The first race of any championship season is always an exciting one, but Monster Energy Supercross just might deliver the most intriguing opener of 2019 on its very first weekend. Angel Stadium of Anaheim is the host for the first of 17 events for the world’s top riders, and with many of the sport’s top teams receiving a full overhaul in the 2018-19 offseason, it’s anybody’s guess who will stand out.
From riders like Joey Savatgy who will be making their 450 championship debuts in Anaheim, to veterans like Cooper Webb who have joined new teams for this season, to superstars like Ken Roczen who missed portions of last year due to injury, storylines abound as we kick off the year. Here are three 450 riders and one 250 rider to pay attention to when the gate drops:
Yeah, Jason Anderson won the 2018 Supercross title, but let’s be real: Tomac was probably the best rider out there last year. He won eight of 17 races, and it was only because of his crash at Anaheim 1 and subsequent DNS in Houston that he spent almost the whole season on the back foot. Now, the Colorado native has a chance to write a new chapter in the history books and finally earn his first indoor 450 title. And considering that he won Anaheim 2 last year, he has to like his chances.
After joining JGR/Yoshimura Suzuki for the first time in last year’s Pro Motocross finale, returning to the outdoor circuit for the first time in a number of years, Reed proved that he’s still as competitive and reliable as ever. Reed earned the inaugural FIM Oceania Supercross championship in November with a perfect weekend in New Zealand, beating top riders like Justin Brayton, Christian Craig, Dean Wilson, and even Anderson. He may be 36 years old, but he’s riding with the energy of a fresher face.
How will last year’s 250SX West champion perform in his move up to the 450 class? Plessinger’s dominance of both the indoor and outdoor seasons in 2018 forced Monster Energy Yamaha’s hand this offseason and earned him a spot on the larger factory bike alongside Justin Barcia. Add that to the number he’s chosen for this year—the 7 once used by James “Bubba” Stewart—and a stout rookie crop, and the pressure is on for Plessinger to perform at the highest level.
Does McElrath have what it takes to seize control of the 250SX West region? With Plessinger gone, the field is somewhat open for a new lead dog to make 2019 a year to remember. Adam Cianciarulo, RJ Hampshire, and Dylan Ferrandis will be among McElrath’s top veteran title challengers, and Cianciarulo was in fact within only two points of Plessinger for last year’s title. But McElrath was also the top dog in Anaheim last year, winning the first round and placing second to Savatgy in the second.