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Roczen returns to racing with 11th at Hangtown | News

The Hangtown opener for the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship marked Roczen’s first-ever motocross race aboard the factory CRF450R and return to racing since injuring his hand at San Deigo SX.

Although he’s been signed with Team Honda HRC for nearly two years, the Hangtown opener marked Roczen’s first-ever motocross race aboard the factory CRF450R. “I’m just excited to be back at the races with my team in general, but really looking forward to getting back to motocross,” he said. “It definitely comes more natural to me. I haven’t raced outdoors since I won the championship in 2016, and although I want to take things slow and progress each week since I’m just returning, I’d like nothing more than to give my team good results.”

In the day’s first moto, Craig took the holeshot and early lead aboard his CRF450R, while Roczen started seventh but quickly moved into fourth. While Craig maintained his position up front, it was a hectic opening lap for Roczen, who worked his way into second before falling back to sixth all in the same lap. Craig went down while running fourth on lap three but was able to remount in ninth. He regained one spot, taking the checkered flag in eighth. Meanwhile, Roczen continued to put together an impressive showing during his first race back, crossing the finish line in sixth.

When the gate dropped for moto two, Roczen launched to a fourth-place start, whereas Craig was left fighting mid-pack after a poor jump. By lap two, the German had moved into third, but he quickly came under fire from the competition. As the 30-minute-plus-two-lap race progressed, Roczen struggled to maintain his speed while fighting through soreness and fatigue in his right hand, ultimately finishing 16th. Craig recovered from multiple early mistakes, climbing to eighth by the finish.

“I knew this weekend was going to be kind of crazy. We haven’t had a lot of time to prepare for the race, but I wanted to start the season off. We need seat time so there’s no better practice than racing. We knew we were going to show up and have to just wing it to see what we could do. I got the clearance to ride a few weeks ago, though it’s been very hard for me, with my thumb, to get a lot riding time in.

“We knew that we shouldn’t have high expectations because of the lack of preparation that I was able to get on the bike, but I’ve done everything I can and left nothing on the table in terms of what I can do to prepare my body. In the first moto I ended up sixth, which we were pretty happy with considering where we’re at. I knew the second moto was going to be tough. I’m incredibly fit, but my race fitness and bike fitness are just not there yet.

“I know each and every weekend, I’m going to be making big steps forward, which is important. We were also searching a little bit on the suspension side, just because I’ve only had a couple days of testing prior to this race. We still have a little more work to do to optimize everything. We made a little change from the first to the second moto; sometimes you have it in your mind, ‘What if there’s something better?’ Unfortunately, we went the wrong direction. Overall, I gave it my all and we came away healthy, which is important. I’m definitely going to do some work this week on both myself and the bike and show up at Glen Helen in a good mood and ready to rock.”