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Gaffney's Earlybird Rider/Team Picks for the 2023 Motocross Des Nations

As August begins, Motocross fans can expect to start seeing some rider lineups for this year's Motocross Des Nations to begin rolling out as we get closer to the end of the MXGP and AMA Motocross tilts. Hell, Canada has already beaten everyone to the punch with their unit of Dylan Wright, Ryder McNabb, and Jess Pettis. On top of some rumored lineups to be announced in the coming weeks (mainly Great Britain), I thought I'd do a little arm-chair team managing for the countries that finished top 10 last year at RedBud. Here's how things turned out.

Gaffney's 2023 Motocross Des Nations Earlybird Selections

Team United Kingdom

MXGP: No. 28 Ben Watson (MRT Racing Team Beta) MX2: No. 29 Josh Gilbert (Crendon Fastrack Honda) Open: No. 30 Conrad Mewse (Crendon Fastrack Honda)

The Brits suffered a massive drop in performance at Des Nations a year ago. Finishing third in the prior four runnings, Her (His now, I guess???) Majesty's squad ended up nearly outside the top 10, with none of their three riders scoring better than a 15th at RedBud. Both Dean Wilson and Max Anstie are no-go's because of WSX, but the Brits usually have some solid options to choose from.

The X-Factor of this group would be one Conrad Mewse. Now running full-time in his home National Championship, he's set to win his first MX1 title when the series lines up again in September. At first, I had him bumping down to a 250 so the team could run Watson and then Tommy Searle on 450s, but according to Lewis Phillips on the Vital forums, Searle won't be on the team. He's recently returned from an injury running the British Nats but hasn't had the results/speed all year after winning three straight titles. Instead, it will be Josh Gilbert, who's slated to finish right behind Mewse, hopping down onto a 250. Not a heavyweight contender, but far from the worst trio the Brits could go with.

Team Switzerland

MXGP: No. 25 Jeremy Seewer (Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha) MX2: No. 26 Kevin Bruman (JK Racing Yamaha) Open: No. 27 Valentin Guillod (Shiptocycle Honda Motoblouz SR)

Jeremy Seewer feels like he's effectively in the same spot Tim Gajser is when it comes to Des Nations. He could put up two podium results and it probably wouldn't matter in the grand scheme of things. That said, Guillod has been to the rodeo a few times before and is in the middle of a career year in the GPs, currently ninth in the standings. This isn't a winning team, but if they can get a couple of good Motos out of Guillod and then one out of Bruman, there's a universe where the Swiss could finish top five with some help.

Team Germany

MXGP: No. 22 Tom Koch (Kosak Racing KTM) MX2: No. 23 Simon Laengenfelder (Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing MXGP)

Open: No. 24 Max Nagl (KMP Honda)

Some time ago, Germany gave out a name of 'finalists' for the German team, which was literally every active option minus Dom Thury. Likely not having Ken Roczen will sting, but they still have a blue-chipper in Laengenfelder. My only question is would they do what the Belgians did a year ago with Jago Geerts and move their best guy up to a 450? That move paid out in spades, so if that happen, I wouldn't hate it at all. Still, Koch and Nagl can give the Germans some quality outings in Ernee. Last year the worst either of them did was an 18th from Koch in Moto 3, Germany's drop score.

Team Holland/Netherlands

MXGP: No. 19 Jeffrey Herlings (Red Bull KTM MXGP) MX2: No. 20 Kay De Wolf (Nestaan Husqvarna Factory Racing) Open: No. 21 Glenn Coldenhoff (Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha)

Gotta imagine there are going to be some tough conversations as it relates to putting this Dutch squad together in the coming weeks. You have Herlings, who's just returned after a notable neck injury, Coldenhoff, and then Calvin Vlaanderen, all running top seven in the MXGP standings. Not to mention Kay De Wolf and Roan Van De Moosdijk top eight in the MX2 points before the latter broke his collarbone.

There's a scenario where the Dutch move Vlaanderen back down to a 250 and run back the 2019 lineup, but even with De Wolf going down with a recent injury, I'd give him the MX2 nod, assuming it's nothing long term of course. After the MXGP of Checzia, the Nestaan Husky rider was five points clear of Jago Geerts for second place in the standings. My only worry with Herlings is that he's just coming off yet another injury, a neck injury at that. Based on his run at the MXGP of Finland, it's going to take some time for him to get back up to speed, much like Jason Anderson stateside, but if for whatever reason he can't get it together, you could do far worse than Vlaanderen and Coldenhoff. Hell, Des Nations was the Glenn Coldenhoff Invitational for a few years.

Team Spain

MXGP: No. 16 Jorge Prado (Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing MXGP) MX2: No. 17 Oriol Oliver (WZ Racing KTM) Open: No. 18 Ruben Fernandez (Honda HRC MXGP)

Had Guillem Farres not gone down for the season at the Thunder Valley National, Spain would have been a real contender to win this whole thing in 2023. The biggest reason is that Jorge Prado has finally figured out how to put two Motos together and will likely win this year's MXGP World Championship a couple of rounds early. That was the only notable flaw he had for a solid five years and he finally figured it out, genuinely impressed. The GasGas rider now sits 98 points clear of Romain Febvre and has won 6 of the last 10 Motos across the pond.

Even with Farres sidelined, Oliver would be a decent pickup for the Spanish. Hasn't run every MX2 round this year, but has put together some solid outings, including recently at Lommel (Belgium) and Vantaa (Finland). Also worth noting is that Fernandez, who's done a great job holding down the HRC fort overseas with Tim Gajser hurt, had a huge crash in Finland. Although he seems to have made it out ok, I'd be interested to see how he looks once he gets back going. If the results dip, Jose Butron would be a sensible backup option.

Team Belgium

MXGP: No. 13 Jago Geerts (Monster Energy KEMEA Yamaha) MX2: No. 14 Lucas Coenen (Nestaan Husqvarna Factory Racing) Open: No. 15 Liam Everts (Red Bull KTM MXGP) (Possibly running a 350 via Lewis Phillips)

Might not come to fruition this year, but the nation that had a stranglehold on this event in the late 90s/early 2000s will be back on the winning track sooner rather than later. Having guys like the Coenen Brothers, Geerts, and yet another Everts is an embarrassment of riches, especially when they are all still coming into their own.

Especially after last year, Geerts hoping up to a 450 is a no-brainer, but I think the Belgians should roll the dice and go with a full 250-rider lineup with Everts and the elder of the Coenen brothers, Lucas. Geerts doing that good, especially after the fashion he lost the MX2 title, was nothing short of incredible. I also don't hate the idea of Everts getting that slight engine bump, him on a 350 would be one of the bigger storylines this year, I'd like to think.

Team Italy

MXGP: No. 10 Mattia Guadagnini (Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing MXGP) MX2: No. 11 Andrea Adamo (Red Bull KTM MXGP) Open: No. 12 Alberto Forato (SM Action Racing/YUASA Battery KTM)

Even a few months removed from an arm break, I'd still give Guadagnini a shot at captaining this year's Italian squad. Especially considering he was Italy's MVP in 2021 when they took home the Chamberlain trophy on home soil. Additionally, it sounds like Guadagnini is very close to returning. So yeah, this feels like an easy decision assuming the results don't just fade away. He's also just doing whips on an enduro bike now which feels psychotic.

Andrea Adamo, meanwhile, might not be a household name in the United States, but he's well on his way to giving Red Bull KTM back-to-back World MX2 Championships. Only two Moto and GP wins all year, but 18 Moto finishes on the podium. Adamo's ability to put up consistent finishes is going to pay massive dividends after he went 15-15 in his Des Nations debut in RedBud.

As for the People's* (*- Me and Steve Matthes) Rider Alberto Forato, he's on track for a career-best season with the SM Action KTM squad, eighth in the points as the stand. This would also be a great opportunity to avenge a poor outing out in Assen in 2019, where he went 20-33 in a dismal all-around day for the Italians, with no Tony Cairoli that year.

Team Australia

MXGP: No. 7 Jett Lawrence (Honda HRC AMA) MX2: No. 8 Hunter Lawrence (Honda HRC AMA) Open: No. 9 Mitch Evans (Kawasaki Racing Team MXGP)

70 times has the Motocross Des Nations come and gone, and not once has Australia come out on top. Even in the several years they rolled out Chad Reed and Brett Metcalfe, something always came up, and they never sealed the deal against some great USA and Belgian teams. Something tells me that trend will buck very soon, possibly in just a matter of months. Can thank a certain undefeated Honda 450 rider for that.

This will almost certainly be the last year Michael Byrne (Australian Team Manager) can roll out the lineup he did a year ago, with both Lawrence brothers slated to be on 450s next year, but for now, they, along with Mitch Evans, could be the best lineup in the event. The KRT rider used up Australia's mulligan last year with a 28th in race three, but he put them in great shape earlier in the day with a fifth. Whether or not the win is ultimately down to Evans, but assuming Hunter Lawrence can be slightly better than he was at RedBud as well, Australia is a shoo-in for another podium.

Team USA

MXGP: No. 1 Chase Sexton (Honda HRC AMA) MX2: No. 2 Haiden Deegan (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha) Open: No. 3 Aaron Plessinger (Red Bull KTM AMA)

Gonna close out with the French since this is a home game for them, but this is quite the year for the United States. Had Eli Tomac not ruptured his Achilles and Justin Cooper not planned his wedding the same weekend as Des Nations, this should have, and most likely would have been last year's lineup once again. Now there's a real chance that no one from last year is making the trip to France.

According to Steve Matthes, Chase Sexton wants to do Des Nations, Honda is ok with him doing Des Nations, but it may not happen. Not sending someone who has shown he can challenge Jett Lawrence this summer and who willingly wants to go would be a choice. A terrible one, but a choice all the same. Even with the mistakes all year and the impending switch to KTM, you have to let Sexton make the trip if he's down for it. He's your best shot at winning again, and it's not even close given what's available. This shouldn't be a behind-the-scenes politics show, send the best team possible.

The bigger debate Roger De Coster will have is over the MX2 spot. Between Haiden Deegan and R.J. Hampshire, you have a pair of solid options to mull over. Remember that Hampshire was going to be the MX2 rider in 2021 before Team USA pulled the plug on the team for the year, and he's been far more consistent than usual these last few Nationals. However, with how Deegan has looked this year, especially after Washougal, you might have to go with the kid. Look what happened when Ryan Villopoto got a shot in 2007 at Budds Creek, could be a similar situation here.

Then for the Open spot, AP makes a ton of sense given his year, connection to De Coster, and prior Des Nations experience, but another sneaky popular option has been Justin Barcia. He's yet to run a National this year, but if there was one guy you'd trust in a big spot, effectively coming off the couch, it's BamBam, right? If he ends up looking good at Unadilla/Budds Creek, I wouldn't doubt he gets some consideration. But the most likely scenario is Plessinger gets his first Des Nations nod since 2018, and there is money to be made on Aaron Plessinger No. 3 merch, I'll tell you what. Should this be the lineup the United States send, they probably have the best all-around team by a hair over Australia and then the home team.

Team France

MXGP: No. 4 Maxime Renaux (Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha) MX2: No. 5 Tom Vialle (Red Bull KTM AMA) Open: No. 6 Romain Febvre (Kawasaki Racing Team MXGP)

To be frank (realized the pun as soon as I wrote it down), the French Motocross Federation can do anything, as they've done for a while, for better or worse. Remember when they kicked Tom Vialle off the team in 2019 over a Red Bull logo on the team hat? No, seriously, I genuinely wish I was joking. Wildly unserious behavior on their part. Given that their best GP option for MX2, Thibault Benistant, recently suffered a notable head injury and then bowed out of Lommel because he had vision issues that Saturday, Vialle is now their best option, even with the struggles on a non-GP KTM frame.

The injury bug doesn't stop there because Maxime Renaux has missed a ton of time this year with a foot injury, but he is likely close to returning. If Dylan Ferrandis is a no-go, you may as well go with Renaux, who at 75%-80%, is still probably one of the best riders in this hypothetical field. Febvre, meanwhile, has been the best MXGP rider for the last 1.5 months, winning the last five GPs with five Moto wins in that span. It's been rough sledding since 2019 for the French, but this group could get them back to the top.

Main Image via Honda HRC

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