Friday, November 4, 2011

Silly Season: on the "Alessi-MotoConcepts-DV gate"

I know, I's old news, still, I think this interview with David Vuillemin is very interesting.

From the outside looking in, the silly season move that turned MCY into a merged effort between MC and Alessi Racing looked like a potentially excellent move for all the parties involved. MCY's 2011 season was plagued by its riders' injuries, however, DV picked up right from where his predecessor left (a solid 2010 outdoor season), provided more exposure to the team and turned Kyle Chisholm into a solid top 5 contender. On the other hand, in light of their results in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the careers of Mike and Jeff Alessi seem to have “hit the wall”. Mike used to be a championship contender in the Nationals, Jeff showed serious SX skills. Now, he "floates"* between the 7th and the 4th positions outdoor and Jeff's injury seemed to have pretty much forced him into retirement. In an interview with DMXS (don't remember which one, sorry), Roger DeCoster said that Mike should work on improving his SX skills not only because it would make him more competitive indoor, but also because the improvements in riding techniques would help him being more competitive outdoor, too. Considering DV's success as a riding coach for Gautier Paulin (who, under DV's watch, trained for SX and raced some SX rounds in 2010 doing fairly well and without injuring himself) and Chisholm, I think DV's help would have been very beneficial to Mike in improving his SX skills and in providing some structure to Jeff’s training regime. However, based on the interview with DV above, DV’s comments on the PulpMX Show and his posts on VitalMX, it seems the relationship between DV and the Alessis is far from idyllic. What in the world happened between those 2 at Suzuki in 2008???).

The race results may prove me wrong, but I think that by excluding DV from the Alessi-MotoConcepts racing program, all the parties involved are missing out on a great opportunity to develop a success story: Mike Alessi’s return to being a podium and championship contender. If they were able to put Mike and Jeff career back on track, all the parties involved would greatly benefit from it:
  • Mike may gain for himself another shot with a factory team;
  • Jeff could finally exploit his potential racing dirt-bike;
  • MotoConcepts would gain in terms of popularity among the industry and secure more sales (everybody has a soft spot for companies that sponsor a comeback);
  • DV may establish himself as a high rate (and therefore well paid) riding coach as opposed to work as a team manager (so he wouldn’t have to travel as much as team managers do, but would still earn more than a team manager by getting a cut of the bonuses earned by his riders).
Will things change in time for all the parties involved to get the most out of the situation? I surely hope so.

* By "floates" I mean "not in contention for podium positions", I don't mean to disrespect a professional rider's efforts.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Silly Season: Reed to Suzuki? Wey to JFR?

Chad Reed tweeted a few minutes ago "I should have an announcement on Twotwo Motorsports by weeks end". I say that in 2012 we will see Reed riding Suzukis. I don't have any connections to Reed's camp, but, based on Reed's behavior since the advent of social media, I do think that Reed is the most professional testimonial a sponsor can hire in our sport. Think about it: he always endorses very convincingly his sponsors and, at the same time, he is very gracious with his previous sponsors and make the transition from "old sponsors" to "new sponsors" very smoothly.

What does this have to do with Reed joining Suzuki, you ask? Well, if you check Chad's twitter account, you will notice that lately:
1) he hasn't complimented the Honda CRF in a while;
2) he has had kind words for Suzuki multiple times in the past 5 days.
  • On October 29 he tweeted "Pumped for Mossy but really pumped for McCoy that's awesome for him and Suzuki I know those guys work hard and do it right! Congrats guys". Then
  • On November 1st he tweeted "Heading to the Suzuki race shop. Gotta drop off a bike", then,
  • Still on November 1st, he tweeted a picture of the Suzuki RM250 which he rode when he won the 1999 Australian Supercross championship.
  • Finally, early today he responded to a question on Twitter about the look of his team rig next year with "looking like a new look...".

Assuming my observations are on point, we are left to wonder what kind of set-up will Chad Reed and Suzuki-Yoshimura will have next year. Will Suzuki-Yoshimura merge with 22-Motorsports? I just don't see Suzuki Yoshimura running a 1-man effort "only" with Brett Metcalfe and, at the same time, I can't think of any other podium contenders left available for that team to sign. I don't even see Reed adding another Australian to his team, either, though. It just doesn't make business sense to have 2 Aussies on a team that races US-based series...unless Reed has secured an Australian sponsor interested in getting exposure in the US and that sponsor also wants to enjoy the benefits of the broadcasting in Australia of both the Supercross and Nationals championships.

Should Suzuki indeed secure Reedy's services, come A1 we will finally see the yellow brand well represented behind the gate in terms of bike of choice among top riders. In the early 2000, the starting gate looked like a sea of red fenders. In the past 3 years we have seen an increase of blue and green fenders. In 2012 Suzuki may end up having (in alphabetic order) Mike and Jeff Alessi, Michael Byrne, perhaps Kyle Chisholm, Fabien Izoird, Brett Metcalfe, Chad Reed, Jason Thomas. Not too shabby!

Now, on to Nick Wey. Based on Matthes's report from Bercy, it seems like Wey is going to set-up his own privateer effort as he did in 2010. Assuming Jeff Ward Racing will use Kawasaki bikes, I think NYK27 would be a great pick for that team and I just don't understand how (according to this article by Matthes) Ward would be considering Tommy Hahn or Kyle Regal and not Nick Wey given that:
  1. NW27 likes the bike.
  2. NW27 has already raced the bike with success both at the Monster Cup and in Bercy.
  3. NW27 is an excellent testimonial for industry and outside industry sponsors alike.
  4. NW27 is on good terms with Kawasaki factory guys.
  5. NW27 shares the same clothing sponsor (MSR) with Grant.
  6. NW27 embodies a different yet complementary type of athlete compared to Josh Grant (so the team sponsors would have both the young Mulisha-Type rider and the down to earth clean-cut type).
  7. NW27 is a solid top 10-top 5 contender and one of the most reliable riders in terms of putting the bike in the main event.
We shall see, it seems this Friday we will get to read a few PRs.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Amateur Hour

This post is about the racing incident between Justin Barcia and Ryan Dungey that occurred in the 2nd moto of the 9th round of the Nationals held this past week end at Unadilla. You can watch the replay of the incident here.

In the past 4 days we have heard what the riders involved had to say, we heard what Steve Matthes, David Pingree, Jason Thomas, Kenny Watson and Jason Weigandt had to say on the incicent. Since one of the guest of this week's show of DMXS Radio, was Justin Barcia, I am positive they, too, have touched upon the subject, but I haven't listened to their latest show yet. However, since you are taking the time to read my blog, this is my time to tell you what I think of the incident between RD5 and JB17.

I side with Ryan Dungey for two reasons.
The first reason is precisely what Dungey brought up in the press conference after the race: professionalism, or, lack thereof, on Barcia's part. Barcia had already been "creative" in riding on and off the track to stay in front of Dungey,
Barcia knew that Dungey was right there with him, Barcia knew that Dungey is fighting for the championship, Barcia was out of contention, as far as the title chase is concerned, in both classes. Therefore, when in the last lap Barcia realized that Dungey was making a pass, he should have backed down and safeguarded his 3rd position for the remainder of the last lap. What did Barcia could possibly earn from keeping the 2nd place from Dungey? Reducing Reed's loss to Dungey of 2 points? A bonus $30k richer for ending 2nd overall as opposed to 3rd overall? Showing to Dungey that he doesn't have any inferiority complex against the big guns of the 450 class? I fully understand that an additional $30k in your pocket and the possibility of finishing 2nd overall in your debut in the 450 class are 2 things worth fighting for, but, the key point here is that Dungey is fighting for the championship and, as Barcia should know by now, there is a lot of preparation and money on the line. Jeopardizing another rider's chance to win a championship, when you put yourself out of contention in the championship you were supposed to win is plain unprofessional (thus amateurish, as Dungey stated in the press conference), as far as I am concerned.

The 2nd reason why I think Barcia pulled a dirty move on Dungey is that in the same moto we witnesses a quintessential racing incident: I am talking about the collision between Brett Metcalfe and Jake Weimer. Weimer and Metcalfe collided because of a mistake Weimer made while still ahead of Metcalfe (JW's bike got out of the rut and as soon as he got traction again, he moved back into the line and that's when he tangled with Metcalfe who had taken a line more on the inside). In the incident between Barcia and Dungey, instead, I think 2 elements show that Barcia intended to push Dungey wide. First, as Weigandt pointed out in the Unadilla Podcast Wrap-Up, Barcia said he had to move wide in order to avoid a lapper and the video clearly shows that he was far from hitting the lapper. Second, in the podium interview, when asked about Dungey heated reaction to the collision, Barcia made more than one reference to the fact "he's just having fun". Third, and most importantly, the fact that in this week's edition of the PulpMX Show Ryan Villopoto himself, a rider who races more aggressively than Dungey does and Dungey's main rival in the championship hunt, didn't "clear" Barcia's move as a mere racing incident, supports my opinion that JB17's action was objectively too aggressive considering the circumstances.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Simply the GOAT

An interesting topic that I have wanted to write about for quite a while is what rider is the GOAT. Is it a topic worth writing about? Steve Matthes says that a reason why Ricky Carmichael is upset with him is that Matthes once wrote that in his opinion RC4 is not the GOAT because he has not won as many supercross main events as Jeremy McGrath. Assuming that Matthes’ opinion is on point, if Carmichael is not the GOAT, who, if anybody, is best motocross rider to ever compete in our sport?
How about Stefan Everts, the King of Motocross? I say “no”. Everts has accomplished a lot, but I think the history of our sport shows that whenever Everts raced against other world champions at the peak of their form such as Greg Albertyn or Sebastian Tortelli, he lost the championship battle. Furthermore, Everts did not do well in supercross at all.
How about Jeremy McGrath, the king of supercross? He holds the record for number of main event wins and it is fair to state that he has made a significant contribution to the growth of supercross into the show that it is today. However, he was indeed a supercross specialist, and, on my opinion, the way he ended his career (retiring after having signed a multi-year agreement with KTM) was really unprofessional (given the standard of professionalism he had set for himself in his career).
Now, let’s go back to Ricky Carmichael. Is Matthes right in saying that, because McGrath still holds the record in terms of supercross main events won, then RC4 cannot be the GOAT? I say “no”. I think there are so many factors that play a role in shaping up a rider’s career that comparing two riders’ career solely in terms of career win does not make sense. For example, it would be reasonable to counter-argue that, true, RC4 didn’t win as many supercross races as MC, however, he won on both 2 strokes and 4 strokes and he won on 3 different brands. Not to mention that RC succeeded in doing what very few athletes have done: retiring when still on top of their game. So, RC4 deserve to be the GOAT, right? No, I don’t think so.

Before I tell you who I think the GOAT is, let me say that my conclusion is the result of a personal opinion about the greatness of the rider’s achievement (also, even though I am big history fan in general, I am totally ignorant about anything that occurred in our sport prior to the August of 1985, which is when I first started following our sport), therefore I didn’t take into account factors such as talent, PR skills, cool gear or any other criteria. With this in mind, let me announce the winner of the prestigious GiOpinions GOAT award. And the winner is... Jean Michael Bayle.

So, why JMB? Because he is French and I am European, too? No. I thought his public behavior toward the US (e.g. keeping the helmet on while the US National Anthem was played before the racing began) was as pointlessly narrow-minded as that of the American riders (e.g. Bradshaw, Stanton) he (said he) found obnoxiously Yankees. JMB came here to make as much as money as possible, the money came mostly as a result of bike sales in the US, so...paraphrasing Marc Pellegrino in his appearance on the PulpMX Show “if you pay my bills, I can’t tell you “fuck you”” as JMB did (again, in public). It doesn’t mean that JMB was supposed to sing the US National anthem along with Bradshaw, but acting the way he did was just disrespectful, which in the case of a professional athlete means “unprofessional”. So, the reason why I think JMB is the GOAT is one: he is the only rider, since 1985 that is, who was able to win both the World Championship and the American championships. In my eyes, no matter how many races or championship a rider wins on his own side of the pond, until he wins series so different from each other for type of terrain (Supercross, the GPs and the Nationals back in the day) and racing conditions (indoor and outdoor) as JMB did, he is second to JMB in terms of GOATness. And keep in mind that back when JMB won the World titles the series were held on different tracks every year and the 125 World Championship was held on different tracks than those on which the 250 championship was held. And the Nationals were held on tracks were the terrain was different from race to race AND the Nationals started during Supercross! I mean, speaking about a versatile rider. I value the dominance of Carmichael, Everts and McGrath, or even Stewart’s speed and Dungey perfect 2 seasons...but neither of them has been able to prove himself successful as JMB did in the most important motocross series in the World. Somebody, especially in the US, may say “JMB, like all the foreigners, came to the US because they would make more money. Had MC and RC gone to race the World Championships, they would have lost a lot of money”. I understand that MC or RC would have lost money, however, I think most American fans don’t appreciate how risky it is for the foreign riders who come to the US to leave their own Country or a series in which they are established players and come to the US and to race their way to success. Lawyered! ;-)

To sum it up: in my eyes, JMB is still the GOAT, not to mention that the Taichi gear he wore in his last season as a motocross rider was, in Kenny Watson’s words, “sicker than sick”, second only, perhaps, to Bradshaw’s AXO gear the season he raced for MHR.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Short('s) Silly Season

And...I am back! I apologize for the very long silence. It really bothered me not to keep the blog up-to-date as much as I wanted, but, as they say, I had “bigger fish to fry”. However, I am optimistic that from now on I will be able to provide new content at least on a weekly basis. Thank you to those of you who showed interest in the blog and the reasons why I didn't post for such a long while: I appreciated the messages!

Now, the first topic I want to cover is one that I think is being overlooked: Andrew Short's plans for the 2012 season. In this DMXS Radio show, Roger DeCoster said that he is likely to re-sign Shorty for the 2012 season, not only because of his skills, but also to help Roczen adapting to the life of a professional motocross rider in the US and avoid the distractions that have affected many careers. Then, in this episode of the PulpMx Show, Short himself said that he is shopping around for a ride for 2012. In particular, Shorty said that he wants to get on good equipment because he is at the point in his career when he just can't get gamble with that aspect of racing. Even without going all conspiracy theorist, we can conclude that the #29 meant to say that the KTM 350 does not allow him to express his full potential. If this is true, KTM will have to offer Short a very competitive salary in order to keep him on the team, and if the Austrian company is determined to sign Dungey, I wonder whether Short’s salary (which I assume is somewhere around $350,000) will fit into their budget for next season. "Where is the problem, every team must be in the same boat", you may say. I think KTM’s situation is peculiar because, on one hand they want to sign the big name, but on the other hand they have to safeguard their investment in Roczen and make sure the German kid will stay focused more on chasing championships than on chasing the girls or fame.

Now, if KTM won’t find the money to re-sign Short (whom, the media report, Roczen likes and respects), who will play the role of Roczen’s mentor? The German kid is a very personable and charismatic teen-ager and the risk that he will get distracted by what Southern California has to offer is big. By the way, when I write "distracted" I don't necessarily mean "distracted to the extent Josh Hansen or Jason Lawrence got distracted", "distracted a la Josh Hill" would harm Roczen's career, too. I think Dungey will not be interested in being the mentor of a kid he could be competing against in 3 years. And I don’t think Roczen, a smart and well-traveled European kid, will be willing to live and train at the Alessi’s compound in Victorville (assuming that if KTM cannot afford to re-sign Short, they will re-sign Alessi, whose salary, I estimate, is somewhere around $150,000), which is in the middle of the California desert. A very unlikely yet realistic scenario is that Dungey does agree to mentor Roczen, KTM agrees to have Roczen live with Dungey in Florida (after all, Musquin lives in California, so he would be available for testing when Roczen is on the East Coast) where the Roczen family will open a training facility for European kids who want to chase the American dream.

As for Short’s possibilities other than re-signing with KTM, I think Larry Brook’s new team (assuming it will actually become reality) is the most likely destination for the number 29. Short likes the bike and knows it very well, Brooks would sign the best free agent after Dungey and, if it is true as Matthes said in an episode of the PulpMX show, that the sponsor San Manuel will follow Brooks, they will be happy to gain a positive and solid testimonial such as Short. Who would be the other rider? I say Josh Grant, who is fast enough to win a race, would sign for little money due to his injury-plagued 2011 season, and would benefit from Brooks’ expertise to become more consistent.

Time will tell...