Anaheim 1 - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 5

Who made Grant's list for the first round of the season? Let's see...

Anaheim 1 - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

250 Class

Shane McElrath (28).Click photo to change size and caption

The Good: Shane McElrath | 1st Place

Start? Check. Speed? Check. Consistency? Check.

Shane McElrath got the holeshot in the first main event of the 250 West Championship and yelled, "Sayonara!" back at everyone else as he sprinted away for the win. It was very reminiscent of his win at last year's Anaheim 1, but he seemed even more comfortable and confident this time around. I guess winning begins to feel pretty normal after you do it a few times. But, despite winning the opening round, it's still hard to declare that McElrath is the hands-down favorite to win this title. Aaron Plessinger, Adam Cianciarulo, and Joey Savatgy were all pretty damn impressive throughout the night, and we can't count out Justin Hill just yet, either. So while there's no doubt that he has the slight edge for now, he's going to have to weather a fairly large multi-celled storm if he wants to walk away with this title, which I, for one, am looking forward to watching him try to do.

Justin Hill.Click photo to change size and caption

The Bad: Justin Hill | 7th Place

Anaheim 1 is a nerve-wracking experience for everyone, rookies and veterans alike. So, it's not really a surprise when we hear "I got arm pump," from several of the riders following the main event, and it sounds like that's what happened to Justin Hill. It was clear something wasn't quite clicking for him during the race. He was defending his position, which was seventh, almost the entire race. He was never really attacking, and his lap times actually started to climb much earlier than I expected. Getting arm pump provides an explanation for his performance, although it's an explanation that only works for so long. If we start hearing that he "Got arm pump again" at several future rounds, then it doesn't matter if he is actually getting it or not, people will start blaming his fitness or the bike. Therefore, I sincerely hope that he has an arm pump-free main event in Houston so we can squash that kind of stuff before it starts, and see the blazing speed that he showed in A1 qualifying.

Alex Martin.Click photo to change size and caption

The Ugly: Alex Martin & Phil Nicoletti | DNFs

Two of the industry's favorite riders didn't have the Anaheim 1 that they were hoping for. In fact, it was pretty close to terrible for both of them, as neither one finished the main event. Phil Nicoletti crashed early on in the first qualifying session, didn't have the best heat race, and then crashed early in the main event. I can't say that this sequence of events was a huge surprise knowing Phil's history with Supercross, but I was rooting for him to do well this year and to see the first round go so poorly is a bummer. Alex Martin, on the other hand, had a decent day going until he went missing sometime during the main event. I guess if one crashes out, the other must follow shortly after. It's just how the world works. Hopefully they're both alright and able to line back up to kick some ass next week.

Phil Nicoletti.Click photo to change size and caption

450 Class

Marvin Musquin.Click photo to change size and caption

The Good: Marvin Musquin | 1st Place

Marvin continued his winning ways in Anaheim, but I don't think I'm the only one who thought that he looked a little out of sorts for most of the day. He wasn't as smooth and blistering fast as we've come to expect from him. But, he persevered and worked his way through the field during the main event. Add in a crash from Eli Tomac, and Marvin's got himself an Anaheim 1 win and the red plate heading into Houston. Now comes the hard part: keeping his plates red.

Ken Roczen.Click photo to change size and caption

The Good Bonus: Ken Roczen | 4th Place

We may be witnessing one of the biggest comebacks in the history of motorsports, not just motocross. Ken Roczen went from nearly losing his arm less than a year ago to finishing fourth at the opening round of the championship. If that's not an ESPN 30 for 30-level story right there, I don't know what is. 

It seemed to take him a bit to get comfortable, but he grabbed the top qualifying spot during the day and quickly progressed as the night went on. By the end of the main event, I think it's safe to say that he would have been on the podium if it hadn't been for a bad start. Crazy stuff. It'll be quite something when he wins his first race of the season.

Cooper Webb.Click photo to change size and caption

The Bad: Cooper Webb | 10th Place

Cooper picked up an injury at the 2017 USGP and spent a decent-sized chunk of the off-season recovering, but I'd be lying if I said I was impressed by his performance at A1. Sure, he's probably not as prepared as he'd like to be, but he didn't look all that much different from the 2017 Cooper Webb out there, which isn't necessarily encouraging. Luckily for him, we're one round into a 17-round series, so he has plenty of time to figure it all out and start finishing where he belongs.

Eli Tomac.Click photo to change size and caption

The Ugly: Eli Tomac | DNF

Leading into the main event, Eli'd had about a perfect day. He was smooth and fast in qualifying, and was clearly the fastest in his heat race. It had been a quiet day for him, too. No drama, no crashes, just business. So when he grabbed the holeshot and proceeded to open up a five-second lead in the main event I thought "Well, this is just par for the course with how this day has been going," but then it happened: he crashed. It wasn't a scary crash, but it was a hard hit and it seemed like he was seeing some stars when he got up. Not to mention the fact that his pants came unbuckled, so he had to stop and re-buckle them. After awkwardly fumbling with his buckle for about 20 seconds (perhaps the most pressure someone's ever been under to fasten their MX pants?) he got them back together, but he didn't re-join the race and try to salvage points...he just started rolling around. At first, I thought that maybe the bike had gotten bent up in the crash, but then when he pulled into the mechanics area it was clear he wasn't talking to his mechanic about his bike. He then rode into the tunnel and that was it. That was the last we'd see of Eli Tomac at Anaheim 1. In a span of about three minutes, he went from being on top of the world to one of the lowest points a title contender could be in. After the race, it was made clear that he sustained some sort of shoulder injury (the team has said it's a bruised shoulder), and it will be interesting how this injury impacts his performance if he races Houston. It's going to be a long season for the number three.

Words by Grant Dawson
Photos by Steve Giberson 

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