The Red Bulletin just released their June 2014 edition and did a wonderful feature story on Red Bull KTM 450 rookie Ken Roczen. For more information on how to subscribe to The Red Bulletin click here. Check out a portion of the "Ticket to Ride" feature below.
THE OUTDOOR MOTOCROSS SEASON REVS UP THIS MONTH, AND THE RISE OF A CHARISMATIC ROOKIE IS INEVITABLE.
WORDS: WERNER JESSNER
Rookie Ken Roczen, above, flies high thanks to the advice of his coach, Aldon Baker, left.
Ford Field in downtown Detroit is sold out, with 60,000 spectators. But it’s not the Lions on the bill; tonight it’s the AMA Supercross gasoline gladiators. There are jumps of over 100 feet and wicked washboards to look forward to, but it’s really the jump combos that make this spectacular indoor form of motocross so appealing. Should the first couple of jumps be doubles, then triples? Or should you take the first three hills in one go and then do two doubles one after the other? The riders have 10 minutes to familiarize themselves with the course before things get going. The spectators want action. Among the American supercross elite we find Ken Roczen from Mattstedt, Germany. It’s only his rookie year, but the 20-year-old is already making noise— beating the field in his debut in January. When motocross’s top riders transition from indoor supercross racing to outdoors, for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series that kicks off in Glen Helen, California, this month, it’ll be Roczen who most will be watching.
THE GERMAN WANTS TO WIN IN A SPORT RULED BY AMERICANS.
The 450cc four-stroke engines rev up, the gate comes down, and it’s fireworks as 22 riders storm into the first corner. Cole Seely is sensational as he ends the first lap in the lead before being reeled in by James Stewart, who has the second most wins ever in supercross history. Roczen passes someone for 8th and goes for a wild attack on the two guys directly in front of him when all of a sudden he comes to a standstill at the point where the track leads up to the stands. He jumps off his KTM, tugs at and fumbles with the lever, and kicks the brake disc. The rest of the field reappears and laps him before he can carry on. A stone had got wedged in the brake caliper and ruined his race.
Later on, at 8:37 p.m. that night, @KenRoczen94 tweeted: “Suuuper bummed.”
It’s a traveling day for Roczen. Flight DL2028, Delta Airlines from Detroit to Orlando, Florida. Departure time 12:15 p.m., ETA 2:51 p.m. An incredible 17 races over four months with not a single weekend off takes its toll and requires both steely discipline and a setup that may sound luxurious but whose sole purpose is to make sure the rider gets through the season safe and sound. He travels business class; a window seat to lean back in and a film on his iPad as he tries to get a few minutes’ sleep. He has two homes—in California and in Florida—so as not to spend even more time on the road in a season that covers the entire continent.
When Roczen gets off the plane in Orlando, he runs into fans who recognize him even though he’s in a hoodie. He knows the score. He stands patiently between the terminal and the baggage claim and has his photo taken.
“I talk to all of them,” he says. “OK, if I’m sitting and having dinner, I might refuse to sign an autograph. But I once stood in front of [motocross legend] Ricky Carmichael myself with my eyes open wide and a pen in my hand. I haven’t forgotten that.”
It’s taking a while for the baggage in Orlando to come through. His Ogio Rig 9800 gear bag, personalized with his start number of 94 and name, is the third item eventually spat out onto the conveyer belt. He’ll be home within the hour.
“I couldn’t have imagined doing all this by myself as recently as a year or two years ago,” he says. “Now I travel alone. I live alone most of the time. And I enjoy it too, to a certain extent.” His girlfriend, Mariah, still lives in California. They mainly see each other on race weekends.
PRECISION IS ESSENTIAL. EVERY JUMP MUST LAND ON TARGET.
ROCZEN’S REGIMEN IS STRICT.
Clermont, Florida, 11:30 a.m. A huge, dull-gray-wrapped Toyota Tundra with a raised chassis sits outside the second house on the left-hand side of the street. It has the No. 94 emblazoned on one side, way more conspicuous than any house number. Its owner is half an hour late. His morning racing-bike session went on a bit longer than expected. When Roczen rolls up on his black-and-white Specialized Tarmac, the display shows that he’s done a little over 36 miles.
“Sorry for the mess,” Roczen says. “I only moved in five weeks ago.” The front door is covered in notes from missed deliveries. Yesterday the huge flat-screen TV for the open-plan living room arrived. All the room has in it now is an armoire, a beanbag, and a PlayStation 4, where NBA 2K14 is his favorite game.
The kitchen, though, is already in working order, and Roczen gets down to business. He chops vegetables, puts them in the oven, steams a fish fillet and serves it with guacamole. His diet is strict, “all the more so because it’s so hard to get decent food in America.” In his case it means making sacrifices. No milk, no cheese, no sugar, no cheap fats, no white flour, almost no meat, and omelettes made with three egg whites for every yolk. Chocolate is out of the question, as is ice cream. Once a week he’s allowed a frozen yogurt. “They even add sugar to the bread here,” Roczen says with a sigh and remembers his granny’s cooking. “Meatballs in white sauce with capers. Duck with dumplings and red cabbage. Bratwurst.” It’s all making him hungry.
But the strict regime his trainer, Aldon Baker, enforces reaps its rewards. Roczen is pure muscle. He’s athletic. There’s not an ounce of fat on his body. He’s agile and fit. “I came off hard at the race in Indy but on the Monday I was back on my bike. It’s definitely tough but I’m still not feeling any pain,” he says.
Baker, a former road racer from South Africa, is seen as an authority among motorcyclists. He only works with the best: Carmichael, Stewart, last year’s champ Ryan Villopoto, former MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden. And now Roczen.