2014 Motocross of Nations | Travel Log – Day One
We've made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean for the 2014 Monster Energy Motocross of Nations in Kegums, Latvia. The Zelta Zirgs circuit is located roughly an hour south of the Latvian capital city of Riga, and brings the sport into a blossoming area of culture and travel. Unfortunately, it comes at a time when tensions are on the rise between nearby Russia, the trio of Baltic countries, and the United States. Recent airstrikes by the US and a collation of Middle Eastern nations to the Islamic State militia in Syria has irked the Russian government, which views Syria as an ally and the act unapproved by the UN, and that happens along with increased military presence by NATO/US forces and Russia in the region. But that is an issue that you'll need to further read about elsewhere, as the developments are destined to stay the top story around the world in the coming days.
Getting to Latvia from our Southern California locale required plenty of travel; 6731 miles spread over three flights (San Diego to Detroit, Detroit to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Riga) took roughly sixteen hours, and after leaving San Diego on Monday morning at 11:30, we finally touched down in Riga at three in the afternoon on Tuesday. That puts us in the region well ahead of the weekend's festivities, which kicks off on Friday, but we have plenty of plans to fill the time. Most of the American motocross industry is either in Riga or en route, as Dan Betley, Kevin Crowther, “Gothic” Jay Haines, Lars Lindstrom, Michael Byrne, Mike Gosselaar and his wife were on our flight from the Netherlands to Latvia.
Later in the week we will join the team as they shake down their machines at a practice track that lies between Riga and Kegums. It seems that all of Latvia has a similar sandy type soil that will be raced on during the weekend, as we spotted the bright Baltic Sea silt in a number of construction sites and even a small off-road track while on the descent into the airport. The European branch of HRC set up the ride day for Eli Tomac and we assume other Honda riders such as Max Nagl, but have allowed Jeremy Martin and maybe a few more to join the session on Thursday. Ryan Dungey is reportedly sitting out the practice session.
After grabbing our rental car, we headed for our hotel that is situated right in the middle of Riga's historic Old Town. After the battery in the GPS died, we were a bit lost in what looked like the rougher suburbs of the city, but this made for surprise sightseeing. Along the way we spotted the Victory Memorial to Soviet Army monument, which was erected to celebrate the World War II victory over Germany. Although iconic, it serves as an unwelcome reminder to the now free nation of its past occupation by the former USSR.
Once in Old Town, we took a walk down the cobblestone streets and see why Riga is proclaimed a must-visit destination. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the center of the city dates back to the 1200-1400s and the buildings along the narrow roads are a stunning look at the art nouveau architecture the city is known for.
There is one shared trait in the bars, restaurants, and clubs that fill the lower levels of the buildings: It seems like they really want to be American. We spotted everything from a Rockabilly restaurant pavilion to a handful of cowboy themed setups. Hell, there's even a TGI Friday's if we get desperate/homesick.
While walking through one shopping center, we noticed a commercial for the MXON playing on screens hanging in the walkways. The facility at Zelta Zirgs is said to be more than enough to appease racers, teams, and spectators, and Youthstream is doing what they can to spread the word about the world-class event to Latvian locals.
As with any international event, holding it in Latvia has created issues. Apparently there are only a handful of flights into and out of the rather small international airport, and since getting here is somewhat of a hassle, the American support crew has been whittled down to just key members. One positive note, however, is the apparent ease of getting machines and parts shipped and through customs.
The weather reports for this week in Riga are calling for cool temperatures, with Saturday and Sunday to fall in the low sixties. Intermittent rain showers occurred on Tuesday, but clear skies are expected for the remainder of the week, with a forty-three percent chance of rain predicted for Saturday morning.
Since Riga is ten hours ahead of San Diego, we are back in the room for the night with European news running in the background. We'll keep you updated along the way as the trip continues, and the real bulk of our coverage will start when riding takes place on Thursday.
Want to watch the races as they occur live this weekend? MXGP TV is offering a pay-per-view package that will show all of the action on Saturday and Sunday, and CBS Sports will broadcast full, albeit tape delayed coverage later on Sunday afternoon in the United States.
Be sure to visit the following sites for more information on the 2014 Motocross of Nations in Kegums, Latvia…