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Chatter Box: Ken Roczen

Ken Roczen was very impressive at the ninth round of 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, Budds Creek, but came up just short in the overall classification. Roczen tied on points with Dylan Ferrandis, thanks to 1-2 moto scores. The results were impressive – the downside is that he did not gain any points on his title rival and is still staring at a 39-point deficit with just three rounds remaining. Roczen still maintained the relaxed attitude that has carried him through the entire season though.

Talking to the media in the post-race press conference, hosted by MX Sports Pro Racing, Roczen explained that he has been fighting bike set-up for a while now and that hindered him at Budds Creek. The difficulties that come with attempting to test with the team on a different coast are explained at length too. This is an interesting look at some of the struggles that even the most established factory effort face behind the scenes. That post-race chat has been transcribed below, for those who prefer to read than listen or watch.

MX Vice: A great start to the day and that second moto was really something. Talk about your day and the track conditions. This was probably the hottest and most humid day, combined with tough track conditions.

Ken Roczen: Yeah, I felt pretty good all day. The conditions were a little bit tricky in the morning – I guess we got a lot of rain on Thursday and Friday. It made it tough. Jason [Baker] did a really good with the track and widened out some parts of it. My races also went really well. I could hold everyone off for first place in the first one, but the lappers were a struggle this weekend. I think that, with the track being a bit shorter, we were all cramped up. I struggled with that big time in the first moto.

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My lead got cut down pretty good, but I still held onto it. I got the holeshot in the second moto and tried to stay up front for as long as I could. I struggled a little bit with my bike set-up today – it was not ideal for the conditions. It was pretty unstable. I just rode it to where I was comfortable. It was enough for second place in the second one and second overall, so I’m actually pretty satisfied. I obviously did not make up any points, but we rode well and gave it everything we had at the same time. That is all I can do.

The mutual respect between you and Dylan [Ferrandis] is really fun to watch. Talk about racing with a guy like that, who you have mutual respect for. You guys race clean.

Yeah, absolutely. I feel like we have done a really good job of giving the crowd what they want all year. He is obviously going really well right now – he is a tough competitor and really difficult. Even when I am on my good days, I do not really make up that many points if any at all. Today was a pretty good day for me, besides maybe with bike set-up, but I did not make up any points and we have less races to go. It is enough time for something to happen and to make it interesting, but it is what it is. All I can do is focus on myself and what is going on in my camp over here. We obviously have a lot of respect for each other and he is riding so well right now. It is tough.

When Dylan passed you in that second moto, was there not another line that was available or an option? What limited you from overtaking Dylan in that second moto?

I knew he was going to come up on the inside – I noticed it right away from the top. I tried to actually slow down a little bit and hit my marks really good to see if I could make a run for it coming back up to the step-up. Especially in that scenario, going down the hill with how rough it was, my bike was not stable enough for me to send it down there a little bit more. I was losing everywhere going down the hills – that was probably my bad side today. That is just something that we… I still tried everything to not get into those situations. It is what it is. We gave it our all and he made the pass stick. I made a run again with two laps to go or so and got super close. I got messed up by a lapper again and it put just enough of a gap between us where I could not do anything anymore.

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With it being a hot race, you do not want to go out there to make a statement or impress anyone. You are going out there to do it for yourself. Do you think that people are going to lay off you in the comments if you perform when it is hot though? You kind of showed that today. What are your thoughts when people say stuff like that? 

I have not really heard any of that, to be honest. I train in the heat as well and you need to robust enough to make it through at this point in the season. The pace is just super higher too. When someone is gelling with their bike… I am there with Chase [Sexton]. When you are not really feeling that comfortable, it wears you out a lot more. I felt like I had to really muscle the bike around in both motos to be able to go at the speed that we went. Of course, that makes it tougher towards the end of the motos. We are definitely trying to make the bike better and easier on ourselves, so that we do not have to force things so much.

I struggled with being precise for that reason, just because my bike was bouncing around all over the place. I had to leave a few tenths in certain spots. I was not too happy about that, but we just have to try and do as good as possible. I also know, coming to Budds Creek, it is not like the temperature or the actual number is that hot. It is just that there is no breeze where we are at with the start gate. We all have fans, umbrellas, gloves and a helmet. There is a lot of stuff that we are carrying around! When you see that it is in the mid 80s then you can prepare yourself for a pretty miserable day.

Both you and Chase talked about comfort with the bike. Are you guys talking and feeling similar things? Are you feeling something different to him? Are you bouncing ideas off of one another?

I definitely think that we are complaining about the same thing. It has been a bit of a struggle in general this year, due to COVID. The suspension ship outs… It sometimes does not turn up in the time that we need it to. I have not really been testing at all. I’ve been on the same set-up for quite a while now. Basically, in the first moto I was riding the exact same bike that I did at Unadilla. I did not like it nearly as much as I did at Unadilla.

It wasn’t ideal there either, but I definitely struggled with it more today. Certain areas are deeper and you have rutty sections – that really pulls the bike down. Having the bumps in the ruts too, they are pretty quickly in a row. I definitely feel like I did not have enough stability there. It’s a difficult situation to be in, because if we were in California then we would be able to test and do that kind of stuff. Being in Florida, I have been sticking with what I have and trying to muscle my way through.

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We know that guys have different strengths at the beginning and end of motos, but at the same time you guys are going at such a quick pace. How much does strategy come into play during the motos?

The only strategy that there really is is to try to go as fast as you can, conserve yourself, find a decent flow and keep up your momentum. If you are trying really hard, like you are doing in qualifying practice, then it can wear you down pretty quick. The top guys are strong enough at the same time where you cannot slow down too much. It is pretty much wide open until the end, so you have just got to go and make it as long as you can.

You were talking about having some bad races here and there, which is what has hurt you this year. You had a great supercross season and have had a great outdoor season so far. When you say that “it is what it is…” I know you do not mean it as in you do not care. Does anyone say, “It isn’t what it is. We need more.”

I definitely do not say “it is what it is” in a way that I am just leaving it – for me to try a shock and a set of forks takes two weeks. After certain comments, they try to get some stuff out and usually we can ride it on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. When you test, you cannot always expect it to hit it right on the mark. If that is not it then we are going to the race… It’s not like they can just ship shock after shock after shock. There is only so much equipment there.

If you have a bunch at your place, then you have to send some back and they have to build it before shipping it out again. It all takes time. Realistically, a day of testing in California or if the team is here [in Florida] is a lot more valuable than them sending a shock. We try to hit precise marks of what to change, but it is still… In theory, what makes sense does not always end up being the same on the track.

The time just kind of flies by, then before you know it four weeks have gone by and you have tried two shocks and a couple of forks. If that is not it then you have just got to keep going. We’re just a little bit limited. It is difficult for everyone. If you are not in California the whole entire year to test then it can be difficult. It’s obviously good enough for me to win certain races on it and works better at certain races than others. It is also valuable when you have a set of suspension that might not be ideal, but at least you know it and have won on it. There is always a fine line and it is difficult to hit the marks, for sure.

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You have had your concerns and issues with lapped riders in supercross and motocross. Would you like to see a rule where lappers have to exit the track in the last two laps?

I don’t know. It is tough. It is more just… We have not really had any problems this year, until this weekend. I think it had a lot to do with the track. It’s really difficult to move around when the ruts are that deep and long. Some parts of the track were wet as well. The only thing that I complain about is that it did not go my way – I got held up. It is not that big a deal. I’m definitely aboard with Chase. They are out there racing and trying their best. I yelled more today than I have at any other race. I’m surprised I have a voice! I did not really have any sketchy moments, but I had to roll the uphill triple. It is just when it costs you time and the other guys are moving in on you.

Interview: Press Conference | Lead Image: Align Media

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