Interviews 15 Jun 2020

Debrief: 2020 Supercross Rd15 Salt Lake City

Roczen and Forkner recall their Supercross victories at Salt Lake City 5.

The final rounds of the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross season are upon us and, at Salt Lake City 5, it was Ken Roczen (Team Honda HRC) and Austin Forkner (Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki) who emerged at the winners of round 15. Both of them spoke to the media directly after the main events to share their thoughts in Utah.

Ken Roczen

Image: Octopi Media.

Kenny, congratulations. My question to you is just that five and 10 minutes that you’re on the gate before the main, with everything that you’re going through, it just seems like it’s been piling on… What are you thinking about in the main before the gate drops? Is there hope? Is there optimism? What are the thoughts going on while you’re on the gate?

I, honestly, just always lay it out there. I don’t ever want to give up, but obviously some of the races, like the last two, last three were just crazy. It’s something that you go in and I just go as long as I can. That hasn’t really been the whole race, but like my post on Instagram said, I’m just going to come here and try again. It’s really tough after having so many negative races in a row – three of them, really – it’s tough to come here, come out and pretend like nothing ever happened even though that’s my plan. It’s tough, but I knew at least from Wednesday to Sunday that I have a little bit more time to get everything back in check. It’s a bummer that it has been the way it has been, but at the same time there’s nothing really I can change – I’m always going out there and trying to do my best. I’m not saying that from Sunday and then Wednesday and now that all of a sudden, I go from zero to a hundred and everything is 100 percent, but I just need it to be where it’s manageable.

When you’re in the lead at the halfway point of the race, considering how these last few have gone, and that’s where your energy levels have seemed to slip off these last few weeks. What was your pace like and what did it feel like for you? At that point you started putting a bigger gap on guys, so did it feel like once you got over a hurdle, things came easier or did it just feel natural at that point?

It honestly felt somewhat natural. Obviously, all the lap-times have been super-short because we’re obviously always racing 20 plus one, but having that many laps the tracks get chewed up. I was just hitting my marks, It wasn’t like I was going a crazy, crazy speed or whatever, but you couldn’t either because those flat turns can really get you. I don’t know if I was necessarily the best there, I don’t think I was, but I was really trying not to stall the bike either because we’re literally almost at a dead stop right there, so that made for some interesting racing because we had two flat turns like that. Other than that, I really just tried to hit my marks, ride as clean as possible because the whoops got really chewed up and we had a couple of rutty turns. Overall, I just try to hit my marks and hang in there as long as I can.

You announced you have shingles, so what does that actually feel like? Do you even feel the affects at all in this race and what did you feel like in some of the bad races?

It was crazy because I woke up, in the morning you wake up and you take things slow, then I went out to practice and I came back in and I got changed and my wife was actually like… I had a red mark right on my tailbone. It wasn’t that big, it wasn’t huge, but it was starting to blister. We were like, ‘what the heck?’ I had doctor Bodnar look at it and whatnot. After the race I went and got a blood test done to see if that’s what it was and I did test positive for it, but the good thing was that as soon as that started, doctor Bodnar put me on some medication and we caught it right away. It popped up and the same afternoon, after the race, I could go and get the medication. I think it’s an immune system problem again, right? I just felt super-lethargic, obviously I had no… I mean, you could see how I was riding out there – I’ve never seen anything like it. I just had no aggression, I felt tired, I don’t know… It was like I was out of my body – it was crazy. I didn’t really get too much pain – when I was touching it, it was sensitive and whatnot – but I didn’t really get any crazy pains, like how some people said that’s what shingles do. That’s, I think, because we caught it super-early. It started opening up at one point, like the blisters started opening, but we got lucky that we caught it early and now it’s starting to go away.

Great ride tonight. Judging off your last few races, this was quite a surprise. Did you surprise yourself? Did you feel any better in practice or feel any better throughout the day to know that you could do this in the main event?

After those last races, of course, this came as a little bit of a surprise. My dad actually messaged me in the morning and wished me good luck and I told him I’m winning today – I kind of just put it in my head. It’s hard to judge because, obviously even on the races that I didn’t do good, the heat race was fine, but I always feel throughout the day that there’s something lingering. Still to this point, there’s something that makes you tired and makes you feel weird… It’s really hard to describe. I think only people [can understand] that have experienced epstein barr, the whole shingles and the immune system problem that I have, I guess. Having said that, having these couple of extra days, I’ve struggled with this before and managed it just fine. I think I’ve just got to a point right now where it’s backed off enough or suppressed enough to where I can handle it.

I don’t know if you got the memo, but riders are supposed to be really guarded about their health and not tell anybody anything. Throughout your career, you’ve been fully transparent, so where does that thinking come from and why do you feel it’s important to be so transparent?

Well, it is what it is. If you’re out there, doing good and winning races and getting on the podium, then all of a sudden you’re getting lapped twice and you’re 10th and just fading after eight minutes, I mean, it’s obvious. It is what it is. I’m hoping to get that definitely in check – I’m trying and we’re gonna get there. Once everything is in check, I think it’ll be a little bit more on our side. If I get beat because I’m not the best or whatever, then so be it, I would love that. I just want that to be it, but always struggling with some kind of issue that’s going on is super-annoying. Trust me. I’m sick of hearing it, I’m sure everybody else is, but again, it is what it is. I can only control so many things and I’m trying my best. There’s some people that have had epstein barr before and it’s ruined their entire career, so we’re trying, we’re doing our best to keep everything dormant. Sometimes, obviously being up here at altitude, it’s for everybody the same and I feel like if I wouldn’t have this issue we wouldn’t be talking about this, but it’s definitely not ideal. At the same time, I never came here saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got a problem, this is not going to be good for me’. I would never do that, I always come in with a clean slate, try my best, and then unfortunately things like this happen. The only good thing, I guess, is just that when there is something – obviously there is something – like, for example, with the shingles, so, it’s not like there’s nothing wrong with me and I’m just wondering what’s going on, you know what I mean? Or I’m just not that bad, I guess.

Today, very similar to on Wednesday, you started right behind Cooper [Webb], it looked like you had the speed to go by him on Wednesday but just couldn’t find the line, so how important was it for you to get by him so you could relax and ride your own laps up front?

It’s definitely good. Like, even before Wednesday, I’ve never even gotten in actual time behind Cooper, so it was nice in the heat race when we were battling, I was behind him and could just actually learn a little bit more about him. We kind of found ourselves in the same position, we’re all trying, there was clean racing going on and everything. I was definitely wanting to, if I can make a pass happen, make it happen and then go for however long I can go and do my best. Like what we said earlier, sometimes it was really tough to make up time because in practice we were all super, super close, but tonight, I think I just, I felt good. I felt really good with the bike, I felt good with the track and everything, so I think it was just my night.

As these last couple races come down between tonight and Sunday – three races in eight days – are you more confident in your mental strength or your physical fitness level?

Obviously, tonight has been a big step for me in the right direction, so I’m going to obviously do my best to try and keep the same level up and get even better. It was good for me to see that I can get these things in check and make the whole distance. Like I said, I was gelling really well with the bike, we’ve been tweaking it here and there, so I was really happy with it tonight. I want to come back on Wednesday, clean slate even with these wins, it’s nice after having some down races to get this win. It’s definitely nice going into the next race knowing that we had a good night, so I’m going to hold onto that positive energy, feel good about myself and just come back, try again.

Austin Forkner

Image: Octopi Media.

Austin, congratulations on the win. Were you being patient there in the middle or were you looking for an opportunity? Where was your mindset there about halfway through?

Yeah, I was being pretty patient. I knew that with those tight turns, that lappers would kind of come into play pretty heavily, so I was just kind of waiting. I caught him pretty quick after I got by [Christian] Craig and then we kind of evened out – I’d be faster, he’d be faster. We were just kind of cat and mouse, like you said, then I kind of just saw an opening and I just went for it. Once we found that pace we were kind of matching each other, so I was just waiting for any little thing and then I was like, needed to pounce – that’s just what I could do.

It seems like during the break you came out as a different rider in Salt Lake City. You seem like you’ve been criticized by people for maybe not being aggressive enough, so what has changed during the break? Last week you held that pace, you weren’t hunted down, this week you caught Dylan [Ferrandis] from behind and gave him some of his own medicine. It seems like you’re a different dude.

I don’t know. I’ve just been working super-hard in the off-season… Or, I say off-season, but the three, four-month break, whatever we had. I’ve just been working hard – my trainer, Robbie Reynard, has put me kind of through the ringer. He just knew, just saw how good I was last year and he felt that maybe I wasn’t quite back to how I was before I did my ACL, so we’ve just been working hard to get my fitness back up a little bit, just to make me confidence in my knee – just be better. I guess it’s worked because now two wins in Salt Lake and, just my riding, I’m better. Before I was struggling in the whoops, now in the main today that was my strong point, so just been working on stuff like that, working on the bike, got that better too. Just a combination of all those things. I mean, it’s crunch time – I have to win. I came into this Salt Lake City trip not wanting anything else. I have to try to win out and then that still might not even be enough depending on how things shake up behind me, but I’m just worried about me, that’s what I got to do. Honestly, pressure for me is kind of off, I just got to go for it.

I’m not even sure what happened with Hunter Lawrence, but you want to officially just bury the hatchet with the Lawrence brothers and just say what’s in the past is in the past and let’s just continue, let’s just move on?

Yeah… I don’t know, nothing against them, I mean, they’re both riding good. If you believe in karma, well, Hunter got me back. As soon Jett went down in the heat race, I ran straight into the back of Hunter and I went down. I’m not trying to be best friends with anybody by any means, but I’m not trying to have everybody not like me. It’s one of those things that happens, sometimes you’ve just got to shrug it off as it is what it is. Sometimes things happen, so, sometimes you make good decisions, sometimes you make bad decisions. I’ve made my share of bad decisions, but it is what it is [laughs].

Did you see Dylan not jumping the yellow flag and did you know that was right there where you were going to pass him?

Yeah, I saw that and I didn’t know if he meant to do that or if there was a red cross flag. I kind of had some like, ‘oh’, but it was just a yellow flag. I kind of used that, but I was going to maybe try to make something happen in the next turn, but I just wasn’t close enough. I knew I was pretty strong in the whoops and in that next section, then the dragon back. I don’t know if it was that lap that I made the pass on him at the finish, but I think that was kind of what got me close enough to where I could make a pass. It may have been that lap, it may have been another lap, but it was kind of that, that let me get close enough. I didn’t really know what was going on. Honestly, I don’t even think I saw anybody down in the section, so I don’t even know what they were flagging for, but yeah, I just used it.

To have a championship this close end with a Showdown… [what are] your thoughts on having a Showdown and a small lead with both east and west together?

For me, I’m hoping that I can just put some riders in between me and Dylan, obviously. I need the points, so that’s what I’m hoping, but it’s hard to tell watching races how fast everybody is. I think, obviously, Shane [McElrath] and Chase [Sexton] are going to be the two that we’re going to have to deal with that are going to be the biggest threats, so yeah, it’ll be interesting. More fast guys always make it… just changes things a little bit. It will be interesting, but I’m still just trying to win the races, that’s all I’m trying to do.

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