Things to Watch For Sunday at Sand Del Lee

By Billy Rainford

As we head into Round 5 of the 2021 Canadian Triple Crown Series MX Nationals at Sand Del Lee on Sunday, there are a few things we’ll be interested in keeping our eyes on. Here’s what’s got us looking forward to the racing this weekend.

250 Class

The first things that comes to mind is that #212 Sebastien Racine will make his Pro/Am debut Sunday. So far this season, we’ve enjoyed watching him bang bars with the other top Intermediate, #164 Wyatt Kerr, for the yellow-plated throne, but not on Pro Day. Up to this point, Sebastien has had the edge.

Wyatt has been battling just outside the top 10 in the 250 Pro Class, so this should be a nice battle to keep an eye on. Will one of them land inside the top 10 this weekend?

EDIT: After watching the races Saturday at Amateur Day, I now believe Sebastien could find himself battling with riders like #50 Julien Benek, #39 Daniel Elmore, and the other riders fighting for 6th place. He’s flying here at Sand Del Lee!

#29 Hayden Halstead is back at the races and picking up right where he left off. He finished an impressive 7th place at Round 3 with 7-7 motos. He loves the sand so he will be another rider to keep your eye on this week.

#44 Tallon Unger crashed and hurt his head and ribs at Walton. He had a concussion but that wasn’t the part that was giving him the most trouble. His ribs were causing him so much pain there were tears during the motos. He’s had an adjustment and it seems to have immediately solved the problem and he says he’s good to go for this week. Keep an eye on the #44 to see what he can do.

Young #50 Julien Benek has been one of the most impressive riders of the season, so far. He’s all the way here from Mission, BC and he’s proving that it was worth the effort. He actually led for a lap last week at Gopher Dunes!

His 6-6-10-6 motos are incredible and they have him sitting in 6th place, just outside the top 5 well-known riders in the class. Let’s see what he has in store for Sand Del Lee.

#19 Quinn Amyotte is a rider who expects to be mixing it up with the top 5 riders in this class. He looks like he’s beginning to get his footing, and I’m waiting to see him get a good start to see if he can hang with the leaders.

#22 Tyler Gibbs is filling in for the injured #32 Casey Keast on the PRMX Gas Gas team. He got to Ontario in time to race on Saturday at Gopher Dunes just to get a couple gate drops. He didn’t line up on Sunday and that was the plan.

He’s now had some seat time and the opportunity to get the bike set up how he wants it. He’s not expected to win the class, but it will be interesting to see how far up the results sheet he can make it.

#46 Marco Cannella was a lot of people’s pick for champion in the class this year. He’s obviously got the speed to do it, and we all thought he also had the consistency to pull it off. He’s always been such a “Steady Eddie.”

Several unfortunate mishaps now see Marco well behind in points and left trying to fight his way back toward the top of the results. He’s 44 points behind the leaders and is definitely fighting an uphill battle. He’ll need some mistakes or mechanicals from the riders ahead of him to even land on the podium at the end of the season.

#157 Darien Sanayei is starting to look like the rider we expected to see. He grabbed a moto win at Walton and and will keep getting faster as the summer moves along.

He doesn’t look like he’s got the pace of the top couple riders, but that could change any time we see him on the track. Let’s see how he does this weekend before we give him the title or take it away from him.

#18 Ryder McNabb may only be 15 years old, but he’s showing he’s got the speed and fitness to win this thing! He looked super comfortable when he won his moto at Gopher Dunes and he even said he was “on a Sunday cruise” on the podium. With confidence like that, he’s going to be tough to bet against. If he can get the win this weekend, the other riders should start to be very nervous.

#84 Tanner Ward shares the points lead heading into the weekend. He’s another rider who could really get on a roll. I think he’s going to have to win a moto or the overall this weekend to get the confidence he’ll need in this tight group at the front.

Each of these riders at the top are looking for that mental edge that will see them start to distance themselves from the others.

In our pre-season podcast, I picked #30 Jake Piccolo to take the 250 title this season. We all keep talking about the time he spent at Club MX over the winter as the key to his newfound success and consistency. I still think the structure and guidance he received from Ben Graves and the gang in South Carolina are the main ingredients to his early success this season.

After seeing him dominate that second moto last weekend, I think a lot of riders are worried about what that has done for his confidence. He said on the podium, “That’s what happens when I don’t get arm pump…I win.” Let’s see if he can back that up in the slightly less deep sand this week.

450 Class

#38 Yanick Boucher looked night-and-day better to me at Gopher Dunes. There was a whole new aggression and speed shown in his riding. He sits 14th in points but took 9th on Sunday in the brutal conditions.

Let’s see if he can keep the ball rolling and crack the top 10 again this weekend. There’s a great group of riders right ahead of him in those places that he’d love to be in.

#26 Ryan Derry will fill in for the injured #20 Logan Leitzel on the SSR TLD Gas Gas team, starting this weekend. We gave Ryan our Most Improved Rider award last season, so it will be interesting to see what he can do with the extra support.

He’s another rider fighting to be in that group of riders between 8-12 place. Keep an eye on him to see how he adapts to the new rider this week. I know he left the tall seat on the bike and didn’t change the bars from Logan, so that means he’s already comfortable.

One of the races within the races is between #31 Parker Eales, #21 Liam O’Farrell, and #10 Keylan Meston. They sit 10th, 9th, and 8th respectively in the standings and it seems they’ll find each other at some point during every race. Watch for these three to end up together again this week.

#777 Tim Tremblay and #5 Tyler Medaglia seem to be trading places every moto, too. Tyler looks to have the edge in speed but he’s had a few troubles that see him chasing Tim down repeatedly during the motos. Let’s see how they do on Sunday.

Tyler hadn’t planned on racing the entire season, but he’s here again, so enjoy watching the #5 while you can.

Although #3 Shawn Maffenbeier keeps getting better, we’ll need to see him get a start and run with the leaders. He’s been close but hasn’t put it all together yet. After seeing him race in the pre-season, he looked like he had the speed to land himself on the podium. Let’s see if he can put the puzzle together Sunday, a week before he ties the knot.

#16 Cole Thompson has been getting great starts, along with the other top KTM riders, but then ends up losing touch and dropping off the podium. We all know he’s got the skills. His 2-2-2 motos at Walton were what I was expecting from him this summer. I’d like to see him smile and enjoy himself at the track again. It seems like that part is missing, lately. Let’s see if he can start out front and stay there tomorrow.

#2 Marshal Weltin is doing about exactly what I thought he’d do – he’s won a round and has been on the podium in the rest. He should be exchanging top 3 positions the rest of the series.

I’ve been most impressed with the riding of #15 Jess Pettis in the 450 class. No, I’m not forgetting how fast he was in the 250 class, but I just didn’t know he was going to be this good this soon in the premiere class! He’s just 1 point out of the lead right now. I like that he’s riding like he knows he belongs on the top step of the podium. He goes fast at Sand Del Lee, but he’s going to be up against someone else who also goes very fast here.

We all knew #1 Dylan Wright was going to be the rider to beat, he’s the defending champion, after all. And he came from last place to 2nd place in a race at Gopher Dunes! Dylan is one of the most exciting riders to watch at Sand Del Lee, so I think we’ll see something special Sunday.

I think tomorrow will be the race where one of the top 3 riders puts a stamp on this 450 title chase. I feel the same way in the 250 class, too. Someone has to come out and say, “This is my season and my series.” Let’s see if anyone does it.

See you at the races…