Features 18 Apr 2013

The US Report: 15

PulpMX's Steve Matthes checks in direct from the US every Thursday, presented by Fox.

The weather outside was freezing but in front of his home fans, many of them seeing him grow up over the years, Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey rode his best race of the season to catch and pass Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto late in the main. It was Dungey’s second win of the season, pulled him into second in the series points and he now trails Villopoto by 22 points with three races left in the series.

Dungey’s been getting stronger and stronger as the series rolls on but the only problem with that is so has Villopoto. Those two riders are emerging among the rookies (Justin Barcia), the comebackers (Trey Canard), the ex-champs (James Stewart and Chad Reed) to show that they’re able to keep pushing to new levels.

The rest of the guys just can’t do it right now, including Davi Millsaps who was so good early on. It’s a testament to the Ryan’s training program, machines, teams and attitudes that they aren’t getting tired of the grind of racing, training and traveling.

After the race, in a cold and snowy parking lot, I spoke to team manager Roger DeCoster on what we just saw.

“It was one of the best supercrosses I’ve seen,” said the man they call “The Man”. “Definitely the best one from Ryan, this was fantastic. Villopoto could have taken it easy but he fought. We need to give him credit for that.”

Ryan Dungey used raw speed to tackle Ryan Villopoto from the top of the box in Minneapolis. Image: Simon Cudby.

Ryan Dungey used raw speed to tackle Ryan Villopoto from the top of the box in Minneapolis. Image: Simon Cudby.

Villopoto passed Mike Alessi on the first lap after the 800 grabbed yet another holeshot (Mike was struggling really bad with the big whoops, like so bad this reporter actually felt sorry for him) and most thought it was over. I know I did. Villopoto had won five in a row and looked great doing it. Dungey hadn’t had much for the two-time champion and home race or not, not many people thought that would change.

But it did. And it wasn’t really anything that Villopoto did wrong, he rode a great race but Dungey brought his game up to a new level. From a gap of about four seconds, Dungey caught and stalked RV. The two riders swapped positions a few times, a little aggressively even and the race was one. Dungey, perhaps feeling the urgency of over 40,000 fans cheering him on, rose to the occasion and proved that on this night, he wouldn’t be denied.

His team manager loved what he saw with Dungey getting a little aggressive out there

“I think the last three races, he’s improved on that (being aggressive),” said DeCoster. “He knows that himself but I tell him that and put pressure on him. I don’t want him to run into people but I want him to be more decisive. Either you go for the pass or you don’t. He doesn’t want to be known as the guy that takes people out. It’s an aggressive sport and it isn’t dancing out there.”

Indeed it’s not dancing out there and you could tell that neither Dungey nor Villopoto were interested in being each other’s partners. It’s got to be tough for Ryan Dungey, he’s a three-time 450 champion but some say that he didn’t have to beat Villopoto to win them as the other Ryan was out with injury. And Dungey suffers from what many in our sport have which is the “if you’re second, you’re crap” mentality.

Dungey's win marked his second of the season in the 450SX class. Image: Simon Cudby.

Dungey’s win marked his second of the season in the 450SX class. Image: Simon Cudby.

He’s one of the best riders in the world no matter what and even though more times than not he’s been behind Villopoto over the years, he’s done mighty fine for himself. There are always races like Minneapolis (maybe four to five of them over the years) where Dungey simply reels RV in and makes the pass and that folks, is not something that many can do.

It was also nice to see after the race that both riders stopped to shake hands, put their arms around each other and celebrate the show that they had just put on. That’s another thing that should be applauded as we’ve seen a few riders over the years not be able to leave it on the track.

Just off the top of my head I can think about, oh just about any two riders every involved in a title chase in the history of motocross and supercross and although that’s a credit to both riders, I think more so it’s a credit to Dungey. He’s the one that’s had to stand on the second step of the podium more times than not. It’s easy for Villopoto to be gracious; after all he’s the one on the cusp of a third straight supercross title. For Dungey? Not so much.

DeCoster liked the fire he saw in Minneapolis and feels like it’s a stepping-stone to more wins. Having been a world-class racer himself, RD knows the mentality it takes as we wrapped up our interview (He probably had to go celebrate as KTM swept both classes in Minnesota for the second time this season) “It’s a tough sport and you need to stand your ground. It’s not cutting a guy off over a triple, it’s just fighting for your position”

And on this night, Dungey showed there is plenty of fight left in him.