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Aaron Plessinger at the 2018 Motocross of Nations

Netherlands Shines as Team USA Stumbles in MXoN Qualifying

Oct 062018

Saturday marked the opening day of action for the 2018 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations, which made its return to American soil at legendary RedBud MX. Overnight rain left competitors with uncertain conditions as they hit the track for the first time, but track crew did an exceptional job in keeping the racing surface in good condition. When the time came to race, a light rain persisted throughout the motos. As a result, speeds were still high, and while fan favorite obstacles like LaRocco’sLeap weren’t up for grabs, the riders still put on a showcase for the global audience packed into the hillsides.

Favorites Team USA were given an early advantage by drawing second gate pick for the qualifying motos, which meant the Monster Energy trio of Eli Tomac (MXGP), Aaron Plessinger (MX2), and Justin Barcia (Open) were poised to set a strong tone in Sunday’s battle for victory. Unfortunately, misfortune and mistakes hampered the efforts of the host nation in both the MXGP and MX2 motos, but the team’s most experienced member stepped up when it mattered most.

The day’s most impressive effort came from the team that many considered to be a dark horse to spoil the Americans’ hopes – the Netherlands. In search of the country’s first triumph at the MXoN, the Dutch squad followed the lead of the sport’s hottest and arguably most dominant rider,Jeffrey Herlings, to post a pair of podium results in the three motos and amass the lowest point total of the day, thus giving them first gate pick on Sunday.



The opening qualifying moto of the afternoon started with drama as newly crowned FIM World Champion Herlingswent down in the first corner, collecting Belgium’s Clement Desalle and his Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team machine. Out front, MXGP legend Antonio Cairoli stormed out to the early lead for Italy, with Germany’s Ken Roczen tucking into second. Spain’s Jose Butron started third, while Team USA’s Tomac found himself deep in the top 10 aboard his Monster Energy Kawasaki.


The clear track provided a huge advantage for the leaders, as Cairoli and Roczen were able to sprint out to a healthy margin over Butron. France’s Gautier Paulin started to apply pressure on Butron for third and brought along Great Britain’s Tommy Searle and Tomac, who made an early charge to settle into sixth. After a quick trip to the mechanics area to clean his grips Herlings returned to action well behind the field, but he wasted little time in gaining ground on the back markers and began a march up the running order.


Cairoli’s exceptional pace allowed him to extend his advantage over Roczen, which soon grew to double digits. The German had no threat for his hold on the runner-up spot, which allowed him to settle in. Halfway through the moto Butron lost his hold of third and he dropped three positions on a single lap, which moved Paulin into third, Searle fourth, and Tomac fifth. The reigning back-to-back AMA Pro Motocross Champion stalked his Monster Energy counterpart for several laps, but was unable to make a pass attempt in the challenging conditions.


With just a few minutes remaining disaster struck for Tomac and Team USA when his Kawasaki appeared to lose power. On a day when every position would prove to be crucial for Sunday’s gate picks it was a worst-case scenario for the U.S., who could no longer afford any additional adversity with two qualifying motos to go. Tomac’s result would likely be dropped by virtue of eliminating the lowest score of the day, but any more hiccups would put the Americans in a precarious position.


As Cairoli and Roczen continued on cruise control out front, and Tomac no longer a factor in the race, all attention shifted to Herlings, who was surging up the rankings as time dwindled down. The Dutchman was on rails, making passes happen at will, and soon enough he found himself on the cusp of a podium spot with both Searle and Paulin in sight. With the two-lap board out, Herlings fought his way around Searle to take control of fourth. On that same lap misfortune struck another Monster Energy rider as Desalle, who had valiantly recovered from a pair of crashes to run solidly in the top 10, also appeared to lose power on his Kawasaki.


On the final lap, Herlings stalked Paulin for third and successfully made the move, capping off a stellar come-from-behind effort. Cairoli carried on to a near-perfect performance to take the win and put Team Italy in control, while Roczen got Germany off to a stellar start in second. Paulin was fourth, while Searle finished as the top Monster Energy rider in fifth. Desalle was credited with 27th, while Tomac was 29th.




Redemption was almost a necessity for Team USA when the gate dropped on the MX2 qualifier, and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha’s Plessinger seized the moment when he emerged from the first turn in second, right behind Germany’s Henry Jacobi. Australia’s Hunter Lawrence started third, with France’s Dylan Ferrandis in fourth aboard his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha. Monster Energy rider Ben Watson, from Great Britain, slotted into the top 10.


The lead foursome set a torrid pace in the early stages of the moto and they successfully distanced themselves from the rest of the field. Plessinger applied relentless pressure from the get go and his persistence paid off when he forced an aggressive pass to take the lead away from Jacobi. Not long after that both Ferrandis and Lawrence worked their way around the German as well.


The Monster Energy backed U.S. teammates easily controlled the top two spots, which was a familiar position for them throughout the summer Pro Motocross season. Lawrence kept both Plessinger and Ferrandis within reach, but appeared content to run third.


With a victory within reach, Plessinger was in control of his own destiny out front but he threw it all way at the halfway point of the moto when he cross-rutted off an uphill triple jump and landed off the side of the track. The American was fortunate to avoid injury or any significant damage to his Yamaha and remounted just outside the top 10. The added misfortune for Team USA handed the lead to Ferrandis and moved Lawrence up into second, while Jacobi returned to a podium spot in third.


A renewed sense of energy from Lawrence brought him to the rear fender of Ferrandis in the closing laps, but the Frenchman withstood the challenge and carried on to the win to put Monster Energy on top of the results sheet. Lawrence rode to a strong runner-up finish, while Jacobi kept Germany’s hot start going in third. Watson brought home another top-10 finish for Monster Energy and Great Britain in eighth, while Plessinger soldiered home to a disappointing 11th. Monster Energy’s Jago Geerts, of Belgium, endured through a tough moto to finish 18th.




With nothing but adversity through the first two motos, the pressure was on Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Justin Barcia to turn Team USA’s fortunes around and salvage an already trying Saturday. In fact, the Americans found themselves on the outside looking in for qualifying in Sunday’s battle for the Chamberlain Trophy. If Barcia didn’t step up, Team USA would be forced to race the B Final – a de-facto last chance qualifier.


Of all the members of Team USA’s stout three-rider lineup, no one brought as much MXoN experience and success to RedBud as Barcia. The event seems to bring the best of out “Bam Bam,” and his potential was perhaps more important than ever to the team’s hopes.


When the gate dropped, Barcia emerged inside the top five while Germany’s Max Nagl sprinted away with the lead over the Netherlands Glenn Coldenhoff and Italy’s Alessandro Lupino. Barcia took advantage of his strong start and gave pursuit from fourth. Nagl’s hopes were dashed on the opening lap when he stalled just before the finish, moving Coldenhoff into first, Barcia into second and Lupino up to third. A confident Coldenhoff continued to push the pace, but Barcia was aggressive early on and made a run at the lead. That pressure halted after Barcia nearly threw the moto away in the same spot Plessinger went down the previous race, in a nearly identical manner. Fortunately, the American kept it on two wheels and ended up just giving up some distance to the lead.


As the race wore on, Coldenhoff and Barcia distanced themselves from the rest of the field. The battle behind them intensified as Lupino came under fire from both Jeremy Seewer, of Switzerland, and Monster Energy Factory Yamaha MXGP Team’s Jeremy Van Horebeek, of Belgium. Prior to the final qualifying moto of the day Team Belgium had faced just as much hard luck as the host country, with both Desalle and Geerts struggling, so the fate of one of the most consistent teams in MXoN history rested on the shoulders of the veteran Van Horebeek, making his 10th appearance. Like Barcia, Van Horebeekrose to the occasion and he successfully fought his way to third.


After pulling out to a lead of more than five seconds, Coldenhoff began losing ground to Barcia in the late stages of the moto. As the light rain continued to fall, the Dutchman’s vision appeared to be compromised and he ditched his goggles. That allowed Barcia to close in with three laps remaining. The American made a couple attempts to steal away the lead, but ultimately chose to play it safe.


Coldenhoff capped off a truly exceptional start for the promising Netherlands squad with a win, while Barcia provided Team USA with its best result in second, which firmly locked the Americans into a qualifying spot. Van Horebeek did the same for Team Belgium in third, which also put Monster Energy in two of the top three positions. Canada’s Tyler Medaglia finished 13th aboard his Monster Energy/Alpinestars/Piller’s/Kawasaki.


When all was said and done, the Netherlands finished atop the Nations Qualification with 4 points, followed by Italy (5 points) and France (5 points). The final moto effort from Barcia vaulted the U.S. up to ninth with 13 points. While their gate pick selection won’t be nearly as ideal as their toughest competitors, the Americans are still in a solid position to get the job done in their effort to bring Team USA its first MXoN victory since 2011.


Nations Qualification Results


1. Netherlands – 4 points

Open – Glenn Coldenhoff (1st place – 1 point)

MXGP – Jeffrey Herlings (3rd place – 3 points)

MX2 – Calvin Vlaanderen (12th place – 12 points)


2. Italy – 5 points

MXGP – Antonio Cairoli (1st place – 1 point)

MX2 – Michele Cervellin (4th place – 4 points)

Open – Alessandro Lupino (6th place – 6 points)


3. France – 5 points

MX2 – Dylan Ferrandis (1st place – 1 point)

MXGP – Gautier Paulin (4th place – 4 points)

Open – Jordi Tixier (7th place – 7 points)


4. Germany – 5 points

MXGP – Ken Roczen (2nd place – 2 points)

MX2 – Henry Jacobi (3rd place – 3 points)

Open – Max Nagl (8th place – 8 points)


5. Australia – 11 points

MX2 – Hunter Lawrence (2nd place – 2 points)

MXGP – Kirk Gibbs (9th place – 9 points)

Open – Mitchell Evans (15th place – 15 points)


6. Spain – 11 points

MX2 – Jorge Prado (5th place – 5 points)

MXGP – Jose Butron (6th place – 6 points)

Open – Carlos Campano (29th place – 29 points)


7. Great Britain – 12 points

MXGP – Tommy Searle (5th place – 5 points)

MX2 – Ben Watson (7th place – 7 points)

Open – Max Anstie (9th place – 9 points)


8. Switzerland – 12 points

Open – Jeremy Seewer (4th place – 4 points)

MXGP – Valentin Guillod (8th place – 8 points)

MX2 – Killian Auberson (28th place – 28 points)


9. USA – 13 points

Open – Justin Barcia (2nd place – 2 points)

MX2 – Aaron Plessinger (11th place – 11 points)

MXGP – Eli Tomac (29th place – 29 points)


10. Sweden – 16 points

MXGP – Filip Bengtsson (7th place – 7 points)

MX2 – Alvin Ostlund (9th place – 9 points)

Open – Anton Gole (11th place – 11 points)