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Friday, January 6, 2012
Ryan Villopoto -- The Champ

By BJ Smith
ESPN.com

Ryan Villopoto at his private track in December.

Broc Tickle Chad Reed Ryan Dungey Ryan Villopoto 2012 Season Preview

The Superman of motocross was Ryan Villopoto in 2011. After two years of devastating injuries (ACL in 2009; severely broken leg in 2010), Villopoto arrived with the guidance of new trainer Aldon Baker and the attitude and confidence of a hungry athlete who knew he was fast enough to win titles but needed to stay healthy. Villopoto won it all in '11 -- the AMA Monster Energy Supercross title, the AMA Lucas Oil Pro Motocross crown, Motocross of Nations and the inaugural Monster Energy Cup where he claimed $1 million, the largest cash prize in motorcycle racing history. He had some bad races in Supercross and started slow in the Motocross series, but one thing he did not have was bike trouble. Villopoto will defend his titles in 2012, again with Monster Energy Kawasaki.

ESPN spoke with RV following a Kawasaki photo shoot and test session in December.

ESPN.com: Other than short, how's the off season been for you?
Villopoto: It's been good, definitely short and Anaheim's right around the corner now. Everything's good and I would definitely like to have more [time] but that's not what's going to happen.

You were able to get on the 2012 Kawasaki during the MX season. Does that transfer at all to your preparations for Supercross?
Not really. Other than that we're used to the bike, there isn't much difference. I think the difference was definitely felt more outdoors than it is here in Supercross. I think it's relatively the same.

What has been your biggest focus for improvement for yourself this off season?
Getting more prepared physically and testing to get that bike where it needs to be.

Villopoto won it all in '11. Can he repeat in 2012?

You had a lot of confidence one year ago when we talked. How much further ahead are you now than you were then?
A lot further ahead. With the injury, I started from scratch. This year I had a big base to work with coming into the off season. I know what's going to show up at Anaheim but on the other hand you really don't, you know? I feel like the program we have going on is really good. It's always a little bit unknown. We'll just show up as ready as we can.

You've said that repeating double titles would be really hard and you didn't know if you could do it again. That's quite an honest statement.
It is going to be hard to repeat. I wouldn't say it can't be done because I think it can be done, it's just going to be hard. There are a lot of fast guys in the class who are going to be healthy. If I repeat, that's great but I'm not going to sit here and say I'm going to or that I have a good shot to because you like silly when you don't. That's why I sit back and say 'hope that I can' and if not that's just what happens.

You won everything in 2011. What was it that you did right?
In 2010 and 2009 I definitely had the speed but it was the training side of it that I was lacking. When Aldon [Baker, former trainer of Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart] came available, I jumped on it and hired him because he was the link that I was missing. It's helped tremendously. I'm not going to say that I wouldn't have won without him but more than likely I wouldn't have won if I hadn't had him. Doing that was a great decision for me.

What didn't go as planned this year?
Jacksonville didn't go as planned. All of Supercross was fairly decent and good. Jacksonville was a downer and Toronto not so good. Outdoors was really a struggle. I basically just forgot how hard it is racing outdoors. We had to get our bike right because we were definitely behind on testing. Outdoors was a big struggle until about three rounds to go.

What's the biggest thing you've been trying to improve on the bike?
You're always trying to get more power, and suspension is a never-ending battle. You're always trying to improve even if you feel like you have the greatest setup out there. The suspension guys are always working on new stuff and the only way to know if it's any good is to test it.

Villopoto and team during a bit of training downtime in December.

Has your new team manager made any changes or is he just observing at first?
Well, Dan [Fahie] was already with the team so he already knew how it ran and how everyone was. Dan, as a person, is very laid back. He just sits back and watches things and I think that's good for everyone that he wasn't someone who was just going to come in and start changing things and causing waves.