When Justin Barcia won the Monster Energy Supercross season-opener last week at Angel Stadium, the kickoff races for 2019 and 2020 began eerily similarly: with the same surprise winner two years in a row. The riders lined up behind him were not as familiar in 2020. Now, two of the sports’ biggest names, will be looking to overcome a deficit next week at the Dome at America’s Center in St Louis in Week 2.
Ken Roczen finished sixth at Anaheim 1; Eli Tomac was seventh.
For most of 2019 the Supercross title was a three-man battle between the eventual champion Cooper Webb, Tomac, and Roczen. In 2019 all three riders finished among the top five at Anaheim 1 with Roczen second, Tomac third, and Webb fifth.
Entering last week’s race, the least experience rider among the championship troika had the biggest obstacle to overcome. Webb battled the flu and could barely talk in pre-race ceremonies, but he rasped his way through an interview at the end of the night while standing on the podium.
Roczen and Tomac headed for the pits.
Roczen suffered his worst Supercross season-opener since he joined the series full time in 2014. That year he won Anaheim 1. He won again in 2015 and 2017 and until last week, he had not finished outside the top five in a race since 2014.
In 2019, Roczen was the runner up to Barcia.
Tomac was on his back wheel last year – standing on the bottom rung of the podium in third. That was unfamiliar territory for Tomac, however. Since 2014 he has been inside the top five twice in six races and never better than third until 2019.
Roczen’s uneven season last year suggests that his sixth-place finish – his worst ever in Anaheim 1 – might be difficult to overcome. He podiumed in Week 2 at Glendale, finished fourth and fifth at Anaheim 2 and Oakland respectively before finishing on the podium three more times in successive weeks. Then, he was off the podium in four straight races.
Roczen was never able to firmly establish momentum and he was eliminated from contention before the finale.
On the other hand, Tomac is accustomed to coming from deep in the points. He finished 21st at Anaheim 1 in 2014, 20th in 2015, and 22nd in 2018. After his modest start in 2014 he finished 13th in the standings. But he was much more successful after struggling in the other two seasons. Tomac climbed to second at the end of 2015. He was third in 2018.
Like Roczen, Tomac struggled to find consistency in 2019. He was not able to stand on the podium in back-to-back races until April. Once he finally did, he rattled off consecutive wins at Nashville and on his hometown track of Denver. He podiumed in New Jersey in the penultimate race and won the season-ender in Las Vegas. It was too little too late, however, and Webb’s consistently strong runs carried the season.
Webb won after starting with a modest deficit to Tomac and Roczen. This year Webb has a modest advantage. Roczen spotted the 2019 champion four points in the opener. Tomac gave up five points. And in an intense 17-race championship, that could make a big difference at the end.
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