I’m going to start off with a disclosure- I was 10 years old so anything prior to 1990 I wasn’t there (unfortunately).
My heroes were Travis Pastrana and Sebastien Tortelli growing up. So it’s pretty clear why I may claim this to be the best weekend of my life.
I’d followed both GP’s & AMA religiously. There wasn’t a rider I couldn’t name, nor recognise back then.
As I’ve got older I’ve realised building up to all Motocross des Nations events is a huge task for the riders to last the season without injury. Almost impossible in this sport.
Now, what made Saint Jean d’Angely so magnificent? Well..
The weather was better than you could imagine. Arguably hot, but the chances of the weather to be perfect at any MXdN are extremely slim.
125 World Champion – Grant Langston
250 World Champion – Fred Bolley
500 World Champion – Joel Smets
125 Outdoor Champion – Travis Pastrana
250 Outdoor Champion – Ricky Carmichael
125 East Coast Supercross Champion – Stephane Roncada
125 West Coast Supercross Champion – Shae Bentley
250 Supercross Champion – Jeremy McGrath
125 British Champion – Carl Nunn
250/Open British Champion – Gordon Crockard
The ‘party’ in the evenings had began on the Monday I’m sure. We arrived Thursday, after a couple days at Disney Land – I was more excited for the MXdN than Disney Land would you believe!
There were guys in speedos, still drunk from the previous night, ragging chain saw engines around, loud museum and what can only be compared to ‘Mad Max’ it was chaotic entertainment that would frighten those new to these events. It’s part of the weekend.
Skip the madness and boring stuff in between when waiting for an event to begin..
Honestly, I was most excited to watch the war between Travis Pastrana & Grant Langston. AMA Champion vs GP Champion. The beginning of a new chapter as Grant was headed to America for 2001. This was a pair of fearless teenagers who gave no fucks, just as long as they beat the other. This wasn’t about the team race itself, but a rivalry that’s spawned for years through schoolboy.
I shan’t give you a rolling commentary (I’d be shit at explaining what was going on) but this ‘bar to bar’ battle was like watching an Anime Dragonball Z battle. You could feel the ground shake when they landed, hit the braking bumps. Just screaming every decimal horsepower out of those factory 125’s. It was magnificent, simply breathtaking! With a barmy french full house, it was crazy!
The 250’s & 500’s were dominated by Ricky Carmichael & Ryan Hughes. It wasn’t boring, it was like watching two guys just making sure nobody else on the planet were here to beat team USA. The clean sweep made it clear, no team were coming close to them, BUT which individual riders could beat them?
GB were in the LCQ race. And what a race that was! Paul Coopers season long bike issues returned to haunt him after taking the lead and started pulling away.
It was painful to watch Travis crash on the start in both his moto’s. But watching him carve through the field on that 125 was like a man possessed. The iconic pass down the hill on his season long rival, Stephane Roncada blew everybody away! All weekend he’d been skydiving that section, bottoming out and springing like a pogo. Only a fearless bastard like Travis could pull this off as often as he did.
Jamie Dobb’s KTM deciding to die ON THE FINAL CORNER and giving Hughes the win was devastating for us Brits. He’d rode brilliant on that 520 KTM tank.
The Japanese were running an incredible pace to. Akira Narita battling the AMA 125 East Supercross Champion showed he was no slick (and his wildcard rides the following years proved it was no fluke)
Fred Bolley had broken his nose so that put the home country France completely out of it, but would that stop one of the fastest riders ever on 2 wheels to take it to the champion Ricky Carmichael? …this was about to be the loudest, most enthusiastic atmosphere I still to this day, have ever experienced.
Joel Smets was suffering from injury which unfortunately had him no longer a contender this weekend. Massive shame.
Marnicq Bervoets was flying on a factory 250 Rinaldi Yamaha, as was the 1999 500 World Champion Andrea Bartolini. It’s a shame I can’t make the ride these guys had sound better than what actually happened. The action for the lead outweighed everything.
Ricky Carmichael had the lead and it looked like nobody would touch him. That was until the #5 HRC rider ’Dyno’ Seb Tortelli decided to not read the script and show signs of what we had seen during his time racing GP’s.
But, he’d have to earn it. Nobody passes Carmichael and gets away with it. This was a blocking, bar bashing, shoulder pushing war. Things you won’t be able to do today without getting a fine, or penalised. As a spectator, I was loving it. As were the French crowd, and if there’s one thing the french are best at, that’s getting over enthusiastic and loud. The entire atmosphere had faded the sounds of the bikes on track. It was like turning a surround sound system on full blast in an empty room. Mind blowing (literally).
Tortelli won the moto, took a lap of honour with a french flag. Team USA had won the event.
It would go down as my all time favourite race (on tv and in person) that I can’t see ever being repeated.
If I could go back to one weekend of racing. Saint Jean d’Angely 2000 Motocross des Nations would be the top of my list.
Copyright © Pat Stott