RV is out for the Motocross of Nations. Here's a take from some of our staffers, and you can leave yours below in the comments section.
Davey Coombs: Being on Team USA is a very big deal. It's a chance for a motocross racer to compete for his country, against the top riders from other nations, at a race that matters a great deal to fans all over the world. I am sure Ryan Villopoto knows this; he has been on Team USA four times in his career, all wins, including his breakthrough effort in 2007 where he served notice to the world that he was soon to take over. Other than Danny "Magoo" Chandler's remarkable efforts in 1982, it was the most unexpected, jaw-dropping performance in Team USA history (and that includes Johnny O'Mara's amazing ride in 1986 on that 125).
But here's something to ponder: Since his first full season as a pro, Villopoto has only been able to ride for Team USA four times. In 2009, '10 and '12, he was out with injuries ... That's the nature of our sport. He's about to be out with an injury again, the same one that knocked him out of 2010. RV needs to have his ankle worked on, and then get back to the business of being the "Fastest Man on the Planet," both in supercross and outdoors. That's his full-time job now as defending three-champion of Monster Energy Supercross and soon-to-be-champion-again of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. His Monster Energy Kawasaki team expects him to show up ready and able to win again in January at Anaheim, and so do his fans. That's why he can't put off the surgery until, say, mid-October.
Our sport has a grinding schedule. From the first week in January until the last week in August—and that's two weeks shorter than last year—athletes like Villopoto are racing at full speed. There are 17 rounds of SX, followed by 12 rounds of MX. That leaves exactly four months of off-season to heal, relax and live their lives, as well as the process of testing, training and preparing for the start of the next season. That's why the outdoor schedule was tweaked to end two weeks earlier: the athletes and team personnel wanted more down time.
But the MXoN is still at the end of September, which means that riders who compete on the U.S. circuit have to stay in shape and be ready to race for five weeks after the last National in order to be ready, be it a member of Team USA or an import like Chad Reed, Ken Roczen, Tyla Rattray (if South Africa was going) or Marvin Musquin (if the French had actually picked him, which is still mind-blowing mistake to me). The time that Villopoto should be in surgery and rehab is the time he would need to be preparing for the race, because our guys take that event seriously. They are expected to win, and RV knows that. But he's also expected to be ready to win at Anaheim and beyond, at Hangtown and beyond. Which puts him in a no-win situation: How can be ready for everything when there's no time for preparing?
Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart didn't go in 2004. Jeremy McGrath didn't go in 1994 or '95. Jeff Stanton and Damon Bradshaw didn't go in 1992. Bob Hannah and Mark Barnett and Kent Howerton and Mike Bell and Broc Glover didn't go in 1981...
It's dissapointing for the fans headed to Germany in late September, including myself. But more importantly it's necessary for Villopoto and his fans headed to Anaheim in January '14. Fortunately, America has a deep talent pool, and the young man we send in his place will acquit himself well. I don't blame Ryan Villopoto for thinking about the bigger picture here; I just hope he goes back in 2014 and lays down the law. Again. Team USA means as much to him as anyone, but so does getting that fourth straight Monster Energy Supercross title, something only Jeremy McGrath himself has ever done.
Steve Matthes: The news is that Ryan Villopoto needs surgery after the season is done and he will miss the Motocross of Nations and perhaps the Monster Energy Cup. There’s no doubt he’s the best rider in the world right now and not racing for Team USA is a blow for the team that wants to win back Peter Chamberlain Trophy.
Don’t blame Ryan for this, it’s not a question of if he needed this surgery, it was when. The hardware that is in his leg is bothering him to the point where it has to get fixed. With the MXoN a month after the last Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, it’s really the calendar’s fault that he’s missing the race. If he were to wait it out, he would lose six weeks or so (after all, if he’s going to race the MXoN he may as well race the ME Cup, right?) and this would put him back on the bike in November which, for these guys, isn’t that much time to get ready for the what they’re paid to do—win supercross and motocross titles.
Had the MXoN been a week after the last race, or maybe even two I have no doubt that RV would line up with Ryan Dungey and Eli Tomac in the Olympics of Motocross. But it’s not, it’s a month out and for these guys that’s time needed to get better and get rid of what’s been bothering him.
Thankfully America is deep with talent and either Justin Barcia or James Stewart will be terrific replacements (bet on Barcia by the way) for Villopoto and Team USA should be fine. And come Anaheim 2014 we’ll see Villopoto on the line healthy and rested and ready to stay on top of the motocross mountain.
Jason Thomas: Ryan Villopoto is no stranger to off-season rehab and recovery. With the most successful trainer/coach in history at his side, he seems to come back stronger each and every time. Without knowing the full extent of the injury and recovery time, I would assume he will still have at least two months of prep time before Anaheim rolls around. The real question is how much momentum and ground will he lose to his rivals coming into Anaheim?
If it is a small, minimally invasive surgery, I don’t think there will be much of an impact. If it is a more intensive procedure requiring extensive time off his feet and more importantly the bike, guys like James Stewart, Ryan Dungey and Chad Reed, not to mention all of the upstarts like Barcia, Canard, and Tomac will be burning the midnight oil to gain an advantage on the three-time reigning champ.
In any case, it is not the ideal way to enter the off-season. Carrying all of the speed and fitness base from the previous season is a huge bonus when it comes to off-season training. It is difficult to find significant gains when the main goal is to first reacquire the level you were previously at. All in all I don’t think it will make or break his 2014 preparation but it certainly puts more strain on the timetable. For the other riders dreaming of holding that #1 plate, it is definitely fuel for their fire.