Features 4 Nov 2014

The US Report

Steve Matthes with the latest from the US, presented by Fox Head Australia.

Ryan Villopoto is taking his talents to Europe next year in a move that is still sort of shocking. Never before has a defending champion moved from America to Europe to race the GPs and it should set up quite a battle between Villopoto and eight-time World Champion Antonio Cairoli next year. We had Ryan on the Pulpmx Show last Monday and this is the transcript of what he had to say.

Image: Simon Cudby.

Image: Simon Cudby.

So you’re going to Europe, you’re going to race MXGPs next year. What was the decision behind that? Can you take us through why you’ve decided to do this?

To be honest at the time I was over it, unhappy with the grind and the day in and the day out. For me basically I was like okay, I sat down and was like, well what do I want to do? At this point in time now I can call those shots and do what I want to do and do what’s best for me and my people and my family and things like that. So for me I just sat down and figured out what I wanted to do. This is something that I wanted to keep doing at this level. I came to realize that at the level that I’m going to do this I need to make a change. I was over it, it wasn’t fun anymore. The little fun that there is was gone completely. A lot of that has to do with the regiment that’s over here, the schedule. The shitty part about our racing here in the States is you have Feld Entertainment on one side and then you have Lucas Oil on the other side. They take all winter off and the other guys take all summer off. And we’re as media, as athletes, as mechanics, as truck drivers, everybody, we’re all stuck in the middle. It’s just one toilet bowl effect. We’re caught bouncing between both series. It lasts your whole career. Your whole media career you’ll be doing that unless something changes. And as for myself I wasn’t willing to do that anymore.

You rode in France or wherever you were. You rode a little bit?

Yeah, just one day.

Obviously you’re still recovering; your surgery was pretty gnarly. Were you a little tentative? You didn’t look like you were putting around. You looked still pretty fast. How was it?

I felt all right. It was a little bit of a bummer that it was a sand track and you can’t ride around in sand half-assed, kind of got to go for it. It’s more risky riding around. I got released a little earlier than what was originally said I was going to be. Actually the guys on the team were a little nervous to let me ride. They actually brought me down to a doctor that does all the knees for the Barcelona soccer team, which is one of the biggest soccer teams in the world. So I actually went down there, they did like a 3D x-ray of my body, they did an MRI of my ankle and my knee. Their doctor said yeah, he’s good to go to start… In our world so-called training would be to start riding mellow and just get back out there. People see the champagne, the giant fake checks and the Monster girls, and they’ think it’s so awesome. They’re not there on a Wednesday afternoon when it’s 100 degrees in Florida and you’re doing two 40-minute motos. They’re not there. It’s a lot of work. No, and that’s the thing that I’ve tried to put out there that nobody really knows. It’s hard for me to even explain it to Bobby [Nichols, his agent] sometimes. Like, bro, are you serious? This is what I just have to do. They don’t even see it sometimes. Those are people that are in the daily circle of what goes on.

And if you’re not having fun, that makes it even worse, right? You might as well be a professional motocross racer winning races or you can be a construction worker digging ditches. It’s not fun. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. Was Rattray in your ear a lot?

No, to be honest nobody was on that decision. That’s a decision that had to be made by me. I guess I can get pushed into something or to do something like that but I have to let myself figure out what am I going to be able to do for another year and at least try to enjoy it.

Your knee isn’t ready for the grind of supercross. Why not just race the 12 AMA Nationals and call it a career?

Because I was told that they would rather have me race Supercross than even bother racing outdoors. Either retire or race Supercross. That’s what they would rather have me do.

So Europe to you is a new challenge. Win or lose though, you’re done?

Yes, unless I just absolutely do backflips and enjoy it so much that… Yes, win or lose I’m done.

As a fan of the sport I can’t wait for you to race the GPs and go up against Antonio Cairoli and DeSalle and all these guys on their turf, you, who I consider the best motocross in the world. On the other hand, I think you’re nuts. You’re in a no-win situation. If you win, everyone’s going to go, of you won, you’re Ryan effing Villopoto. But if you lose they’re going to go, Oh, Antonio Cairoli is so good! You American riders suck balls! You’re in a no-win position.

I agree and I disagree. I agree that you’re going to have all the keyboard warriors out there saying this, that, and European riders are better, American riders are better, however it ends up being, but the bottom line is we’re honestly talking about apples and oranges when it comes to European racing and American racing. We do supercross and it’s 17 rounds and we do 12 outdoors. They have one series and they have a pretty big chunk of time that they take off and have to themselves. The way of life and the way of training and the way of riding over there is different than what we have here. Sometimes there isn’t even an option. I know some of the riders go from Qatar to Thailand. They don’t even ride. When was the last time you’ve talked to any one of us that lined up on the gate here in the States that said they haven’t rode three days this week and had a bicycle ride on Wednesday, fly Friday, race Saturday, fly back Sunday, and ride Monday?

Well I can think of Chad Reed in ’08 maybe…

But I’m just saying the way of life over here is completely different – the riding, the training, the sport itself is different. It’s hard to compare the two. As for who’s the outright better rider, well, in my mind and this is me, that the US riders are a better well-rounded rider because we do supercross and motocross. There’s a lot of Europeans that are great motocross riders and don’t come to the states for whatever reason and some of those reasons is because they can’t ride supercross. So explain to me who’s a better well-rounded rider? That doesn’t mean who’s faster outdoors. We can’t even say that. They don’t have supercross. We can’t even compare that part of the sport.

It’s going to be awesome. I’m pumped. I can’t wait because it’s going to be some really incredible racing. I know in talking to you, you’re not making any bold claims that you’re going to win and you’re the best rider and all that.

No, I’m going over there and I’m going to bring my wife and my US practice bike mechanic that is then going to over there kind of flip roles and he’s going to, I guess in a better term would be a glorified man-friend that’s going to do… There’s no gear guys, there’s no goggle guys, there’s no guys that hold your hat and your water bottle and this and that and do everything else. It’s a two-day event, Saturday and Sunday, so it’s like we had years ago. He’s going to be doing all that stuff and making sure that everything’s going smoothly there. So it’s going to be us three and three dogs up against everybody else.

You’re not coming back and forth; you’re over there to stay.

No, to be honest, how can you? It’s a big time change, six hours I think from Florida. The time change is huge and temperature difference… I think that would complicate things. As much as people say, but you might only be able to ride two days this week or maybe one day because of weather or whatever the case may be, but that’s a lot of flying. That’s a lot of headache, pain in the ass to get back to Florida or get back to the States and get that one extra day of riding.

I think the biggest question that I’ve heard that people feel that… obviously you’ve never been to most of those tracks over there but they’ve got plenty of time to ride and I know you’ll get it figured out. You’re going to be able to ride a lot, right?

Yeah. That’s one of the statements I’ve made is learning the tracks is not going to be my issue. Even some of the terrain, obviously it’s a crapshoot when it rains, which could be quite a few rounds over there, but as for the hard-pack or the rock, we’re there for that. We raced St. Jean, that was my last Motocross of Nations, and from what I’ve heard, I don’t know, but heard that that was one of probably one of the more shittier tracks that were on the circuit at the time. Maybe that’s not true, I don’t know. But I fared well there. So learning the track, getting used to the terrain, that I feel is not going to be my issue. Where my issue is going to come from is a stupid, small mistake like drinking the water or eating an ice cube or the wrong food or getting something small like that that ruins your weekend or causes major problems.

You still going to be working with Aldon Baker a little bit?

Yeah, we can clear that one up. Working with Aldon still. Obviously he’s not going to be based in Europe or even coming to every round. He lives here, he’s got a kid, he’s got a wife. That’s just not possible. But yes we are still working together program-wise and talk to him pretty much every day. So yes, everything’s still on there.

I think it’s going to be so great that the entire country can now get behind you. Because with you over there I think just everybody’s going to be pulling for you and rooting for you again.

Basically yeah, even if you weren’t one of my fans through the years of me racing over here, or you were a fan and are not a fan, you became a fan of somebody else, whatever the case may be, it’s no longer who are you a fan of. Technically I’ll be one of the two US riders that are over there, myself and (Thomas) Covington. That will then become I’m a US rider and it becomes all of the US will be behind me. Not to say they will, but the majority of the people then will be a fan of mine to see what happens over there in Europe.

Your whole life people have told you where you got to be, where you got to go, what you got to do and if you’re not having fun racing and you want to go to Europe to have fun again, go on.

Not to say that I’m just going to go over there and that’s going to be the everything. I think for me it is going to be funner than doing another year here. It is going to be something completely different. I will enjoy it because everything is new. I’ll be going to one place for three days and once that three days is over I’m never going back at this point in time.

The 2015 supercross title that you’re leaving behind, who’s your pick to win your vacated title?

If I was betting, obviously Kenny’s [Roczen] going to be really good. He is on a new team. If I had to go there and put money down right now I would have a hard time betting against [Ryan] Dungey. Obviously everybody here knows that outright speed, that’s not Dungey, but he’s there every weekend. Consistency is what wins championships most of the time. You obviously have to have really good weekends and win races but consistency always keeps you there right in that title chase. With Kenny going to a new team, who knows? It’s a new bike. But obviously going off of last year Kenny was really strong. It’s a tough decision, but if I was betting money on it I would have to probably go with Dungey.