Eli Tomac says Ken Roczen will be missed in motocross title battle

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The path to a fourth consecutive AMA Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championship got a little gotten easier for Eli Tomac with Ken Roczen announcing he’ll miss the 2020 season.

But Tomac seemed a little wistful when discussing the impending absence of Roczen, who is skipping motocross to recover from nagging health conditions and also spend more time with wife Courtney, who is expecting their first child in September.

“It’s a pretty big deal that Kenny’s not racing” motocross, Tomac told NBC Sports in an interview. “It’s understandable for some of his situations, but that’s the one guy that say I don’t get a good start, and he gets a holeshot, he’s the one guy that can run away.

“That’s a big loss for the series.”

WATCH PRO MOTOCROSS ON NBC, NBCSNBroadcast schedule for Pro Motocross

Roczen and Tomac have been fierce but respectful rivals at the premier level of dirt bike racing the last few years. Tomac was three points ahead of Roczen through 10 races of Supercross when the series went on hiatus for three months because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Roczen, who finished third in the Supercross points standings as Tomac won his first championship, will return in 2021.

SEASON PREVIEW: Tomac, Musquin lead pack as fans return

Tomac says it’s harder to size up his competition without Roczen in the Outdoors season, which will begin Saturday at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch. Marvin Musquin will be returning from a knee injury in a mix of championship contenders that also includes past Supercross champions Cooper Webb and Jason Anderson, as well as Tomac’s teammate, Adam Cianciarulo.

“I felt like Ken’s always my biggest threat when it comes to motocross,” Tomac said. “Now that he’s out, it’s like I don’t know who is going to be the guy. You have Cooper, Marvin, Jason, my teammate Adam. There’s guys like (Justin) Barcia.

“Either way, you can’t go in too overconfident. You have to be level-headed that way and believe in the work you put in beforehand, and that’s it and kind of run with it.”