Talking Point: The Battle For KTM The Top Spot

It’s a big year for KTM USA in 2014. For the first time since their American reinvention they will have two top tier riders in the 450 class.

And that means that Ryan Dungey will have to contend with a teammate who is just as fast as him for the first time in his career. The ultra confident Ken Roczen will no doubt be relishing the challenge but for Dungey this will be another issue to have to deal with in a growing list of challenges ahead next season.

Roczen has beaten Dungey for the last three years at the MXDN on a 250f, so there is no doubting Ken’s ability to beat Dungey, who will be well aware of the German’s threat. But of course racing Dungey in the USA on his home turf, and in 450 supercross, will be a tougher challenge.

But we saw this weekend at the Monster Energy Cup that Roczen is already on the pace. The KTM duo made the podium with Dungey just edging his teenage teammate for second overall on the last lap. Roczen said after he has only ridden the 450 four times in supercross prior to the MEC, so to be hovering around the much more experienced Dungey already shows that Ken will not be backing down.

For Dungey though this could be difficult to take. He has always been De Coster’s golden boy and has been the guy that has taken priority within the team. But with Roczen coming in with all his talent and championship credentials, just at the time De Coster seems to be losing patience with Dungey, it could be a volatile mixture that is difficult for Dungey to diffuse.

Ryan Dungey might just be at a crossroads in his career.

Dungey really needs to beat Roczen this season to maintain his leadership at KTM, but he also needs to show he has the aggression to beat RV. At the Monster cup in race one, Dungey had the holeshot but RV instantly took the lead straight away forcing Dungey to play catch up yet again. Dungey should not have allowed it to happen. But time and again that is the stark difference between the two. Dungey is passive while RV takes charge of the situation.

Dungey also knows just how competitive Roczen is already on the 450 with only four days on the bike. Roczen will only getting better and he is also a more naturally talented rider and a more confident person than Dungey. Both those factors could be key in Roczen challenging Dungey next season and beyond.

Let’s not forget that Dungey wanted Aldon Baker to train him a couple of years ago but RV got there first and it seems to be a repeat now Roczen has brought Aldon on board. Dungey has let one of his closest challengers get the best trainer in the world again. It is yet another angle that could frustrate Dungey mentally.

Roczen has experience with having teammates of a similar level, having beaten Jeffrey Herlings to the MX2 World title in 2010. However Herlings was only 16 then and while he had the speed of Roczen he didn’t have the mental strength. Roczen has also seen off teammate Marvin Musquin in recent years but his biggest test will be beat Dungey.

But you feel KTM see the huge potential in Roczen and right now there seems to be a slight confidence loss from KTM and De Coster in Dungey.

The window of opportunity is there for Roczen to challenge and beat Dungey. Right now it is a battle of the raw talent v experience.

Both may end up helping each other’s speed but can they both remain friends in the same truck as their rivalry escalates. Two top tier riders usually cause a rift at some point within the team as the egos clash because of their desire to win and be the main guy.

It will be a difficult balance for KTM but one they need to get right.

Ryan Dungey has a lot to prove to a lot of people next year especially his employers and himself. But Ken Roczen is a man on a mission armed with the best trainer in the business.

It will be interesting if both are content to share the limelight or more likely, which rider will elevate themselves to become the number one rider.

One thing is for sure, both believe it should be them.

Article by Jonathan McCready

Picture KTM Images/S.Cudby ©

MX Vice Editor || 25

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