Monday Kickstart: 2012 Monster Energy Motocross of Nations

By Brendan Lutes

This year’s Monster Energy Motocross of Nations will go down as historic for many different reasons with the most important being the first-ever victory of Team Germany. Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, though, the racing action wasn’t all that happened on the sandy circuit of Lommel. Check out this week’s edition of Monday Kickstart for everything you need to know about the MXoN.

Also check out our other coverage throughout the weekend:

Friday Kickstart

Saturday Practice Report

Saturday Qualifying Race Report

Sunday Race Report

The weather in Belgium this time of year is always unpredictable and it didn't disappoint this weekend. On Saturday morning, this was the view from the pit area. As the sun came up, the sky darkened and gave way to heavy rain during the MX3 practice session. By the time qualifying was underway, the skies had cleared and rain never materialized again. On Sunday, you couldn't find a cloud in the sky.

Yes, the track got very rough and this picture of the front straight that went past the signal area doesn't do the brutal track justice. Between races, only certain portions of the track--the first turn and select jump faces-- were smoothed over in order to keep things safe. Overall, it was easily one of the roughest tracks we've ever seen.

When the rain hit during the MX3 practice session on Saturday, the soft sand soaked it up like a sponge. When it really started coming down, many of the riders retreated to the coverage of pit lane to wait out the downpour. France's Xavier Boog chose to ride through the wet stuff.

It varies every year, but for the past few years, Team USA has been spread all throughout the pits, with each rider pitting underneath their respective sponsor's truck. This year, Ryan Dungey was pitted at the KTM truck and shared the real estate with his U.S. teammate France's Marvin Musquin, as well as Italy's Antonio Cairoli, Germany's Ken Roczen and Max Nagl, The Netherland's Jeffrey Herlings, and others. It was easily the biggest pit in the paddock.

Justin Barcia was pitted underneath the factory Honda rig and shared the space with riders from Japan and Portugal. For the most part, most of Team Muscle Milk Honda was on hand to support Barcia.

Not only did Barcia have Gothic J--his soon-to-be mechanic once his season begins in the U.S. aboard the 450--but his long-time friend and mechanic from Geico Honda Mike "Schnikey" Tomlinson was on hand to help out. Here, they discuss the qualifying races.

Everywhere the U.S. riders went, fans turned up. Before practice and qualifying on Saturday, this fan brought Barcia some fresh Belgian chocolate. It goes without saying that Justin was stoked.

Japan's Makoto Ogata was running the all-new and highly anticipated 2013 Honda CRF450R. We recently took delivery of our production unit for testing, so be sure to check out an upcoming issue of TransWorld Motocross for a full review.

The third rider for Team USA, Blake Baggett, was pitted out of the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rig with fellow Kawasaki rider Great Britain's Tommy Searle. It's worth noting that Baggett was aboard a 2013 KX250F for the weekend.

This rig also served as home base for most of the support crew that came along with Team USA. Here, Baggett chats with Mitch Payton and his team before heading out for the morning warm up on Sunday.

There are always some cool one-off parts on the bikes at the MXoN and the end cap on Baggett's muffler was trick.

The clutch cover was also customized for the race.

We found this reminder note on the seat of Baggett's spare bike. You can't forget the small stuff.

Another example of trick parts is this custom seat on the spare bike of Portugal's Rui Goncalves.

One of the traditions of the Motocross of Nations is the drawing for start position for Saturday's qualifying races. For the past couple years, Team USA has faired pretty well in the blind drawing. This year, everyone was eagerly anticipating the number that the heavy favorite would draw. And as luck would have it, the USA was the last team to be picked from the bowl and drew the fourth gate pick for qualifying.

Here's the complete order for the gate picks going into qualifying. After qualifying, the teams pick their gates based on their finishing position in the qualifying races. Let's be honest, though, we really just wanted to show this photo because the Monster girls were in it.

The start position drawing ceremony attracts a lot of media attention.

As for the actual qualifying for Team USA, it didn't go as planned. In the opening MX1 moto, Dungey ran as high as fourth, but in the closing stages of the race, threw away his goggles and dropped to sixth by the end. Then in the MX2 moto, Baggett turned in a solid third place ride. It was the MX3 race that cost them the most. After jumping out to the early lead, Barcia controlled the race until being passed by The Netherlands' sand specialist Jeffrey Herlings. After hanging with the KTM rider for a few laps, Barcia went down and got stuck in the green fence that lines the track. After struggling for a few minutes to free himself, former MXoN winner Chuck Sun ran over and lifted the fence up so Barcia could ride underneath it. Unfortunately, any type of assistance is considered “help.” Barcia then cut through a small portion of the infield and jumped the fence to get back onto the track. And in spite of his spirited ride to finish sixth, Barcia was ultimately disqualified for receiving assistance and cutting the track, as FIM rules also state a rider must re-enter exactly where they left the track.

After getting back on the track, Barcia rode like a man possessed, as he did everything he could to catch up. We saw him on more then one occasion getting sideways and his feet flying off like the picture here.

Every year, Fox creates some of the coolest looking gear for their riders and their respective countries. This was Clemente Desalle's Team Belgium gear. Dungey also had some red, white, and blue Fox gear and Ken Roczen was decked out in Team Germany gear.

The soft sandy surface behind the start gate makes gate prep and selection even more important. Many of the riders spent a lot of time carefully prepping their start gate. During Saturday qualifying, Germany's Max Nagl probably had the most impressive gate prep. As it turned out, he pulled the holeshot ahead of Italy's Antonio Cairoli.

Here's the result of Nagl's carefully prepped start gate--a massive holeshot. Cairoli quickly passed Nagl, but the German rider re-passed Cairoli and led a good portion of the race as the two gapped the field.

Huge news for America fans was the addition of next-day tape delayed coverage of the event airing on CBS Sports Network. And no doubt to help bring the television coverage to the next level, this cable camera was set up and spanned across the entire track, giving an amazing view of the start and various aspect of the course.

As the title sponsor of the race, Monster Energy had a major presence all over the facility. This Monster Energy station was huge. This was also the location of the notorious after party following the race on Sunday night.

If you haven't been to a Motocross of Nations race, you need to put it on your bucket list and check it off as soon as possible. Not only is the atmosphere exciting, patriotic, and fun, but it's always packed with crazy fans having a good time. The sound of the crowd and its various chainsaws and air horns mixed with the motorcycles, makes for near sensory overload when the gate drops for the first time.

Did we mention how crazy the fans were? How many airhorns and chainsaws can you pick out in this photo? There's also a blow-up doll is you look closely. Only at the Motocross of Nations...

It's become tradition for fans to bring in chainsaws and airhorns. These Great Britain fans were obviously having a good time.

Gratuitous Monster girl photo…

The contingent of Belgian fans was very evident everywhere you looked.

We even came across some American fans in the crowd.

All of the top riders have spare bikes. In the event that a bike breaks in a race or practice, the spare can be used for the remainder of the day. Here, Dungey's spare bike waits in the corner of the KTM pits.

Being that Dungey was in the same pit area as Cairoli, Fox's Chris “Beeker” Onstott--also a fan of Cairoli’s--had some fun, putting on a Cairoli hat and walking around. Here, he strikes a pose with Dungey's mechanic Carlos Rivera.

Most of the mechanic's from the U.S. brought along their special tools for the event. These were the ones set aside by Dungey's wrench, Carlos.

Nearly every single rider was running a sand tire like the Dunlop pictured here found on the back of France's Marvin Musquin's bike.

This massive triple jump was found on the backside of the track, and to see the riders jump it in person was awe inspiring. If it were on a flat smooth track, the jump alone would be impressive, but add to that a rutted out, unpredictable landing that changes every lap, and you have the makings for one scary leap. Here, Musquin takes to the skies during practice.

Germany's Ken Roczen has always performed well at the Motocross of Nations. In fact, this year was the third year in a row that he has garnered top honors in the MX2 class. In one moto, the young rider found himself as high as second behind only Jeffrey Herlings. At the end of the day, his efforts helped to secure Germany their first-ever MXoN team overall victory.

Before the start of the final MX1/MX3 moto, Roczen headed down to the start line to give his teammates Marcus Schiffer and Max Nagl some pointers on track conditions and support.

When the checkered flag flew for the final moto, Nagl's and Schiffer's consistent finishes helped the team secure the overall victory. Immediately, photographers trying to get the perfect photo mobbed them before heading to the podium.

We've been to quite a few MXoN races, but the scene at this year's podium was something you had to see to believe. If it wasn't for the fence, the massive crowd would likely have rushed up to the base of the podium. We almost got stuck outside the fence, pinned in to the point that we couldn't move.

As we mentioned, the win for Germany marked the country's first-ever overall victory at the Motocross of Nations. Next year, the MXoN will be hosted by Germany, and there's no doubt it will be extra special with the team running the red one, two, and three plates.

Getting champagne in your eyes hurts. Max Nagle put his podium goggles to good use.

The look of disappointment was apparent on the faces of all three Team USA riders. While they didn't win the race, they still gave it their all. Lommel is an unforgiving track that is completely different than anything they have ever ridden, and during the post-race press conference, all three riders complimented the European racers for their prowess in the sand with Baggett saying, "These guys [Cairoli, Herlings, and Roczen] are bad dudes."

It's never truly a Motocross of Nations in Europe if there isn't some nudity at some point. This guy ran up on the podium in nothing but a KTM g-string. After getting sprayed with Red Bull by Roczen, the dude turned around, bent over, and was promptly kicked off the stage.

Belgium's Prince Philippe (center) came out to witness the event and also presented the trophies to the teams during the podium ceremony.

Talk about the royal treatment. This building was standing alone and was the spot where the prince watched the racing action from.

After bad luck struck Barcia during Saturday's MX3 qualifying race, he yet again suffered during the first MX3 moto of the day. After coming together with Belgium's Ken De Dycker at the beginning of the moto, Barcia sustained damage to the spokes of his front wheel when De Dycker's footpeg got jammed in the wheel. Barcia continued the race, but on the final lap, the spokes got caught up in his front brake and stopped his wheel from spinning. If you look closely, you can actually see the broken spokes in the front wheel of Barcia's bike.

When the spokes got caught in the front wheel, Barcia was forced to push his bike into the pit area with no assistance from anyone until he was into the pits. The crew managed to dislodge the broken spokes and Barcia finished the moto in 14th.

This Motocross of Nations marked the final race for long-time World Motocross contender Josh Coppins. Throughout the weekend, the friendly New Zealander rode very well, as he represented his country for the last time in his long career.

European #pickupkit

Gratuitous Monster girl photo…

Heading into the weekend, there was a lot of hype and speculation about how Jeffrey Herlings of the Netherlands would do when racing against the likes of Cairoli, Dungey, and the rest of the top riders in the world aboard a 350 in the MX3 class. After it was all said and done, Herlings left no doubt in everyone's mind that he is the best sand rider in the world right now. While Cairoli won the final moto of the day, Herlings was able to come from a crash off the start to within striking distance of Cairoli during the last three laps of the race. After the race, Herlings said, "Even though I didn't win, coming from as far back as I did to second was like winning for me."

Herlings was sporting this buttpatch for the weekend.

In his last race aboard a Yamaha and in Europe before heading back to the U.S. to ride for the Geico Honda team, Zach Osborne and Team Puerto Rico had a rough weekend. After losing Jimmy Albertson due to injury, they recruited Kyle Chisholm at the last minute. But jet lag, an unfamiliar bike, and a track he’s never seen before play a major role in Chisholm’s performance. In the end, they found themselves in the B Final, but were unable to qualify into the A Final.

European #pickupkit See you next year at the Monster Energy Motocross of Nations in Germany!