Roczen on winning and comparisons to pre-2017 crash form

Ken Roczen has been hands down the best rider so far in 2021 and his win on Tuesday night was indicative of that form and speed. Roczen got a good start, made an instant pass on Justin Barcia for the lead and took off to win by a comfortable ten seconds. This was the Roczen of old and reminded many of his form in 2017 before his big crash.

In the press conference, Roczen addressed that comparison, how it felt to dominate and offering advice to Jett Lawrence on a tough night for the Aussie.

Roczen on his win

It’s amazing. I don’t know if surprised is the right word to say, but I am a little bit just because the competition is stiff out there. Everybody’s going so good right now and I just focused really hard on the start and got that as well, and a combination with just riding really well, really picked the track apart and had some good lines. I just had fun out there. I’m still over the moon about it, but at the same time I’ve learned from the past and I’m just keeping it super mellow.

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When I show up on Saturday I’m going to try to do the same thing again, but I don’t let this high get too high on me. Of course, it was a great night. It was a really fun race, just because I was able to really ride my own race once I had a little bit of a gap. Sometimes that makes the race feel long, but I didn’t really have any issues. I had a couple of, I shouldn’t say close calls but obviously I punted [Vince] Friese out of the way. I seem to find that guy every single weekend on the track. Almost went down there with him. There were a couple of sketchy moments in there, just with other riders being off the wrong side of the track and cutting over and whatnot, but we made it happen.

The new bike

Yeah, for sure. The geometry obviously is different compared to last year’s bike. Last year’s bike was a really difficult bike to set up. It bit you on the ass real quick. This bike is a lot more consistent. The weight distribution on the bike is working a lot better, and combined with some of the other changes that they did, it’s just a lot more consistent in different types of dirt. I just seem to ride it much better and I’m a lot more comfortable on it. The motor is quite a bit different. It has a lot of torque, kind of like that mellow bump off the bottom that I really like. So we made huge improvements there. In general though, it’s definitely a combination of the bike and me, but even last year a bunch of times I could make the bike look good, but sometimes the bike was also riding me and I feel like this year we have that a bit more under control.

Comparing his form now to 2017 pre-crash Roczen

It’s really difficult to compare. Even though I was great in ’16 and ’17, I’m mentally in a completely different spot. Back then, I feel like I rode the highs a lot more than I do now. I’m just quite a bit older and a lot has happened in-between there and then. So it’s really hard for me to compare that kind of stuff. I feel like back then the field—don’t get me wrong, it was really stacked, but also there weren’t as many [good riders] as there are now. I’m more comfortable than even back then. I don’t know how to explain it. I’m just more mature mentally, when it comes to the racing side of things and my program is way different. I’m just really comfortable and open-minded. I’m listening to everything, and also the critique. I’m picking everything apart when I watch the race. I would just say completely different time-frames, is basically it.

Helping Jett

I try to help out where I can. You never want to see your teammate go down a couple of times like that. I told him after the heat race, when he went down and was obviously in pain, but I told him, ‘man the F up, you can still turn this night around, we have all been there, we have all had rough nights.’ He can go out there and really turn it around, even in pain, we have seen it happen multiple times. But at the same time, it has to be in a safe manner. He went out for the LCQ and made it through, he ended up deciding not to race, I know his collarbone or shoulder was hurting. I just try support him in a way that you can still turn this whole thing around even though you are down right now.

I just want to keep his spirits up. It seemed like he was pretty down and disappointed and obviously in pain but I try to help where I can and, sometimes, you need a little bit of a kick in the ass and that’s what I try and be there for him. He’s young and he needs to settle down every now and then, when you are second in qualifying you don’t need to go out there and absolutely send it into the whoops and things like that happen. It’s just unnecessary but at the same time, I’ve been there. I’ve ridden hard when you first come into this thing and you always want more but at the end he decided not to race and I am proud of him for that. It takes some balls to pull it out of there and I think it’s good for him. He has a long racing career and a lot of racing ahead so I think it’s better for him to recover for Saturday and try again, be little bit calmer, more focused and less crashing.

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Responding with two wins after losing to Webb

It’s important. Winning is always important. Obviously I feel like I could have won that race, but that just wasn’t in the cards. I know that Cooper was on me in Houston 3, but I don’t think he got me because he was the faster rider. I got screwed over. It wasn’t something where I’m like, “He got me in the end because he just rode really well and hunted me down” or anything like that. I was just looking forward for the next race, and it showed. Just ultimately getting some good starts and just keeping a cool head.

I’m just in a good spot right now. I want to continue doing the same thing. I’m sure there will be days that are going to be a little bit more tough, but I’m just trying to enjoy it to get there. Overall, back to back wins, I haven’t done that in a while. Never mind winning in general. I only had four wins last season, and that was the only four after over 1,000 days! So it’s not like I’ve won a lot since then. I’m just enjoying every single step.

Images: Honda