Back on the podium: Tomac and Roczen – San Francisco 2024

sanfrancisco 450 podium

The Anaheim 1 season opener did not go as planned for veterans Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen. Eli struggled in his return to racing after last year´s Achilles injury, while Roczen rode well and even won the heat race but was involved in a crash right after the Main Event start. They ended up ninth and tenth respectively.

However, San Francisco was much better for both as they ended up on the podium with Tomac second and Roczen third on the muddiest track conditions. Now Tomac climbs to 3rd in the standings just 10 points shy of Jett Lawrence and Roczen is 7th but onlywithin 3 points behind Tomac.

ELI TOMAC | 2ND

Eli, back on the podium already second race after the injury. Did you, did you expect to be back this quickly and generally, what is your mindset expectations for the year after, after the Achilles [injury]?

Yeah, my goal was to get on the podium. That was my mindset and that’s how good I felt physically. I wasn’t, like, limping my way in here at all. Anaheim 1 was obviously really tough for me, was just totally off, rode really tight. There was nothing good about it but here, put myself in a great position off the start. They’re so key, to be at least top three. So, that was my focus for the main and was able to execute that and then just try to stay on two wheels at that point.

Talk about your gate selections for the heat and for the main. Obviously, you’ve been in plenty of mud races. You know the start is important, like you said. Was it the same for the heat and the main?

Yeah, my gate selection the heat, I actually looked at the one outside the box in the heat and there was this tire mark that was totally crooked and sideways. So, I was like, I don’t know, maybe the gate is extra slick or the rut was kind of messed up. So, I avoided that gate in the heat and went inside Jett [Lawrence], two inside there, for the heat. I was actually way too conservative on that start and just got smoked. But the main event start, I went back to the outside and the rut was fine and I just had a better start.

Image: JP Acevedo

How did this race compare to other mud races you’ve been in and can you punch on their conditions?

It was tough. It started out really thick and then it stayed thick enough even with all that water. A lot of times when it’s just pure rain the whole time, it’s not too bad because the ruts don’t get super deep and you’re kind of just spraying around. But this one, after the finish line, if you went inside, you could literally get stuck. I went in there one time and got stuck for like a second or two. So it was one of those tracks where it was just heavy dirt, super deep ruts. And then in the second rhythm section, I almost looped out because I grabbed a handful of throttle and hung off the back. It was one of the tough ones.

You did a great job last year. If you had an off-the-podium race you wouldn’t throw everything away and starting from scratch. Were there big changes this week or did you just need to get through round one? Or did you have to change a lot. It ended up being muddy, so obviously it didn’t matter. But what was the attitude during the week?

Yeah, of course, there were some motorcycle changes but I guess that’s just how it goes and yeah, it was just like last week was terrible for me, straight up. Like I couldn’t do anything. I was stuck where I was at, couldn’t really go forward at all. We don’t really know a whole lot I guess because this is a mud race, but I went back to something that’s worked in the past. So, I guess we’ll find out next week.

KEN ROCZEN | 3RD

Kenny, I’d ask you about the treachery of the track because you found out even right after the finish line and there are just places on this track that look like you could not go. We say you’re never supposed to follow, but I feel like tonight, there are probably a lot of situations where even with lappers you had to follow.

To be honest, I found some insane lines because of lappers or maybe even, I don’t know if I was passing people or lapping people, but I sometimes just ran in the middle and cut to the back and rode over the whole ruts and everything and I was able to carry a lot of momentum. So, I feel like my line choice was really good with that, but I did go to the inside after finish line after the checkered flag and I hit a line that I hadn’t hit and full on got stuck. I was sitting there for five minutes! But luckily the checkered fight was out. But yeah, other than that, it was, it was a really insane track. Not only from the outside but you know, seeing it under the helmet and on the track is a whole ‘nother level.

Image: JP Acevedo

Second year on the Suzuki. Do you make wholesale changes to the bike right now?

I wouldn’t say I drifted off far but I am on a different shock and the same shock and fork. Same system, but I’m on a different shock and fork setting to before A1. I was actually pretty comfortable in the main at A1. So, I left it and, and like these guys said, it’s really hard to tell here. I didn’t make any changes throughout the whole day and not the whole week. I’m just sticking to what I have for now until I decide that I feel like I need something different.

What does the new shock do differently?

It’s just matches the fork a little bit better. I believe we’re just a little bit stiffer than I than I was in the past and, but it’s really subtle changes, you know, because I feel like I had a really good spec that I rode for a long time and then we kind of just took some stabs at it. Things take a while. We just never let go and we had some long days. But that’s what’s cool about being in Florida and having Matt [Andruk] from Active Ride right with us all the time. We can just kind of throw stuff at the bike.

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