Hangtown - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 2

Yes! It's the start of the National season. Who put something in the G, B, and U column for each class?

Hangtown - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

250 Class

The Good: Jeremy Martin | 2nd Place Overall

It's no secret that Jeremy Martin's outdoor seasons since winning back-to-back titles have not been fantastic. He has won here and there, and he's always a pre-season title contender, but something has been off. At times over the past few years he has taken half of the moto to warm up to the pace of the front runners, gotten bad starts, and thrown away good starts by way of small crashes. But not this year. We saw him have a hot streak in Supercross which indicated to me that he was going to get back to his old ways when we took the bikes outside, and that's exactly what happened at Hangtown. Did he win? No, but he also didn't take a DNF at the first round like he did last year. He left with a 2-2 performance and an excellent shot at challenging Zach Osborne for the title. Now, he is going to need to find a little bit more pace if he wants to actually challenge Zach Osborne, but the potential for a title fight is there, and that's enough for me.

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The Interesting: GEICO Honda Switches to Shift MX Gear

Rumors of GEICO Honda ending their longtime partnership with the Alias gear brand had been circulating for a while, but it became less of a rumor and more of a fact towards the end of Supercross. Then, a couple of days after Las Vegas Chase Sexton is seen wearing Fox gloves while testing in California, and a day or two after that the press release hit the internet: The team had signed a multi-year deal with Shift MX. I will say that it's a bit odd to see a team switch gear brands midway through the year, which probably isn't a good sign for Alias as a company, but I am a big fan of Shift's style so you'll hear no complaints from me. It'll be interesting to see if the team switches helmets, boots, and goggles, or sticks with what they have now for 2019, since Fox (which owns Shift) is known for wanting their athletes in their gear from head-to-toe.

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The Bad: Justin Hill | 16th Place Overall

Bad starts were the story of the day for Justin Hill at Hangtown. I don't buy into the whole "Justin Hill sucks outdoors" narrative that gets thrown around every time Hangtown rolls around. Has he had the best results over the past couple of years? No, but he does have the potential to do well. He has proven his outdoor skills before with solid results in 2015 and 2016. I'm not saying he'll go out there and win or anything, but I don't see a couple of top fives as being completely out of the realm of possibility for him. One thing that will definitely keep him from reaching his potential in motocross, though, is getting terrible starts with the field as stacked as it is this year. Let's see what he does with a good start. Then, we can truly evaluate his performance.

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The Ugly: Austin Forkner | 12th Place Overall

Austin Forkner came into the season recovering from a broken collarbone that he sustained in Supercross, so expectations were somewhat low for him. A good day would have been about where he finished in the first moto, so around fourth or fifth place overall. It would have kept him close enough to the championship leaders to possibly make a charge when he gets back to 100% healthy. But he had a mishap early in the second moto, which smashed some of his ribs and made it hard for him to breath. He had to pull out of the moto and take a DNF, leaving him 32 points down with only one round complete. Yeah, no bueno. Austin's early career is following a similar path to Adam Cianciaurlo. Lots of speed, lots of potential, but injuries or mishaps keep taking him out of contention. On the bright side, Austin's injuries haven't been nearly as bad as Adam's were.  Hopefully his season gets better as we go.

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450 Class

The Good: Eli Tomac | 1st Place Overall

Eli Tomac may have repeated his 2017 Hangtown performance this weekend with another 1-1, but this weekend's victory was definitely more impressive. What wasn't impressive? His starts; he reverted back to Bad Start Eli. It doesn't seem like he was too worried, though, as he came from about fifth to take the first moto win and outside of the top ten in the second moto to snag the win. Oh yeah, not only did he get a less-than-stellar start in the second moto, but he tipped over not long after catching up to Marvin Musquin and then went on an absolute charge to the front. At one point, he was four seconds faster than anyone else on the track! The Eli Train was going so fast I'm pretty sure it was barely holding onto the rails at times. It was a great start to his title defense, but Marvin Musquin is going to be a threat to his quest for a second title every weekend. He was fairly close to Eli this weekend and apparently wasn't completely satisfied with his bike setup, so once he finds some settings he likes it could very well turn into an all-out brawl for the title...which is what we all want.

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The Good Bonus: Ken Roczen Returns

The past couple of years have not been kind to Ken Roczen, but he keeps coming back because that's just the kind of rider he is. He once again made his return to racing at Hangtown, and expectations were...well, there were no expectations. The goal for him was to get some seat time and leave healthy, and that's exactly what he did. Hell, he almost had a top-five finish in the first moto! I didn't expect that at all. These first few rounds are not going to be all that fun for him. He's going to be hurting pretty bad, but I'm sure he's happy to be back out there, and we're excited to see him back on the track. Everyone is rooting for number 94.

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The Bad: Christian Craig | 8th Place Overall

Okay, Christian's day wasn't that bad, but he was towards the back of the factory rider train on the results sheet. At the end of the day, he is a fill-in rider and I'm sure that the team is satisfied as long as he's inside the top ten, but there's no doubt that he wants more. And he had a chance for more with a great start in the first moto, but he went down and fell back to around where he finished. But hey, he's an amazing starter so I'm sure he'll have plenty of more chances to get up on the podium this season.

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The Ugly: Depth of the Class

There were 40 riders on the gate for the first round this past weekend, and only ten of them were on factory equipment. Let me repeat, only ten factory dudes out there for the season-opener. That's, uh, that's not a good sign for the championship in the long run. Yeah, there will be a few guys returning throughout the season, but I'm sure there will also be some attrition. And while it would probably be a five-horse race for wins with or without more factory guys out there, the more notable guys we have out there, the better. We'll see how the strength of the field increases or decreases as the season goes on.

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Words by Grant Dawson
Photos by Steve Giberson

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