Story and photos by Jeff Kardas
ASSEN, Netherlands — Intermittent showers spiked with bright sun and high winds highlighted overall good results for the U.S. Motocross of Nations Team at the 2019 FIM Motocross of Nations in Assen, Netherlands.
The U.S. team performed well, considering their 31st (out of 34) gate pick for today’s qualifiers.
MXGP Class Jason Anderson opened up with a top 10 start that ultimately led to his quite respectable sixth place finish in class. Without a doubt, it is the most ‘stacked’ of the classes, with newly crowned MXGP champion Tim Gajser and shoe-in for a hometown win Jeffrey Herlings. Anderson looked solid and comfortable as he moved around among the top 10 of many of the world’s fastest racers. With a gate pick that doesn’t handicap him for the finals, he should be good for a top-five finish.
In the MX2 (250cc) Class qualifier, Justin Cooper managed to grab the holeshot despite the terrible gate pick. He then parlayed into a commanding win. It was quite remarkable, as Cooper was seen by many as the relatively weak point on the team due to relatively little experience on the international scene and in professional racing in general. Cooper proved them wrong, displaying the speed that landed him the runner-up spot in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. With a sixth place and a win, the U.S. team was looking good for the final moto.
The rules for Motocross of Nations racing allow for the worst of a team’s performances to be dropped in the overall scoring, and today it was Zach Osborne in the MXOpen Class that was honored with that distinction. Osborne wasn’t able to get a solid start and was mired mid-pack in a group of very fast and experienced sand riders. Osborne’s experience allowed him to hold his own and move through the pack as high as seventh, eventually finishing in eighth place.
Heading into Sunday’s finals, the U.S Motocross of Nations team sits third in the point standings, which allows it a third gate pick (as opposed to 31st). This will make a massive difference in the chances for a good start and a much better chance for a top finish. Ahead of the American squad in the standings are the Belgians in first place, followed by the home team of the Netherlands. Defending champions France are not doing so well. They’re in seventh place after mediocre performances by all three of the team’s riders.
Sunday’s racing consists of three finals, combining the various classes. Race 1 is MXGP and MX2, Race 2 is MX2 and MXOpen, and the finale is MXOpen and MXGP. The U.S. team hopes to finally get back on the podium after finishing fifth overall last year.