250 Class
The Good: Adam Cianciarulo | 1st Place Overall

What a way for Adam to bounce back after experiencing an absolute heartbreaker in Las Vegas. Everyone was curious if he'd come into the outdoor season completely focused, or if how the Supercross season turned out would affect him. Adam has experienced a lot of frustration and disappointment throughout his career, so I don't think it was much of a surprise to see him come out and ride like he normally does. In the first moto, it looked like he had the speed to make the move on Justin Cooper at times, but Justin is fantastic at riding defensively and Adam just couldn't find a line to pass him. Getting the holeshot helped Adam tremendously in the second moto, as the conditions got increasingly worse as the moto went on. He stayed clean and was able to keep his goggles much longer than a lot of the guys behind him, and although he had a few sketchy moments he was able to keep it on two wheels and cruise to the overall victory. I think these first few rounds of the season are gonna be pretty hectic in the 250 class. Adam won this one, but it's pretty clear there are more than a few guys that have the speed to win races. I'm curious to see who emerges as the consistent one. 

Adam Cianciarulo.

The Good Bonus: Star Racing/Monster Energy Yamaha

Jeez, Star Racing Yamaha has such a solid roster. They may have been missing Mitchell Oldenburg, but they claimed second, third, and fourth overall with their main group of riders. Ty Masterpool also made his pro debut and finished 14th overall, which isn't too shabby considering his age and that he was expected to spend more time racing as an amateur. Anyway, Justin Cooper solidified that he will be a title contender this year with his first moto win. He got a pretty mediocre start in the second moto, and considering the conditions I can't imagine it was easy to slice through the field, but he did make it up to fourth place by the end. As for Dylan Ferrandis, it was a mixed bag kind of day. He clearly had the speed to win, and showed some of it towards the end of the first moto when he was going a couple seconds faster than anyone else on the track...but in the end he didn't get the starts he needed to and didn't make passes soon enough. Starts hindered him quite a bit through the Supercross season, so I'm sure he's hoping to get them figured out and not make this a regular thing. On the topic of Colt Nichols, he just continues to prove that he's a solid rider all around. He may not be the guy who will always be battling for the lead, but he's almost always going to be up towards the front in some capacity. With 11 rounds left, I wouldn't be surprised if we see a Star podium sweep at some point. 

Justin Cooper.

The Bad: Alex Martin | 8th Place Overall

Oof, this was not the start to the season Alex Martin was hoping for, as it started with him laying on the ground with Jordon Smith early in the first moto. He got up in dead last and had to instantly flip the "charge mode" switch on. By lap four, he was already into 23rd place and it was looking like he'd at least score some points, but then he must have gone down again as his lap time dropped by almost 20 seconds. He eventually made it back to 23rd, but that's where he would stay until the checkered flag flew. Considering Alex was expected to be a title contender this season, dropping 25 points in the first moto of the season was an absolutely disastrous way to start it. Alex is a rider that depends more on consistency than straight up wins to stay in contention outdoors, and this one bad moto at the beginning of the season could haunt him until Ironman. He did bounce back in the second moto with a second place finish, and he looked great doing it, but the gap in the points remains the same. Bottom line: He can't have any more slip-ups if he wants to stay in contention for the title. 

Alex Martin.

The Ugly: Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM

Whereas Star Racing Yamaha had a great day all around, Troy Lee Designs KTM's struggles continued. They were expected to have riders contending for both regional titles in Supercross, but injuries affected every rider on the team at some point and their final results were nowhere near what they were hoping for. There was hope that the outdoor season would go better, with Shane McElrath, Jordon Smith, and Mitchell Falk all healthy again plus the addition of Derek Drake. But when it rains, it pours, and I think it's safe to say that Hangtown was another huge disappointment for the team. Shane McElrath was the top finisher in ninth overall. That's not terrible, but no factory effort wants their highest-finishing rider to be in ninth place. Shane is also getting to a point in his career where it seems like he's expected to prove himself again, and he's going to need some better finishes throughout the season to do that. Jordon Smith, who I believe is the best outdoor rider on this squad, got two horrendous starts and was coming from behind all day. As for Mitchell Falk, there isn't a whole lot to discuss as he went down very early in the first moto and broke his collarbone. He actually crashed right in front of the mechanics area, and the team was able to carry him off themselves. You could audibly hear him screaming f-bombs as he was carried off, which I'm sure was partially because of the pain...but also because he immediately realized the implications that this has on his season and hopes of a contract renewal with the team. The team's newest recruit, Derek Drake, did about what you'd expect a rookie to do at his first pro race (especially one that turned muddy later in the day). He showed speed in qualifying, scored a solid top ten in the first moto, and then he struggled in the sloppy conditions in the second moto. He's one that will get better as the season goes on. Anyway, it definitely wasn't the way that the team wanted to start the season, but realistically...it can only get better from here.

Mitchell Falk.

450 Class
The Good: Ken Roczen | 1st Place Overall

Holy cow! With how things went for Kenny towards the end of the Supercross season, I don't think it was unreasonable for a lot of folks to think that he wouldn't be much of a contender outdoors. But he, uh...he had other plans. He got out front in the first moto and it was over within a couple of laps. By the end of the race, he had built up over a 15-second lead on Jason Anderson and with that many of us immediately flipped on our pre-season predictions and proclaimed that 2016 Kenny was back. It's funny how fast that can happen, eh? Seriously, though, he did look to be riding with a level of confidence and smoothness that was similar to how he looked in 2016: standing up all the way through corners, wheel tapping bumps down the long downhills, and looking like he was in total command of his bike. The scary thing is that he said that he thinks they can still improve things with the bike! He did eventually cough up the lead to Eli Tomac in the second moto, but he had the overall win locked up by then. Dang, I'm so excited to watch him slice and dice with the boys up front for the rest of the season.

Ken Roczen.

The Good Bonus: Jason Anderson | 3rd Place Overall

Jason was probably the biggest surprise of the day to me. He hadn't raced since the third round of the Supercross season, and he had only been back riding for a few weeks leading up to Hangtown. Then he goes out and gets a second place finish in the first moto, and follows it up with a fifth in the second moto? Wild stuff. At the same time, I'm sure he was frustrated with how Supercross ended for him and what a lot of people were saying when he went out, so I guess I shouldn't be too shocked that he came in with something to prove. But still, to land on the podium after not a ton of prep time was very impressive to me.

Jason Anderson.

The Bad: Blake Baggett | 8th Place Overall

It seems like every year Blake digs himself into a points hole at the first round of the season. The past couple of seasons he has said it's mainly because of the bike setup, but my goodness... I'd say a lot of these guys come in and probably aren't completely satisfied with where their bikes are at, but they are still able to get onto the podium or even win. He didn't get terrible starts, either, so he just wasn't on pace in either moto. Now he finds himself over 20 points down in the standings and we're only one round in. That leaves plenty of time for him to come back, but it also means that one more mediocre race could put him almost out of title contention before the season even hits its stride. Hopefully, he bounces back at Pala. 

Blake Baggett.

The Ugly: Justin Hill | 21st Place Overall

In some ways, this wasn't as bad as it seemed. Justin hit the gate in the first moto and was dead-last heading down the start straight. He worked his way through the field the best that he could and eventually came home in 16th place. All things considered, it could have been worse. The second moto saw him start in the 20s and finish in the 20s, and while that's definitely not good I can't say I'm that surprised. Justin has had some decent finishes in the mud before, but he doesn't really strike me as a mud specialist. In the end, this basically mirrored what we've come to expect from Justin Hill this year. He generally qualifies well, but for whatever reason it just hasn't translated into good results so far. These next few rounds are going to be big for him, though. He needs to get something positive going.

Justin Hill.

Words by Grant Dawson
Photos by Steve Giberson

GD2 GD2 5/21/2019 1:57 AM

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