Monday Conversation: Team USA 2006

September 25, 2006 8:06am

Team USA is now the most successful team in Motocross des Nations history, with James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto, and Ivan Tedesco winning the overall over Europe's best in the biggest blowout of the year. There is always a lot of drama with this race, including the usual road-trip stories, and with Ricky Carmichael out with an injured shoulder, Ivan Tedesco didn't even know for sure that he was racing until Thursday.
    We cruised the special U.S. compound after the races to get some reactions from the winning team members.

Ryan Villopoto
Racer X: Ryan, you are part of a victorious Team USA. Your first reaction...?
Ryan Villopoto: I think it's cool James and Ivan and I came over to get it done, and we got it done. It feels good to bring the trophy back home.
Were you the fastest MX2 guy out there?
Yeah, I think in the first moto I was. In the second moto, I was going good and jumped off the track and landed on the big stakes they have here to hold the banners around the track. I hit a hay bale and almost flew off the track. That was my problem there. Cairoli and Townley got past me, and I think one other guy. I had to regroup for about three laps and work my way back up. I was looking forward to winning that moto and it didn't happen. I got the overall, so that was good.
This is the first year they've given out individual wins like that—I bet it was special for you.
Yeah, it was good. At least I came out on top overall and had one moto win, for my class. It was good.
Here's the bench-racing question: Are these Euros as good as the Americans?
They aren't bad. I didn't think they were going to be as fast as they were. Those guys are fast. We'll see next near, it's in our country. We've rode that track before, so we know how it is.
In the press all this summer, we've kept asking you how you can do so well on tracks you've never been to. This was even more different, wasn't it?
Yeah, it was quite a bit different than tracks in the States. It had a real hard base. Even the dirt on top was slippery. We had to watch out and not wash out the front end or lose the rear. It was challenging, and we came out on top; that's all that matters.
What was your impression of the overall scene, the fans, the press attention, all that?
There are a ton of fans here. Still, I don't even know what time it is, and they're lining the fences right now. The pressure was huge. There are so many people here—the whole hill on the other side was filled with people. You can't go anywhere. That was the only bad thing. There were so many people, they would drag you to a stop. You have to have about five guys surrounding you. That's good, though. That's how the States needs to be. Well, maybe not quite that bad.
Any crazy road-trip stories?
Not really. We've been racing cars every time we go anywhere. We got a little contact ... well, actually, Zach made contact with us. Craig was the driver in ours and Zach White was in the other. He made contact, but we came out on top!

Was this FIM or AMA road racing rules?
He went backwards on a roundabout today, so he gets disqualified.  [Zach walks over to argue.]
Zach: Who is the sanctioning body for roads? The cops! They didn't see it.
RV: No, no, no! We're racing to the track! AMA and FIM rules apply.
Zach: There were no video cameras.
RV: You don't know that yet.
Are you saying if it wasn't documented, it didn't happen?
Zach: Exactly. I didn't cross any barricades or anything. Who says you can only turn left? We didn't hit any spectators.
RV: Almost!
Was this a pro race, for money?
Zach: It's about points. The season isn't over yet.

Ivan Tedesco

Racer X: Ivan, you are part of the victorious Team USA. What's your reaction?
Ivan Tedesco: Yeah! My first reaction was good. This is one of the biggest races of the year. To do it as a team is really unique. Ryan and James did their job and I did my job. Here we are, we won.
Is this one of the biggest things you have ever done?
Yeah, especially for me, coming off not racing outdoors and kind of getting thrown into this deal, it was tough for me. I got as prepared as I could. I felt pretty decent coming in. In that first moto, I rode really well for the first twenty minutes. I got a little tired. I did my job and here we are. That's it.
How do these Euros ride? Do you give them credit for being as fast as the Americans?
On this track today, yes, they were really fast. The track was really rutted and a lot different than where we're at. They had long ruts that we're not used to. They're good riders. You can't discredit them at all, especially Everts—he was on it. It was really cool to be a part of this race. I was glad I came.
Do you want to race those guys again at Budds Creek next year?
Oh, yeah! We're going to throw down at Budds, though. I think we'll have them handled there. If I'm part of the team, great. If not, I'll be there watching.
You packed your gear and got on a plane not knowing if you were going to race—true?
True. I came here not knowing. I found out late in the week that it was a go for me. I was like, All right, I'm ready.
You found out Thursday at that track track, didn't you? What did James say?
Yeah, I did. He said let's get 'er done. We have to come together as a team. I talked to Ryan and everyone was cool with it. I would like to thank the people that had my back so we could come over here and do this deal. It came out good.
What about those internet people who doubted you?
I go on there the first day that there was some talk about it, and there was some crap talk. I said, I'm not going to get on there for the rest of the week until I go. I don't want to get pissed off. You know, I can see where people are coming from. I didn't race the whole outdoor season, and to throw me in a big race like this, I can see where people will talk crap. I lot of people had confidence in me, and it was the best scenario for Team USA, with the bike being here and all that. It worked out good. We pulled it off.
There was a press conference earlier today with RC, and someone asked him for supercross predictions—who are the next big names—and he mentioned you. How does it help to have his confidence?
That feels great. To have a guy like Ricky say that is a big deal. I know Ricky has my back, and I have his back. Hopefully, he can help me out this next year and get me up to the top, and win some races. I'm confident in myself.
What did you think of the media attention, the crowd. and the atmosphere?
This year was great. The crowd was insane. The USA setup was great. A lot of people pitched in and helped with money, and we got a bus in and a lot of hospitality. We had a lot of people supporting us. It was a lot better than last year. We learned a lot last year. This year was perfect.
You have quite a celebration going on.
Yeah, there are people all over the place yelling and screaming. You can't explain this race until you come over and experience it. Words can't describe it. The crowd, the fans, and the atmosphere are insane.
Any crazy road-trip stories?
I almost got in about six head-on collisions from driving on the wrong side! I was lucky to make it to the race without getting in a gnarly crash, but we made it to the track. Hopefully, we'll make it back to the track and back to the hotel all right.

James Stewart
Racer X
: James, you guys just won the biggest international race of the year. What was your first reaction?

James Stewart: I am super pumped. It feels good just to be with these guys and come over here. I'm sure some people had their doubts that we could get it done, but we pulled through and did what we had to do. It was a special day for me. I'm for sure, from now on, going. I felt a different vibe that I never felt winning other races.
It sure sounds like you're glad you made the trip.
Yeah. I was really stoked on it, but I'm really tired. It's been a long season. After some of the things I went through in the outdoor season, I'm just tired. I'm ready for a vacation, but I have a couple of more weeks of training for the U.S. Open. Then I'll take a little vacation.
What was the track like for you?
It was really different, like nothing I'd ever raced on. It would be like us going and riding a wet Elsinore. It was really choppy and smooth. These guys did a good job of keeping things going. I can definitely tell you, we have better-prepped tracks in the U.S. I really like racing there. These guys at the FIM, they sure keep their word on times. I have to give them respect for that.
How did your races with Everts go?
Saturday, in the qualifier, I just let it hang out. I knew we had three chances of getting a good start position. I won that one and got it out of the way. I just did what I thought I could do. In the first moto Sunday, I was just watching Everts' lines—he has really good lines. I washed the front out and had to come up. In the second moto, these guys told me where I had to finish for us to win the championship, and Ivan was going to be a little tired. It was either be selfish and try to win the race and possibly would have done it or crashed or something like that. I swallowed my pride and did it for the team. We only had to finish in the top five, and that's what I wanted to do.
Could you have really pushed Everts if you wanted to?
Yeah, well, I'm not going to sit here and sugarcoat it. I raced the guy Saturday when there was no pressure, just win the race, and I did that. This is not an ordinary race. It's not first moto, second moto, get an overall. I could win both motos and still lose. I don't know ... we won it, and I'm really happy.
Did you feel like the team leader since you were the MX1 guy?
I was really bummed on the mistake I made. I added to the pressure when we were sitting good, second and good. I knew I had to get back up there. Ryan did a good job in his second moto, and Ivan did in his first. I knew Ivan was going to be worn out, and we had to finish top five. Sitting on the gate, I felt it was up to me to either win it for us or blow it, and I got it done.
What was your reaction to the atmosphere?
It's crazy! It's nothing I've ever experienced before. It's nothing against the U.S. fans, but these guys are crazy! They were busting down fences for autographs, blowing air horns.... The autograph line was six deep. We even have a bodyguard, Big John, over there helping us out. You had to walk with a group of people just to get around. You were fighting to get around.
Did you feel like a rock star?
It was like being at Woodstock, just trying to walk around. I guess they said it was one of the biggest ones they've ever had. We did good.
Any crazy road-trip stories?
Oh yeah, we went backwards on the freeway ... we went into the bushes a few times going down the wrong side of the road. We almost hit Peter Cottontail going into the hotel—we almost hit a deer last night. We probably broke a hundred laws here, running red lights, but it was fun. I had a great trip. I wouldn't do anything different. We did the job. We can hold our heads up high and say we are the best motocross nation in the world. It was great.