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Ken Roczen on the Salt Lake City Quarantine Daily Show


Presented by Maxxis

Today on the Salt Lake City Quarantine Daily Show, Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen joins us for a chat about his fourth win of the season, getting lapped twice at the previous race, team dynamics with Justin Brayton, and the excitement of becoming a father in three months. At this point, something drastic would have to happen to Eli Tomac for Roczen to win this year’s Monster Energy Supercross Championship, but considering all of the hurdles he’s had to overcome over the past several seasons, Kenny’s return to the top of the sport is like a championship in itself.

Kenny’s wireless connection was spotty at times, so we’ve transcribed the show below!

Hey guys, you’re watching the Salt Lake City Quarantine Daily Show, presented by Maxxis Tires. I’m joined by team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen, the big winner of Sunday night’s race. Man…congratulations!

Thank you. It was huge and much needed at this point after the couple of the disaster races I had.

Even Cooper Webb had said, “Oh, well, I got into second, I just was waiting Kenny out.” Were you yourself thinking about the time and waiting for the fatigue of the previous races to kick in? Or was it something different?

No, I didn’t think of it. I’m not 100% by any means, because in that short amount of time and with how much we’re racing, it’s tough to get everything to calm down. People don’t understand how I could all of a sudden be so good. Well, after Sunday, which was the worst race of them all, the track was crazy, crazy, crazy rough, and muddy. The Sunday where I got 10th. That didn’t help. On top of that, I was feeling not great whatsoever, by any means. So that made it really bad. Obviously, when I got on medication right away that Dr. Bodnar prescribed me and stuff, it started to kick everything back in check and suppressed the whole virus symptoms and stuff.

Obviously I was a little better, but with my condition, I was not perfect. Obviously I don’t want to be fifth, but another rider would be stoked about a top five. But obviously that was a step in the right direction. I said from the beginning that I would take my time to get up to speed because we have an extra day in between. So I just tried everything I can. Also, like I said, the medication had more time to really kick into my system. That was the reason why I was able to be myself at last Sunday’s race. I really do not understand how people think that I’m making excuses. Because the last thing that I want is to be bitching about the same things over and over.

Trust me, I’m over it too. Like I said when you have these problems and these feelings going on and you get on medication right away that I got prescribed from Dr. Bodnar. He was on the same page with my doctor and everything. We’re at the top of the level of the sport so we have to get everything in check. Luckily we know what to do. So I was finally able to get my body somewhat in check and race like myself. When I am winning or running near the front, but then all of a sudden I get lapped twice, there must be some kind of issue, obviously. When that race is that bad, there’s probably most likely a reason for that.

So initially we were texting a little bit about the breathing issues and stuff. Was that a separate issue from the shingles? Or was shingles the cause of the breathing troubles?

No, I don’t think shingles were the reason for that. I can’t tell you if I am allergic to something. I don’t know, because it’s been going on for a while. During this entire season, I wasn’t ever 100% with it. But at least at sea level, I could manage, but it was always there. Luckily I was just good enough to make it work and pick my battles when I had to. But up here in that altitude, it makes breathing harder. It’s tough, especially with the speed that we’re going and how intense this whole thing is. So that comes into play also with my recovery. After racing, getting back up here, and only having a couple of days in between, I constantly struggle with this thing. I’m doing specific breathing exercises for it to see if we can resolve it. But I don’t have an answer for it. So I don’t know.

The whole recovery thing has got to be tough with the races back to back to back to back…

Yeah. We’re all in the same boat. I think when you’re in a normal state it’s a lot better than the situation that I’m in because in general, I don’t know if people with Epstein Barr suffer from the same symptoms. They’re in the same family, it’s an immune system deficiency. Sometimes I can get the same feeling of being tired without getting the shingles. I had a sore down on my tailbone and sometimes I’ll get a cold sore on my lip, but this time it was just on my back and it was shingles. I had Dr. Bodner look at it and I sent photos to my doctor as well. But that wasn’t enough for us; we needed to know if it was 100% shingles. So I actually went and got a blood test and it was positive. I just get this odd feeling of being lethargic and tired. Your focus is super off and everything. Yeah, but this thing with the recovery and ideally going Saturday to Saturday, it’s not ideal because I want to actually put in work to get better, which you can’t always, right? When you’re in the middle of the season, you race a lot and it’s a lot of traveling. You can’t always expect to take a step forward. Sometimes it’s good to do just enough to where you’re staying the same and you’re fully recovered coming into Saturdays, but get your rest. So now from Sunday to Wednesday, there’s pretty much no time.

This thing can flare up at any time again, and for that simple reason, I’m trying to have my stress levels low. I’m here doing my stretching and my breathing exercises. All this should help with my nervous system, but having said that it’s still a challenge. But life, in general, comes with stress. I’m supposed to be able to handle it no problem. Same with anxiety. That’s what’s so fun about competing, no matter what kind of racing you’re doing or what kind of competing you’re doing, getting these butterflies in your stomach is healthy and that’s why we’re doing it. Right? So life comes with a certain amount of stress, the body has to handle it.

But I’m trying to control the things that I can control and some of the other things flaring up and getting these shingles that’s like, I mean I can’t control it. It’s a tough situation to be in. I’ve been in it for so long because also we don’t really ever have enough time off. For example, because of COVID-19 we didn’t race for what, almost three months? But having said that from the beginning, you can take it easy a little bit. Then it was like, “Oh, we’re racing in May.” Then, “Oh no, maybe mid-April, or maybe the end of April.” If they would’ve just said from the beginning on, “Hey, we’re not going until …” Like how the GPs did it because obviously, maybe it was a little bit worse over in Europe. But they said, “Hey, there’s nothing moving here until at least July.” Then I could have been like, “Okay, we’re three months, four months, however many months out, and I can take two months and just completely reset my system and then have six to eight weeks or whatever to do my training and get back better than I was before.”

But that wasn’t the case. We always have to somewhat stay in shape and keep training. Then I was also trying to get a little bit better. Then in the beginning it was outdoors, maybe it was going to be Supercross in September and October after the Nationals. It was already hot in Florida when I was trying to do some motos, and that’s taxing on the body. The heat can be a problem. That’s part of hurting your body, just wearing it down to where when you’re not fully recovered. So just because we weren’t racing doesn’t mean we were on holiday the whole day, the whole time. We were still training.

Okay. Enough of the sickness and the ailment talk, I’m sure you’re really sick and tired of talking about all that with everybody. When the COVID-19 pandemic happened and you went on break, what did you do during that time? How did it affect you? Was it an advantage for you to have a little bit of time to rest considering your situation?

Yeah, I think the worst thing honestly, that could have possibly happened for me was having that time off just because I feel like I was on a good roll. We were in a deep battle. The worst thing that could have probably happened as well as was coming to Salt Lake City because of the altitude. So I was not that happy that this whole situation was going down. But obviously this thing was a lot bigger than just our sport. But yeah, as soon as this whole thing was out it was shocking. At that time I was like, “Cool, actually we have some time off, that’s pretty cool.” But then after a while, I thought, “I would have had a better shot at the title if we didn’t stop.” Well, we just took it easy. We really hunkered down for a while.

I mean I probably didn’t wear a set of jeans with regular shoes for two months. I was just in board shorts and barefoot most of the time and flip flops. So that side of things was cool. The cool thing is that I live on a lake in Florida, so I have my boat in the water, my jet skis and everything. We definitely made the most out of everything. I think if, for example, you are in California, it was a lot worse because a lot of the houses are just house on house, on house with no yard. Really just in it the whole time. But I live on like an acre and I have a shop in there with a gym. So I could basically just keep doing my normal routine. On top of that, we have a private facility when it comes to riding.

I wasn’t ever really restricted on any training side. But the time that I did take off I spent a lot of time over my shop and just organizing some things. Actually I had some time to do some iRacing that I did for Red Bull there with the GranTurismo race. So that was pretty cool. Tried to make the most out of the time that we had to hunker down. But yeah, we didn’t leave the house for a long time. We have never really been in that situation. Because in our offseason we’ll go to Germany, go to California, you’re free to do whatever… But we weren’t; nobody was doing anything or going anywhere, so it was awful.

I saw you before racing started here in Salt Lake City at that super cool Flying Iron Horse Ranch track. I saw Courtney and I was like…”Hey….” So I texted you later, “Hey buddy, congratulations.” I didn’t know if the baby was a secret or not, but you kept quiet. But you got to be super excited about this.

I’m really, really, really excited. It was a little bit of a shock to the system. Because it wasn’t like we were trying, but we were also not, not trying type thing. It was also not a secret because this whole was going on. We weren’t going to races. I told Court, I’m like, “Why do we have to feel obligated to do a huge announcement on social media? I’m like, this is our thing. People will know soon enough.” So we were just like, “All right, let’s just keep it under wraps.” We weren’t hiding anything, but we were also not promoting it. So it was just one of those things that we enjoyed internally with our close friends. Before we went a little bit further along, I also have to make sure my team knew and those kinds of things.

I have always liked kids and I love family life. So I’m using this as a hugely positive thing. I’m sure it’ll be a little stressful in the beginning when they’re newborn, but I’m really looking forward to the time where things hopefully settle in a little bit and maybe get the little one on a sleep schedule where things are in a routine a little bit. The cool thing is also that we’re having a boy.

Oh, you found out! Congratulations. So how far along is Courtney right now?

We’ve got like three months ago. So yeah, she’s like six months right now. So it’s coming up quick. We actually did the whole blood test thing very early on just to make sure that everything’s okay and that he’s healthy. Also, some of the doctor appointments were put off. That got thrown for a loop because of, I think because of the whole COVID thing and things were slowing down. I don’t even know if anybody was working. So we were supposed to actually find out a lot earlier because we did the blood test. But then we didn’t. She had to go in again and take it, later on, to find out. We didn’t find out until I don’t even know what week it was. 16, 17, I don’t know, something. 16 maybe or something like that. We were supposed to find out probably four weeks earlier, three weeks earlier.

But yeah, I’m pumped. Back in the day, I’ve always wanted a girl because I’m really close with my niece, Zoey. So I’ve always wanted a girl. Then the further I went along and thought about it, I’m like, “Man, it’d be cool to have a little boy.” I mean, no matter what, whether you have a girl or a boy, we would have been happy no matter what. If I want to go surfing with the little one, it also doesn’t matter if it’s a girl or a boy. But I ended up being really happy with a boy. Especially now being around the little Braytons – Beckham and Parker – I love both of them. But I’ve really bonded with honestly, both of them because we’ve spent a lot of time together. But Beckham, I mean, he’s just super cute and it makes me even more excited.

The chemistry between you and Justin and your families together…it seems like a match made in heaven. I mean, you have to be super, super pumped to have a teammate that you can be that close with and enjoy time away from the track with.

Absolutely. I wished that all this would have happened earlier. But we never really had contact because obviously he was on different teams and living in North Carolina. It’s funny, I was always, I wouldn’t say loud, but I’m a little bit different and just a little bit more outgoing where JB, when you meet him, he’s a lot quieter and you think that he’s uptight. But after being teammates and whatnot, we fit together so well. I actually call him my dad because he’s no young buck. So this has really been great because we have a lot of deep conversations about things that helped me out, I think helped him out, too. We’ve just really bonded. The fact that we’re teammates and getting to spend so much time together is even cooler. I think it helps both of us out.

Once this whole thing was said and done with Salt Lake he actually hit me up and we had the same thought of, “Let’s see if we can rent a place together.” Because being up here for three and a half weeks or whatever it’s been super fun. So I couldn’t be more thankful to have him as a teammate and just the whole chemistry that we have. We do a lot together. A lot of just honest conversations, but then have a lot of fun, a lot of laughs and everything. Even outside of moto, we actually went up to South Carolina and caught up with them and rented a house on the beach up there for a little three, four days and stuff. So it’s been really great so far.

I was laughing when you guys are doing, starts at the Flying Iron Horse Ranch the other day. When Justin would beat you he’d put his arms up in the air, “Woo!” That the seemed kind of out of character for him, but obviously you’re wearing off on him.

Then I go back to him like, “Hey, I haven’t really seen you at the races on the start.” We always just give each other crap. So that’s funny.

So it looked like you guys had some homemade pasta or something last night?

Last night was insane. Yeah. We actually had our friend Spencer over here and his, I don’t know if it’s girlfriend or wife. I think he lived in Italy for about four months and she made the most bomb homemade pasta, fully made scratch noddles, good sauce and everything with veggies and homemade bread and this almost very lemon, whatever with the bread and stuff a lot. I ate a lot of food.

Have you still been hitting the bicycle a bit or you’ve been relaxing? Because I know the first couple of days you posted that GoPro of you hitting those jumps.

Yeah. We haven’t been down there as of lately. We’ve just been mountain biking all around the house. The good thing is right here, we leave straight from our house in Park City. It’s literally a 30-second ride straight to the trails that go all over the place. So we’ve just been mountain biking here all around the house. But I haven’t really gone down to the dirt jumps too much. Obviously I had some issues going on, so I didn’t really want to hurt myself even more. I was trying to just figure out how to get this whole thing under control as quickly as possible.

Okay. Last question, Kenny… When you won St. Louis, it was your first victory in years after all the trials and tribulations you’d been through. Then you won Salt Lake on Sunday. How do the two victories compare?

Man, I just said it. I don’t know if it’s always because there’s so much … I mean, I guess there hasn’t been that many races in between my last win that was in Atlanta. But every time I win, that feeling is so addicting, so every time I win I say, “Man, this feels like my first one.” But especially this one was sweet. I think it came a little bit unexpected for everybody. I was so down on myself, just frustrated with the situation and that it’s out of my hands. Because I said before, if I get beat because I was simply not the fastest or whatever it is, so be it I would rather have it that way because then at least I don’t have to deal with all the other problems that are going on. Then coming back and winning last weekend was great…I just made the path and stayed up front and pushed the whole way. It was just such a relief. I mean, I would say they’re just equally as awesome because I was pretty down and then we won this one in Salt Lake. I really needed it and I really wanted it. It was, I don’t know. One of the most fun wins that I’ve had just because I feel like I just needed it and it was okay.

Cool. Well, Hey buddy. Thanks for the time today. Can’t wait to see you back in the box on Wednesday.

 I think we’re all so confused about what day is in the week. It’s ridiculous. But honestly, I think we all like it. It’d be sweet in the future, not adding one more race, but in the future, maybe have a week or a couple of weeks where it’s Sunday, Wednesday, Sunday, that will give us a week off or something like that here and there. I think we would all be done for that.

Yeah. Cool. All right, man. Well, Hey, take care of yourself and we’ll see you tomorrow.

All right. Sounds good. Later.


Donn Maeda

Donn Maeda is a 30-year veteran in moto-journalism, having worked at Cycle News and Dirt Rider before launching MXracer Magazine and TransWorld Motocross Magazine. Maeda is the Editor-In-Chief at Swapmoto Live and you can catch him on a dirt bike or in the saddle of a mountain bike on most days.

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