In 2018, I attended the 72nd Annual FIM Motocross of Nations at RedBud MX. It was by all accounts an onslaught on American motocross by our European adversaries, a devastating and ultimately disappointing weekend, one could argue. Personally, I was elated at the fact this event landed in Buchanan, hosted by a track I grew up on alongside my friends and family. I wrote a longwinded letter about my week spent at RedBud HERE that I bookended with a playful quip:
“See you in Assen?”
I had absolutely no reason to believe I’d be attending the 73rd running of this race, announced earlier in the year to be held in the sands of Eastern Europe. (Read: far and away from my midwestern stomping grounds.) What I wrote was purely in jest, or maybe an attempt at seeming more intriguing than I actually am. Yet there I was, meandering towards turn one above the TT Circuit pavement in Assen, admiring droves of international motorcycle fans removed from their residencies, reciting the hymns of MX’s freshly-anointed demigods…
“TEAM FRIED! TEAM FRIED! TEAM FRIED!”
“I’m thinking about giving you all of the footage from the trip, and you can just go nuts.”
These were the orders given to me in Assen from Tom Journet, one of three resident members of Team Fried, whom I met for the first time earlier this year at Freestone County Raceway. I was there on my own terms to film at the event, linking with the wild child from Texas, Charles Bakke. I, however, had been hounding Tom for an interview over the phone, and piecing the puzzle together I made note that we should speak in person at the race. While even then it didn’t happen exactly as planned, we eventually did meet at the 100% rig to talk all things film and moto. He was forthright in sharing his ambitions to expand upon his filmmaking palette, which I could see coming.
Something we didn’t talk about, and what I couldn’t even predict, was the explosive launch of their media melting pot: Team Fried. Comprised of, as everyone knows by now, Tom, Matt Rice, and their compadre/pro supercross champ, Jason Anderson, the trio spent a wild summer criss-crossing the nation, reaping the praises of their hard work with rewards of custom-made fan merch, hugs, fist bumps, photographs, and more.
Throughout this run, Tom and I kept bumping into each other following that initial meeting. I enjoyed prodding Tom about where his next adventure was with the boys, and equally gabbing with Matt about the latest in skate video.
Somewhere along the way, I can’t pinpoint exactly where it happened, but Tom got the idea in his head that he needed an extra hand at the Motocross of Nations, as he had booked himself up between a number of different companies (something he tends to do often. Workaholic!). He reached out to explain he was thinking of bringing me out, but that he just had to work out the details first. I said of course, and figured it would be a few weeks until I heard from him again. I mean, these were #serious deliberations going down. I got a text the following day while doing deliveries for the family business.
“Hey I need your passport information, booking your flight for MXoN.”
And that was it.
This is a photo of Matt and I. This might be the moment I found out all these goons packed for lunch that day was a bag of potato chips. We ended up visiting Amsterdam that night, a two hour drive out of our way to see the allure of the “Venice of the North,” with its red lights and promiscuous dive bars. Initially I was not super psyched on this venture, suffering from some late-stage jet lag and an empty stomach, but Benny and Kyle (the boys at Bell), were persistent. Mainly Benny. All told, I was glad we went, as it ended up being my only chance to experience The Netherlands’ capital. We hung with Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg as well, who I learned to be a real stand up dude.
Benny “The Instigator” Tozzi
The boys were holed up all across the country, staying in AirBNB’s from Amsterdam to Eindhoven. I entered the fray just before the crew vacated a wooded, amusement park-style campground somewhere outside of Eindhoven. It looked as amazing as it sounds, but moral support for the trip was waning. What I had learned (as I’m sure the boys already did) is that playing the foreigner is pretty tough. You are constantly outside of your comfort zone trying to complete simple tasks like buying food or navigating roadways. Even watching television gave me a headache, as every commercial is obviously broadcast in native tongue. It was all gibberish, as far as I was concerned.
For as toasted as everyone was from training and grabbing contract work, the hustle was at an all time high. Virtually every night was spent behind a laptop, phone, or camera screen, and endured by all. Go out, get your shit, organize, sleep for whatever time is left in the day. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Certainly, there were times for fun. Matt and I hopped on some rental E-Bikes, zooping across the mean streets of Assen getting B-Roll for Tom. The entire country is paved with bike lanes, as everyone there cycles. There was even a full-fledged BMX race track at the hotel. We joined Jason and a few of the Team Husky crew members like Scuba, C-Lo, and Dave Feeney, in hopes to barge the spot and ride the track… but we had to settle for some man-made dirt trails once we found the entrance to be locked. Still, a fun challenge for our clearly street-oriented rentals. Those damn motocross kids can’t contain themselves.
For as small of a country as The Netherlands seems, we spent quite a bit of time driving. Whether it was from the AirBNB to the track, the track to a local dinner spot, or the sobering 2 AM ride from Assen to Amsterdam to catch our flights home, we spent many moments on the road. The Netherlands’ transit system also meant we hitched a couple of trains as well. Speeding across the countryside was, again, a surreal sensation (personally speaking). It all seems quaint, almost identical to the landscapes back home. I mean, a field is just a field, right? Doesn’t matter if it’s in Eindhoven or Indiana. I believe Matt even barked in one of the daily vlogs, “Huh… looks like Pennsylvania!” But just as I was convinced I was homebound, I’d see some Dutch graffiti and wonder again just where I’ve planted my feet.
It was a real lesson in understanding how big the world really is.
Our final few trips were short jaunts from the hotel in Assen to the TT Circuit, where we were continually greeted by loyal followers of this newly embellished brand. Whether it was young bucks looking for a camera to wild out on, seasoned vets with one too many brews in their gut, or hardcore followers of moto waiting for a chance to see Jason (or Tom, or Matt), there seemed to be support from every corner of the community.
Even when the boys were down, after some sub-par motos throughout Sunday, fans continually poured in to catch a glimpse of the crew. They would clamor for Tom, either asking for photos or to be featured in the next video with their loudest “TEAM FRIED!” chant. I came back from the restrooms once to see Matt, his FMF beanie bobbing on his head, as several Irishmen carried him on their shoulders. And just as the excitement seemed to reach its zenith, a tan fella from the Dominican Republic went absolutely bananas for a shot with Jason. I don’t believe he knew a whole lot of English, I just remember him saying, “EL HOMBRE!” and pointing towards himself, then back at Jason. “My brother!”
It was as if Team Fried had usurped the actual team itself.
By now, you all know what happened in the sands of Holland this past September. The Netherlands juggernaut of Calvin Vlaanderen, Glenn Coldenhoff, and Jeffrey Herlings absolutely crushed the world, an admirable performance in front of their peers and King. A feat that will surely prove difficult to upstage in the future. Congratulations to them.
As for us, as in the U.S. … let me say this. I loved hearing Dylan Ferrandis speak towards the end of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series. I believe it was somewhere around Unadilla that he was posed the question of representing his home country of France at the MXoN. He offered that he would forego the race, and took his answer a step further by forewarning the recently selected U.S. team that they, “…are not going to understand what is going to happen. You are going to get passed by guys you never heard of before. It is just a track in The Netherlands that is crazy.”
Perhaps a little on-the-nose, but Ferrandis has never been known to stave off harsh truths. It may have stung a bit to hear that, especially from a former MXGP competitor with foreign knowledge such as his, but from the day it was announced the MXoN was visiting Assen, we already knew these truths. We knew those bulldozers weren’t building a motocross track, they were building a slaughterhouse. Meet J. Herlings the butcher, whose reputation for unfettered speed nearly precedes him. Debates began almost instantly regarding how many seconds (or minutes) he’d win by. The Dutch had nearly took it all at RedBud to boot, and they didn’t even have a third rider on their team to complete the race!
I liked what I heard from Dylan and all of the rest, because we heard every criticism from every pundit and yet, we went anyway.
That’s what makes our team’s efforts shine through Assen’s grim, gray skies. It was akin to an army entering war without weaponry, giving themselves a once-over, then charging head first into the crossfire, landing any punch that found a target and going down swinging.
Moreover, at the Motocross of Nations, it isn’t about winning. Imagine as if each nation represents one person, and each person has a bone to pick with the other. They want to settle their beef once and for all, because some people have been pretty bombastic with their remarks lately. Others have been relatively silent. Some see the commotion and all they want is another person to spar with. They all agree to meet at one location. This time, this place. Bring your best, we’ll bring ours, and let’s see where these damn chips fall.
It isn’t about winning. It’s about showing up to that fight, giving ‘er hell, and shaking that man’s hand when you get your ass beat. Or him shaking yours, whenever that chance comes around again.
*Photography by: Jared Conley, Tom Journet, and Matt Rice