Welcome to the Twilight Zone.
Sometimes ya gotta call a spade a spade and two rounds into this 2018 Supercross series, shit is looking completely sideways and the unpredictable has now become the standard. I’m not necessarily saying that Eli Tomac crashing is an anomaly nor am I saying that Marvin Musquin looking less than dominant in a whoop-section isn’t a slice of normal-pie either. It comes down to the optics of the very tip of the title-spear, ET3 and MM25, the guys who were universally agreed upon to be the shoe-ins for the title are both sidelined with shoulder injuries which may have very well put the Supercross season in the periphery, with their focus now shifting toward the Motocross series!
You probably think I’m crazy… There’s a part of ME that thinks I’m crazy but I’m going with my gut here and knowing Eli’s history with shoulders and Marvins obvious severity of dislocation, I’m confident saying they are essentially done in their 2018 Supercross title quest. Ken Roczen has answered the first question on his docket of “Can I perform under the pressure, lights and physicality of true race conditions?” He looks great, Justin Barcia looks, possibly even more shockingly, great and with the depth of talent running all the way through the top 14, there is no way that a depreciated Eli Tomac or Marvin Musquin can or should dilute themselves into believing that they, at 85% of their capacity, are good enough to threaten for the top prize. That is only going to get them in trouble and a threat of further injury.
Looking at Marvin’s crash this week specifically, you can’t help but notice the catch 22 of attempting to introduce a level of restraint and safety into an incredibly dangerous situation such as Supercross. Ever since another Frenchman, Jean-Michel Bayle skimmed his first whoop-section in 1991, it was apparent… nope, obvious, that there was a new approach to that obstacle and you either adopted it, or you prayed there was somewhere else on the track to try to make up the time you lost in them by not skimming. Marvin Musquin has always preferred to not skim because there is no question, the stakes are higher when you skim because the speeds are inherently faster and thus, impact when failing at it, greater. There is no “partially committed” in Supercross, like Maverick said in Top Gun “You don’t have time to think up there… if you think, you’re dead.” It may not necessarily be equivalent-verbatim but essentially the point is, you prepare to the point of removing though when in the moment, and you simply react and execute. Marvin enters the whoops every lap having thought about them and gauging his confidence upon approach before deciding on that attempts plan of attack. For guys who don’t have these reservations about the whoops, specifically Chad Reed (even in his injured state, ironically), the whoops are a place to ramp up the attack, not question your confidence and modus operandi.
With the exit of both Eli Tomac and Marvin Musquin, Ken Roczen’s confidence is only growing and after the exit that Ken saw at round three last year while at the pinnacle of his confidence, I guarantee you his maturity and perspective is grander than he ever thought possible. Whereas before Ken may have allowed himself to start thinking Championship after those two key departures, the reborn Ken will not allow himself to do so. Focusing on each race as it comes is how Dungey built his incredible book of accomplishment and a racer would be foolish to try and achieve those percentages with any other focus.
There are a handful of additional reasons that Ken couldn’t let himself make too much of these 2 departures, Jason Anderson, Justin Barcia, Cole Seely, Weston Peick and Broc Tickle and specifically Cooper Webb have plenty to say about the outcome of this title… all having interactions with Ken as he works his way toward the front from less than stellar starts.
As we head toward the round which brought such chaos to the series last year, having already seen a chaotic two rounds in 2018, I think we’d be foolish to expect anything less than a third winner and possibly another departure in a series built around Hitchcockian-storylines.