Heroes and villains

Heroes and villains

LAST MONTH we rehashed all the ugly details of the disaster that was the 2002 Motocross des Nations. And while the America-based race died on the vine, a replacement event managed to rise up – phoenix-style – and give everybody something to cheer for.

Just as the MXdN was nearing its death-rattle, a group of promoters and industry people – led by vintage-bike guru Rick Doughty, Glen Helen promoter Bud Feldkamp and casino owner/MX enthusiast Greg Primm – started formulating a plan. Their idea was simple. Lots of people were coming to Southern California from all over the world for a motocross race that was no longer going to happen. So why not put on our own race? Thus, the World Cup of Motocross was born.

I’m not sure the sports world has ever seen anything quite like the World Cup (I will continue referring to it as such, even though we all know the real World Cup is “Owen for England” and whatnot). It wasn’t even an idea until a week before it happened and event promotion was limited to the Internet and word of mouth. With the considerable assistance of Primm, the event organisers were able to put together a handsome purse, just shy of $100,000. That was enough to convince many riders who were in the Colonies for the des Nations to stick around for a while.

Not all of them, though. GP champ Mickael Pichon was notably absent from the roster, as was Belgium in its entirety. But the real poo-storm started when Team USA members Ricky Carmichael and Mike LaRocco opted to sit this one out. All of a sudden, the spectacularly talented Carmichael and the beloved LaRocco were traitors to their nation. An unprecedented flood of hatespeak spewed forth from online message boards and magazine mailrooms. LaRocco wants to spend time with his family? Ricky’s going on his honeymoon? Treason!

All this jackassery aside, though, the World Cup was a surprise success. Team USA’s original third member, Tim Ferry, stayed on board for the race, joined by privateer Kyle Lewis and Suzuki upstart Sean Hamblin. Other top names included Eric Sorby, Sebastien Tortelli, Chad Reed, Michael Byrne, Grant Langston and Ernesto Fonseca. Team England manager Rob Herring went player-coach, joining Jamie Dobb and Neil Prince for the event. In a surprise move, South African legend Greg Albertyn retired from his retirement, to the sheer delight of the fans. And back-flip hero Mike Metzger suited up and rode for Team New Zealand. For some reason.

All told, the event drew about 10,000 spectators and was, as they say in Hollywood, the feel-good event of the summer. Legends and privateers working out of the same box van, face-painted fans cheering on the boys, choruses of ‘Kum Ba Ya’ echoing in the Southern California hills…

At the end of three motos, it was Team Australia – Reed, Byrne and Craig Anderson – edging out the US for the overall followed by Canada (!), South Africa, Japan and England. Rumours are circulating about another World Cup in 2003, although nothing has been confirmed. We’ll just have to wait and see if the des Nations tanks again, I suppose.

In other off-season race news, the ‘World’s Richest Motorcycle Race’ has come and gone once again. Each year, the THQ US Open of Supercross dangles $300,000 in front of the world’s best riders, luring them out to the Nevada desert and a sleepy little town called Las Vegas.