Story and photos by Jeff Kardas
The Motocross of Nations enjoyed it’s 71st year of racing this past weekend at Winchester, U.K.’s iconic Matterley Basin circuit. After a tough weather weekend - heavy rain on and off, and cool, breezy conditions - the playing field was leveled, as the mud proved to be an equalizer. The U.S. Team had high hopes, and was certainly a threat for a top three overall finish, but the conditions and other circumstances proved difficult and seemed to get the best of the team. Bike problems, crashes and a field full of tough competition was the combination that proved to be too much for the three riders from the U.S. who were all representing their country for the first time on the international stage.
It was Team France who - for the fourth time in a row - ran away with the overall win at the Motocross of Nations. Consisting of Gautier Paulin (MXGP), Christophe Charlier (MX2) and Romain Febvre (Open), the defending champions of Team France were undoubtable the team to beat. While Team Netherlands stood a very good chance on paper, France’s momentum and depth of talent seemed unbeatable. The proved true as the Chamberlin Cup will continue to reside with the French for another year, while the U.S. Team looks forward to the 2018 edition of the event to hit U.S. shores at Red Bud MX in Buchanan, Michigan.
The star of the event was without a doubt the local boy Max Anstie, who went 1-1 in the MXGP class and overall. In doing so, he lead Team Great Britain - the host country team - to their first podium appearance in a long time with a third place finish. Anstie was on fire and lead every lap of his races in the muddy, rutted conditions. His teammates Tommy Seattle and former 250cc Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and 250cc West Coast AMA Supercross Champion Dean Wilson had respectable results as well. But the two didn’t hold a candle to Anstie’s dominance.
While he rode his heart out, U.S. Team Captain Zach Osborne wasn’t able to carry the weight of the whole team entirely on his own. After having a good chance for at least a podium following Saturday’s qualifying rounds, the Americans ran into misfortune after misfortune, as Cole Seely suffered two mechanical failures (in two motos) and Thomas Covington crashed in the fist turn, tweaking his knee and the team’s hopes in the opening motos. Eventually, both Covington and Seely pulled out of their final turn on the track, thus ending any hope of the U.S. Team pulling out a miracle win.
Team Netherlands ended up the bridesmaids once again this year, as the finished second to Team France for the second year ins at row at the Motocross of Nations event. Jeffrey Herlings (above) is considered by many to be the top 450 class rider in the world, and his first moto performance certainly seemed to back that up. After leading the first half of the moto, a brief off-track excursion allowed France’s former MXGP World Champion, Romain Febvre, to sneak by Herlings. Despite Febvre building a slight gap in the horrendous conditions, Herlings put his head down and put himself in the top spot. Herlings second moto was nearly as good, but he was not able to chase down Max Anstie, who simply was not to be beaten on this day in the rolling hills of Southwest England.
The U.S. Team's Zach Osborne did all he could to make up for poor starts and a couple of falls throughout his motos, but his best finish was a third overall in his second moto. While he was the top finishing MX2 class rider, his previous finish of ninth after a crash and another poor start wasn’t enough to make a difference for the rest of the team’s finishes and bad fortunes.