Twenty-year-old Ryan Villopoto came into the 2009 Supercross season with high hopes of perhaps being a regular on the SX-class podium and maybe even pull off a win once or twice. He has made the podium three times so far in his rookie season in the SX class but hasn't been a major threat for a win like many people had expected. Villopoto admits that the 450 class is harder than he expected and has struggled a bit.

Things didn't get any better when he contracted a virus that forced him to miss the last three rounds of the Supercross Series. He's making his return today at the Seattle Supercross.

We hooked up with Villopoto and asked him a few questions about the season so far.Talk about your Supercross season so far, you've had your share of some ups and downs.Yeah, you're right about that. It's definitely been tough - I guess harder than I expected. I've had some good runs here and there. For my first year, I guess I couldn't have asked for much more, but I expected more out of myself. Now looking back on it, I think I rode good. It's a learning experience that's going to help me down the road. Everybody told me that the 450 is a different animal, and also setting the bike up for me was a little different. I thought I knew a lot in that regards, but now I realize that I know a lot more now!You've finished third three times but have yet to find consistency.Yeah, exactly. It was a little rough there, and I got sick so that put an end to any momentum that I had made for myself. I had to heal up and now I'm getting ready for Seattle.So what's the status of your virus, are you all healed up or is it a matter of still getting better, health-wise? What exactly was the problem?I feel like I'm 100 percent, and I've done some 20-lappers here and there. I started riding Thursday before Jacksonville and have been getting stronger since then. I've had a bit of time to get back into it, I wouldn't say my 20-lappers are totally there yet, but they are okay.I think I got a normal sickness like the flu or whatever and obviously with our job as a professional motocross racer, you just have to deal with it. You just keep on pushing through, and I ended up getting sicker. I still rode and trained like I was supposed to, because, like I said, you have to push through. The flying and the dirty air on the airplane was probably not helping it either. It's my first year in the 450 class, so there're 17 rounds instead of eight like in the 250 class, so it's a totally different ball game.We're coming into the outdoor season where you're established as definitely one of the favorites. How do you see yourself shaping up for the Nationals?I think outdoors is more suited towards my style. I don't think it's as critical as Supercross, you can make a mistake and get away with it. You can go anywhere you want, and I think I have a very good shot at winning some races and, obviously, I'd love to win the championship. I just want to come out in the first three and be in position. The series goes three races, then a break, then four and then another break, so if I can get through the first three in good shape I'll be okay.Have you been doing any motocross testing at all?I actually haven't. Next week we'll go to Glen Helen and get into the feel and then start testing from there. It'll be good and I'm happy about that.Who do you think will be right up there with you this summer?I think Mike Alessi will be right up there with me. He'll be good. Honestly, nobody knows if James [Stewart] is going to race this summer or not. I guess we'll see; if he shows up, he'll obviously be the guy to beat. He'll be fast at whatever races he shows up at. I see Alessi being the main contender; Josh Grant will be good, you can't forget about Shorty [Andrew Short] and my teammate Tim Ferry will be strong once he heals up. Any one of the guys can be tough, Davi [Millsaps] will have some good races. It's going to be tough and hard to predict who will be up there or not.What do you think of the new format, Saturdays only, sometimes the 450s will be going first, the live TV package and all the changes?I like them. The TV package is strong and will be beneficial to us riders and teams. That's a big step forward and will help every one of us. It'll make our sport bigger because more people will see it. That's going to help. As far as the 450s racing first, the only track I wouldn't want to go second would be Hangtown, but other than that, I'd rather go second when the track is at its roughest and toughest. That plays into my hands a little bit I think. It'll be interesting to see how it is but generally I like the changes.

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Shan Moore | Contributing Editor

Moore covers all facets of off-road racing for Cycle News – from AMA Supercross and Motocross to GNCC and National Hare Scrambles events.

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