It’s mid-November in California, but the weather is still warm, as if the summer didn't want to leave. At 9 a.m., the sun is painting the hills around Santa Barbara with a magical golden light. Hidden behind old trees, a few pickup trucks are parked next to a supercross track built by Dave Castillo. This is the place Honda HRC factory pilot Ken Roczen chose for his boot camp, far away from the other tracks of Southern California. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo is also here, and both riders are doing seemingly endless laps on the long and technical track. With a lap time well over one minute, a vicious dragon’s back, and two big whoops sections, the riding is challenging. But Kenny and Adam are dedicated to the training, each trying to ride longer than the other. Between motos, Ken plays with his dog, Rio, then asks Payton Stevenson, his practice mechanic, to add one more click on the shock.
The sun is burning-hot by noon, and everybody leaves. Roczen stops on his way to the gym at a local French bakery. Eating a croque monsieur (the French version of a ham and cheese sandwich), he talks about his recovery from that season-ending crash last January and his goals for 2018.