Observation Check Column

Kit Palmer | December 15, 2020

Observation Check


The best thing about the year 2020 is that it’s now behind us. And I don’t think I need to explain why that’s a good thing. I think we can all agree that it’s been a year to forget, indeed, and that we’re all ready to move on into a more promising 2021.

Observation Check Column

But 2020 wasn’t all bad. Some good has come out of 2020, especially when it comes to motorcycles and motorcycle racing. Especially motorcycle racing. In my opinion, this was one of the best years ever. I don’t recall a year when I looked forward to the weekends (and sometimes Wednesdays) as much as I did this year, once racing resumed in earnest, starting with Supercross, after the initial lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

You have to give Feld Entertainment huge kudos for figuring out a way to complete its 2020 Supercross Championship under such unusual and never-before-seen circumstances and being one of the first in all major professional sports to come up with a plan to forge on while doing so in a safe manner. Feld charged into these uncharted waters at full speed and conquered it. All motorcycle racing enthusiasts should be proud of Feld’s accomplishment. Who would’ve thought that having seven Monster Energy Supercross races at the same venue in less than a month’s time would work? Luckily, Feld did. Not only did it work, but it worked better than anyone expected. The racing in Utah was excellent, and each race felt unique despite playing out in the same, patron-less, stadium. One “good” thing that emerged from the pandemic is that it showed us that mid-week races are pretty cool, at least I thought so. The 2021 AMA Supercross schedule is also set to include a few “Super Tuesday” races, which I’m looking forward to. I don’t know if we’ll see midweek races again after the 2021 Supercross season, but I’m certainly going to enjoy them while they last.

Motocross, more specifically MX Sports Pro Racing and the Coombs family, had to be creative, too. Back-to-back Nationals at an “amateur” track and even a Monday race were just some of the bizarre things that had to be worked out to make it all come together. Thankfully it did because I thought this was one of the most exciting and intriguing outdoor National MX Championships in a long time. Every time the racers lined up behind the gate, you never knew who would see the checkers first among a handful of riders (not just one or two). Heck, many times, you didn’t know who was going to win even with a lap to go!

And then there was MotoGP. What a year! Too bad, however, that it came at the expense of Marc Marquez, but racing is racing, and racing must go on, and it doesn’t get much better than this when you have nine different winners, five of them first-time winners, in one year at the elite level. And, to top it off, you end up with an “unlikely” champion on a brand that hadn’t won a MotoGP title in 20 years! Great stuff. (Sure hope F1 was watching.)

And it was in MotoGP where we saw what could’ve been one of—if not the—darkest days in motorcycle racing history when we came within a millisecond of losing Valentino Rossi and another millisecond of losing his teammate Maverick Vinales in one horrible racing accident. Could you imagine losing two of the sport’s superstars in one fell sweep? I still get quivers thinking about it. So, in a weird kind of way, I guess you have to look at that as the bright spot of the year.

And you can’t forget about MotoAmerica. They figured out how to get things done, too. Here’s a tip of the hat to Wayne Rainey and the MotoAmerica crew for making it happen. Okay, so the racing in the premier class might not have been as epic as it was in Supercross, Pro Motocross or MotoGP, but it did produce our Cycle News Rider of the Year for 2020 in Cameron Beaubier.

Race after race this year, Beaubier crushed his rivals, who, of course, aren’t slouches by any means. Beaubier was simply on a different level than anyone else on the track 99% of the time in 2020. And, thanks to the MotoAmerica platform that allowed Beaubier to shine, we will now have another American to cheer on in Grand Prix racing. Here’s another reason to look forward to 2021, as if we need more.

Beaubier, however, wasn’t a shoo-in when it came time choosing our CN Rider of the Year for 2020. Ricky Brabec, the first American to win the Dakar Rally, was undoubtedly considered, as were Zach Osborne, Eli Tomac and Briar Bauman. There are strong arguments for all of them. But Cameron’s our man for 2020, and perhaps he can make it two CN ROYs in a row if he wins a Moto2 World Championship in ’21. That would be tough to beat for our ROY honors.

We hope you enjoy our interview with Beaubier in this, our year-end issue, along with our other interviews with MX Champ Zach Osborne, GNCC Champ Kailub Russell and Hare & Hound Champ Dalton Shirey. If you missed it, you can click on the link here to read our interview with Supercross Champion Eli Tomac who we chatted with in an earlier issue.

While 2020 was a year to forget, there were still many things worth remembering, such as all the excellent motorcycle racing and, of course, all of life’s challenges that were met and conquered along the way throughout the year. For one, I will take a lot less for granted for now on, especially simple things like my weekday early evening summer trail rides that I started incorporating into my weekly schedule to help me get through the year. Talk about a stress reliever!

Yes, you have to love motorcycles more now than ever.

Here’s to an awesome 2021! CN

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Kit Palmer | Editor Kit Palmer started his career at Cycle News in 1984 and he’s been testing dirt and streetbikes ever since – plus covering any event that uses some form of a knobby tire. He’s also our resident motorcycle mileage man with a commute of 120 miles a day.