The top supercross athletes racing in the 450 SX and 250 SX classes, including a handful of local riders from southwest Riverside County, faced off as the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross got underway Saturday, Jan. 4, at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. The location has become a popular site to start at as it has hosted the most rounds in the history of supercross. The Monster Energy Supercross has been dubbed as the most competitive and highest-profile off-road motorcycle racing series on the planet, attracting nearly 1 million fans in live attendance over the course of the 17-race series.
The kick-off to the event started with 44 riders all attempting to hole shot the season. Hole shot is simply a racing term referring to the ability to get moving faster than your opponent; hence a good hole shot refers to the ability to get a vehicle moving to a good speed and out in front of a competitor if racing from a standstill. The 2020 season will feature the world’s most elite athletes chasing their supercross dreams onto U.S. soil inside America’s most well-known stadiums.
Top riders like 2019 450 SX Class Champion Cooper Webb, 2019 Monster Energy Cup 450SX Class Champion Adam Cianciarulo, plus Jason Anderson, Eli Tomac, Justin Barcia, Ken Roczen, Chad Reed, Justin Brayton, Blake Baggett, Zach Osborne, Martin Davalos, and Malcolm Stewart will all make the return this year. Southwest Riverside County riders returning or making their debuts include Justin Cooper of Menifee, Cade Autenrieth of Hemet, Sean Cantrell of Murrieta, Bradley Lionnet of Menifee, Enzo Lopes of Wildomar, Michael Mosiman of Menifee, Fredrik Noren of Menifee, an international rider from Sweden; Weston Peick of Wildomar and Austin Politelli of Murrieta.
A supercross season is intense with 17 races in as many weeks, which means there is no time to waste and no time to get hurt as an injury can wipe out the entire season. The last two championships have gone to riders no one predicted during the opening round, of course, the season often has the same personality as an individual race. Getting the holes hot does not guarantee success, but it makes it easier to manage the rest of the year.
Last year the muddy track conditions in the first Anaheim race shuffled the standings around early and gave surprise wins to Justin Barcia in the 450 class and Colt Nichols in 250 West. Barcia would go on to finish 13th in the standings; Nichols finished third, while the eventual champions Cooper Webb finished fifth in 450s and Dylan Ferrandis was second in the 250 class.
“I am looking forward to competing,” Murrieta’s Austin Politelli, 25, said. “I have been practicing upward of 4 times a week and I am feeling really good right now.”
Politelli, who grew up in Big Bear before moving to the southwest Riverside area, turned pro in 2012 and returned to the circuit this year with high hopes. Backed by sponsors like TPJ Fly Racing, DSE Construction, Cal Coast Plumbers and HRT, to name a few, he said he expects to give last year’s top riders some good competition.
“I have been training with fellow pro guys like Jason Hansen and Josh Hill, who have really been pushing me to get out in front early,” Politelli said, who finished in 18th place through the last chance qualifier round this past weekend.
Justin Cooper of Menifee took the top spot in the 250 SX race while Justin Barcia took it in the 450 SX race. Of course, a lot of focus was on 450 SX rookie, Adam Cianciarulo who took second place, as he made his debut in front of a sold-out Angel Stadium. Last year he beat Eli Tomac, one of the most successful 450 riders the past few seasons, in the Monster Energy Cup, proving that he can compete with the sport’s best.
Cianciarulo is among the most renowned rookies to enter the 450 class and is one of the winningest minibike riders in amateur motocross history. He won his first career supercross start, putting the spotlight on him as the sport’s next great superstar.
“I have been under the microscope for a long time and have always had a lot of weight on my shoulders,” Cianciarulo said. “But all I want to do is continue to learn and grow and set myself up for the future.”
Cooper Webb finished third in the 450 SX race, followed by Blake Baggett and Jason Anderson. Chad Reed is racing in his final supercross season, which got off to a rough start. He went down in the first corner while competing with Tomac for the hole shot. Reed Continued and finished 12th, in that race, then finished second in the Last Chance race, 2.834 seconds behind Osborne to earn a spot in the main event. As for Tomac, he passed Malcolm Stewart on the penultimate lap to finish fourth in the first heat race.
Next up the riders will head to St. Louis before returning for Round 3 of the Monster Energy Supercross in Anaheim Saturday, Jan. 18. For complete coverage, visit www.amasupercross.com.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.