In one of the smallest graduating classes in many years, Broc Tickle is the biggest name to step into the Premier Supercross Class and it isn't even by choice. Tickle, who turned pro in 2006, won the 2011 AMA Supercross Lites West title. Neither he nor his team was aware that he couldn't defend his title in 2012 until months after the SX season ended. A rule in the AMA guidebook states: "A rider that wins a Supercross Lites Championship will be eligible to participate in the Supercross Lites class for a maximum of three years total regardless of what year he/she won the title."
Tickle had one more year remaining on his contract with Mitch Payton's Pro Circuit Kawasaki team, which has been a Lites class squad since 1991. Payton made an exception and Tickle will compete on a KX450F in both Supercross and Motocross in 2012.
Unexpected? Yes. but Broc is taking it in stride.
ESPN.com: How does it feel to be on the 450?
Tickle: It's good. It's been a while since I've ridden and raced one but I'm excited to be a part of Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki. I thought for a minute that I wasn't going to be able to have another year with them with my bump up to the 450 class. I'm looking forward to racing at Anaheim.
That's nice of Mitch Payton to not toss you to the curb.
I knew he wasn't going to throw me to the curb but I just didn't know what was going to happen. I always think the worst most of the time in situations like that because I don't want to get my hopes up. But I'm glad I'm back to where I wanted to be for a while and it's been going good. The bike is awesome, even stock.
Without having raced yet, what have you noticed about being on the 450 that's a major change?
I don't want to say this in a bad way but the guys that I'm racing against in the 450 class have done this for a while and their experience is a lot more developed than what I was racing last year. That's what I think. I haven't been on the gate with everybody that's in the 450 class, but from what I can see and understand, everyone has a lot of experience and it's not going to be as easy to wait on someone to make a mistake and stuff like that... I'm going to have to be healthy. That's the main goal all year, to be healthy and be at every race.
Some rookies adapt and develop better than others. What do you think you have that will help put you on the podium?
It took me a while to get going in my first few years as a pro. That's actually a good thing. I wasn't up front right away and it kind of taught me a little bit of patience. I think that's going to be better in the long run... I learned the hard way. I went through a lot of training problems, worked my way up on teams and learned from my mistakes. It wasn't smooth from the beginning. I had to work really hard to get a championship. It's been a goal of mine since I was a kid but I had to put the puzzle together... I've always been pretty healthy my entire career. That's the main thing in this sport, to be healthy at every race. That's what I need to do too. If I can do that I'll be happy.
'Stay healthy' is about the most obvious thing a rider could say and ask for, but it really is the most important. It doesn't matter how fast you are, if you can't stay healthy, the rest is worthless.
If you're not healthy, then you're not going to be able to perform as well or have a good season. If I'm there every weekend, then it makes up for the guys who have a mishap or get injured. If I can just stay healthy and be up front as much as I can, that's where you can make some points up.
What are your expectations?
My first goal is to be up front and race with the guys who are at the top. I definitely think I can be up there but I might have to get a little comfortable first. I just want to take baby steps all year and by the end of the year of Supercross, I want to be up there with those guys. You know who they all are -- the top ten is stacked. For me, I'm not going to be happy until I'm up front with those guys. I know I can do it.
You'll have to quickly get over the jitters of looking left and right and seeing guys like James Stewart and Kevin Windham on either side.
Yeah, I've always looked up to Chad Reed and Stewart. Kevin Windham, I cannot believe the talent, I just love the way he rides. I think that's why he's been around a while and why he's usually healthy. I'd like to be around as long as he has and be competitive at the age he is.
What are you strengths?
I think consistency will help me. That's one of my goals throughout the year and that's my strong point. Last year I got seven podiums and two fourth place finishes.
This 450 program is new for Pro Circuit. Do you feel like you have the team's full attention on this?
I have enough attention for myself. I don't really need a lot. I'm not too picky on everything. We're getting there and we have some more testing to do. I'm happy with the bike. It's awesome right out of the box. We'll be ready. I don't want a rocket ship right away but we'll slowly work on getting more power so I can get comfortable with that.