There was plenty of grumblings about the lack of hope for the 2019 edition of the Monster Energy Cup and it was all justified. Following the Red Bull Straight Rhythm hype and execution, it really did seem like this years MEC was gonna be a yawner. First of all there was the lackluster entry list which saw plenty of big names choosing to bypass the event. For example, Osborne, Anderson, Roczen, Musquin, Webb, Savatgy… need I say more? That’s a lot of vacated positions at the top of the results sheets. With so many consecutive years in the premier Supercross series with a super deep field and incredible parity, this race really should have been a bore.
Coulda. Shoulda. But wasn’t.
The big names who did show up made it worth our while, even those of us on the east coast, to stay up and remain riveted till the last checkered flag waved. Eli Tomac was the clear favorite, having secured the Million dollars last year with a little help. Honestly though, this race owes all of it’s interest to two guys. Monster Kawasaki’s 450 debut of Adam Cianciarulo and the long-time-coming return of Malcolm Stewart. Malcolm exited the 2019 SX series at round 2 when he broke his femur. He had looked great in his short stint and everybody was disappointed to see all that potential be snuffed out so early in the series. The rumors from the practice track have been that Mookie is legit and been absolutely flying. Those rumors were obviously proven true.
Mookie meant business right from the first gate drop and despite an impressive ride in his own right by SmartTop Teammate Vince Friese, Mookie was able to not only stand on the podium for all 3 mains, he won the second Main when the track was run in reverse direction! Speaking of reverse direction. I expected this to be a terribly poor choice and execution in terms of rider detriment but aside from a few examples demonstrated by Dean Wilson and Jordi Tixier, the reverse track deal, was pulled off pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t worth the loss of Dean Wilson and it was still gimmicky as hell but I really did expect there to be a handful of injuries incurred by riders unaccustomed to memorizing essentially 2 separate tracks mere hours apart. I really hope they don’t pull that crap again in the future because it is not worth the risk.
Adam Cianciarulo’s debut could not have evolved in a more perfect manner. First of all, that Jeff Matiasevich throwback Fox gear was simply the coolest kit to ever grace a motocross track. Of course, Chicken’s OG setup still gets the nod due to his custom helmets that always kicked ass. With Adam’s “LitKit” factor bouncing off the rev limiter, you just knew it was gonna be a stellar night in terms of “look good, ride good”. He pulled the hole shot in two of the three races, made 2 mistakes all night and just looked like an intense, though completely at ease, experienced 450 regular. He was not scared. He was not intimidated. He was not going to settle in and play it safe. Adam came to Vegas to win and make sure his entrance into the class was represented by a ride that let ALL the 450 riders know that he is coming in, intent of winning races and laying claim to maximum points available on a given night.
He stood up to Eli in a Mano-e-mano battle which completely invalidated any argument related to the lack of depth in the field. When Eli is on, he is ON and capable of beating anyone. In that third Main event, we were seeing a battle to the death between the Eli who can win in dominant fashion and the spry Adam who was going to twist the throttle as far as he needed to, in an effort to get a sense of just what this pinnacle of 450 racing really required. The new number-Nine rose to the occasion and shocked literally everyone. It was such an exhilarating final race with Eli camped on Adam’s rear tire, taking every bit of abuse his knobs launched at him lap after lap. It may not have been 4 or 5 riders battling for the lead but it wasn’t necessary. The intensity between these two in that last Moto was every bit of exactly why we love Moto.
It’s going to be an interesting couple months as the development continues during the march to A1. The constantly shifting nuances within the confines of the Kawasaki team following the Monster Cup is just one more storyline that got amplified and assures that 2020 is going to be another great series.