Ryan Villopoto will go for a record-tying fourth straight Supercross title in 2014. Photography by Kit Palmer
ANAHEIM, CA, JAN. 2 - Ryan Villopoto heads into the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross Series with a chance to become only the second rider in history to win four Supercross titles in a row. Jeremy McGrath holds that record. After nabbing his third straight Supercross Championship in 2013, Villopoto heads into Anaheim I with a target on his back once again, which he is now, of course, quite used to. At today’s A1 press conference at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Villopoto says he’s going to take every race one at a time – and one championship at a time – just like he always does, but he admits that each race won’t be easy. After all, he has a number of veterans to contend with, like Ryan Dungey, James Stewart and Chad Reed, but also a new crop of young challengers, like Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen, Wil Hahn and Justin Barcia, who already has a year experience under his cap, to worry about.
“It’s changed a lot in the last couple of years,” said Villopoto who has 34 career Supercross wins. “There are a lot of guys, and to win just one race is really huge. To win a championship with all of these guys is going to be really hard. I’m trying to take it slow and one race at a time.”
That plan has worked for him well the past couple of years.
Villopoto also says that he feels that he and his team have prepared well for the upcoming season and that he is ready to take on the challenge from the vets and young guns.
“You try to put the work in during the middle of the week and mentally let yourself know that you put in the work during the week and there is nothing else you can do,” Villopoto said. “Obviously, there are 16 or 17 straight races and I feel I’ve put in the work and there is nothing more that I could’ve done. For me, that’s the easiest way to make sure I don’t get so stressed out – and be ready for the season.
“I feel good, I feel we’ve definitely made some progress with myself and the bike. We’ll find out in the next couple of weekends.”
Villopoto, however, didn’t sound 100 percent ready – his voice sounding scratchy and, at times, seemingly to had to hold back a cough a time or two. Is he fighting back a cold or flu? He says no, blaming his hoarse voice on the hot and dry California air, compared to the east coast where he has been training.
Not much has changed for Villopoto from last year to this year. He’s still on the same team, on the same bike and has the same tuner, Mike Williamson, at his side. The Supercross format, however, has changed, with the addition and return of semis. But he says that make no difference for him.
“I think the format is just a format,” he said. “It’s just another way to get to the main event. I didn’t even know they had changed it. Adam Cianciarulo asked me, ‘Did you see the format change?’ and I said that I didn’t even see that. It really doesn’t matter to me what format we’re running. More than likely we’ll all [the top riders] be in the main event.”
And more than likely, he will be on the podium more often than not. But, like he said, we will see.