The wait is finally over. Recovering from major injuries in the past two seasons to both arms and a general sense of malaise this year, Ken Roczen won Moto 1 of the Hangtown Classic and finished second in Moto 2 to take the overall victory in the season opener for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
It was Roczen’s first win since the January 2017 Monster Energy Supercross event at San Diego. Since then, he’s come agonizingly close with second-place finishes on a dozen occasions.
Roczen wanted to win in grand style with both Moto wins, but he lost the lead to Eli Tomac early in Moto 2. Once that happened, he kept the big picture in sight and settled into a comfortable pace – or at least as comfortable as possible on the heavy track. Tomac stretched his advantage in that Moto to more than 20 seconds at the end.
“I think we’ve got more in the tank,” Roczen told NBC after the race. “With these conditions out here, I’m very happy with a second (in Moto 2). I had to back down. I had a couple of big moments and it was just super-sloppy out there.”
The quest for a third consecutive Hangtown victory came up just a little short for Tomac.
“I was able to flow (in the mud),” Tomac said after the race. “I was feeling good. I had some good lines picked out. Ken got by me early on there and I was able to get back in the flow. … I almost came off the bike once or twice – or maybe I did even once, like full side saddle, but overall I’m happy to get that win.”
Tomac won Moto 2, but he was forced to overcome a disappointing first Moto in which he finished fourth. Winning Hangtown has been one of the keys to Tomac’s recent success in the MX championship hunt, but he will take consolation in knowing that he made up a big deficit during the afternoon.
Returning from an injury early in the Supercross season, Jason Anderson (2-5) served notice that he is back and ready to challenge for the MX title with a third-place overall finish.
Zach Osborne (5-3) and new 450SX champion Cooper Webb (3-6) finished fourth and fifth overall.
In Moto 1, the rain was pretty much all that Roczen had to battle. He took the lead on Lap 1 and never looked back as he set the tone for the afternoon. Roczen pulled away to a more than 15-second gap at the end as the battle for second heated up.
At one point in this Moto, Anderson was under attack from Tomac. As soon as Tomac faded from his back bumper, he was reinvigorated and chased down Webb.
Webb did not want to give up the position and the two swapped the spot and bumped a couple of times in the final laps, with Anderson taking the advantage in the final lap.
Webb was forced to settle for third as rain started to change the track conditions.
“It got difficult when the rain came down,” Webb said on NBC Sports Gold after Moto 1. “It got super slippery. I kind of struggled there at the end, made a lot of mistakes and let Jason catch me. I was able to get him back, made another mistake and allowed him to get by me.”
Webb’s difficulty was heightened in the second Moto with his sixth-place finish.
For a brief moment, it appeared Webb would pick up where he left off in Supercross. He earned the holeshot in Moto 1, but immediately fell back as Roczen sliced past to take a more than one-second lead on Lap 1.
Tomac’s trouble in the first race started early. He got a terrible start and was seventh on Lap 1, advanced two spots on Lap 2 and climbed to 4th on Lap 3. But he was 13.3 seconds behind the leader at the time and noticeably out of rhythm. When Tomac unsuccessfully tried to pass Anderson on Lap 8 the die was cast. He finished just off the podium in fourth.
Osborne held on for fifth.
With heavy rain muddying the track, Adam Cianciarulo won the second Moto and took the overall victory for Round 1 of the 250MX season. It was just the boost he needed after crashing in the final round of the Supercross season and losing the 250SX West championship in a heartbreaking finish.
“For kids out there that see us – and we go through such peaks and valleys – the most important shot is the next one,” Cianciarulo said on NBC after winning the overall. “You got to get back up and fight.”
The winner of Moto 1, Justin Cooper, had trouble on the start of the second Moto and fell back as far as fifth. He gained a position back to finish fourth in the Moto and was second overall.
Colt Nichols earned the hole shot in Moto 2, but lost the lead quickly to Cianciarulo. He finished third in the Moto, which combined with a fifth in Moto 1 for third overall.
Dylan Ferrandis (3-5) finished fourth with Chase Sexton (4-6) rounding out the top five.
Several leaders from Moto 1 had trouble in Moto 2. Michael Mosiman (who finished seventh in Moto 1) and Sexton (fourth) both went down on Lap 2. RJ Hampshire (sixth) went down on Lap 3. Hampshire finished sixth overall with Mosiman seventh.
Alex Martin had the feel-good ride of Moto 2. After finishing outside the points in Moto 1 (23rd), he grabbed the second-place finish in the second and would not let go. He was 16.4 seconds behind Cianciarulo.
In Moto 1, Cooper jumped out to an early lead and rode to his second career Moto win – making it look easy all the way. A battle for the lead developed momentarily at the 22-minute mark, but as soon as Cianciarulo caught the leader, Cooper hit the afterburner and rode into the sunset with a 1.89-second advantage at the checkers.
Cianciarulo could not ride easy, however. On the final lap, he was being chased down by the riders heatedly deciding who would finish third.
Ferrandis – the 250SX West champion – got off to a slow start and was outside the top five for the first six laps in the first race. He moved up to fourth with three minutes remaining on the clock and was grabbed third as the pair came within sight of the flag stand, passing 250SX East champion Sexton in the very last corner.
Nichols rounded out the top five in Moto 1.
Derek Drake made his Pro Motocross debut. He was deep in the field on Lap 1. But he steadily worked his way up from 19th, slicing through the field and cracking the top 10 with the clock running down and three laps remaining. Drake earned the position by passing fellow rookie Ty Masterpool.
Hunter Lawrence might well have had the gutsiest performance of the Moto. He went down on Lap 7 while battling for sixth and got tagged by another rider – whose foot peg ripped a hole in the seat of his pants. He slipped past Masterpool on the final lap to finish 11th. Lawrence finished 12th in Moto 2 and 11th overall
Masterpool wound up 12th in Moto 1 and 14th in Moto 2 for a 14th overall.
Mitchell Falk went down on Lap 2 and walked off the course holding an apparently injured shoulder.
Ken Roczen (47 points) (1 win)
Eli Tomac (43)
Jason Anderson (38)
Zach Osborne (36)
Cooper Webb (35)
Adam Cianciarulo (47 points) (1 win)
Justin Cooper (43)
Colt Nichols (36)
Dylan Ferrandis (36)
Chase Sexton (33)
Overall Top 5s
Ken Roczen: 1
Eli Tomac: 1
Jason Anderson: 1
Zack Osborne: 1
Cooper Webb: 1
Adam Cianciarulo: 1
Justin Cooper: 1
Colt Nichols: 1
Dylan Ferrandis: 1
Chase Sexton: 1
Ken Roczen (Hangtown I)
Eli Tomac (Hangtown II)
Justin Cooper (Hangtown I)
Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II)
Next race: Fox Raceway at Pala, Pala California, May 25
Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.