Story and photos by Jeff Kardas
There have been darker days in the history of the United States participation in the FIM Motocross of Nations, but this past weekend at the Red Bud MX in Buchanan, Mich., ranks right up there.
Eli Tomac’s best finish on Sunday was a fourth place in his opening race.
Ultimately finishing out Sunday's three motos in sixth position overall in the 2018 Monster Energy Fédération Internationale de Motocylisme Motocross of Nations, it was the U.S. team's second worst performance at the event. Just exactly what the problem was is anyone’s guess. “Luck” and preparation are key components that can affect any team at any time, and are certainly not limited to the U.S. team. It’s true that there were reported mechanical problems and other issues at times for the team, but that’s part of the game. To win, at this level, a team must compensate and make up for their bad luck. This year, that was not to be for the Americans.
While it did rain a fair bit more Saturday night, the weather was generally fairly good for Sunday’s motos, one each for the various classes - MXGP, MX2 and MXOpen. The American riders opened up with poor starts and weren’t able to effectively move up through a pack of international riders whose speed probably caught them off-guard. The Netherlands, French and even Spanish teams marched to the front, and stayed there.
Justin Barcia did his best in the Open Class to help the U.S. team, but was shocked at the speed of his international competition.
Recently crowned American 450 champion Eli Tomac mustered a fourth-place finish in the opening MXGP/MX2 race, over 40 seconds behind winner Jeffrey Herlings. Teammate Aaron Plessinger finished in 18th after experiencing some issues of his own.
The second race - MX2 and MXOpen - didn’t go much better as Justin Barcia could get only to ninth place while Plessinger again was outside of the top 10. The truly humbling part about this race was that Barcia was nearly a full minute behind winner Glenn Coldenhoff - again from the Netherlands - when the checkers flew. That’s half a lap at Red Bud MX. The Americans were in bad shape entering race 3 and hope had all but gone out the window.
The final event was MXGP and Open, which not surprisingly was won by the Dutch duo of Coldenhoff and Herlings, while Tomac fell back to seventh place by the checkers. Barcia was somewhere behind that after experiencing some level of mechanical issue.
Ultimately, sixth place overall was the result. While there’s no doubt the U.S. team believed they had prepared appropriately for the event, they were no doubt taken by surprise by the FIM Motocross GP field. They were no doubt humbled on their own soil.
Winning the event was Team France, followed by the Italians and finally the Netherlands (whose team was cut short by one due to an injury).
The start at Red Bud was modified significantly to fit the standards specified by the FIM for the event.
Next year’s FIM Motocross of Nations event takes place at the Assen motor circuit in the Netherlands, which will be sandy and man-made and has been a site for several MXGP events in the past.