Supercross riders eyeing $1M prize at Monster Energy Cup

Chad Reed kept looking down at the see-through case purporting to contain $1 million during a news conference Friday to promote the AMA Monster Energy Cup.

The veteran Supercross rider from Australia was too focused on the money to answer any other questions.

“We were actually talking about if that was real money or not,” said Reed, pointing to the pile of $100 bills.

Reed, 34, and the rest of the field will get a chance to take home the Monster Million if any of them is able to sweep the three main events during the Monster Energy Cup on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Only Ryan Villopoto has walked out of Las Vegas with the seven-figure payday when he won the inaugural Monster Energy Cup in 2011.

This year’s field of 21 includes stars such as Ryan Dungey, Eli Tomac, Cole Seely, Cooper Webb, Reed and Ken Roczen, who won the competition in 2015.

“I think the start is going to be pretty gnarly,” Reed said after he took his focus off the money. “It will be interesting to see what it’s like.”

Reed was referring to the new starting gate at the top of Sam Boyd Stadium. Once the gate opens, riders will race 165 feet down to the stadium floor and speed another 150 feet before making the first turn.

The annual race was already one of the toughest in Supercross history thanks to the tricky joker lane, but the mastermind behind the course wanted to tweak it this year.

“That’s a massive change to start so high,” said Ricky Carmichael, who designed the Las Vegas course and is regarded as the greatest Supercross rider of all time. “It’s huge. You talk about the wow factor, that’s it. That’s what I like about the Monster Energy Cup because we’re able to add something catchy.”

Carmichael said he got input from fans on social media to design the new start gate.

The Monster Energy Cup isn’t part of the regular season that starts in January and concludes in Las Vegas in May.

Roczen, a 22-year-old German rider who broke out last season by winning 20 of 24 events, said he’s going to use the one-off race to get acclimated to his new team before the start of the 2017 season.

“Most of the riders haven’t started their training yet, so it’s good to get out there again,” said Roczen, who joined the Honda team in September. “Hopefully it goes well for us, but once we go to Anaheim (the first race), things will change so much. But it’s nice to get to know them during a race.”

Most riders said they don’t think about the money during the race. Reed had to interrupt them.

“Oh, if you win two, you’re thinking about it,” he said. “The pressure goes up if you win the first one, then you can’t help it if you get the second.”

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0492. Follow @gmanzano24 on Twitter.

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