The Anaheim 1 Supercross did not go to plan for future Hall of Famers Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen. Eli struggled in his return to racing after last year's big injury, while Roczen rode well but got caught in a crash just after the start. They ended up ninth (Tomac) and tenth (Roczen).
San Francisco was much better for both (Tomac second, Roczen third), even in gnarly conditions. Here's what they had to say to the media after the race.
Eli Tomac | 2nd in 450SX
Eli, back on the podium already second race after the injury. Did you, did you expect to be back this quickly and generally, what is your mindset expectations for the year after, after the Achilles [injury]?
Eli Tomac: Yeah, my goal was to get on the podium. That was my mindset and that's how good I felt physically. I wasn't, like, limping my way in here at all. Anaheim 1 was obviously really tough for me, was just totally off, rode really tight. There was nothing good about it but here, put myself in a great position off the start. They're so key, to be at least top three. So, that was my focus for the main and was able to execute that and then just try to stay on two wheels at that point.
Talk about your gate selections for the heat and for the main. Obviously, you've been in plenty of mud races. You know the start is important, like you said. Was it the same for the heat and the main?
Yeah, my gate selection the heat, I actually looked at the one outside the box in the heat and there was this tire mark that was totally crooked and sideways. So, I was like, I don't know, maybe the gate is extra slick or the rut was kind of messed up. So, I avoided that gate in the heat and went inside Jett [Lawrence], two inside there, for the heat. I was actually way too conservative on that start and just got smoked. But the main event start, I went back to the outside and the rut was fine and I just had a better start.
How did this race compare to other mud races you've been in and can you punch on their conditions?
It was tough. It started out really thick and then it stayed thick enough even with all that water. A lot of times when it's just pure rain the whole time, it's not too bad because the ruts don't get super deep and you're kind of just spraying around. But this one, after the finish line, if you went inside, you could literally get stuck. I went in there one time and got stuck for like a second or two. So it was one of those tracks where it was just heavy dirt, super deep ruts. And then in the second rhythm section, I almost looped out because I grabbed a handful of throttle and hung off the back. It was one of the tough ones.
You did a great job last year. If you had an off-the-podium race you wouldn’t throw everything away and starting from scratch. Were there big changes this week or did you just need to get through round one? Or did you have to change a lot. It ended up being muddy, so obviously it didn't matter. But what was the attitude during the week?
Yeah, of course, there were some motorcycle changes but I guess that's just how it goes and yeah, it was just like last week was terrible for me, straight up. Like I couldn't do anything. I was stuck where I was at, couldn't really go forward at all. We don't really know a whole lot I guess because this is a mud race, but I went back to something that's worked in the past. So, I guess we'll find out next week.
Ken Roczen | 3rd in 450SX
Kenny, I'd ask you about the treachery of the track because you found out even right after the finish line and there are just places on this track that look like you could not go. We say you're never supposed to follow, but I feel like tonight, there are probably a lot of situations where even with lappers you had to follow.
Ken Roczen: To be honest, I found some insane lines because of lappers or maybe even, I don't know if I was passing people or lapping people, but I sometimes just ran in the middle and cut to the back and rode over the whole ruts and everything and I was able to carry a lot of momentum. So, I feel like my line choice was really good with that, but I did go to the inside after finish line after the checkered flag and I hit a line that I hadn't hit and full on got stuck. I was sitting there for five minutes! But luckily the checkered fight was out. But yeah, other than that, it was, it was a really insane track. Not only from the outside but you know, seeing it under the helmet and on the track is a whole ‘nother level.
Shane [McElrath, teammate] I'm sure you're proud of him hitting the top five. It's just the fourth time Suzuki's had two riders in the top five in the last 10 years. I know it was a mud race and, you know, you and Shane are good at those, but, hey, looking forward. I think that you know, you got some momentum building. Anything you want to say about that?
Heck yeah, that was super cool. I only found out after we went through the checkers and I saw Shane right there and I got told he was fourth, so I was super stoked for him and for us, the team, like those are big days! I'm around Shane almost every day where we train together in Florida. And you want your friends to do good. So, I was beyond stoked that we can both be in the top five.
It looked like the first turn of the main that maybe you either stalled out or got stuck on that table top. You really had to work through traffic. I think you were 10th at the end of lap one. Just talk about through your experience how you have to kind of stay calm in a race like that, these conditions and just work through traffic.
Yeah, I think I got off the gate really good. It was hard picking a gate. I had fifth pick, I think, which was good. But when I looked at all the gates, I didn't really like any of them. So, I went with one that was actually kind of crooked, but I lined up perfectly in the center and like I basically hit the rut even with all the hooks, I wanted to go straight through it and that's what I did. So, I got off to a really good start and I didn't know who it was to the right, but I think it was Chase, he had a little bit on a wheel on me, but it was fine because I was on the inside and he went in a little deep and I think I could have had the lead after the first turn and I may have even had it, but we all get hosed in front and for a second I couldn't pull the tear off, so you know, two or three seconds, I was kind of riding blind and I stepped on the brake and I stalled it. I was in disbelief for a quick second there just because I was, I had nobody ahead of me and then that happened. So I was like, “Oh, here we go.” But, you know, I didn't let that disappoint me or anything, at the same time. My mindset was just, get going and as soon as I got going, I'm like, “Okay, this is 15 minutes, enough time with people going left and right. We can still make something happen.” So I really just put my head down, charged forward and I was kind of blown away and really happy at the same time that I caught up to the field quick and was able to just pick people off left and right. I stayed calm throughout the whole day, with the situation and the weather and all that.
For a while that I had no idea where I was at. I just wanted to go and go and tried to have fun with it. I also wanted to save the bike and kind of rode a certain way where I just wasn't slipping the clutch the whole time. That's a big thanks to the team and my mechanic because the bike has to make it through these things to be able to get on the podium. And before I knew it I glanced over, I saw something yellow on the board and it was me. So, I'm like, “Okay!” I was actually right behind Eli at one point and then he gapped me, but I was like, “Hey, let's just stay here because it doesn't matter if it's one lap or five laps, like a lot of things can happen.” So, I just stayed there and try to ride calm, really pick my marks. You go over the faces of the jump and you don't really know what's going on behind there. You could be completely off center on the rut and lose a lot of seconds in a heartbeat. So, I really just once I was third, I'm like, okay, let's keep this thing on the podium and once I was to the finish line jump, it was a big monkey off the back and a big relief and I just really happy to come back on the box.
Second year on the Suzuki. Do you make wholesale changes to the bike right now?
I wouldn't say I drifted off far but I am on a different shock and the same shock and fork. Same system, but I'm on a different shock and fork setting to before A1. I was actually pretty comfortable in the main at A1. So, I left it and, and like these guys said, it's really hard to tell here. I didn't make any changes throughout the whole day and not the whole week. I'm just sticking to what I have for now until I decide that I feel like I need something different.
What does the new shock do differently?
It's just matches the fork a little bit better. I believe we're just a little bit stiffer than I than I was in the past and, but it's really subtle changes, you know, because I feel like I had a really good spec that I rode for a long time and then we kind of just took some stabs at it. Things take a while. We just never let go and we had some long days. But that's what's cool about being in Florida and having Matt [Andruk] from Active Ride right with us all the time. We can just kind of throw stuff at the bike.
A lot of talk coming in this weekend about guys like Barcia and Plessinger specializing in the mud. Are you fond of these conditions or were you and the team just on your marks this weekend?
No, I've really always like the mud and I feel like I've always done decent and I do believe that it's a big time mindset. I've said it in the past, I embrace these days and I have fun with it. I feel like I've always been decent in the mud, so, I stayed calm. I like staying out of the talks, I guess if they don't mention me, I'm fine with it, but I'm here.