The Rise of Roczen
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For those who know him, 20-year-old Ken Roczen's meteoric rise through the motocross ranks comes as no surprise. Roczen has been winning championships since he was 3 years old in his home country of Germany. But to many in an American audience, Roczen, who sits comfortably in third place about halfway through the AMA Supercross season, is a surprise. That's nothing new to Roczen -- he's been surprising competitors who haven't seen him coming his whole career.
The Roczen Way
Roczen became known in Germany for winning races in bigger classes than most of the guys his age. He rode heavier bikes, raced in upper divisions, and won races no one his age had any business winning. "I can tell you many names of talented riders who were destroyed by the Roczen Way," said Thomas Ramsbacher, who signed Roczen at just 9 years old.
After winning the supercross 250 class last season, Roczen didn't lose a step in his 450 debut in January, winning the season opener in Anaheim. Everyone in attendance, except maybe Roczen himself, was surprised. "Even though I was up against these established riders, I was never intimidated or nervous by them," Roczen said.
Making His Mark
In just his third year in the 250 class, Roczen claimed the top spot in a thrilling battle with Eli Tomac that went down to the last lap of the final race of the 2013 season in Las Vegas. Roczen went into Vegas with a five-point lead, but a hard-charging and determined Tomac would take the early lead and the main event win. Roczen then had to finish in second place to claim the season title, which he did after a down-to-the-wire battle with Martin Davalos.
Coming To America
In Europe, Roczen is a known motocross commodity. The contests aren't as lucrative as they are in the U.S., so Roczen had always hoped to come to America to compete. In order to come overseas, however, Roczen had to prove himself in Europe. He won the MX2 World Championship in 2011, avenging his second-place finish the year before. Here, Roczen performs during the Red Bull Give Me Five in Valdemorillo, Madrid, Spain, in October.
Roczen maintains his success has come from a complete dedication to racing, and that his wins against more experienced riders are not coincidence. "No matter where or what I raced, there was always more experienced riders than myself and it was never easy, I had to work hard for my wins and finishes," Roczen said.
Roczen's two supercross wins thus far this season combined with his third-place position in the overall standing can only validate the risks Roczen has taken throughout his career to claim his spot among the elite riders of motocross in such a short period of time. And now that there are no bigger bikes to ride, all that's left to do is win. Pictured, Roczen races to a third-place finish at the AMA Pro Motocross Series at Budds Creek Raceway in Mechanicsville, Md. in June.
That 'It' Thing
Few riders outside of Travis Pastrana and Ricky Carmichael have shown this much promise and consistency at such a young age. Roczen's coaches and team members all agree he has something special. "I've worked with many of the best riders in the past 10 years, but there is something different about Ken, the kid has that 'it' thing." said Chris Onstott, Roczen's manager at WMG.
Roczen celebrates his world title after winning the FIM Motocross World Championships 2011 in Gaildorf, Germany. That victory put him on the fast track to America where he has found and continues to find success at just 20 years old.