Top Rider Scores
450 Class - Round 1 - Hangtown
Opening rounds are a unique opportunity. Many riders are untested, which results in a potentially higher handicap than they'll have the rest of the season. A guy with little to no recent top finishes on his resume will have a high handicap at the opening round. If he finishes well, his handicap will go down, making him less valuable in future races. This is shown in the pick trends below. With so many different opportunities, there really weren't any riders that everyone unanimously decided on. Taiki Koga is a great example. In his first US pro motocross race, the 2018 Japan 250 Motocross Champion came in with a handicap 18. After putting in 23/15 moto finishes and a fantasy score of 82 points, he's down to a 10 handicap for round two. At a 10, Koga has lost value and I don't think I'll be looking at him for my team this weekend. If he can snag another 15th place, he'll be a great pick. I'm leery however, of how legitimate his 15th place moto was being that it was a mudder. Japanese riders usually are forced to ride a lot of mud in their home country so he may have been boosted by the conditions. If Koga comes out near the top 15 in qualifying this weekend, I'll consider him. Otherwise, I'm out.
250 Class - Round 1 - Hangtown
There was a name mix up with the AMA, but the top scoring rider's correct name is actually Wilson Todd. To make matters more confusing, there is a 450 rider named Todd Waters. At Hangtown, they both got 12th and both had highest rider scores in fantasy. Now, Todd Waters is a 5 handicap in the 450 class and Wilson Todd is a 4 handicap in the 250 class. It's easy to get riders confused with each other in this game (especially when the AMA has their name wrong). Wilson Todd was the top scoring 250 rider at Hangtown with 100 points. He qualified sixth, something privateers normally don't do. While Wilson was flying, his qualifying time may have been deceiving because his best time was in the very first B practice session of the day when the track was at its fastest. Qualifying/practice is split into A and B divisions. Top riders in the standings ride in A and the rest of the field rides in B. In the B practice, they are first on the track. This can be either good or bad depending on conditions. If you see an unfamiliar character in the top ten for qualifying, check which session it was before you get all hot and bothered over the amazing pick. It could be a fantasy mirage.
Below shows the percentage of players who picked each rider at round one. This can be significant when there is a heavy favorite among the players. Riders will occasionally have a pick trend of over 50 percent. This means over half the people in the game picked them. Use this tool (by clicking 2019 MX Top Picks on the side menu) when choosing riders. Say 30 percent of players choose a particular rider and he crashes out. If you don't choose that rider, you likely just beat 30 percent of your competition automatically because of the zero. They zig, you zag. Though it doesn't always work out that way. The downside is if you don't pick them and they become the highest scoring rider that weekend. Now 30% of the game has the highest scoring rider while you don't, giving them a leg up. The most information to gain from this weekend's pick trend is there were a lot of great picks, causing players to have a cornucopia of different team combinations (that doesn't really flow but I've already looked up the spelling and typed it so yeah, let's go with cornucopia). Pick trends become live when new picks are released every Wednesday. You can watch the trends change as the race approaches and players settle into their teams.
Mud races drastically affect race results. Some riders (Justin Barcia, Garrett Marchbanks, Ken Roczen) thrive in the mud while others have flashbacks to their time in the beginner class. Hangtown was a great example. The forecast was updating by the hour, pushing the rain back further and further. Had the rain been forecasted earlier or later greatly affected who I was picking that day. I may have spent more time on my weather app than Motocross Fantasy. Use caution choosing privateers on a rainy day. Some of these guys don't even own a pressure washer. They may not have the means to properly dial their gear and bikes for the mud. Most of them have one bike and limited parts as well, causing an increased chance of a mechanical DNF. They may even simply elect not to ride because it's not worth ruining their bike. California has seen a bit of rain this week, but the forecast during the motos looks sunny at the moment. There is rain forecasted that night and the day after so check the weather if you get a chance Saturday morning.
Each week, I ask a guest for their previous week's picks as well as their predictions for the coming weekend. Guests can be a fellow MotoSport.com employee, a customer or a top finishing player in the game. Regardless of their score, there's always something we can learn. This week, Colton Follett a.k.a. thumbs823 shares with us his hot takes for the weekend. Follett is a manager in the Gearhead Operations department at MotoSport.com. 2019 was his first season playing handicap style fantasy and he had some pretty impressive finishes, especially for a rookie. He's only playing in our bench racing office league, but I've included where he would have finished overall in the Pro Series. Here's what we can learn from Colton's picks...
Team Name: thumbs283
Real Name: Colton Follett
Rd. 1 Score/Finish: 239/357th
Season Points/Rank: 239/357th
Christian Craig (4) 54 Points
Hunter Lawrence (2) 46 points
Shane McElrath (1) 36 Points
Brandon Hartranft (7) 0 points
Ben Lamay (7) 60 points
Cole Seely (1) 30 points
Justin Hill (4) 13 points
While Colton's score was one he may rather forget, his strategy wasn't all that bad. He played it fairly safe, picking mostly lower handicap riders who are known for finishing top ten. At the opening round, it can be a good idea to let everyone go crazy with the shiny, new 18 handicaps. While other players are sending it on guys who have never raced a national, the safe players can chill with a decent score as the senders rack up DNF's. This strategy usually doesn't win the weekend but as we've seen in the real championship, consistency is key. This is the Ryan Dungey of fantasy strategies.
One critique I have for these picks is that it's apparent qualifying wasn't really looked into. Knowing that Colton is a moto pounding fool, he was probably out tearing up a real track while nerds like me watched qualifying. I like that Colton made safe picks, knowing he may not have a chance to alter them. This is the type of team I put together on Wednesday when picks come out in case I'm not able to pick a team on Saturday. I would have left Jeff Walker off this strategy, though. He's typically a 30th - 40th place guy, so the chances of him not scoring points are fairly high. I would have chosen someone I knew would score points, then swap them out on Saturday if I had time to check qualifying. The zeros from Walker and Hartranft are what really killed this score. The rest of the picks were solid, things just didn't go his way this time.
Team Name: Cody105
Real Name: Cody Hockema
Rd. 1 Score/Finish: 447/70th
Season Points/Rank: 447/70th
Jake Masterpool (12) 100 points
This was the guy to have in the 450 class. He and Todd Waters were the highest scoring 450 riders with 100 points. I chose Jake because he showed some good speed in the races he did last year. Him and his little brother, Ty, have serious talent. Ty finished 14th in the 250 class for the second highest score of 94 points.
Ben Lamay (7) 60 points
The Alaskan Assassin was a solid pick throughout the supercross season. He has consistently finished around the top 15 all year. Being from Alaska, I thought he'd be a good pick for the mud. I thought right as Ben finished 12th in the sloppy second moto.
Cody Cooper (10) 32 points
I picked him because his name is Cody… JK. A 15th in the first moto had me stoked for the second moto. The Kiwi rider was another rain-inspired pick but I'm not sure what happened in the second moto where he finished 40th. He stayed at a 10 handicap this week and I would pick him again if I could.
Henry Miller (12) 31
Henry kinda let me down on this one. The guy normally starts up front and has finished in or near the top ten many times in past seasons. His 24/22 moto scores made me sad.
Wilson Todd (16) 100 points
He was the top score in the 250 class. His 6th place qualifying position was a bit exaggerated because he was in the very first practice, but he still looked plenty fast for his 16 handicap.
Derek Drake (8) 48 points
In his pro motocross debut, I couldn't stay away from Drake's 5th place qualifying time. He killed it in the first moto with a 10th. He didn't do so well in the mud, though, finishing 25th. I would definitely pick him again this week at a 7 handicap.
Martin Davalos (6) 40 points
I'm starting to see a pattern here where most of my riders dropped the ball in the second moto. Davalos' had a solid 9th in the first moto, but crashed out of the second.
Garrett Marchbanks (2) 36 points
Man, had my second motos gone like the first, I may have won! That stings. Marchbanks, known to love the mud, had a decent first moto with 8th but could only manage a 17th in the second moto.
Picks of Interest
250 Class - Garrett Marchbanks (3)
"Marchbanks would be a good pick. It's his first full outdoor season. He's young and learning but that isn't making him slow by any means. A top 10 rider but has a low handicap. If he stays on two wheels, he's getting double points."
450 Class - Dean Ferris (1)
"For the 450's I'm excited to see Australian, Dean Ferris, make it to the top 10 and give the stars of US motocross a run for their money. He's still relatively unknown in the US, but he kills it down under."
250 Class - Brandon Hartranft (12)
"Because Heartthrob laid an egg for Colton's team last weekend, his handicap went up quite a bit. This is what you need to look for in fantasy motocross: fast guys who have underperformed. They end up with high handicaps yet have the potential to max out. This one's a no brainer for me. The Yamaha rider will be in the top 15 no matter how much Colton roots against him."
450 Class - Chris Alldredge (18)
"How can you not love a guy wringing out a 250 two stroke against the 450's (notice the disadvantage for the number 876 two stroke off the start)? The downside to Alldredge in fantasy is his inconsistency which proved true last weekend where he ended up 37th overall. The upside to Allredge is in his speed. It wouldn't shock me if he finished 15th, but it also wouldn't shock me if he didn't finish at all. I'm feeling lucky. If he's top 25 in qualifying, he'll be on my Pala team for sure."