In an era where professional motocross here in the United States is reaching for the same level of status and professionalism found in other professional motorsports at the highest level, we were shocked to read the “open letter” distributed by James Stewart yesterday. In our opinion, the letter is both poorly written and ill conceived.
No one will deny that Stewart is a great supercross and motocross rider, but his status as a sportsman is subject to debate. His return to outdoor motocross at Unadilla last weekend was preceded by much anticipation he would dominate both motos. After all, among his other accomplishments, he has a perfect outdoor season to his credit (24 wins in 24 motos), something unprecedented in history, with the lone exception being Ricky Carmichael (who achieved this twice). Instead, Stewart showed up unprepared . . . poorly conditioned and with poor bike set-up. Although he ran near the front in the first moto, and finished in third position, he pulled out of the second moto after just a few laps while running mid-pack .
Of course, we will never know what Roger DeCoster or AMA representatives may have said to Stewart, who concludes in his letter that “he was straight up lied to”, but to expect a place on the Motocross of Nations Team USA (which was awarded to battle-hardened riders who have competed throughout the entire AMA Lucas Oil championship, including Ryan Dungey, Trey Canard and Andrew Short) after 8 months off (apparently, little of which was spent on physical conditioning and outdoor bike set-up) seems more than a bit presumptuous to us, and could have contributed to some dissension among other members of Team USA had he been given a spot under the circumstances.
Roger DeCoster has an incredible record as manager of Team USA at the Motocross of Nations. Don’t doubt for one second that his only goal is putting Team USA on the top of the podium. He has done it many, many times, with a huge variety of riders. To the extent that he has influence over the selection of Team USA (and we believe he has a great deal of influence), we think he would pick the riders who are most likely to be ready, and finish consistently near the front in both motos at the event.
The Motocross of Nations will be held in the United States this year, in Denver, the weekend of September 25th. I am certain that Honda and Suzuki are excited to have riders on Team USA, and that Yamaha is disappointed Stewart will not be there. Had Stewart come back earlier and ridden more of the outdoor tracks in preparation, it is easy to imagine he would have established himself as one of the three guys deserving a spot on the team. Given the circumstances, however, we think his “open letter” comes across as sour grapes, and unprofessional. Here is the full text of Stewart’s open letter.
As many of you already know, last weekend marked my return to racing after wayyy too long off the track, thanks to a broken wrist I suffered in the beginning of the Supercross series. After nearly eight months off, I decided to return for the last four Nationals. This decision was based on a few reasons; first and foremost was my own desire to race again, along with the fact that I owed it to both my fans and my sponsors to come back after spending so much time on the injured list this year.
But the other main reason I chose to come back for the last four, beginning with Unadilla, was because of a discussion I had with the decision makers for Team USA in Colorado this year regarding the Red Bull Motocross of Nations. At the time, I was told that if I was to make my recovery, begin testing, and get back to racing by Unadilla, that I would be given a spot (or at least a shot at a spot) for the final team. Being on the MXoN team in the past has been one of the greatest experiences of my entire career, so after they told me I had a shot, my team and I were excited, and began to get ready to race outdoors!
Of course, we’re a Supercross-only team, so developing our bike to run outdoors with the guys that have been racing at the top level all season long was no easy goal for us… Which brings me to the race at Unadilla. When I got there, I was really excited to get out and practice, and fortunately, practice went pretty well. At that point, the track was still smooth, and though I’ve never loved Unadilla, I was feeling pretty good. My wrist felt great, and my lap times were just about where we expected them to be.
Then, for the first moto, the track got rough and things were a bit different. All of a sudden, we could see some of the lack of preparation shining through; my bike was set up way too stiff for the rough track, but all things considered, I was pretty happy with how I rode. I got into second and my lap times were right there with Dungey’s, and again my wrist was feeling pretty good, so it was all good until I got caught up with a lapper towards the end of the race. Sure I was tired, but for not racing for that long, I was happy to be on the podium. I gave it everything I had, and it was awesome seeing all my fans out there supporting me.
Unfortunately, the second moto didn’t quite go so well. As the track got rougher, our lack of bike preparation showed even more. After getting a bad start, I was just fighting with the bike; it was way too stiff and just not set up properly. At that point, I really had nothing to gain by staying out there, so I just decided to pull off, lick my wounds, and learn from the weekend.
I’m not going to say I didn’t get tired, but given the lack of racing, and the fact that I know where I need to be physically to win, I feel good about Unadilla, overall. Bottom line: We’re a Supercross-only team; we got to Unadilla, and we looked like a Supercross-only team! But my wrist felt better than expected, so with a little bike prep I think we’ll be back on our game.
But back to the MXoN topic. I was really disappointed in how that whole deal went down. Like I said earlier, after being told that if I was to make it back for the last four Nationals, I would be given a shot at being on the team. Well, when I got to Unadilla, apparently the decision had already been made before my bike was even unloaded! So after all that work from me and my team to come back in order to make the des Nations, just like that, the rug was pulled out from under me with no warning. They picked the team already, and I wasn’t on it.
I feel like I was straight-up lied to. Being on the MXoN team is one of the biggest honors and compliments that you be given as a professional rider, and I know that with my injury there was some question as to whether I would be ready or not. I get that; all I wanted was to be even given the original chance they promised me, let me get through a couple races, and hopefully the team could see that I would be ready come September.
At the end of the day, all that really matters to me is that Team USA wins, and I think the team they selected is a solid team that will get the job done. I mean no disrespect to any of those guys, and I hope they kick butt! I’m just bummed that I was given the fair shot that the decision makers from Team USA promised me earlier that I would have.