What a great day for Honda and Kenny Roczen at Hangtown, as the German took his first win since his brutal injury at Anaheim 2 in 2017. Although he did not win the second moto, he was amazing all day long and maybe, just maybe, the "old" Roczen is back. You know, the guy that won two 450MX titles over here?
The reason I say that is because for the last half of the 450SX series, Roczen has rarely ridden to his usual standards. He has been plagued by some sort of physical issue that tires him out. On top of that he has had some bad luck as well and, at times, it was like a different dude out there riding the #94 CRF450RW. We had Roczen on the PulpMX Show this past Monday and talked to him about the win, his illness and more.
On Hangtown and dealing with this issue… "I just went out in practice and no matter what – this was the first race – I just wanted to go out there and do my best every single time. I'm over just riding around and not feeling great. I've put my mind into a different spot now. Just went out and did the best I could every single time and it worked out great for this weekend.
"In 2016, I knew I was just so comfortable with everything and so good with everything. Even honestly no matter how the practice was going to be I was always like, it doesn't really matter because, once I go racing, I knew I was going to be the best guy out there. This weekend I didn't. I just went out there with no expectations and not knowing what's going to be. The other guys might be a lot faster or not. I just went out there and tried to do the best I could. Luckily it was going in a good way."
On getting used to a MX set-up after being on SX for so long… "Sometimes too coming off of supercross you are so used to having your suspension stiff as shit all the time, you think whenever you get back onto outdoors stuff you are like, ‘Wow, this stuff feels like a couch. We need to go stiffer, we need to go stiffer.' You could be just going backwards and digging yourself a hole. GP riders, for example, they have months to really prep everything. We kind of don't. It's tough because at the same time you want to try and test, but then you run out of time and you have to do some motos as well.
"Then doing motos on something that you're not happy with is not the key either because, coming to racing, you have to have something that you are halfway decent and that you like. There's this super fine line. Sometimes honestly you can get lucky and you hit the target dead on. Like in 2016, I didn't do… With Oscar coming in, and we did some changes to the motor and whatever. We had a really good base suspension setting and I didn't change hardly anything at all. That is ideal situation, but obviously it doesn't very often happen. A little difficult situation, I think not just for me, I think for a lot of riders probably."
On his physical issues… "Here's the thing, man. In supercross when I started going downhill, I swear to you, I would have lost a bet for a lot of money because I would have sworn to you I had either… I didn't know, but I'm like something isn't right. I was so bad. I couldn't even do a half a lap of supercross. That's how bad it was. I swear to you. My practice mechanic, he's around me every single day. There were days I went out there and I don't even know why I left the house, because I was feeling so miserable and I went on the track and I was so out of it. My focus, my body, my fatigue… Everything.
"I felt like I was riding supercross and bumming around there and I felt like my heart rate was 90. I couldn't even get into a fighter mode or anything. That happened for so long. That's what was so frustrating. You get sick or whatever and you feel like crap for a week and you bounce back from it, but the fact is that my body has changed after all these surgeries whether I like it or not. I was expecting that at one point to wake up one day and be like, "Here we go. Now it's uphill." That never happened, though. Even up until Vegas I was struggling and stressing, because it's not fun for me going to the races that way and in everyday life.
"I hate waking up every day, I feel okay and then within twenty minutes everything just went south so bad. I'm like, this is not normal. I am not out of shape. I've trained for months and months and months. I started going really good and all of a sudden shit really hit the fan. Then I started going downhill. That's why I didn't talk about it anymore on the races, because it doesn't help me. I was really avoiding the media and the TV people coming over and asking me, "Has anything changed?" I couldn't hear it anymore. It was what it was.
"Now I've seen these specialists. I went up to Stamford after Vegas to really get an insight on stuff. I had some problems a little bit and I think everybody does. When you're an athlete like that and we work out a lot and whatever, there are certain things that are not going to be 100% absolutely top notch, but nothing we could pinpoint that said, that's why everything is that way. I think there were a lot of little things that could end up being one big thing, but overall even the genetics doctor that I saw said that it most likely has been – because I was on back-to-back antibiotic cycles, and with my body the way it was, when you are on an antibiotics cycle it cleans you out.
Meaning it kills your bad bacteria, which is what you want, but it also cleans out your good bacteria, everything. I was already in kind of a deficit in that and that just gave me the last little bit. From there on, like right now I'm just working on getting into a daily routine week in and week out, and getting my body and everything back to where it's supposed to be. That's kind of the switch that I had to flip. It's a fact that I have to fight through some certain discomforts or whatever when it comes to training, but I am ready for that. If somebody told me, ‘Ken, go out and eat some horse shit or whatever. That will make you better.' I would have done it. There was no such thing, so I'm ready. I'm in a good spot right now and I'm hungry. I'm ready for whatever."
On the feeling he had at Hangtown this year… "I kind of got a little bit of flashbacks of 2016. Last year coming into outdoors, that was a complete shit show. I don't even know how I raced in Hangtown because, believe it or not, I still have some problems with my thumb. Not sure what it is. Luckily not as bad anymore, but last year I had to get ready thirty minutes before I normally would because I had to tape everything up or have somebody tape it up. There was just so much work prepping for it to go racing and riding. The aggravation through the entire week with my hand hurting and everything. There was a time, especially before Hangtown, I had to stop riding. I was literally riding parade laps. That was my training the entire time."
On re-signing with Honda for three more years… "First off, I wouldn't say there weren't many options, but for me the one thing that made sense was that. That's kind of what I was leaning towards anyway. Obviously that whole conversation I was hoping that they were not going to be not interested. We're going to get something from them, at least a look at. I really didn't want to go, even though we've had our struggles. I never really wanted to leave.
"Obviously having a three-year deal is amazing. With Honda and me, we got a great relationship. They do whatever it takes, which is great, but also besides all the racing, I feel like there are so many doors open. It just made the most sense. Even in the future when I'm retired, I think I will always be a Honda guy, whether that's racing dirt bikes or maybe going in a different direction in the future. Who knows?"
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Honda Racing Corporation