Although it seemed unlikely following the first three rounds, the 250SX West title chase will go down to the wire. When the checkered flag falls on the sixth round (San Diego) this weekend, the west coast riders will go into hibernation for eight weeks before the champion is decided. The series finale may be three months away, but the race for the title has started to heat up.
How quickly can things change in supercross? The 2013 250SX West series is a good example of this; just two weeks ago Eli Tomac was the man with all of the momentum. Heck, the idea of a clean sweep was being chucked around! But now, after two trying weeks Tomac is sat in second, twenty-points down on the red plate he once possessed. What instigated this fall? A crash induced main event at the fourth round, Oakland. But, that does not mean that Tomac is out of this thing; it is funny how quickly fans discount a rider.
Maybe the fact that he is now the hunter (rather than the hunted) will bring out the best in Eli Tomac? However, before he can begin to chip away at the point’s deficit he does need to reclaim his form, and speed from the opening three rounds. Tomac placed third at the most recent round (Anaheim 3), which by his standards was not the best result. It is strange how quickly things have turned sour for Eli; at the beginning of the year his starts were on point. But, ever since his crash in Oakland he hasn’t been able to get out of the gate, which has cost him. He has proven to be quicker than his competitors, because of this you have to presume that everything will be going his way again in the near future.
Although things might be looking dismal right now (twenty points is a large gap to overcome in four rounds), let’s not forget that he has been in this situation before. Tomac threw away a comfortable points lead just last year, and still rebounded to collect the title. Certainly, he would have liked to get through this year with a little less drama; but at least he does know how to overcome adversity like this. However, you could argue that he is in a worst position now than he was last year. His issue last year (which just so happened to be in the whoops, also) happened at the sixth round; following that round Eli only had a two point deficit to overcome.
Undoubtedly, Ken Roczen is a formidable opponent; this will make things a lot harder for Eli. Especially when you factor in the momentum that the German currently has on his side. I do think that there is a common misconception that Ken is not on the same level as Tomac. But, this could not be more wrong. Consistently, the Red Bull KTM rider has topped the boards in practice this year; he often trumps Eli in these timed sessions. Roczen has also occupied pole position at four of the five rounds thus far this year; put simply speed is not an issue for Ken, which is bad news for his competitors.
Everything indicates that Ken Roczen is most likely to clinch the 250SX West crown; I believe that he will be tough to beat from this point onwards. However, all of the 250SX West riders will face a lengthy break after San Diego, as stated previously. What does this mean? Well, a lot could happen in this time. When the riders do return in Seattle on the 20th of April, most will have forgotten what transpired before the break. The momentum that Ken has now will mean nothing by that time and the difficulties that Eli is currently dealing with will not be an issue.
In the two-month long break, the riders will be testing for both supercross and motocross; it is most certainly not time off for them. However, some of the elite riders do decide to jump up to the 450SX class in this time; Roczen has done it in the past, and Eli desperately wants a shot on the bigger bike. If either rider does end up doing this it will more than likely go great; but there is always the risk of getting injured, of course. Now, this is always a risk; if Ken and Eli don’t jump up to the 450, they will run the same risk of getting injured at the test track. It is a factor that has to be considered over this time though.
Both riders have proven that they are capable of competing for wins in the 450SX class; this proves just how fast the pace in the 250SX class is at the moment. We all know how Tomac was desperate to get out of the “pee-wee class” this year, but it didn’t work out for various reasons. He has really been pushing to get on the bigger bike; I think that it is likely that we will see him at some races on the east coast, especially now that his chances of winning the 250SX title are quite slim.
Although Roczen has jumped on a 350 KTM the last two years, it sounds like there is less of a chance of him doing the same this year. This might be a good choice; perhaps it will give him the best shot at securing the title on the west coast. However, the riders that make a switch to the big bike in the month of March do often return to the 250SX West series with more speed, momentum and intensity than before the break.
The Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac battle has only just begun; undoubtedly the rivalry will grow in the coming months. It will be interesting to see how each rider tackles the break, and the return in April. Right now, it looks like the title is Roczen’s to lose. But, we have already seen how quickly the tables can turn in Monster Energy AMA Supercross.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Picture courtesy of KTM Images