At few other places on Earth do the obvious and the improbable collide with greater bone-jarring consistency than in the city of Las Vegas, Nevada. Where else but in the crown jewel of the Silver State can you witness octogenarian gamblers with oxygen tanks bumming smokes off teen-aged hookers in Prada pumps behind the nickel slots? If the irony of that scene leaves you cold, picture this: a SoCal moto fan in Gucci shades and a trucker hat fighting for the last seat at a 50-dollar blackjack table with Mitch Payton and an Asian millionaire. If that doesn't cast an appropriately bright light on the levity and the absurdity of this year’s Sixth Annual U.S. Open of Motocross, nothing will. Still, Clear[IMAGE 1]
Channel's pre-fab finale to the American motocross season is a fitting one-hundred-thousand dollar exclamation point that never fails to deliver on the excitement its ardent fans have come to expect.
THE COBRA STRIKES
Like the Supercross and outdoor national series that preceded it, this year's U.S. Open of Motocross was filled with drama and surprises. Two business conventions that were scheduled on the same weekend as the U.S. Open–one for the off-road motorcycle industry and one catering to the bicycle trade–ensured the most fanatical crowd ever for the sixth running of this sold-out event. Unfortunately, the sushi dinner I enjoyed Friday evening with TWMX publisher Brad McDonald was made even more pleasant by dangerous volumes of hot sake and cold plum wine. In my highly lubricated and well-fed state, I completely missed the action in the 125 and 80cc classes, including what may prove to be the career-ending crash of Jeff Alessi, the younger of Honda's dynamic mini duo. Ditto Cobra's venomous strike against U.S. Open favorites Ricky Carmichael and his arch-nemesis Chad Reed. Vuillemin was simply unbeatable Friday evening, but not nearly as unbeatable as the drink prices at the San Remo lounge. While dreams of stripping Ricky of the ecstasy of an unprecedented third U.S. Open title danced in the Cobra's head, I was dancing with a dream girl on ecstasy named Ricki at Club Cobra on The Strip. Sometimes people do actually win in Las Vegas.[IMAGE 2]
At every Clear Channel Motorsports event, privileged members of the elite moto paparazzi are supplied an informative media kit along with their highly-prized and extremely valuable press credentials. After selling my pit pass to a kid in the casino, I sat with some drunken friends in the cheap seats and perused my literature. In it, I hoped to find a sliver of information I could use to convince Donn that I actually paid attention to the race. Buried in a forgettable press release was a quote from Chad Reed. “I'm tired of finishing in second place,” said this year's AMA Supercross runner-up. “I want to win the U.S. Open of Motocross!” Right in my lap next to a bucket of nachos and my friend Stacey's spilled beer, fell the plot of my story.[IMAGE 3]
From the urgent tone of Chad's sound bite anyone could surmise that the number-three finisher in this year's 250cc Nationals war was hungry for an American motocross title, even a marginal one. What everyone in the MGM Grand Garden Arena wanted to know was could Chad Reed retaliate against an energized Vuillemin and a battle-weary but hard-charging Carmichael to take the title? Well, almost everyone. Neither I nor any
of my dozen drunken friends gave a damn. We were too busy checking out the zeppelin races that were going on in every other tube top in the stands.
If you read the report on Chad's performance on the TWMX web site like
I did, then you already know who won the race. For the sake of creating closure in one of the worst stories TWMX will ever publish, let me say this: Yamaha’s Aussie assassin is the 2003 MaxxiU.S. Open of Motocross Champion. I didn't earn $100,000 like Chad did, but I did rake in about six grand on blackjack over the weekend. I don't know how
Chad celebrated his victory, but I pissed my winnings away on a mariachi band, three ultra-stretch limos and enough Chinese firewater to render 75 friends completely comatose. If that doesn't sound like more fun than watching an indoor motocross race, you've never crowd surfed naked in a 30-passenger Humvee, doubled down on 14 or mud wrestled with a stripper.
02 – RC start shot
Atypically mediocre starts plagued the Red Rider all weekend. Fortunately, tenacity and talent were enough to sustain him, and Ricky Carmichael earned a cool $35,000 for his third-overall finish at this year's Maxxis US Open of Motocross. Since the US Open, RC has been spending time on his mountain bike, even winning a couple of beginner-class cross-country races for fun and fitness in the process. We're not all-terrain cycling enthusiasts, but we think anyone as fit and fast as RC should cut his MTB teeth in at least the sport class.[IMAGE 4]
03 – Reed whipping over finish
Chad Reed bested RC by one victory indoors in '03, but was inconsistent enough at other races during the season to let the SX championship slip through his fingers. His dominating performance at the season-ending U.S. Open served warning to pundits and prognosticators alike that Chad Reed has no intention of letting the 2004 AMA Supercross title escape his iron grasp. If you had any doubts, forget about them; indoors, the Factory Yamaha pilot from Down Under is The Real Deal.
04 – Vuillemin
For too many years, David Vuillemin's competitiveness has resembled nuevo French cuisine: too much sauce and not enough substance. No more. In Las Vegas, the Cobra's venom was more potent than ever and his night one win served notice that DV12 will be a factor in 2004.
05 – no cap
06 – Wey
Until Travis Pastrana stops living like a cybornetic video game character and starts acting like a professional motocross racer, talented and hard-working journeymen motocrossers will always be able to count on Suzuki to provide them with a respectable factory ride.
Last year's recipient of Roger DeCoster's largesse was Sean Hamblin; this year that honor belongs to top '03 250 SX privateer Nick Wey.
07 – Kelly smith
New Yamaha of Troy team rider Kelly Smith wasn't the fastest rider in Las Vegas, but he was the most consistent. The Michigan rider scored the biggest Supercross win of his career in his maiden YZ250F voyage.
08 – Mike Brown
According to Gatorade, anyone can Be Like Mike. At this year's U.S. Open, being like Mike Brown meant debuting his Yamaha of Troy livery aboard an '04 YZ250F, T-boning Andrew Short into the tuff blocks on a straightaway, and eventually settling for second place behind a kinder, gentler Kelly Smith. The fans served more boos at the MGM Garden Arena during the 125 main on Saturday night than the cocktail waitresses served to the drunken revelers all weekend. Bottoms up, Brownie.
09 – LaRocco
The 2000 U.S. Open Champ Mike LaRocco showed up in Las Vegas with gold
#5s blinging. Unfortunately, two Aces (Reed and RC) and a King (Cobra) trumped the Rock's Royal Flush. Still, Iron Mike proved once again that he's one of a kind.
10 – Andrew Short
Crowd darling Andrew Short was clearly the fastest rider on the track on Saturday, but the MotoworldRacing.com rider drew the short straw when he bumped bars with tough guy Mike Brown. In Vegas, Short was the lone two-stroke pilot at the front of the pack.
11 – 125 podium – brown, smith, adams
Before the start of the U.S. Open, YoT boss Phil Alderton proclaimed that he was looking for a Boost Mobile sweep of the 125cc class podium. Overall winner Kelly Smith and runner-up Mike Brown did their part to fulfill their boss' dreams, but Brock Sellards and Josh Hansen fell victims to crashes on the tight course and left the door wide open for privateer Troy Adams to nab the third step on the podium.
a Boost Mobile sweep of the 125cc class podium. Overall winner Kelly Smith and runner-up Mike Brown did their part to fulfill their boss' dreams, but Brock Sellards and Josh Hansen fell victims to crashes on the tight course and left the door wide open for privateer Troy Adams to nab the third step on the podium.