Ken Roczen wants to talk. Always. Past riders of his caliber would try to limit interactions with the media, especially under the pressure of a big comeback. Roczen, coming off of injuries to each arm that could each have proven career-ending, knows his results won’t yet be spectacular. It would probably be wise to keep the microscope away, toil in the shadows, and avoid rehashing bad memories like the pair of supercross crashes that left him with two badly wounded wings and multiple broken title bids.
Kenny doesn’t shy away from any topic, though, and always tells you exactly what he’s thinking. With his previous, more catastrophic arm injury, Roczen always displayed strength, making it seem like the day he came back could be the day he won again.
He’s talking again, but this time he’s saying something different.
On Friday, the eve of Hangtown, I was leaving the MX Sports Pro Racing will-call booth after picking up my season credential. As I walked away, the truck parked behind the tent rolled down a window. It was Roczen, sitting in the passenger seat, hanging out. He wanted to talk. We quickly got to his arm, his training, time off, pain, whatever. As always, Kenny was an open book.
This stands in direct contrast to the current Lucas Oil 450 Class Pro Motocross Champion, Eli Tomac, who would rather keep his answers curt, his information private, and let his riding do the talking. Roczen and Tomac have been tracking each other for years, from battles indoors and out on 250s (they split supercross and motocross championships in 2013) to a Motocross of Nations battle on Roczen’s turf (Eli caught Kenny but then went flying—without his bike—on a jump while setting up a pass) to year after year of coming into Monster Energy Supercross as preseason favorites. Outdoors, they’ve reached the 450 promised land, Roczen taking the 2014 and 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships and Tomac taking last year’s. Supercross titles have remained elusive, but these are still the guys people talk about when they roll up to the gate.