Tomac Cooper and Sexton Set for Team USA and Motocross Des Nationsby Jack Gaffney August 20, 2022 0 comments
11 years; that is nearly how long it’s been since the United States has won Motocross Des Nations. After a stretch of seven straight victories from 2005 to 2011, there has been nothing short of absolute misery in the ensuing decade-plus. Most notably Jason Anderson was landed on after Moto 2 in 2016, all but ensuring a USA defeat with that taking him out of Moto 3. Then secondly, coming up short at RedBud four years ago with a team consisting of Eli Tomac, Aaron Plessinger, and Justin Barcia.
Now back at the same venue the USA was a non-threat at in 2018, a new trio looks to bring home a 23rd Chamberlain Trophy. Getting what is almost certainly his final shot at a Des Nations win is Tomac, who lines up as the MX1 entry. Joining him as the MX2 entry will be Justin Cooper, who returns from the 2019 team that finished fifth at Assen. Then making his Des Nations debut will be Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton, who has come into his own as one of the AMA Nationals’ best. Can this, at long last, be the squad that brings it home?
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If you’ve kept up with things, it has been common knowledge that Team USA was dead serious about having a 450 rider jump down for the team’s 250 spot. Jason Anderson was in consideration, but he is reportedly getting fixed up in the offseason. As were both Barcia and Christian Craig, who were confirmed to have tested 250s this summer. Barcia bowed out earlier on, but the expectation for a while now is that Craig was getting that spot, so what changed?
Simply put, Cooper had been getting better recently, and just put up a 5-1 at Unadilla for second overall. Safe to say if he hadn’t gotten hurt right before Supercross, this wouldn’t be a discussion. Furthermore, you would have to think that Cooper running two Motos in 2019 after suffering a boxer fracture in his left hand left a pretty good impression. Keep in mind as well, that Cooper went wire to wire in the 2019 MX2 qualifying race in Assen. A tilt that included Calvin Vlaanderen, Jago Geerts, Thomas Kjer Olsen, Maxime Renaux, Simon Lagenfelder, and the late Rene Hofer.
On the other side of the coin, you have to feel a tad bit bad for Craig. He is well on his way to a top-five finish in the 450 Points in the AMA Nationals. On top of the fact that he looked unstoppable on a 250 in Supercross at points. What probably didn’t help Craig’s cause was that he is leaving Star Yamaha at year’s end. Cooper, meanwhile, is sticking around for next year at the absolute least. Both riders would have been good choices for what it’s worth, and Cooper is by no stretch a bad selection. The good news for Craig is that you would have to imagine he is the top reserve option should anything happen to the other three.
The Mega Powers
There have been some all-time great MX1/Open duos on winning Team USA entries in the past. Ryan Dungey and Ryan Villopoto in 2011, Ricky Carmichael and Travis Pastrana in 2000, Jeff Emig and Jeremy McGrath in 1993, Damon Bradshaw and Jeff Stanton in 1991, etc. Tomac and Sexton, should they reign victorious, will be among that group. Entering Budds Creek this weekend, they combine for 88 percent of all Moto wins, 77 percent of all National wins, and 75 percent of all laps led in the 450 class this summer. Not to mention that Sexton and Tomac are first and second in average finish as well.
It has been a while since the States have had a true 1A 1B pairing with their two top riders. Zach Osborne and Anderson were more than commendable in 2019, especially with the early prep they put over in Europe which was awesome. However, Anderson is definitely more known for his Supercross prowess at this stage of his career. Tomac and Sexton are both clearly the top selections as it relates to pure Motocross skill in the given year. In a country where the selection pool is both wide and deep, that is no small feat.
Is This the Year?
The United States has had several things go wrong in the last several years. Whether that be them not sending their best team due to injuries or otherwise, poor results, or in-event injuries. Here is what they have going for them in 2022. No Jeffrey Herlings, no Romain Febvre, no Ken Roczen, no Tom Vialle, and potentially no Tim Gajser. Additionally, what would have been the top two 250 riders in the event, the aforementioned Geerts, along with Jett Lawrence, will both be running 450s for the first time ever. No guarantee that things go smoothly on the big bore the first time around. On the other hand, the Belgian and Australian teams project to be strong this year. The main point remains the same, this, at long last, could be the year the USA goes back on top at Motocross Des Nations.
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Main Image via Honda HRC