Ken Roczen moves up to the premier 450 class after capturing the 250 West Championship in 2012. (Photo:  Red Bull KTM)

moves up to the premier 450SX Class after capturing the 250SX Class West Championship in 2012. (Photo: Red Bull KTM)

The 2014 Monster Energy season is just a week away and it’s time to take a look at the riders who will be gunning for the FIM World Championship beginning in Anaheim next Saturday night.

With reigning triple champion Ryan Villopoto gunning for his fourth consecutive title, the task will be tough for every competitor to end his reign of dominance. However, with the most talented field in history set to line up on the gate next weekend, there is a large contingent of competitors looking to make their presence felt throughout the 17-race season. Three of those riders are rookies to the premier 450SX Class.

Only Ryan Dungey and Jeremy McGrath have overcome the pressure of the world’s most elite division of riders to emerge as champions in their rookie season. In 2014, a talented trio will look to add their names to the record books, and each knows the difficulties of winning a championship in supercross.

Wil Hahn captured the 250SX Class East title in 2012. (Photo: GEICO Honda)

Wil Hahn captured the 250SX Class East title in 2012. (Photo: GEICO Honda)

Despite being a rookie in the premier class, Hahn is a veteran of the sport. The Kansas-born rider gradually made his way into the elite of the 250SX Class since the 2007 season, reaching his full potential one year ago by winning his first career supercross main event and carrying that into an Eastern Regional title. This season, he graduates to the 450 division of GEICO Honda – which rose to prominence with Kevin Windham – with a lot of confidence and nothing to lose.

While in the upper echelon of the division, Hahn won’t be expected to battle for wins from the get go, which can work to his advantage. He will be able to acclimate to the class at his own pace and should ultimately be a consistent top five contender by year’s end. Hahn will be the most interesting to watch of this rookie group because he’s the one flying under the radar.

Ken Roczen
The Wunderkind has lived up to expectations since making the move from Europe a few seasons ago. While he hasn’t been dominant in what could be the most competitive era of 250SX Class competition, he’s been successful and was able to claim his first title on U.S. soil on year ago in the Western Region. He’s going to be challenged with the tough 17-race schedule, as will his fellow rookies, but given his incredible talent on a bike he should be a dark horse podium threat each week.

Working in Roczen’s favor is past success in the 450SX Class. The flexibility of the Red Bull KTM squad has allowed Roczen to get experience in the premier division by racing select events since he came stateside. Roczen nearly won the Seattle stop during the 2012 campaign and led a good portion of Daytona last season. Because he’s gone toe-to-toe with the world’s best on numerous occasions, Roczen could be in the thick of the hunt from the get go.

Tomac is no stranger to making history as a first timer, so the task of being a rookie could suit him well. In his professional debut back during the 2010 AMA Pro Motocross Championship, Tomac shocked the world by taking the upset victory to become the first rider to ever accomplish such a feat. Since then Tomac has continued to learn the ropes of 250SX Class competition, finding success as well as heartbreak. In 2012, Tomac captured the Western Regional crown after a spirited title fight but came just a couple points short of repeating last season, giving way to Roczen and establishing a captivating new rivalry that carried into the summer.

Eli Tomac scored a podium result at the 2012 Monster Energy Cup. (Photo: GEICO Honda)

Eli Tomac scored a podium result at the 2012 Monster Energy Cup. (Photo: GEICO Honda)

During the Pro Motocross season Tomac grew into a dominant force, becoming a national champion and writing his own perfect ending to his 250 career. Armed with a new iconic number – 3 – and the continued support of GEICO Honda, with whom he’s raced his entire career, Tomac is ready to turn some heads in the 450SX Class.

Like Roczen, Tomac has experience in the premier division but his results were more modest than his rookie counterpart’s. The highlight of Tomac’s big bike endeavors was a podium result at the 2012 Monster Energy Cup, which solidified his status as one of the sport’s rising stars.

Likely motivated by the results Roczen achieves this season, Tomac has the chance to also be a wild card in the title hunt. He’s shown that when he’s at his best he is almost untouchable, so it will be intriguing to see how quickly he adjusts to the increased pace of the division.

This rookie trio will join the likes of Villopoto, Dungey, Stewart, Reed, Barcia and more next Saturday to kick of the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross season. You can watch the action unfold LIVE on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 10 p.m. ET.

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