The 2015 Motocross of Nations featured 35 countries on Sunday in Ernee, France but it turned into an epic battle between the home country and Team USA as only two points separated the winner from second place and third place wasn't even close.
Romain Febvre put a stamp on his 2015 Motocross World Championship season with a sweep in the Open class that gave France the victory and allowed his country to defend the title for the first time in its history.
Also known as the Olympics of Motocross, the MXoN began in 1947 and competing countries send three riders to race in three classes - MXGP (MX1), MX2 and Open. Each class races against the other class. First place winners receive one point rather than the more common 25 points awarded in Motocross, two points for second instead of 22, three points for third, etc. The worst score of the three races is dropped and the lowest combined total score wins. The winner receives the coveted Chamberlain Trophy.
USA grabbed the lead after Race 1 which featured the MXGP (MX1) class with its bigger 450 bikes against the MX2 class riding 250 bikes. American Justin Barcia, who dominated the holeshot all season in the 2015 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series, continued where he left off and nearly led wire-to-wire on his 450 bike but Frenchman Marvin Musquin, riding a 250, caught up and passed him. That's when the two gave the massive crowd everything the MXoN is all about.
Justin Barcia leads the field at the 2015 Motocross of Nations
Barcia charged after falling into second place and got around Musquin but then lost the lead again to Musquin, who is no stranger to head-to-head battles, which he handled all season in American Motocross. Barcia again grabbed the lead and finally held on after Musquin hit the dirt. It was Team USA's first race win since 2011. The victory combined with Jeremy Martin's fifth-place put USA on top by five over France.
"I got too excited, the crowd was going crazy and I made too many mistakes and finally I went down," said Musquin who finished fourth.
Race 2 pit the MX2 class against the Open class and Cooper Webb riding in the Open on a 450 continued Team USA's dominance on the holeshot grabbing it just ahead of Dean Wilson of Great Britain and Febvre. Webb didn't hold out for long as Febvre, who dominated the MXGPs this year, quickly passed Wilson then took the lead from Webb who made a race of it until he crashed late but got back on board to finish second ahead of his Motocross rival Musquin. France's 1-3 punch to USA's 2-5 enabled the host country to pull to within two points heading into the final race.
Race 3 brought back the MX1 class to face the Open class riders which meant Barcia and Webb on the bikes but neither kept the holeshot streak alive as the two got caught in the pack and rounded Turn 1 outside the Top 10. Upfront Sweden's Filip Bengtsson and New Zealand's Ben Townley battled for the lead but it didn't matter as Febvre was in the hunt and took the lead.
Meanwhile, Barcia and Webb fought their way into the Top 10 and rode sixth and seventh respectively for a bit but Webb stalled leaving Team USA's hopes riding on Barcia who needed to finish second with Febvre out front. Australia's Dean Ferris was riding fifth when he crashed, Barcia then caught Gautier Paulin, of France for fourth and then passed Evgeny Bobyrshev of Russia for third. Two laps remained for USA to get the needed points but Barcia was unable to catch Townley and Webb settled on sixth though his score was the one thrown out.
France beat USA by two points for the Chamberlain Trophy and Estonia finished in a distant third with 51 points. Switzerland took fourth with 53 points and The Netherlands rounded out the Top 5 with 63 points.
Barcia won the MXGP class for Team USA, Martin took second for the MX2 class and Webb finished second in the Open class behind Febrve's first place sweep. Musquin won the MX2 class giving him some redemption from his second place finish to Martin in this year's Motocross series. The second place finish for Team USA improves upon last year's third-place but extends the drought for the Americans in winning the MXoN to four years.
The 2016 MXoN is in Maggiora, Italy and in 2017 the Olympics return to the United States for the first time since 2010 when Glen Helen hosts.
2015 Motocross of Nations Results
- France (14)
- USA (16)
- Belgium (56)
- Estonia (66)
- Switzerland (67)
- Netherlands (72)
- Australia (77)
- New Zealand (92)
- Germany (97)
- Austria (103)