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AFTER TWO FALSE STARTS TO HIS 450cc CAREER, RYAN VILLOPOTO LINES UP FOR THE 2011 SX SERIES FEELING FITTER THAN EVER...

Monster Energy Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto was touted as being the giant-killer heading into the 2009 season. He had won three consecutive 250cc national MX titles and dominated the Motocross des Nations but 2009 saw him come down with illness during supercross, then dominate the series opener for the AMA 450cc Nationals before blowing out his knee practising before round two. He attempted to race round two anyway but it wasn't to be. He pulled out of the series.

In 2010 Villopoto came into the season overweight. He was a good 20 pounds heavier than he should've been to start the season. "It's a bit embarrassing to look back at that," Villopoto says. "I didn't realise at the time how out of shape I really was. I could still put in 20 good laps but... "

Villopoto raced his way into shape and it wasn't long before he started putting together wins. He caught eventual champ Ryan Dungey in the points standings, then had a big crash, clogging his exhaust pipe with dirt. Still, near the end of the series Villopoto was dominant. He was winning at will - when he didn't crash - and was reeling Dungey back in for the second time when, in St. Louis, he went down on a dangerous jump combination that also claimed Ivan Tedesco in the same Main Event. Villopoto was leading at the time and pulling away but the result was a badly broken leg and the series was over. Dungey was the champ.

"I was bummed out - everybody was. It wasn't like it was just a broken arm, it was a pretty bad injury. The first thought was to get it fixed right because it was my ankle too that they had to put back together. At the time I was most bummed about the actual injury. As time passed losing the championship was what really made me bummed."

And it wasn't just losing the supercross championship - for the second season RV was unable to take on the outdoors which is his definite strong point. With Villopoto in the line-up Dungey definitely wouldn't have won 10 of the 12 rounds like he did. And may not have won the title.

"I wish we would switch supercross with outdoors,"

Villopoto laughs. "If we could flip-flop it, then that would be cool. I'd love to get outdoors done first! He [Dungey] wouldn't have won 10 if I wasn't hurt. I'm not going to sit here and say he wouldn't have won the championship because he possibly could have but he would not have won 10 overalls."

But all of this has culminated in a big change for Villopoto - he's hired Aldon Baker for 2011 and beyond.

Aldon Baker is easily the most successful motocross/ supercross trainer in the world today. First, he joined up with a chubby Ricky Carmichael in mid-2000. After Baker came on board with Carmichael he never lost another championship he intended to compete for. The only championships he didn't win during that stretch from 2001 until 2007 were the 2004 SX championship (in which Carmichael didn't compete due to a pre-season knee injury) and the 2007 supercross and motocross championships (in which Carmichael only competed part-time as a sort of farewell tour). Every championship that Carmichael intended to compete for he won.

That's why Carmichael is considered the GOAT but Aldon Baker's role was key. By the end of his career, chubby Ricky Carmichael was known as being the guy who worked the hardest and was in the best shape. Many fans and pundits who say this is why RC won seem to forget his five national championships that came while he was still chubby but, regardless, the addition of Aldon Baker turned an established champion into the most dominant figure in US motocross history.

After that, Baker was quickly snatched up by James Stewart and Stewart immediately became just as dominant, becoming only the second racer to go 24-0 in outdoor moto wins in a single season. He did it in 2008, his first year with Baker, after sitting out the supercross season with a knee injury. He then won the 2009 SX title in his first year as a supercross-only racer on the L&M Yamaha team. He was hurt early in 2010 or else Baker's undefeated streak may have continued.

Still, in championships where Baker's racers have been uninjured, Baker is still completely undefeated. And Villopoto now has Baker in his corner.

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