Eli Tomac showed that he's still the rider to beat in the 450 Class after sweeping the first round of the 2018 Lucas OIl Pro Motocross Championship.
The season got underway with a fairly familiar sight—Christian Craig beating everyone to the line for a holeshot. There was a lot of shuffling behind Craig, but at the end of the first lap, it was Jason Anderson, Marvin Musquin, Justin Barcia, Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen running second through sixth.
Less than four minutes into the moto, Craig relinquished the lead to Anderson. Meanwhile, defending champion Tomac was charging through the field after a relatively poor start. It wasn’t long before he sliced through the field to get up to third behind Anderson and Craig. With Musquin making a charge of his own, there was some more shuffling that put Musquin into second, Tomac into third and Craig into fourth.
About eight minutes into the race, Musquin caught Anderson and made a pass for the lead, and then shortly after, Tomac was able to use the halfpipe to pass Anderson for second place. That set up the battle that many were looking forward to—Tomac vs. Musquin! Not only were Tomac and Musquin the top two title contenders last year (and the presumptive favorites again this year), they also had an incident during the supercross season that added a little bad blood to their rivalry.
While many probably speculated whether Tomac would use some sort of aggressive pass to take the lead from Musquin, it didn’t come to that. Instead, it was an unforced error—going off the track—that cost Musquin the top spot. After Tomac cruised by, Musquin was unable to mount a challenge, and the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider ultimately took the checkered flag by more than 13 seconds. Fortunately for Musquin, the rest of the field was no threat to him, so he was able to cruise to a second-place finish.
Barcia was able to earn a spot alongside them on the podium after passing Anderson shortly before the halfway point of the race. The position looked to be in peril when Anderson stepped it up late in the race and caught back up to him, but Barcia fended off the supercross champ and secured third place. Anderson finished fourth.
The top five was rounded out by Weston Peick, who was able to pass Roczen with two laps to go. Roczen ended up in sixth place—a solid result considering the status of his recovery and his lowered expectations for this weekend—after holding off a hard-charging Blake Baggett on the final lap.
Craig, who lost several positions after a fall earlier in the race, took eighth. Phil Nicoletti and Benny Bloss finished out the top ten.
When the gate dropped, it was Phil Nicoletti beating Anderson to the line for the holeshot, but Barcia got by both of them on the opening lap to take over the lead. Barcia led the field for several minutes until getting re-passed by Anderson.
As for Moto 1 winner Tomac, he was well outside the top ten as this race got underway, but then he did what he always does in that situation—make a ton of passes. On his march toward the front, he caught up with his rival Musquin but was unable to pass him. The two title contenders continued moving through the field, and in a short span of time, Musquin got around both Roczen and Barcia to move into second place. Tomac soon followed suit to move into third, but before he could make a run at Musquin, Tomac tipped over in a turn and gave that position back to Barcia.
While Tomac had to deal with passing Barcia a second time, a battle was brewing up front. With about 12 minutes to go on the countdown clock, Musquin caught and passed Anderson to take away the lead. Meanwhile Tomac went on an absolute tear while overtaking Barcia (again) and then Anderson to get into second place.
Clearly Tomac would not be denied. After catching his rival, the reigning champ scrubbed a jump and was able to cut inside of Musquin as they entered the halfpipe to secure the top spot. Tomac was then able to quickly stretch out his lead, while Musquin was forced to settle for second place once again.
Tomac’s 1-1 and Musquin’s 2-2 finishes matched their results from Hangtown one year ago. It also placed them first and second, respectively, overall for the day. Tomac will carry the points lead into Round 2, but Musquin will only be six points back.
The final spot on the overall podium was filled by Barcia (3-3), who passed Anderson to nab a third-place finish in Moto 2. Anderson (4-6) also ceded positions late in the race to Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS teammates Baggett and Bloss but still edged out Baggett (7-4) for fourth overall.
Despite a good start in Moto 2, Roczen—who had been running in third at one point—dropped all the way back to 16th by the end of the race.
1. Eli Tomac, KAW, (1-1)
2. Marvin Musquin, KTM, (2-2)
3. Justin Barcia, YAM, (3-3)
4. Jason Anderson, HQV, (4-6)
5. Blake Baggett, KTM, (7-4)
Photo: Simon Cudby