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Monday Conversation: Ryan Villopoto

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Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto has been pretty hot or cold so far in 2010, with a fifth at round one via third place, a second at Phoenix, a seventh at Anaheim II, and then a win at San Francisco. We talked to him yesterday to get his take on the win, how the season has changed with some of the key players out, and what it’s going to take to be up front and challenging for wins more consistently.

Racer X: You’ve had an up-and-down season already, only four rounds in, with the banged-up wrist at round one, then the podium at Phoenix, then the poor race last week, and now you win... What’s been going on?
Ryan Villopoto: Well, I mean, the first race is always the same, just with nerves and stuff, but yeah, I should’ve been up there. Phoenix was pretty good, and I rode good there, but the track was tough to make a lot of time up, so I couldn’t do anything with [Ryan] Dungey’s lead there. I stuck with him for the first 10 laps or so, but after that he pulled a decent gap. At Anaheim II, I had another bad start, and once again the track was hard to pass on and I didn’t do what I needed to do with passing and got hung up. But in San Fran... I mean, Chad [Reed] is out, and obviously hearing that James [Stewart] is out, I think every one of us – not just me – thought about it like it was Anaheim I all over again. We’ve all got a fire under our ass and everybody’s ready to go.

Just from standing trackside and watching the race, it looked like once you got past Josh Hill, you were making up time on Dungey, but he had such a huge gap that I don’t know if you’d have caught him without him crashing.
I haven’t looked at lap sheets, but I heard that at one point I made up like eight tenths of a second in one lap, but yeah, he had nine seconds on me by the time I got into second, so I need to make my passes quicker so that doesn’t happen next time. The track was tough. It didn’t have very big whoops, and it was kind of a tight track, and it was really slippery, so it was hard to go really fast on.

Dungey probably wouldn’t have had such a big lead if you and Hilly weren’t back there doing everything you could to slow each other down.
I know, we went back and forth pretty hard.

Were there any hard feelings about that stuff?
No, no hard feelings, but it maybe got a little bit out of hand. It’s not really that big of a deal, though. I’m not really worried about it. There wasn’t anything super, super dirty, but other than that, it cost us time, for sure.

Once you were in second, did you hear the crowd when Dungey went down?
I actually saw it out of the corner of my eye in that left-hander [on the third-base side] where Davi [Millsaps] fell. I was going through there and I saw him let go of his bike, so once I saw that, I thought, “Okay, well, I’m either going to get up there and be right on him or I’m going to pass him right away.” That was basically it from there.

When you’re talking laptimes, you and Dungey usually seem like you’re pretty close, but the difference is that he’s getting much better starts than you are most of the time...
Yeah, well, I’ve struggled with practice pretty bad. I haven’t even made it on the board sometimes. This weekend, though, I think he beat me by like 1/100th of a second, or Hill did. One of them. I don’t remember which of them it was. But I was pretty close in practice, and I felt good, so I knew the race should be good. But with bad practice times, you get bad gate picks, and with bad gate picks, you get bad starts.

Trey Canard won the Lites class, and then you won the 450s, which was a redhead sweep. What does that mean to you redheads, and what does it say for redheads as a whole?
Nothing. My hair wasn’t really red this weekend, but my beard was red, though...

Yeah, your beard was very red.
I shaved it off, though, and left the mustache.

Are you going to run the ‘stache this weekend?
Yeah, maybe.

Back to the serious side, having lost Chad Reed, and thinking before the season that they had two major contenders, what does it mean to your team for you to have pulled one out and gotten yourself back into the championship hunt?
It means a lot. They work just as hard as I do, so it feels good for all of us. We’re all out here working hard, and we all have the same goals.

Did you talk to Reed at all?
No, I haven’t talked to him, but I know he texted Fish [Mike Fisher, team manager] though and was happy about it.

How do you see the rest of the season playing out with Stewart out (at least for now) and Reed out?
I don’t know, we’ll see! The goal for me is to make up 13 points...

So that you can win a supercross championship...
Yeah, that’d be nice.

Before the season, most people were touting you as the guy who would challenge Reed and Stewart, but now that you finally won one, what do you have to say to those people?
Just hit me up on my Twitter. I got it hooked to my phone. I Twitter all the time. I check it all the time. And check out my website.

What is your Twitter and what is your website?
www.ryanvillopoto2.com and @ryan_villopoto2

All right, Ryan. Thanks for the interview, and I’ll see you in San Diego.
Sweet.
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