It’s been a strange year in supercross.
Ryan Villopoto has a 30 point lead and as many expected has controlled the series. But he has only won three races, so how has he still managed to dominate while losing races?!
The defending champion has not really been quicker than anyone this year but he has been the smartest and most consistent as one by one all his rivals have self-destructed.
Ken Roczen and Chad Reed where the initial challengers to a rider who many felt was unbeatable, Roczen’s opening round win and the resurgence of Chad Reed had everyone very excited.
But it all began to unravel at San Diego (ironically amid a five race winless streak of RV) when Chad Reed clipped the back of Roczen and went down and injured his shoulder. Reed, second in points, was out for the year.
Then came Roczen, who after winning his second race of the year in Atlanta to put himself back in prime contention, had his own problems.
Ironically Roczen and Villopoto crashed together going down the start straight at Indy but it was Villopoto who got up first and left a scrambling Roczen with a lot of time to make up as he watched Villopoto scythe his way through the pack.
Roczen was about five seconds back and making his own flurry of passes up through the field mirroring Villopoto’s charge, but he was under more pressure because he couldn’t afford to let RV gain more points. Then, without warning, Roczen binned it and hit his head to point he coudn’t really remember how he even crashed!
That DNF put Roczen a race behind Villopoto and then another DNF last week and ended any lingering chances the rookie had of winning the title. It took longer than expected but Roczen eventually made the rookie mistakes Villopoto had been counting on.
And then we have James Stewart. Every time Stewart looks like mounting a challenge to Villopoto he either goes down or has a freak problem with the bike.
It all began in round one when he crashed out while trying to pass Roczen for the lead. Then just when he looked back on course after winning two races in a row, Stewart crashed inexplicably on the first lap while second behind Mike Alessi having been fastest all day.Then a couple of weeks ago Stewart’s header pipe got dislodged in the first corner as he tried to avoid a fallen Mike Alessi.
Stewart of course showed everyone what he can do last week with a runaway win to tie Villopoto with three race wins. But Stewart has had too many sets of bad results and once again. Stewart could well look back on this year as the one that got away, he had all the pieces in place to win the title this year but it just hasn’t happened (barring a miraculous turnaround).
Even Mr Consistent Ryan Dungey had a DNF at A3 that cost him a lot of points but having only one poor race has left him second in points.
Villopoto is the only rider of all the main contenders to not have a bad race and now with the pressure off, RV doesn’t even need to win races such is the size of his points lead.
But does this mean that Villopoto has lost the edge in speed he had or is he just not having to show it? Despite the points lead the reality is that Roczen, Reed, Stewart and even Dungey have all been as fast as Villopoto this year but RV is showing just why he is a champion.
He doesn’t always need to be the fastest because he is also the smartest and doing what he needs to do by putting himself in the right positions, not taking risks and staying out of trouble.
It’s not just the fastest rider that wins championships sometimes it’s the smartest and surprisingly this year RV is winning because he is riding smart not because he has more speed than his rivals. And in a strange kind of way, this makes RV even more impressive!
Article: Jonathan McCready
Picture: James Lissimore