The top men of supercross lined up against each other for the first time in the pre-race press conference at Anaheim. Once again, Ken Roczen stole the show as he turned up in a smart suit rather than race wear like his rivals. This what the top men had to say.
Honda’s Ken Roczen said: “The arm is pretty good. Obviously there are certain restrictions but the more you ride, the more you do anything, the more you get used to it. It’s about dealing with it. In terms of my mental state, I don’t have any problems or weakness or anything worse than anyone else out here. That’s the way I want to approach this whole deal.
“I’ve been off racing for quite some time but it’s a mixture of super familiar being here as racing is what I’ve done for quite some time, but I’ve never been out of racing for a year before. I’m lucky and happy to be here and line up on the gate again.
“Going racing and ding what I love is what it’s all about. Whether it’s a win, third or fifth at Anaheim, it doesn’t matter. It’s the first round of 17 and I’m ready to have fun.
“I know what my arm feels like and the work I put in. Other people don’t know. They see the injury and how severe it was and that I was gone for a long time, they don’t see the work I put in and the people I have around me. I know what I’m capable of and I believe in my program, bike, team and people around me. And I’m going to be in there.
“I go to the gym, but everyone has a different approach to training. I have put in the hours of riding and physical therapy, every day, morning til night. People don’t know my exact program. I’m going to win again – when that is I don’t know but I’m going to be in there.
“If my arm was fragile, and I could barely do a push up, I wouldn’t be here. The people we hired to go through physical training for months and months did a phenomenal job. And how the doctor prepped my arm, too. It’s never going to be the same but it’s good enough to race dirt bikes and have good strength in it to handle the bike.
“I wasn’t even considering a wrist brace at first as I thought the riding would help me out a lot. But my wrist felt pretty weak so I’ve done a lot of therapy and I decided to give a wrist brace a shot and I was really surprised. It supports my wrist a lot and in case of a crash, it blocks hyper-extending so it supports it and makes it feel stronger and stable.
“I think I’m riding the same as I was. After weeks and month, it’s normal to me now. I don’t feel like I’ve ever ridden any different. I’m trying to be precise. My position on the bike might be different, but it’s how I’m riding now. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal as I can go fast.
“It’s tough to come back after a full year off racing and expect to win. I want to be smart about it and it’s going to be more races, with the triple crowns. I want to get some race time under my belt. I’m going to ride hard and fast and shoot for the win if I can. Whether first, second or fifth, it doesn’t matter to me as much as it’s a long season. I’ve seen riders not win a lot of races and win the championship. I’m not too focused on having to go out and win at Anaheim. I want to stay out of trouble and focus on each and every lap and every turn.
“Being positive runs in the blood. There have been a lot of stories where certain doctors said I wouldn’t be able to do things again. But hard work is rewarded with success and there was never any doubt I wouldn’t come back. And here I am.”
Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac, runner-up to Ryan Dungey last year, said: “Last year was tough. Those handful of points I lost the title by was tough. This year is about minimising mistakes. Easy to say, a lot harder to do. I’m healthy right now and had a really good November and December. The end goal is to really go after the title and have a good shot it by the end.
“If we’d had the new points system last year I’d have won and that sucks. But I have to deal with it and can’t do anything about it. It’s just racing. You don’t get quite as nailed if you have a bad finish now.
“It’s a lot better to have Ken back with us now. You never want to see anyone hurt bad, and lose competition, It’s awesome that he’s here.”
Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin, who won the Monster Cup and lots of off-seaosn Supercross races, is the man on form. He said: “I’m feeling really good. Winning the Monster Cup was amazing and I’m trying to keep the momentum of the off-season. I had some great training and I’m ready for the season.
“Everyone saw that Ryan Dungey was the most consistent rider ever. And he was able to win some main evens but the bad days he had was always top three or five. That’s what I learned from him as a team-mate for many tears. I’ve been training with him and learned a lot. Now I’m the guy at Red Bull KTM and I want to do well for them.
“I just want to give my best and win at every race The off-season races aren’t part of the championship but I love to travel to Europe and it’s the only time I can do it. I train really hard all the time to be the best. Now I’m ready for the season.”
Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson, who won the Anaheim opener two years ago, spent much of the winter in California instead of his usual Florida base at the Baker Training Factory. He said: “Husqvarna had a new bike so I thought I’d stay out with the team in California and develop it a bit more. I was still able to make my way back east and do the whole boot camp. I did a couple of off-season races and with my new bikes, I’m ready to go.
“Being in California was different as in the past three years I’ve stayed in Florida from October until Anaheim 1. The new bike was a lot of work but it was something I wanted to do, to develop it. I did the same thing as we do in Florida, but in California while trying to develop the bike. It was nice to have a change of scenery but I still worked my butt off. “
KTM’s Blake Baggett talked about the rule changes for 2018 such as the new triple-header rounds and metal start grid like MXGPs. He said: “Change is good, so I’m excited about the new triple format as last year the only time I went to a semi was when I looped it out. So I’m excited for that as well as the metal starting platform which will even it up.
“I have the speed but I need to be more consistent and make less mistakes. Last year I was a pinball machine, ending up wherever I ended up. I had a lot of crashes but figured it out towards the end. Maybe try to harness that speed and add some stability.
“I had surgery after the last outdoor round, then when I came back I started riding the old bike until I felt like I was up to speed. Then I switched to the new bike and tried to make it better than the old one, and I think we’ve done good.
“Ken’s injury shows how tough any of the top riders are. They don’t take time off if they don’t have to. And Chad’s here and he wants to battle on Saturday night. The top guys are tougher than most.”
Yamaha’s team leader Cooper Webb said: “It’s a big difference from being a rookie last year. Just seeing the lack of preparation last year from my end and knowing what to expect this year is a big difference. I’m excited, have a new bike and another year with the team. So l hope to learn from my mistakes last year, and I had a lot last year. We sat down with the team and we made a plan on what worked and what didn’t.
“I’ve been with my trainer Swanny (ex GP rider Gareth Swanepoel) for a bit now and I’m happy to continue with him. I feel the new 2018 bike fits my style a lot better and I feel the best I’ve ever been. I’m excited to line up and see where we stand. I have new motivation for this year.”
Suzuki’s Weston Peick, nine years as a privateer but now factory-backed at Suzuki, was at his first press conference. He said: “It’s good to be up here for my first time after all these years and I’m looking forward to a good 2018 season. “I’ve learned form my experiences over nine years racing every weekend. Now being factory Suzuki supported and on a brand new bike for 2018, I need to be consistent and stay on track every weekend. Just stay healthy and not get injured.
“In 2018 we have the full factory Suzuki support deal and a Lites team too, and it’s been awesome. It’s made my riding better as I’ve been out riding every day. We hired twice the staff and there have been a lot of good changes for everyone.”
Former champ Chad Reed, hurt with an ankle injury that was operated on ten weeks ago, is now on a privateer Husqvarna. He said: “The love of it makes me come here. It’s not my first press conference! I’ve been 16 years in the US doing it and it’s a lot of fun. I still have the same drive to come out and go racing. It’s been a struggle and a long off season. But we’re here and that was the goal.
“I woke up from surgery and one of the first things the doctor said was we have a good chance of making it and here we are. I’ve ridden the bike three times, I’m not fit, a little overweight but I’m out to race my dirt bike and have fun, something I haven’t done since May.
“Just being here is awesome. I want to be in the main event and collect some points. You do what you can do. What this is yet to be seen. I’ve had such little time on the bike. But I’ve been here a long time. In 2004 six weeks before the first race I had shoulder surgery and had one of the easiest wins of my career. I’ll probably not do that this year. I feel confident that I’m the only past champion so I’ll put all those years to good use.
“I rode a lot of bikes in the off-season and narrowed it down to how I felt on the bike. Doing it on your own, keeping it simple and don’t have to spend a bunch of money on it. It’s been a long time since I rode a bike as good as my 2012 Honda. One of my priorities is to be the oldest supercross winner!”