Aggression has two faces: one focuses outward at the competition; the other faces inward.
When Justin Cooper looks in the mirror this weekend before suiting up for Round 6 of the Monster Energy Supercross season at San Diego (on NBCSN 10 p.m. ET), he will see the second face.
Following the 250 race at Anaheim 2, the series hit Dylan Ferrandis with a 12-month suspension for running into Christian Craig.
Supercross docked Austin Forkner two positions for cutting the track in the season opener. That penalty cost him the final rung of the podium and relegated him to fifth.
Meanwhile, Cooper stood on the top step in Anaheim 1 and smiled down at the competition.
“Everyone has the first-race jitters, and I was able to get through it pretty much mistake-free and came home with the win there and just carried the momentum through the season so far,” Cooper told NBC Sports.
Cooper left A1 and headed to St. Louis. He finished second there and again at A2. He won one of the three mains in the Glendale Triple Crown and earned his fourth podium in five races last week at Oakland.
Redefining the Terms
Racing often seems to be about conflicting agendas. A decision must be made about whether a rider will go for broke on every lap of every race, or if he should opt for consistency.
In five races so far, Cooper is showing it doesn’t always have to be an either/or proposition.
“(Aggression) can cost you sometimes,” Cooper said. “Like we saw Dylan go down with Christian. It doesn’t always work out.
“There is a certain limit to the aggression you want to carry with you. What’s important is riding the bike aggressively, maybe not against other people. Hit your marks and charge every lap, and that always puts you in a good position.”
Currently second in points, Cooper is in a good position.
But he lost the lead due in no small part to momentarily forgetting which face to show at Glendale. Aggression cost him when he became entangled with another rider in Race 1. Trying to make up for that mistake, he overrode his limit in Race 2 and crashed in consecutive races. By Race 3, he found his equilibrium again. Still, his early mistakes cost him a strong finish in the overall, and Cooper left Arizona ninth.
“I’m more of a podium guy than all-out sending it for the win,” Cooper said. “But that’s also a weakness for me too because I feel like I do leave something on the table sometime. You’ve really got to trust your ability on the bike and give it all you’ve got when it’s race weekend.”
While his overall finish at Glendale cost points, winning Race 3 may prove critical to his potential to win the championship.
“It brought some belief back in myself,” Cooper said. “I was kind of doubting myself after the first two (races) and it’s always good to remind yourself that you still have it.
“You’ve got to believe you can win. … I expect to be on the podium every round. That would be ideal and it would put me in a great position to go after this championship. Definitely want to get another win or two, but more importantly it’s going to come down to consistency and making sure I don’t have any bad nights.”