2016 Supercross Preview

The AMA Supercross season opener in Anaheim is just over a week away. Each year, fans and pundits alike will tell you that the upcoming season is sure to be the deepest and most competitive in history.

This almost never happens.

Why? Quite simply, it is extremely difficult to ride and train at an elite level and stay healthy for 17 weeks, while minimizing bad results. The AMA points system heavily rewards consistency, so the most successful riders in a given season tend to be experienced, with a few 450 seasons under their belt. In recent years, the final standings have been pretty devoid of rookies.

The supercross/motocross season is long and grueling, stretching from January to deep in the fall. The short off season leaves little time for improvement, let alone adapting to a new motorcycle or to recover from injury. It is rare that a rider totally reinvents himself going into the start of the new year. In general, they are who we thought they were.

Let’s take a look at the contenders, and their odds of winning the title:

Dungey is your defending champ.

Ryan Dungey (3–1)

Red Bull KTM’s Dungey is your defending champ. On paper, it seems idiotic to bet against him this year. 2015 was the best season of his career. The KTM was vastly improved, his move to the Aldon Baker training camp seemed to inspire some mental toughness and intensity, all in all he was very dominant. However, don’t forget that his success came in the absence of Ryan Villopoto and James Stewart, two guys who won fully 75% of the races in 2014. His advantages over Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac came through preparation, racecraft, and consistency, not necessarily outright speed. Roczen had a clear edge at the start of supercross, and Tomac was quasar-fast at the beginning of the Nationals — yet Dungey won the war both times.

Dungey has to be one of the favorites, but there is one other sticking point: despite his five AMA 450 championships, he has never successfully defended a title.

Tomac goes green for 2016.

Eli Tomac (4–1)

For 5 motos in a row last summer, many people feel that Eli Tomac was going faster on a motocross bike than maybe anyone, ever. That came to a halt with this.

Dual-shoulder surgery is hardly ideal season prep, not to mention switching bikes and teams at the same time. But Eli says he’s ready, and over the last decade, Kawasaki is the most successful team in the pits. A bet on Tomac is a bet on his pure speed and unique, Everts-like technique. Second last year, he knows his time is now. Despite his crasher rep, he can put together a series. You can guarantee that he’s the guy Dungey fears most.

Roczen is looking to rebound from a rough 2015.

Ken Roczen (5–1)

The affable German made some big moves prior to last year, ditching his trainer and leaving the powerhouse KTM team. Switching to his own program and the RCH Suzuki did not pan out. After a good start, by midsummer the team environment devolved into out-and-out warfare. Credit to Roczen that he seemingly rallied his troops, winning the last outdoor moto as well as the pre-season Monster Cup. Probably the most naturally talented rider in the field, he will have races where he wins seemingly effortlessly. But as we saw in last year’s MX Nation video series, Roczen openly admits that he leaves a lot on the table when it comes to training and fitness. This will likely hurt him down the stretch.

Trey Canard (11–1)

Canard is your nuclear-holocaust scenario. It is possible that the three main contenders are lost due to injury or other circumstances, and a champ still needs to be crowned. Trey Canard is injured so often, he should have zippers installed to give his surgeons easier access.

But the guy knows how to win. He has good classical cornering technique, whips and scrubs aggressively (too aggressively), and rides with a lot of heart. He has bounced back from every one of his major injuries to win premier-class races against all odds. The smart money says he’ll have yet another hit-and miss season, but like Doug Henry in 1998, sometimes it’s your year.

The Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series airs at 10:00pm ET on January 9, on Fox Sports 1.