Courtesy of RacerX

April 8, 2019 1:45pm

by Jason Thomas

We have changed the format to Breakdown this year. The Racer X staff will pose some burning questions from the weekend and I'll take my best crack at them.

Nashville’s whoops looked especially tough. What was different?

They were difficult, no doubt. The two main factors were height and deterioration. Tall whoops create more depth from the crest of a whoop down to flat ground. That depth creates more room for things to go wrong in between each whoop. If a rider drops the front wheel in between two whoops, taller whoops mean the angle of the bike gets more vertical (that’s bad). Riders are always looking to keep their bike on a flat plane across the tops of the whoops. In shorter whoops, there is a larger margin for error in that the front tire will hit the ground quicker and the bike angle remains more controllable if things don’t go to plan. You can often see this dynamic reflected in riders’ entry speed, body language, and general respect for where their front and rear tires are. If the whoops are small, riders won’t respect the whoops as much and that means faster, less precise execution. In big whoops like Nashville, though, lack of respect for the whoops usually ends in disaster. Everyone from Austin Forkner to Marvin Musquin to Mitchell Falk to Brandon Hartranft, and more all found themselves upside down at some point. Both sets of whoops were difficult and punished mistakes harshly. 

The deterioration upped the ante as the night wore on, too. Riders that wanted to blitz faced ever-evolving lines and those that wanted to jump had to deal with nasty ruts. Musquin is the best whoop jumper I have ever seen and even he crashed in the first set of whoops, effectively ending his chance of winning both the race and championship. The rain on Thursday night softened the dirt quite a bit (as did the rain in previous weeks leading up to the event). The soft whoops changed throughout the day and night, even after being rebuilt once during practice intermission and again before the racing began. Musquin usually capitalizes on that scenario but this time around he was the one that got it wrong.

What did you see with Justin Cooper and Chase Sexton?

Well, Forkner’s injury raised the urgency for both. They both knew a win was much more in play and as they were 1-2 after two turns, surely, they both felt this was the time. As Chase Sexton made a move coming back down the start straightaway, it looked like Justin Cooper hopped off the berm to avoid Sexton’s pass attempt. I think Cooper moved prematurely based on Sexton’s angle but sometimes perception is more important that reality. I think that first pass attempt by Sexton was perceived by Cooper to be more aggressive than it actually was. That perception instigated an aggressive response/retaliation in the corner before the whoops and both riders ended up on the ground. It wasn’t hard contact and certainly not punishable, but it also cost both of them the chance at a win. Sometimes young riders make mistakes that show their lack of experience. In hindsight, he will realize that it was the first lap, and nothing needed to be decided that early. Youthful exuberance is a powerful weapon at times, but it can also be a liability if unchecked. They both rode incredibly well to get back to the front, but I would be lying if I said they didn’t leave an uncontested win for Martin Davalos to snatch up. 

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RacerX 2019 Nashville Breakdown