The 2011 FIM Motocross of Nations turned out to be anything but predictable. Well, almost. True, the United States was the heavy favorite and they were able to pull out another win, but it was anything but predictable.
Heading into Sunday's A Final, team USA was flying high after qualifying with perfect 1-1-1 scores on Saturday. But as team USA slept comfortably in their beds, dreaming of coasting to their seventh consecutive Chamberlain Trophy, Mother Nature was doing her part to even out the playing field. Rain soaked Saint Jean d' Angely throughout the night on Saturday and offered up one of the most difficult tracks the boys from the USA would ever see on Sunday. And so the day began.
Race 1 (MX1 & MX2)
The first main event of the day started with Chad Reed of team Australia taking the holeshot as 60+ thousand screaming fans rooted on their respective country. Reed dominated the heat until the checkered flag with Germany's Ken "The Kid" Roczen finishing not far behind, proving yet again his uncanny ability to beat the 450 machines on a 250F. Ryan Dungey was able to keep the American's in the hunt with a third overall after overtaking Russia's Bobryshev on the fourth lap while Great Britain's Tommy Searle and South Africa's Tyla Rattray rounded out the top five, respectively and kept their countries in the hunt for a podium finish.
The rain, which had subsided throughout much of the morning, began to once again fall during the midway point of the race, surprising all MX1 and MX2 riders. Due to conditions America's Blake Baggett was only able to finish 17th while France's Christophe Pourcel was forced to stop in the pit lane and replace a broken set of goggles. Pourcel would re-enter the race to finish 11th, while his French counterpart, Marvin Musquin kept them in the running with an eighth.
At the end of the first heat Great Britain found themselves atop the Nations standings thanks to the fourth place of Searle and the ninth place finish from Dean Wilson.
Race 1 Top 10:
1. Chad Reed (AUS, Honda), 35:52.640
2. Ken Roczen (GER, KTM), +0:03.485
3. Ryan Dungey (USA, Suzuki), +0:04.919
4. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:21.469
5. Tyla Rattray (RSA, Kawasaki), +0:30.845
6. Tanel Leok (EST, TM), +0:32.870
7. Jonathan Barragan (ESP, Kawasaki), +0:38.278
8. Marvin Musquin (FRA, KTM), +0:44.042
9. Dean Wilson (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:57.674
10. Joel Roelants (BEL, KTM), +0:58.484
Nations Top 10 - Moto 1:1. Great Britain 2. France 3. Australia 4. USA 5. Estonia 6. Belgium 7. South Africa 8. Germany 9. Portugal 10. Spain
Race 2 (Open & MX2)
When France's Gautier Paulin shot off the line in the second heat and into the lead it lit a spark under the French crowd that truly cannot be described through words. Sorry to all those reading, but you just had to be there. Lucky for Paulin and the crowd, he was able to pull off an amazing ride and finish first ahead of Jeff Herlings and Ryan Villopoto. And despite Musquin struggling to finish 20th, the French found themselves in the lead after the second heat. RV did his part, but Baggett would struggle with crashes under the harsh conditions and left team USA at a nine point deficit heading into the final moto.
Roczen once again did an incredible job to finish fourth, but with Nagl off the German team with injury, they were left with little hope of finishing on the podium. Team Australia, coming off an incredible first moto, didn't find themselves quite so fortunate in the second race, either. Moss was unable to start the moto due to a mechanical failure and while Metcalfe was able to finish seventh, they quickly found themselves at a disadvantage heading into the final moto.
As for the British, well, they too stumbled in moto two. Wilson, who we found out later was racing with a broken wrist, placed 14th while their MX3 rider - and biggest question mark - Brad Anderson was only able to put together a 27th. Great Britain lost all sight of a title with a sub-par second moto, but still had hopes of finishing on the podium should things go their way in the final race.
Race 2 Top 10:
1. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Yamaha), 34:14.392
2. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), +0:02.424
3. Ryan Villopoto (USA, Kawasaki), +0:02.813
4. Ken Roczen (GER, KTM), +0:05.097
5. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:19.281
6. Gareth Swanepoel (RSA, Yamaha), +0:45.403
7. Brett Metcalfe (AUS, Suzuki), +0:45.914
8. Davide Guarneri (ITA, Kawasaki), +0:56.746
9. Carlos Campano (ESP, Yamaha), +0:57.873
10. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, Yamaha), +1:07.283
Nations Top 10 - Moto 2:
5. Great Britain
6. South Africa
8. The Netherlands
RACE 3 (MX1 & OPEN)
The French crowd was desperate to see the gate dropping again and find out if their riders could fulfill their dream to win the Nations at home. However, they were touched once more by bad luck as Pourcel's rear tire came off the rim early in the moto while he was battling with the two American leaders. It was all in Paulin's hands to finish on the podium and while he rode well and helped Team France to be on the second step of the rostrum, he was no match for the dominating pace set forth by the American tandem of Ryan Villopoto and Ryan Dungey.
Once again America entered into the final moto with their backs against the wall and once again, against all odds, they came out on top. France impressed mightily with solid finishes, but would find themselves second to the USA due to a mechanical failure in the final moto. In third, Reed and Metcalfe put in solid a solid final moto to give the Australian's their first ever MXoN podium, edging out Great Britain by only a few points.
In individual standings Ryan Dungey took the MX1 victory, Ken Roczen (Germany) won the MX2 and Ryan Villopoto took top honors in the Open class. Jeff Herlings (Netherlands) rode brilliantly to take home the Ricky Carmichael award for being the youngest best-classified rider in the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations.
Race 3 Top 10:
1. Ryan Villopoto (USA, Kawasaki), 34:51.718
2. Ryan Dungey (USA, Suzuki), +0:00.465
3. Tyla Rattray (RSA, Kawasaki), +0:05.182
4. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:18.156
5. Davide Guarneri (ITA, Kawasaki), +0:22.628
6. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:24.594
7. Chad Reed (AUS, Honda), +0:24.916
8. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Yamaha), +0:25.740
9. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), +0:26.356
10. Brett Metcalfe (AUS, Suzuki), +0:27.098
65th Motocross of Nations Classification
1. USA, 26 points
2. France 39p
3. Australia 44p
4. Great Britain 46p
5. Belgium 54p
6. South Africa 56p
7. Germany 58p
8. Spain 58p
9. Netherlands 81p
10. Estonia 86p
11. Japan 98p
MONSTER ENERGY FIM MOTOCROSS OF NATIONS - QUICK FACTS
Circuit length: 1500 m
Type of ground: hard pack
Weather conditions: changeable, sunny, cloudy and heavy rain
Crowd attendance during weekend: 68,000