Throughout his career, Ryan Villopoto has let his riding do his talking. For the last three years he’s been the most dominant rider on the planet and given how seemingly untouchable he’s been en route to three straight Monster Energy Supercross titles, it’s surprising to think that he’s done so unassumingly.
In reality, that’s how it’s been. His quiet demeanor and get-the-job-done style has set him apart from dominant stars of the past, but make no mistake about it, Villopoto is still the sport’s brightest star even if he doesn’t necessarily crave the spotlight. As the start of a new season looms in just a matter of hours inside Angel Stadium, Villopoto is gearing up for a historic run at a fourth career title.
We’ve looked at the competitors that Villopoto will be up against throughout the week, but there isn’t anyone as important as himself as he looks to become just the second rider in history to achieve a four-peat. As the reigning champion, Villopoto’s barometer for performance lies in his own body of work. He’s proven his preparation and approach to the grueling title fight works and while he’s forced his rivals to go back to the drawing board so to speak, he only needs to maintain the form that led him to the top of the sport. However, Villopoto would agree it’s easier said than done.
It’s hard to say what has made Villopoto stand above the rest these past three years, but it surely lies in the way he appears to attack the track each and every time he’s on it. You have flashy and smooth riders like James Stewart and Justin Barcia, and you also have fluid and precise riders like Chad Reed and Ryan Dungey. Each approach works.
Villopoto doesn’t seem to fit in either category, appearing to always do battle with the track and chew it up along the way. He’s hard on the throttle and he carries exceptional momentum throughout a lap, particularly in the turns where he does most of the damage. His bulldog-type approach in a race setting not only results in a tenth of a second here and there, but also signifies a relentless effort that won’t stop until the checkered flag flies.
In this current age of supercross that boasts four titleholders, a long list of race winners, and hugely promising talent, it is that kind of all-or-nothing mentality that has helped Villopoto find an edge on his rivals when there is very little available. It’s that same mentality that has also resulted in some major injuries that have ultimately prevented Villopoto from possibly achieving even more success. But for a rider like Villopoto, riding that fine line is where he feels comfortable and its obvious that he’s willing to accept the risks that come from any mistakes along the way. When the alternative result is three supercross titles and a winning perecentage of over 50% during that span, its easy to understand why.
Oddly enough, while Villopoto appears to be in the early stages of his dominance, he’s been open about already looking to the next stage of his life. He’s accomplished literally everything there is to win in the sport – SX & MX titles, MXoN wins, the Monster Million – and records are of little interest to him. Even more impressively, he’s done all of this while in the midst of what many consider to be the most competitive era. However, his desire and passion to succeed remains and it’s why he’s the heavy favorite once the gate drops in a few hours. Until someone can unseat the champ, he’s the one to watch.
The 2014 Monster Energy Supercross season commences Jan. 4 at 10 p.m. ET LIVE on FOX Sports 1.