NEW BERLIN — On the 50th birthday of one of America’s premier motocross venues, the European riders were the ones celebrating.
Ken Roczen of Germany won the 450 class in dominant fashion and Dylan Ferrandis of France edged out the competition in the 250 class as European riders filled three of the six podium positions Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019 at the 34th Unadilla National.
Unadilla Motocross, which is celebrating its 50th year of hosting professional racing, posed a unique challenge that the European riders were able to grasp.
“A lot of people say it’s a European track but it’s not really. That’s why I left the European tracks because this track is just awesome to ride,” Ferrandis said. “You have everything here. It’s long, it’s fast, you have uphill, downhill, just everything. I like the tracks here in America and especially this one.”
“For whatever reason, I flowed really well with the track. But at the same time, I had a couple of really sketchy moments out there. It was tough,” Roczen said. “I for sure had some close calls, nothing crazy crash-wise, but I definitely had to keep my head on straight.”
Rain Friday night gave way to a mostly sunny Saturday, creating solid but increasingly rutted conditions as the day went on.
“I think I’ve had one race on this track while it’s dry since I’ve turned pro. It was cool to ride this track how it’s supposed to be,” said Chase Sexton, the third-place finisher in the 250 class. “It was nice, during practice it had nice ruts and was super tacky. The track was awesome all day."
The racers from overseas took advantage of the course’s technical demands. Marvin Musquin of France took second in both 450 motos, taking second on the day, while Zach Osborne of Virginia tallied a pair of fourth-place finishes to take third overall.
In the 250, two Americans joined Ferrandis on the podium as points leader Adam Cianciarulo won the first moto and finished behind only Ferrandis in the second, taking second overall. Sexton was third in both motos to finish third overall.
“The fans are crazy. That’s one thing. There was a load of people here today and they were all enthusiastic, with the air horns and everything it was awesome, almost a European feeling,” Osborne said. “The track itself was old school, rough and gnarly, just proper motocross as we know it.”
New York representatives did not fare too well in their home state. Bainbridge’s Corey Burnett did not qualify for the final motos, taking 31st in the consolation race of his third appearance at Unadilla.
In the 250 class, Justin Cooper of Cold Spring Harbor looked to move up from third in the points, and led early in the first moto. But a fall pushed him back to fourth, and he was unable to move up from fourth again in the second race as he finished fourth overall.
In the 450, Justin Barcia of Monroe entered ranking seventh in points. He took third in the first moto, earning his first podium of the year, but an early fall in the second race required a strong second-half effort to finish in 10th place, sixth overall.
“The track was really difficult for us, a lot of ruts, a lot of bumps,” Ferrandis said “It made it tough physically and technically. It was very important, technique, to get flow on this track because it was difficult.”
The day’s biggest surprise came in the first 450 moto, when Roczen passed points leader Eli Tomac early, and pulled away from the field for an authoritative victory while Tomac fell to seventh.
In the second moto, Roczen overtook Musquin early on for the lead, and was not pushed on his way to a 1-1 day. Tomac was third, clinching a fourth-place finish overall.
“This weekend I was just on. Physically I felt better than all of the previous races,” Roczen said. “I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a perfect day, going 1-1...it’s pretty crazy to think of.”
The 250 provided less drama as Ferrandis and Cianciarulo continued their fight atop the points standings in both motos. Cianciarulo led for most of the first moto after Cooper’s fall, and Ferrandis was in control for all of the second.
The results mean Ciancarulo (441 points) has a 28-point lead atop the standings, while Ferrandis (413) remains in second and Cooper is third (382). Just four motos remain as the series heads to Mechanisville, Maryland on Aug. 17 for the Budds Creek National. Crawfordsville, Indiana hosts for the year’s final event, Ironman National, Aug. 24.
“Obviously we are always trying to finish in front of Dylan and he is trying to do the opposite,” Cianciarulo said. “I think it’s imperative that I stick with the offensive mentality, not get too defensive and not ride too, too smart, but at the same time make good decisions.”
In the 450, Tomac (426) retains a 40-point lead in his campaign for a third consecutive championship. Roczen (385) is the last rider other than Tomac to win the title, taking the crown in 2016, and occupies third place, one point behind Musquin (386).