Lewis Phillips: Well, it has happened. When the Ryan Villopoto to MXGP rumours originally surfaced, most laughed and shrugged them off. Honestly, I did too; this rumour pops up every year and it never materialises.
However, this is obviously different – it is actually happening! To the delight of fans in every corner of the world, Ryan Villopoto (the best that America has to offer) will face Antonio Cairoli (the best that Europe has to offer) in an eighteen-round duel that will stretch across multiple countries, many different tracks and a handful of continents. The move is unorthodox, as an overwhelming majority of the riders prefer to settle in their homeland where they are surrounded by their family and friends and can make millions. It sounds ideal, right? Villopoto wants more than that though; he always has been unique.
You could argue that this is not the ideal time for the move, as he is coming off of a knee injury that he has labelled as the most serious of his career and has reportedly split from his trainer, Aldon Baker, who guided him to no less than six 450F championships in four years. However, Ryan will undoubtedly be spending a large amount of time with Tyla Rattray (another rider that was previously under Baker’s wing), so the two will be able to use the knowledge gained from their previous training regime to ensure that they are one-hundred percent heading into this new challenge.
Rattray is going to be a great help to Villopoto; I honestly believe that. Why else would Ryan be so keen to have him as a teammate beneath the Monster Energy KRT tent? Tyla has already been the foreigner that has tackled the FIM Motocross World Championship for the first time and he knows the series and tracks (although around half are new) as well as anyone. So, when it comes to set-up and knowing what to expect prior to a weekend, he will be able to guide RV. Having a familiar face alongside him will also make him feel more comfortable in the exotic surroundings.
The rate of his success will depend on how quickly he can adapt, and typically it takes a rider a year to get up to speed when they relocate. I would argue that the transition from the USA to Europe is more difficult than going from the MXGP series to the American series, simply because of how diverse the circuits are over here. Some riders struggle when it comes to going from a slick, rocky circuit one weekend to the deep sand on the next, there are even some guys that grew up in Europe that are just not versatile enough.
However, if anyone can come in and adapt with ease, it is Ryan Villopoto. No matter who you support or which series you follow, you have to acknowledge that he is arguably the fastest rider in the world and is unbelievably talented. Will that make him immune to some of the struggles that riders making the switch typically face? Of course not, but he will get the hang of it much quicker. In the three trips he has made to Europe for the Motocross of Nations, he has won his class each time, so he clearly hasn’t struggled to adapt (although two of those tracks, Matterley Basin and Donington Park, were not typically European).
Villopoto has built up a reputation of not caring and not overthinking whatever situation he is in. Now, some obviously think that is a negative trait, but it may contribute to the success he has achieved thus far and aid him in his quest for glory in ’15. There is going to be a lot of focus on RV next year; perhaps there will be more of a spotlight on him than ever before. Admittedly, he will encounter some fans that want to see him fail, but then he will also attracts hundreds of new supporters. Anyway, I digress, his ability to not get caught up in the hype will help him to work through all of the attention and not get distracted, therefore putting him in a position to succeed.
For the sake of his reputation, I hope that he enters the season ready to contend and is not underestimating the challenge ahead of him, because then ‘the haters’ will just state that he isn’t as good as Antonio Cairoli. He may come out, go as fast as possible and still lose the world title, but at least he would have left it all on the table. Based on his recent attitude, it seems that he is not as willing to do that anymore. But, then again, the fresh challenge and change of scenery may reinvigorate him.
This is the certainly the best-case scenario, as a fan, as this will answer the question most have bench-raced about for years! Will it be completely black and white? Of course not, there is bound to be a few bumps along the way for each title contender, but we will also see some historic battles. The added interest will also give the FIM Motocross World Championship a massive boost.
I just hope that Ryan makes it to the opening round. I know the announcement has been made and he has made his intentions clear, but we have seen a handful of riders change their mind just weeks before the opener. However, after all of the effort that has been put into making this deal happen, I would be extremely surprised if he isn’t on the line in Qatar. I think I speak for every fan around the world when I say, roll on 2015!
Jonathan McCready: The confirmation of a long time rumour has finally come and the race that the world wants to see is finally here, Antonio Cairoli vs Ryan Villopoto!
It is brilliant for the world championship and will give the series the boost it deserves in America, but more importantly it’s brilliant for fans around the world. This is the battle everyone dreamed of seeing, but that looked like it would never happen. Sometimes dreams do come true though and here we are, although Herlings moving up would have been the icing on the cake!
So what will happen? Who will win? I believe both have a good chance at it but I would give Cairoli the edge by a couple of percent, because he has more experience racing in different countries and riding on a greater variety of tracks. Cairoli is the best in the world until someone dethrones him.
RV will have to adapt to a lot of things next season, but if anyone can come from America and win a world title in his first year, it is him. Villopoto has some pressure to contend with though, as the American motocross fans and even some around the world have already labelled him as the best in the world, but this is now his chance to prove it. To add to the pressure the USA remarkably haven’t won a world title for twenty years! Bob Moore was the last American world motocross champion and it would be a story book ending for Villopoto to go off into the sunset as America’s first world champion in twenty years against one of the deepest fields in GP history.
The good thing is Villopoto might be the best rider motocross has ever seen under pressure. The greater the pressure, the faster he goes; RV has that chip on his shoulder to prove people wrong and he will be motivated to go out on top.
However, Cairoli has all the pieces of the puzzle to stop him too and will have the edge in the sand. Cairoli rides more conservatively than RV, but he may have to change that next season if RV continues his aggressive style, but will that aggression work on all the tracks? Both riders have opposite styles and qualities on the bike so it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top. I can see each rider winning multiple GPs, but limiting the damage on their bad days might prove to be what wins the championship.
Of course it might not be either of them, as Gautier Paulin, Clement Desalle and Jeremy van Horebeek will be very motivated to beat both riders and can’t be ruled out either. It is the most anticipated world championship in years. Is it February yet?
Image: James Lissimore
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