In Preparation: Presented by Nike Chosen—Just Do It, provides a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to succeed in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. The riders dedicate their lives to this sport, and they’re not the only ones. Teams, mechanics, track workers, public relations staff, gear guys, suspension guys, engine guys, on and on the list goes. They all give it their all, and with each installment of In Preparation, we hope to shed more light on what a life is like in motocross.
Winning a Supercross title is a great thing, but if you also want to win the outdoor championship, it can be a significant headache at the beginning of the outdoor tour. We saw it happen last year to Ryan Dungey as he struggled at the opening round in Hangtown just two weeks after securing his position in history by becoming the 2010 SX champion. RD quickly made adjustments to his program and rebounded winning ten of the remaining eleven rounds in 2010, again securing his place as a champion and doing something that so few riders have ever done: win both titles in the same year.
This year, that song seems to be on repeat as Ryan Villopoto has had trouble waking up from the supercross afterparty, showing up at Hangtown seemingly unprepared. So far, RV's rebound has not been as significant as RD's, placing third overall in the opening two rounds of the 2011 season, but a repeat of RD's success last year is still within reach. Preparation, as always, is the key to success and I sat down with RV's trainer, Aldon Baker, and talked about the challenges that the reigning Monster Energy AMA Supercross Champion is faced with as he transitions from the championship party to the grind of the motocross series.
RV's trainer, Aldon Baker.
Photo: Simon Cudby
Racer X Online: Hey Aldon, thanks for taking some time to sit down and talk a little about the transition from SX to the outdoors. It's a difficult transition, but in this case it's even more difficult due to the fact that Ryan won the championship.
Aldon Baker: Yeah, for sure, it is definitely a difficult transition, especially when you are the champion. There are some significant commitments after you win a championship with sponsors and all, but in this case his sponsors were actually quite cool. They were very cool and understood that we needed to get some testing done in the two weeks prior to Hangtown. Testing actually went pretty decent, especially at Glen Helen, but he went into Vegas with a bit of a cold and with the whole Vegas weekend and all the stress, the next week was pretty bad for him. He actually only got to ride on Monday and even that day we had to cut it short. Then the next couple of days he spent in bed. So that was definitely a setback and we had to go about our preparation plans a little different.
Normally we like to get as much riding in as possible those two weeks after the last round, but in our case most of the first week was spent in bed. Even the second week he was still feeling ill with a fever and chills. I think he actually had the flu. It was definitely something viral. We went into Hangtown with the mentality of just seeing where we were since we didn't get to prepare like we normally would. He did pretty good at Hangtown considering he was in the motorhome with a Duvet cover on in between motos.
How did you prepare Ryan mentally for the transition from winning the SX championship to immediately focusing on the outdoor title? There had to be some real mental challenges there. I mean, winning a SX title that goes down to the last race has to be extremely stressful and then, after you win, you get one night to celebrate and then it's off to the outdoors.
It was a huge relief when he finally got that accomplished and unfortunately since it did go down to the wire, some of the preparation for outdoors that I feel can start during the last several rounds of supercross were put on hold because we were so focused on the SX title. You know, if you have the championship locked up with several rounds remaining, you can celebrate a little and enjoy the victory. You can also start to redirect your focus to motocross. You can ease into it instead of being thrown into the deep end. This has actually been a good learning experience for Ryan and I told him that we are only in control of what we are doing to prepare. So it's not all bad because when we sit back and look at how he did in the first two rounds with what we were up against, he did pretty good. It's good because we have identified certain areas where he needs to be better, like line selection and making the race easier on himself. It's almost like he was overriding the bike. The bike was just too busy and it was beating him up. You just can't ride a 450 like that. You can test all you want, but really there is only one way to learn and that is while racing. So mentally, this will only make Ryan stronger as he learns from his mistakes and corrects them moving forward.
Villopoto captured his first career SX title this year.
Photo: Simon Cudby
The same thing happened to Ryan Dungey last year.
Exactly! That's the thing. He went to Hangtown and was terrible and they had to figure out some stuff and they did. He came back strong and I think they learned a lot from that experience. And that's how you learn sometimes and that is exactly the situation we are in right now. We got third the first weekend and the next weekend I really felt bad for Dungey because, man, he owned that second moto and it was his. I think everyone knew that and to see him fall short like that, I don't think anyone felt good about that. Even though we benefited from it we didn't like seeing him come up short like that. It was definitely a gift to the rest of the guys. But that's racing.
As a sport, motocross is very different than a lot of other motorsports since we have two distinct series that are very different. To win both championships is almost a feat like none other. The planning and preparation for each series has to be very different.
Yes, for sure. It's definitely a lot to deal with and both series are unique. The most difficult thing is the total length of the season. Not only do you have to be skilled and fast on the bike but you have to make sure you don't get sick and remain healthy the entire year. From my end I really drill it into my guys, especially someone like Ryan who for the first time has really tried to put it all together in a full season, sometime they just don't know. I am constantly on him about not going out and eating more at his house and really trying to avoid public places where you can easily catch a cold. Sometimes my guys think I am overkill but it's all these little things that you really have to manage and make the best decisions. What these guys are trying to do and what they put their bodies through year after year, it is so hard on their immune systems that you really have to be careful with how you interact with other people and what you expose yourself to. I think some of the older guys who have been doing this for a while have it figured out, but some of the younger guys like Ryan are still learning. You know, that is where Ricky [Carmichael] was so good at putting things together. He was pretty strict in all those areas and was able to avoid colds and other illnesses for the most part. Getting sick for a few weeks in motocross can ruin an entire season.
Baker with Villopoto's teammate Jake Weimer.
Photo: Simon Cudby
Do you feel like you guys are prepared and sitting in a good position for the rest of the season?
Absolutely. For sure we would have liked to do better in the first two rounds, but sitting second in points only twenty-one back after all Ryan has been through and still recovering from being sick; we'll take it. Plus getting back to Florida on our own track and away from the public tracks in California will be huge. We are in a pretty good position at this point, so we are excited.
For more insider tips from one of the industry's leading trainers, be sure and check out Aldon's feature over on Racer X Virtual Trainer.