2016 Pro Motocross wasn’t necessarily the most competitive championship race in recent history. From the first moto at Hangtown, it was very clear that Ken Roczen was to establish himself as the dominant force in the 450 division. And, after a slow start while healing up from his wrist injury, Cooper Webb turned into a machine and began to churn out podiums in a class where his competition just couldn’t stay consistent. Heading into 2017, we can say with damn near certainty that neither of those fellas will repeat. Ken Roczen, as most casual fans are aware, is out for the foreseeable future all stemming from a brutal wreck early in the Supercross season. Cooper, much to the delight of the fans, has made the jump from the smaller 250cc displacement to duke it out with the big dogs in the 450s. So, with the reigning champs in no position to defend their titles, all of us are wondering, who will take the crown in 2017?
What an interesting series this should shape up to be. As we alluded to earlier, last year was all the German Phenom. Kenny boy came out swinging and left no doubt as to who the best motocross racer on Earth was in 2016. However, with K-Roc out for the rest of 2017, who will assert themselves at the pinnacle of motocross supremacy? After his torrid run in the 2017 Supercross season, it would appear that the kid from Colorado is poised to lay claim to the title. It wasn’t that long ago that Eli Tomac started the Outdoors season with 5 incredibly dominant performances in his first 5 motos. That 2015 season ended in tragedy, but it’s clear that Tomac has been able to reign in his reckless style and refine it into a controlled, potent combination of speed and aggression. He certainly enters 2017 as the favorite to claim his first 450 championship.
Unfortunately, one of moto’s great champions officially stepped away from the game just days before the first gate drop of the season. However, a couple of Dungey’s training partners, and fellow Baker’s Factory products, Marvin Musquin and Jason Anderson present themselves as real threats to laying claim to the coveted Lucas Oil champisonship. Both riders had a lot of bright spots in the Supercross season and have some serious momentum coming into the Outdoors. Musquin won a few mains Indoors (would’ve been more if, ya know, that one thing didn’t happen) and has wild amounts of natural bike ability and speed to boot. Anderson, quite similarly to Musquin, has plenty of speed and talent, he also finished the Supercross season with a mess of podiums. In addition to the four main contenders, some of the darkhorses coming into the Summer are Cooper Webb, Dean Wilson, Blake Baggett and Cole Seely.
Well, hot diggity damn, this year’s smaller bike championship is shaping up to be one for the books. But, let’s be honest, it’s usually the 250s that ends up being the more closely-fought of the two classes. Think back on the classic championship battles between Ryan Villopoto and Ben Townley, or Ryan Dungey and Christophe Pourcel (sorry to all you old school cats, we’re young). Or in more recent memory, the jostle for the championship between Jeremy Martin and Marvin Musquin. Almost too many great memories to recount that formulated out of that class. Maybe it’s the fact that the bikes are running at their fullest capacity, so everyone is on a level playing field. Well, whatever the hell the case, the 250 class pumps out some memorable championship battles. In 2017, the 2-time champ Jeremy Martin looms as one of the favorites, as his skill Outdoors is bordering on insanity. This was evidenced by his highly impressive performance in the 450 class at Daytona this season. However, don’t rule out the likes of Justin Hill, Zach Osborne, Adam Ciancarulo, Joey Savatgy, Austin Forkner, Aaron Plessinger and Jeremy’s own brother, Alex.
Justin Hill, after 4 years of trying to establish himself in the pro ranks, was utterly dominant in this year’s Supercross series. He’s carrying a shit-ton of momentum heading into the Outdoor series as he tries to continue to etch out his place among the elite in the sport. Zach Osborne is coming off one of the most spectacular finishes to a season that we can remember. After a long drought of no race wins, Zacho was able to claim 4 wins in the Supee series in rout to his first pro title. Adam Ciancarulo had a turbulent Supercross season, but ended on a high note as he was able to snag his second win of the season at the East/West shootout. Did we mention that his other victory came at the most outdoor-like Supercross track in Daytona? Savatgy, after being the victim of Osborne’s wild comeback, is certainly looking to prove himself and will more than likely come out swinging at Hangtown. Moving on to the young phenom out of Missouri, Austin Forkner had a pretty stellar rookie season in 2016 and will certainly be looking to build off that this year. Forkner has a reckless, yet controlled, style that lends itself well to the outdoor circuit, so he is certainly someone to watch as a contender. Aaron Plessinger is just stupid fast, plain and simple. If he can maintain some consistency, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be in the hunt for a title this year. Finally, we arrive at the sibling counterpart of Jeremy Martin, Alex. Alex had a turbulent season in 2016, but he once again proved that he has the speed and endurance to win at any time. The 250 Outdoor title chase should prove to be one for the ages in 2017.
Just like the Supercross series that preceded it, both classes appear to have the potential to be absolute classics up ’til the bitter end. With a rejuvenated Tomac looking to claim his very first big bike title, a couple of youngsters with loads of speed and a few crafty veterans in the big bike tier, in addition to a ridiculously fast and talented field in the 250s, all of us fans are in for one helluva spectacle for this Summer.