The 450SX class in the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series is going to be extremely exciting for a couple of reasons. The fact that there are more than seven potential race winners that will be going to the starting line each week is a mouth-watering prospect. In part, this is thanks to the fact that both Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac are vacating the 250SX class and making the jump up to the premier division full-time.
In the lead-up to Anaheim 1, there are a lot of different bench-racing topics that are floating around. One of the most popular questions that is being asked is: who will stronger over the course of the season, Ken Roczen or Eli Tomac? Although you can make a case for both guys, I believe that Ken will prove to be the stronger rider. You may think that this is an odd choice. After all, Tomac has arguably had the better 250 career. But, there are a handful of factors that indicate that the adjustment to the 450f is going to be easier for Roczen.
Although Roczen has not raced on a 450f full-time, I feel quite confident that he will be in a position to contend for race victories each week. After all, he almost won the Seattle 450SX main event in 2012. In comparison, Tomac did not enjoy the same success when he jumped up to the 450f briefly earlier this year. So, the potential is clearly there. However, that is not to say that Eli will not be in a position to win races immediately. It is quite well known that Tomac struggled with his bike setup when he contested some 450SX races. But, those problems should be rectified now, following an off-season of testing.
Honestly, I am slightly skeptical about how Ken will cope with a full 450SX season. In his first season in the USA, he continuously stated his disdain for the travel, specifically when it came to the east coast rounds. Now that he has to compete in all seventeen rounds of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross rounds, Ken will have to travel to the east coast, as well as compete in the rounds that are on the west. I am unsure about how this is going to affect him mentally, and physically; it could really influence his results. However, now that Ken is training with Aldon Baker, I presume that he will stay at his base in Florida whilst the series is on the east coast, which should mean that the travel will not have so much of a negative affect.
Of course, the fact that the German is now training with Aldon Baker will help him with his fitness, which was another weakness of his. However, this was more of an issue when it came to the outdoors. Still, the added strength will surely allow Roczen to thrive in supercross this year – just look at the transformation that Ryan Villopoto made after one winter of training with Aldon Baker!
Is Ken going to win the 450SX Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship next year? I do not think so. However, I believe that he will be in a position to challenge for the title in 2015; 450SX rookies rarely come out and challenge for the championship in their first season. I think that he will win some races though; I would not be surprised at all if he wins Anaheim 1. Eli will be in a similar position, in my opinion. I doubt that he will win the title, but he is expected to challenge for main event wins.
Like I said above, Tomac was quite unhappy with his bike when he competed in four rounds last year. Although I am sure that this would have been sorted by now, what is to say that an issue with his setup will not arise again? Prior to his stint on a 450f earlier this year, I thought that he was really going to thrive on the big bike. But, I am not so sure now, because of how those races went for him. In theory, he should be much more comfortable on the 450f, because he is one of the bigger guys. Really, Eli has very few weaknesses, as he is a hard worker, and he has a great program in place.
Of course, there is another high profile rider that is going to start his full-time 450SX career at Anaheim 1. Roczen and Tomac have overshadowed Wil Hahn recently. So, Hahn is going into 2014 under the radar. This could end up being positive for him, as he will be able to focus on his own program. Unfortunately for Wil, the field is stacked, so it would be surprising to see him finish inside of the top six – he could be ninth one week, and fifteenth the next, because of how competitive the 450SX class is going to be. Hahn should be right in the same group as guys like Andrew Short, I predict, which would be a strong result in his first season.
Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac and Wil Hahn are going to add a lot of excitement to the 450SX class when the gates drop on January 4th. All three guys have the tools to achieve their personal goals, which should make for a very exciting season. I believe that 2014 will be a learning year for these three, so it will be interesting to watch them grow over the course of the season.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of Simon Cudby/KTM Images