still needs to pick up some more speed to match Cole and Maff, but he should get there by season’s end. Wright is currently 5th in points with 193.
4th Josh Osby 4-3: Josh rode great for his very first trip to the Dunes. His speed looked good, and he was right there for most of the motos. I think he was a little surprised at how rough it actually got. After 5 rounds, Josh is 2nd in points, tied with Maff.
5th Ryan Surratt 5-6: Solid day for Surratt. After talking with him, it seems like he is very laid back and doesn’t let much of anything bother him. He’s going to get good starts every moto and be 5th or better. Surratt sits 4th in points with 210.
6th Casey Keast 7-7: I was really impressed with Casey. He’s not used to the sand at all, but he stayed tough and rode real well. I think it’s a good thing that he’s staying on the road and learning the ropes from ‘Old Man Urkle.’ He’s going to get a top 5 soon. Casey enters Round 6 sitting 6th in points with 160.
7th Davey Fraser 11-9: His results don’t look the greatest on paper, but Davey rode great. He was held up in the 2nd corner on the first lap of moto 1, and was able to cut through the pack pretty fast and get a nice 11th. In moto 2, Davey rode real well and was rewarded with a 9th. He’s excited to be back East, and will be looking to move up a few spots. Davey is 9th in points with 147.
8th Jeremy Pronovost 10-11: Welcome back, Jeremy. Gopher is a very tough track to jump back into the nationals after a full year off due to injury, but Pronovost looked good. I expect him to be closer to the 5-6 spots as we go deeper East.
9th Drew Roberts 13-13: Consistency pays off. Drew didn’t light it up at Gopher, but he didn’t throw it away either. He rode well and was awarded with a 9th.
10th Christopher Fortier 14-14: Solid day for the rookie, Fortier. Two solid motos finishing 14th twice and earning a top 10 is a gift. He went down off the start and was WAY back and never gave up, that’s a good sign when most youngsters would have packed it in. The young rookie is tied for 9th in points.
Biggest Stud: Thompson and Maffenbeier are my Studs. They both looked great on a track that made most look awful.
Biggest Dud: There were too many riders trying to qualify that didn’t belong out there. Not to be mean, but a few of the guys would get worked by the top 5 in the Junior class. There’s a difference between chasing the dream and reality. It’s called common sense, and safety has to be our top concern.
Biggest Surprise: I was shocked with Tanner Ward. I knew he was fast, but I did not expect to see him go this good, this soon. Good job, Tanner.
MC’s “G’d Up from the Feet Up” Award: Andy White had Shawn Maffenbeier looking good in some fresh FXR gear. It looked good with the Forma boots and Rockstar 6D helmet. Shawn even looked better than his girlfriend, Robin!
So far, 2017 has been one of the most stacked MX1 classes and closest battle in recent years. There are honestly at least 6 guys that could win. The hardest part of my day is predicting the top 5. At any moment, somebody new can step it up and take the checkers. Guys that some people may have written off are stepping up, and others are picking up speed all season long.
This past Sunday we were blessed with a beauty day for racing. The weather wasn’t as nasty as past years, but I can’t say that for the track. It was rough! It almost looked like they had filled in the holes from Saturday’s racing, but didn’t pack it down as much as usual. Come Sunday, the holes from Saturday were blown out early and much deeper, which made for a crazy rough track.
Mike Alessi has been putting in the work, and it showed on Sunday with two very impressive rides. Tyler Medaglia also showed everyone that he’s not going anywhere but up and grabbed yet another podium. Here are the top 10 and my thoughts.
1st Mike Alessi 3-1: Mike told me that he was feeling good and thought he could win. Well, Mike was right. If it hadn’t been for a little tip over, Mike could have gone 1-1. He’s got his fitness back and looks good on the green bike. Time for him to start chipping away at the guys in front of him. Alessi now sits 4th in points with 229.
2nd Matt Goerke 2-3: Goerke had big issues off the start in moto 1. He rode like a pissed off teenager to an incredible 2nd at the checkers. Moto 2 was a much better start, but he may have spent the bank in moto 1. Still a great day for Matt as he heads further East as the sole holder of the points lead with 264.
3rd Tyler Medaglia 5-2: Can you believe I picked this guy to finish the season 8th? Tyler is acting like a fine wine. The guy just keeps getting better and better with age. I don’t see him slowing down this season and no, Derrick Medaglia, I won’t take your $500.00 bet. His starts are great and fitness will never be an issue. Plus, you have got to love his honesty on the podium. Tyler is 5th in points with 228.
4th Colton Facciotti 1-8: Colton looked like Colton in moto 1. Unfortunately, he has been sick since Regina and didn’t have much left in the tank for moto 2. I think it was a fantastic ride and he needed it to shut us all up and let us know that he’s still the man. Colt sits 3rd in points with 233.
5th Christophe Pourcel 6-4: Christophe wasn’t a fan of the track. Guess what? Not many are. You either love Gopher or you try and salvage Gopher. He’s only 9 points behind Goerke, and he is still the favourite. I personally don’t see him finishing off the podium again.
6th Tim Tremblay 9-5: Great 2nd moto for Tim. He obviously prefers the softer soil than the hardpack, and he will start to shine. I think he needs to start up front and run with the leaders for a bit and see their pace. After that, he should be a top 5 guy every moto. Tim sits 9th in points with 159.
7th Cade Clason 7-7: I have busted Cade’s butt about not being a sand guy. Well, 7-7 on the gnarliest Gopher track yet… I think it paid off. Clason rode very good and looked the best he has this season. I thought he was joking saying he wanted it hotter and rougher. Turns out he wasn’t kidding. Cade went 7-7 for 7th and sits 7th in points on the number 7.
8th Jesse Wentland 10-9: Nice to see Wentland back up in Canada. He had two good rides on a nasty track. Let’s hope he had enough fun to hit a few more.
9th Keylan Meston 12-10: Keylan rode two smart motos and didn’t try and make something happen that wasn’t there. He looked to be riding alone for some of the day and that can be pretty boring. Meston is 10th in points with 139.
10th Nathan Bles 11-12: Bles started up front and ran up front early in 1 moto before tucking the front end. Nathan has the speed, he just has to let it out and be comfortable at that speed. He should be in the top 10 for the rest of the season.
Biggest Stud: Mike Alessi is my stud. He’s the first guy to take an overall from Goerke at Gopher Dunes, and he looked good doing it.
Biggest Dud: Just like MX2, there were a few guys out there trying to qualify that had no business racing the Pro class. Time to swallow your pride and think about your safety.
Biggest Surprise: I had no idea that Dylan Epstein loved the sand. He told me that Kurt Casselli took him to ride sand back in the day, and the rest is history. Dylan looked at home at the Dunes.
MC’s “G’d Up from the Feet Up” Award: I was a huge fan of Colton Faciotti and his Fox kit from head to toe. Jay Moore had Colt dialed!
Thanks for reading, see you in Quebec.