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Bench Racing Ammo: RV and TP

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Last week during the AMA/Air Nautiques Amateur National Championships at Loretta Lynn’s, the AMA announced the lineup of the 2006 AMA Team USA, which will compete at the Motocross des Nations in September. The squad will once again be led overseas by the chosen team captain, Makita Suzuki’s Ricky Carmichael, who will be joined by two MXdN first-timers: Team Kawasaki’s James Stewart and rookie Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider Ryan Villopoto.

Villopoto will represent AMA Team USA 2006 in the MX2 class

photo: Steve Bruhn

Carmichael has been to this race before: 1998 in muddy England, 1999 in Brazil, 2000 in France, 2003 in Belgium and last year in England. Stewart is in his fifth year as a professional, but this is the first time he will represent his country at the Motocross des Nations. And hats off to Ryan Villopoto, who has made a clear statement that he is consistently the fastest 250F rider and deserves to go overseas (though Mike Alessi could make a strong case for himself). The Washington native has won five out of eight nationals this year, a few of them pretty convincingly. But he’s DNF’d two motos, which has him trailing Alessi in the points.

While it may seem like Villopoto is the youngest rider ever chosen to represent Team USA, let’s not forget 2000, when a young Travis Pastrana was sent to St. Jean d’Angely, France, with Carmichael and Ryan Hughes, and he helped the team win with a solid effort. Outfitted in his red-white-and-blue No Fear gear, Pastrana put in a heroic, veteran-like performance, going from last to tenth in the first moto, for second 125 behind newly crowned 125cc World Champion Grant Langston, and helping Team USA to win back the MXdN crown after three consecutive defeats.

Team USA in 2000

photo: Jim Sanderson

2000 was truly an amazing rookie season for Pastrana, who won the 125cc AMA National Championship, several 125 SX main events, and was a part of the winning Motocross des Nations team. At that point of his career, it seemed that the young Suzuki racer was destined for success in motocross and supercross and a future rival of Carmichael’s. After winning the 2001 Eastern Regional 125cc supercross crown the following season, Pastrana looked solid in his first title defense as he led the points chase well past the halfway point of the season, and he looked to be cruising to another motocross championship. But at the famed Unadilla Valley Sports Center, Pastrana’s racing career would begin to unravel.

In the first moto, Travis easily handled the field, chalking up what would be his last moto win as a racer. In the final lap of the second moto, in front of Grant Langston with a 30-plus second lead, Travis crashed unbelievably hard and hit his head, resulting in the first of many concussions. From that point on, Travis would never win an AMA National again. In fact, he would never finish in the top ten again either.

Pastrana finished sixth overall at High Point in 2001 with 16-1 moto scores.

photo: Simon Cudby

Fast-forward five years to 2006. Although he hasn’t won any motocross or supercross races, Pastrana’s name is still ingrained in the minds of almost every adrenaline-seeking teenager and young adult in the world. Because of his freestyle talents, Pastrana has made quite a career for himself, and he has elevated the sport of freestyle motocross to another level. He may soon be known in the Guinness Book of World Records for the double backflip, but to a motocross fan, he’s still known as the 2000 AMA 125cc National Champion and member of the winning MXdN team.

Where do you think Ryan Villopoto will be in 2011?

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