Ryan Villopoto is one of the best motocross racers of all time. He will likely lock up a record-tying fourth-consecutive Supercross Series championship in the season’s penultimate event this Saturday at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Villopoto, 25, spoke to Edge about the unique training, mentality and innate skill needed to be a motocross legend.
Edge: What does your training look like?
Ryan Villopoto: It’s on the bike four days a week. Also on the road bike four days a week... [I work on] pretty much every muscle, core is one of the bigger ones. If you watch us ride, you’ll see that we pretty much use, at any given time, muscles at either end of the body. You could use something at one end and all of the sudden the bike gets kicked a different way and all of a sudden you’re using a different muscle. Core training. Sit ups, pull ups, squats. Nothing really heavy because you don’t want bulk, you just want strength. You want lean and fit muscle. You want to be really limber.
Edge: Does that mean you are on a strict diet to stay small?
RV: I wouldn’t actually call it a diet. I don’t eat any red meat, none at all. No dairy. But not being super crazy. Doing what we do, our heart rates get very high. Supercross is shorter, but outdoors its very, very hot. …It could potentially be 110 degrees. You got to at least have a fair amount of food in [your body].
Edge: What does it take to be an elite Supercross racer?
RV: No matter how hard you work at it you can’t train to be a good racer. It’s a “you-have-it-or-you-don’t” type of deal. If you kind of have it you can get a little bit better, but you can’t teach that to somebody who doesn’t have it. The racing side of it. You can't really teach the racing.
Edge: What challenges does a Supercross racer face that other athletes don’t?
RV: Obviously you have to deal with pressure. The day-in, day-out travel and the racing every weekend… It’s not a team sport, obviously. It’s all dependent on you. There’s nobody there to pick you up. There’s nobody to pass the ball to or other players to pull you through. If you have an off weekend it’s an off weekend and that’s all there is to it.
Edge: Do failures linger with you then?
RV: Some people might dwell on things more than others. I don’t dwell on anything, really. I’m not that person. I don’t regret anything either. So that makes it a little easier for me to bounce back from a bad weekend.
"No matter how hard you work at it you can’t train to be a good racer. It’s a 'you-have-it-or-you-don’t' type of deal." — Ryan Villopoto
Edge: You’ve had two ACL surgeries on one leg and broke the tibia and fibula on the other. How do your injuries affect your training?
RV: My doctor said I would lose some movement, which I did in my ankle. I have potential arthritis. Running is very hard for me because I have a plate that runs up my shin. Your bones actually flex when you do things. So that gets rid of the bottom of my leg flexing. At some points it starts to really hurt or do certain things.
Edge: You need only a few points to tie up your fourth-straight title. Does that mean you’ll be taking it a little more conservatively on Saturday?
RV: I think it’s dangerous to think that way. Being where I’m at in my career. You tend to think about think about things a little more and push where you know you can. Just be smarter because you have more experience. I’m more experienced now. If something is in place to win the race then we go for it.
Edge: A fourth-straight series win will tie you with motocross legend Jeremy McGrath for the longest streak. Do you think about where you stand against the all-time greats?
RV: Being in it, living it every day. You don’t have time to think about it. Ask me that question after I’m retired a few years. I’ve never been a guy that is chasing after records or looking to set records or anything like that. That’s just not me.