When rain began to fall on the Hangtown Classic to kick off the 2019 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season, there was a strong sense of déjà vu.
Rain soaked January’s Monster Energy Supercross season opener in Anaheim as well, and provided a lineup that at the time seemed to have some surprise contenders.
Justin Barcia won that race, denying second-place Ken Roczen an opportunity to snap his long winless streak.
Barcia earned only one more top-5 during the season. Roczen would earn three more runner-up finishes, but was forced to a winless season.
A privateer at the time, Dean Wilson finished fourth at Anaheim I, but scored only three more top-5s before getting sidelined to injury following the Denver race.
No one expected what they would eventually see from fifth-place finisher Cooper Webb, who went on to dominate the Supercross season on his way to the championship. Surprise finish aside, three of the top-5 in that race finished the season within the top-5 in points.
While Roczen finishing up front at Hangtown is not entirely surprising – he did, after all, begin the Supercross season with nine consecutive top-fives – he had come close to winning without success on so many occasions since returning from a pair of injuries, that many questioned when he would actually break back into Victory Lane.
After Roczen announced he was dealing with an unknown health issue that drained his energy and caused him to finish outside the top five in six of the last eight Supercross rounds, a heavy track is not where most expected him to excel.
One of the biggest shake ups last week may have come in what didn’t happen instead of what did. Eli Tomac was a heavy favorite entering the race, having won the last two Hangtown Classics on his way to dominating the 2017 and 2018 Motocross seasons. A bad start mired Tomac deep in the pack, but with 30 minutes on the clock, he should have been able to ride back to the front. Instead, he finished fourth and barely grabbed that position from Zach Osborne with time off the clock.
Tomac needed the mud to give him the advantage. Moto 1 began on a dry track that was only starting to get heavy. The track was sloppy for Moto 2 with ruts that could swamp a bike, and that was when Tomac’s conditioning took over.
The rain shook up the lineup throughout the field. While the top five from Moto 1 all finished sixth or better in Moto 2, Roczen was the only rider who stood on the podium twice.
What remains to be seen is just how prophetic the remainder of the top-5 will be. Jason Anderson’s third overall marked his return to racing after getting sidelined before Supercross Round 3 in Oakland.
Fourth-place Osborne missed the first six rounds of Supercross and did not score a top-5 finish until Nashville with three races remaining. He ended the year with three top-5s in the last four rounds.
Meanwhile, who was lurking in fifth in the Hangtown Classic? Webb – in exactly the same spot he started the Supercross season.
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