Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Those are the words that come to mind after witnessing the west coast 250 class main event on Saturday night.
For a second time in a row, Jason Anderson bests championship rival Cole Seely in the final moments of the race. The Anderson/Seely saga seems to be shaping up to be an absolutely classic rivalry. You can bet your bottom dollar that Seely is certainly not going to be all too happy about throwing away the W on the white flag lap two weeks on the bounce, to the very same guy!
And you know for sure that he’s not going to let it happen this weekend at Anaheim 2… well that’s the theory anyway! What’s strange about this rivalry is that no one really saw it coming, well I certainly didn’t anyway. We knew that these two guys are bad dudes on dirt bikes – Seely has multiple SX wins under his belt and Anderson claimed victory in Salt Lake City towards the end of last season – but personally I was looking at guys like Dean Wilson, Zach Osborne and even Malcolm Stewart to take command of this championship.
But again I don’t think that any of these guys received that memo. Deano seems to be lacking his mojo. Zach is fast but slow out of the gate. Malcolm just looks so damn big for that little 250. And Anderson, well Anderson is just legit! Jason has technically won three out of the last four supercross races he has entered if you count SLC, A1 and Phoenix, that’s impressive. And if you ask me I think he could make that four out of five next weekend in Anaheim. He looks fast, strong, poised and ready to strike at any given time, as Cole Seely knows oh so well…
When the 450 class main event rolled around I literally had to pause and make sure I was watching the right thing. As the field barrelled around the first turn and across the white line I thought I was watching one of the Semi races, there were no ‘big names’ up front early. The Australian (no, not Chad Reed) Matt Moss lead the pack, followed by the veteran Nick Wey in an early second and in third was the big blue number 10 of Justin Brayton, with the rest of the 22 rider pack hot on their heels. Moss and Wey were quickly shuffled backwards as the titans of supercross worked their way to the front of the field, as Justin Brayton commanded the leading position.
As the laps tallied up, the foundations of a classic supercross race were being set up. All Dungey, Barcia, Roczen, Stewart and Villopoto (that’s one hell of a list and the reason why this season is going to be so bad-ass!) had to do was get Brayton out of the way. Then, and only then would we have the showdown we’ve been waiting all off season for… All the players, all the big dogs, all of the champs (minus Reed!) going at it, head-to-head (to-head-to-head-to-head) battling for the win.
However, yet again, Justin Brayton didn’t seem to receive that memo either. He had other ideas. Brayton firmly added his name to that list of ‘players’ on Saturday night as he rode a solid race fending off early attacks from the likes of Barcia and Dungey, leaving ‘the big dogs’ to fight amongst themselves for second position.
And that’s just what they did. Ryan Dungey (almost uncharacteristically) showed some aggression towards Barcia. Barcia (completely characteristically) returned that aggression in the way of Ken Roczen, in the process putting KR on the floor. Roczen then vented his aggression (on Instagram.) And Villopoto was just damn right aggressive towards every being that stood before him and that number one position.
And that kids is why he’s the champ, as within a few laps he had blown past Stewart, Roczen, Barcia, Dungey and finally Brayton to take command of the main event. And then he stretched out an immense lead and took an easy win… or not.
Although RV came from way behind, passing all the big names on his way to the front, once he got there he didn’t stretch away like you would imagine. Brayton and Dungey kept hot on his heels. Brayton even reeled in the small advantage that RV did have on the last lap, to go for a last ditch effort to make a pass on the champ. However Brayton ran out of track and couldn’t quite make it stick. Villopoto ‘lit the candles’ and took the win.
Although RV was the eventual winner of the race, the real winner of the night for me was Brayton. He put in a solid race, probably the best we’ve ever seen from him. But more impressively and more importantly he added his name to that list of contenders, that list of ‘big dogs’ which if anything means that this season, this fight for championship glory is only going to get cooler and more bad-ass the further we go!
If Anaheim left us with a load of questions, then Phoenix gifted us with a few answers. After the action on Saturday night it has become clear to me that the pace at the front of the pack is not as varied as it has been in previous years. The top six guys, at least at this early stage, seem to all be very, very close in speed and fitness.
And if one thing that Phoenix has proven is that the guy with the most aggression, the guy willing to stick it to his competitors, to make passes quickly and efficiently – that guy will be the winner on the night. On Saturday (and most days) that guy was Ryan Villopoto…
Bring on A2!