There are some seasons that open with a bang (hunting season comes to mind), and others that are nothing more than a bunt. For the 2013 Monster Energy AMA
Supercross season opener at Angel's Stadium in Anaheim, CA, fans were treated to a deafening bang. Not only was there a fight to the finish, but that fight
was between two somewhat unexpected front runners, while the favorites struggled, got hurt, and crashed.
The two surprises? Davi Millsaps and Trey Canard. Why were they surprises? For two very different reasons.
Davi Millsaps has been a top rider from the time he was on little 85cc bikes, winning his way through the amateur ranks. When he first turned pro back in
2004, just like so many before and after him, he was the new great hope in his debut. And while he delivered in many ways with both indoor and outdoor wins
(and a 250 SX championship to boot), he has never quite lived up to many of the high expectations bestowed upon him.
During the past two seasons, Millsaps seemed to gain some consistency on the JGR squad and even finished second overall in the 2012 Supercross
championship, but that was partially due to many of the top riders being out of action at one point or another during the year. In other words, Davi did
well because he is a very talented rider, but in all honesty, he wasn't wowing anyone...at least not me. When Millsaps in is feeling it, he is formidable to
say the least. Personally, I wasn't seeing that.
But then this video came out, and we saw something that most having seen in a long time: a Millsaps who looks
comfortable, motivated, and even aggressive...that's a dangerous combination.
And then, of course, there is Trey Canard. This guy has suffered through more injuries, heartache, and set backs in the last few years (multiple femur
breaks; broken collarbone; fractured vertebrae just to name a few) than most will endure in a lifetime. However, one thing has seemingly remained true
throughout all of this: his desire to be one of the best. I doubt many people have ever questioned Canard's drive, but that unrelenting motivation has cost
him several times throughout his pro career. If you want a good understanding of what Trey is all about, I highly recommend his new documentary REvival41.
A little more than a year ago I wrote an op/ed piece titled Way Too Trey. It was the first article I ever had on
the Huffington Post, with the observation that Trey Canard simply appeared to be trying too hard. Nothing very ground breaking there. As former AMA and FIM
World Champion Greg Albertyn used to say, "If you're not crashing, then you're not trying hard enough."
I went on to suggest that if Canard would back it down just a notch, he would remain competitive, yet with fewer injuries. These suggestions received some
criticism, and I'm not saying that I was right, but I believe we did see a slightly more reserved Canard on Saturday night. One who saw the championship on
his mind, not just the win.
Here's a quick recap of how the Anaheim I 450 SX Main Event went down via our @VitalMX Twitter feed:
· Davi Millsaps took the 450 SX Main Event holeshot followed closely by Trey Canard and Justin Barcia.
· 5 laps in - Millsaps continues to hold a close lead over Canard, Barcia, and Dungey. Reed is another 4 seconds back.
· 10 laps in - Millsaps remains in the lead with Canard hot on his heels. Barcia is another second back followed by Dungey. Stewart in 8th.
· 15 laps in - Millsaps remains in the lead, with Canard applying pressure and Barcia just behind.
· Lap 16, Canard finally made the pass just after Barcia went over the bars. With clear track ahead, Canard has already increased his lead.
· On the last last Millsaps was able to gain extra speed through the whoops to re-pass Canard and hold on for the win!
What can we glean from this? Millsaps, who has always been a good starter, now has the lap times to back up his speed, as he held a confident lead for the
first 15 laps of the race. Perhaps he feels at home back on the Suzuki's that he spent his youth racing on.
Just as significant was that Canard stalked Millsaps for all of those first 15 laps, patiently waiting for the right opportunity. No aggressive blocks, no
insane scrubs to make a pass...well, at least not in the Main Event. There was a point during his heat race that he out-scrubbed James Stewart over the
finish line jump to make a pass (which I thought was something of a "passing of the guard" for scrubbing as Canard used the technique that Stewart himself
perfected and popularized to make a pass on it's creator), but we didn't see any of those moves during the main event.
Instead Canard waited until he knew the pass would stick and went for it. For three laps he slowly distanced himself from Millsaps. What looked like might
be a fairy tale finish for the person who's last race, which was nearly a year ago, resulted in a broken back. But, Davi's last ditch drive through the
whoops caught Canard off guard and was enough for Millsaps to take the lead on the last lap and hang on for the win.
Millsaps had not stood atop the podium since the 2010 San Diego Supercross, and it was also the Rockstar/Suzuki team's first 450 SX win. As for Canard, he
said his second place finish felt like a win.
So Anaheim I delivered in a big way. A surprise winner and a fight to the finish; it's hard to get much better than that. Oh, but "what about all of the
heavy hitters?" you ask. The long and short: they didn't have the best day.
Ryan Villopoto had a terrible evening with at least three different incidents in which he eventually lost both a glove and his goggles on the way to 16 th...ouch. It's going to be a long season for the defending champ.
Stewart tweaked his knee during practice and gutted out an eighth place finish, which was far under par for the new Yoshimura Suzuki rider, but things
could have been worse. The racing world is waiting to hear on the condition of James' knee and if he will be in for Round 2 this weekend in Phoenix.
Chad Reed started near the front pack but faded significantly as the race progressed. Still, he managed to run in fifth for much of the Main, and thanks to
Justin Barcia's late race crash, came away with fourth for the evening.
Ryan Dungey appeared to be closer to the mark, running with the front pack for much of the main, but also benefitted from Barcia's crash, inheriting third
While Justin Barcia eventually finished seventh due to his crash, he was within striking distance of the lead duo for the first 16 laps. As a true 450 SX
class rookie this was very impressive, even if he already has a Monster Energy Cup victory to his credit.
So, with all of the drama of A1 behind us, what can we expect for Round 2 in Phoenix? Hopefully even more drama. 2013 is going to be a good year for