It is proving to be the rivalry of 2013 but just who will win the battle to be 250 outdoor national champion?
After Roczen narrowly won the Supercross title their duel has moved on to outdoors and both riders are showing similar characteristics. Tomac rides balls out while Roczen just does what is necessary. In many ways these two are the epitome of the difference between American and GP riders.
Roczen, the smooth and calculated rider who excels on the slower more technical tracks and Tomac, the aggressor, who twists the throttle further than it should go and excels on the soft loamy flat out style circuits. Unfortunately for Roczen the series is in America with more tracks that seem to suit Tomac’s style.
Right now Roczen has a slender seven point advantage but in many people’s eyes Tomac is faster. That however may be a fact that upsets Roczen because ultimately Ken is the one getting the job done right now.
Take the last round at Red Bud for example.
Tomac got into the lead early and took off and by the time Roczen got into second he was 12 seconds back. He kept the gap steady but didn’t risk everything by trying to catch Tomac. It appeared that Tomac was faster though given his early sprint laps.
Then in race two both riders got bad starts with Roczen behind Tomac but, when he really needed to show his speed, Roczen passed Tomac and went into the lead. Tomac, riding hard to stay with Roczen pushed too hard and crashed. This meant Tomac had to come from behind again and once into second gave it his all from 12 seconds back and caught Roczen a bit. But Roczen again was in safety mode so while it appeared Tomac was faster it was actually Roczen that showed the speed when it mattered at the beginning of the race and it was Roczen who took the overall.
Both riders tied on points however and it is indicative of just how close they are. Yet, aside from a couple of brief battles coming through the field at Hangtown and Red Bud (that Roczen won), the two title heavyweights have never really faced off in a one on one battle for the lead. Until they do we can only guess as to who will win.
It also appears that they are not best of friends. There is not much communication on the podium between the two and the battle, while clean so far, seems like it could get heated up pretty quickly as egos and championship aspirations push them even further apart.
While they surely respect each other Tomac is apparently not a big fan of Roczen. Tomac doesn’t like the former world champion coming from the GPs and beating him in the USA. This is Tomac’s last chance at a 250 outdoor title and after Roczen stole his supercross title away he doesn’t want Roczen to steal the outdoor championship away too.
Roczen meanwhile wants to show the American’s that he can beat them on their own turf and that some of the US media’s perception that Eli is faster is simply not true.
Each race right now is not just about the championship, it is about ego and proving to each other just who is faster. Both riders think they are the best but both recognise just how strong the other is and that they will have to be on their A game to win this title.
It’s coming down to the wire and the one thing that could sway the balance is the ability to ride in the heat without a real break between motos. It seems Roczen has not totally acclimatised to the heat in the USA while Tomac, after a couple of shaky years, has got it dialled.
Roczen though has the experience of winning a world title and that could help him when it comes down to the last round. However Tomac has tunnel vision right now and his pure dedication and blinkered approach to racing may force Roczen to take things more serious during the week in order to match Tomac’s intensity down the stretch.
It’s crunch time for the title contenders and both riders are looking to grab the momentum this weekend in Washougal. Stand by for some fireworks, because this series could get explosive!
Article by Jonathan McCready
Picture by KTM Images/Simon Cudby