Taking Point: Risk and reward – Webb v Roczen

It looks to be the key moment in the championship when Ken Roczen, after showing just how brilliant he can really be, cleared off to a 12 second lead and looked set to take the points gap down to ten with two rounds to go until he crashed in the whoops – and gave Webb the scent of victory.

Roczen got up with six second lead, but with bent bars and Webb closing it it became not who the best rider was on the night but who was willing to take the biggest risk to win the title in that moment, right then, right there.

In the moment of intense importance, it was Webb who was prepared to risk the most, perceptively identifying that the whoops were key, and prepared to crash out in order to win. In fact, Webb did nearly go down in the exact spot Roczen crashed with a couple of laps to go but he was willing to ride that edge, and even go over it to win the title. The risk worked.

Webb said of taking the risk in the whoops: “To be honest, I kind of knew that was really my only opportunity to make the time up. As we saw, Ken was super solid tonight. Just kind of knew if I want a chance at this I’m going to have to hit these damn things. So the last five or so laps really actually was probably the best I hit them the whole night, which was pretty cool. That was basically the decision. I felt like everywhere else we were so close, late in the race anyway, and that was going to be a place to make up a chunk of time if you could execute. If you try to blitz them and you mess up, then you were really losing. I think it was one of those things where you kind of got to go for it.

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In contrast, Roczen clearly admitted after his crash that he played it safe in that area and it cost him the race: “I wasn’t even skimming the whoops anymore because they were so gnarly. I didn’t want to move to a different side of them and try to skim them, because I didn’t really know what it was like. So I just stuck to what was safer. Obviously, it was slow as heck…We”re healthy, so that’s the most important as well.”

Roczen’s acknowledgment of still being healthy has no doubt got a lot to do with the immense pain and numerous operations he dealt with after his 2017 crash. Webb hasn’t been through anything like that and Roczen, a smooth, technical rider anyway even before that that crash is also now a dad with responsibility.

Is winning a supercross title worth risking smashing himself up again? It probably isn’t and who can blame him? Roczen until that crash was showing that without taking risksthat he has the pure riding ability to win a going away against anyone in that class, he is most talented rider and riding to the top of his potential is the way for Roczen to win.

But when it comes to a bar-to-bar battle, digging deep and risking it all or even making contact – that is all in Webb’s wheel-house. He is prepared to do anything to win his second supercross title. Roczen, after the pain he has been through, just doesn’t appear to want to risk that hospital life again and has to do it on pure riding ability.

Two great riders with very different attitudes and areas of brilliance, but it’s Webb that is putting Roczen in the positions he isn’t comfortable with more than the other way round and that looks to have won him the title barring a disaster in the final two rounds at Salt Lake City.

Images: Align media

Article: Jonathan McCready