Rick Johnson is a seven time AMA Motocross and Supercross Champion. These are his thoughts on the upcoming 2011 AMA / FIM Supercross Series.
Depending on how healthy riders stay during the season, Supercross 2011 could be an incredibly awesome year.
Of course, we all say that every year, but this year could be something special – if most stay healthy.
As I go down a list of riders, my top pick is defending AMA Supercross Champion Ryan Dungey.
Do I think Ryan will dominate Supercross the way he did outdoor MX in 2010? No, but after watching Ryan over the past few years, and especially at the MX of Nations in Italy in 2009, I’ve seen his confidence go up and up. Each time out, he gets a little faster, a little stronger, and smarter.
A lot of riders, once they have won the Supercross Championship, feel they have to dominate the following year. Ryan is smarter than that, he is very smart.
There will be times this year when he will be the fastest rider on the track. And there will be times when he’s not the fastest rider on the track.
In a long 17 race series – that’s not important. What is important – Ryan is the type of rider that will be ‘there’ every weekend. Week in, and week out. He’ll be there. Again, dependent on health, I think he will walk away at the end of the season with the title “2011 AMA / FIM Supercross Series Champion”.
Other riders that stand out…
You can’t overlook James Stewart. James is arguably the most talented rider ever to ride a supercross and motocross bike.
My question about James, “Are there distractions or time commitments that James might have that could have an effect on his season?”
How involved is his family? What about his TV show? What goes on at his house as far as the number of people and friends around? I don’t know the answers, and I’m not saying these are issues. They are just questions I have.
James has an unbelievable training track. He works with great people and trainers.
I just wonder if he’s living the life of a ‘superstar’. Is he concerned about what car he drives? Does he have an ‘entourage’? Again, these are just my questions – I don’t know the answers.
In my opinion, he’s got a lot of ‘fun’ stuff going on that could derail being “100% racer”. He will need to focus on two things – training and riding. I do know, if James find the right balance of family time, personal time, training time, and racing, he could be Supercross champion again.
Another past Supercross Champion, Chad Reed. I feel that Chad, at times, has been as spectacular, and slightly smoother than James Stewart.
If Chad has the right motivation, the right support, and starts off the first few races well, I feel he’s going to contest Ryan Dungey the most for the Supercross Championship.
I’ve seen Chad get into ‘personal’ battles, like with James Stewart in the past. I don’t see that between him and Ryan. But if Chad gets into any personal battles, that could be a distraction. If you are taking energy away from doing your best racing and trying to win, and ‘putting’ it on another rider – it’s just not productive for winning races and championships.
Like James Stewart, if Chad finds the right balance of training, getting comfortable on his new bikes, and family time (don’t forget Chad is a father now), he can definitely be a factor.
Next guy on my list is Ryan Villopoto. Ryan posses unbelievable brute speed on a supercross track. Huge bursts of speed. I think he needs to learn when to back it down sometimes, and maybe wait to make a pass instead of being impatient. Which might seem a bit wrong, being that this is motorsport racing! It’s ultra competitive, and guys want to win!
Ryan goes 100%. I respect that out of a rider. We all expect that out of a rider. But there also comes a time to ‘pick your moves’.
Ryan’s got the speed. Hopefully this last down time and being away from racing, he’s smarter, more consistent.
Another guy pushing the field, is there week in and week out, and that’s Kevin Windham. It doesn’t matter where the race is, or what other guys are doing, Kevin is there near the front. I don’t know if Kevin can win the championship – it might take for a few guys to get hurt. But that’s also part of racing.
I have a lot of respect for Kevin. How long he’s kept his career going, and how well he balances his fitness, his family, and his life. Especially after Kevin had some time away from the sport after racing for Team Suzuki. He basically quit for a year.
For him to come back after that, and go on and be one of the fastest riders in the world on a supercross track every year since then, is a testament to his will to want to keep racing.
One guy that is moving from the 250 class to the premiere Supercross class for 2011 is 2010 AMA MX 250 Lites Champion Trey Canard.
Trey has shown some phenomenal speed. And that kid has more heart than just about any rider on the track. Trey has had some adversity in his life (like losing his father at an early age), and he’s overcome it.
I’ve been impressed with Trey since seeing him ride the 250 Intermediate class in Texas, with his mom’s help all the way.
Trey will have a little bit of a learning curve in the Supercross class. He did get to ride a few times in 2010 on the 450 Honda. I think he can be a consistent top five finisher. I think it will take a full season of racing in the Supercross class though, doing it every week for 17 weeks to be fully acclimated.
It will be different for him now, knowing that he’s got to perform. It’s quite different from doing just a few events with no pressure in the Supercross class as he did in 2010. At that stage, if you do well, it’s great. If you do bad, it’s no big deal, since his primary racing series was 250 West Regional Supercross.
Now he’s riding for American Honda. They want wins. When you don’t perform, it puts an added pressure on you.
Another guy I’m looking forward to watching race is Andrew Short. Andrew has joined with KTM and Roger De Coster, and it will be interesting to see how they do with the KTM 350 machine, and specifically how it works in supercross.
I saw Andrew ride at A Day in The Dirt, and he looked smooth and comfortable, but lining up against the world’s best supercross racers is a different story. I watched Andrew back when he rode for Motoworld Suzuki. I think he’s always been more comfortable on the bigger bikes.
I don’t know for sure, but I think he slightly overtrains. My opinion, if you overtrain (and I’ve done it) it hurts you having those ‘bursts of speed’ that you need in supercross.
Here’s an example. Take Jason Lawrence. Not known for ‘overtraining’. But every so often, he can come up with these tremendous, unbelievable bursts of speed on a supercross track.
With Andrew, you can almost set your clock to his consistency, and speed. I’d like to see him work on his bursts of speed.
One guy that I’m going to be watching, and he has almost been under the radar is Ivan Tedesco. He’s on Kawasaki bikes now. He seems very comfortable. Remember, Ivan had great supercross speed and results when he rode for Pro-Circuit Kawasaki. Two regional Supercross Championships, and a Lites 250 Motocross National Championship.
When Ivan was riding for Honda, he just never looked comfortable to me. But he’s back on a Kawasaki, and Ivan has stated he’s very comfortable, and very confident.
If Ivan can get a win, and a taste of success, he can be the surprise to look out for.
When I raced, and won championships, the weeks before Anaheim 1 we were putting in laps, testing, and getting everything ready for a new season.
A lot of testing, because you are basically on a new bike, and don’t know what all the other teams and riders are doing. You want to have everything set and dialed in as far as the bike before the first race.
One thing we were always concerned with before the first race of the season – not getting sick! It’s flu season, and lots of people get sick. It’s a major concern! You don’t want to get sick right before the first race of the season.
Also, before the start of a season, I’d train. Almost to the point of overtraining many times. I put too much emphasis on trying to be in the ‘ultimate shape’ at the start of the season. And because of overtraining, a lot of times I ended up doing things I didn’t want to do – like getting banged up, or sick, or hurt.
It’s a long year. Sometimes a tedious year. You will race yourself into final shape.
For me, if I were racing this year, knowing what I know now, I would focus on training, but also a lot of resting. Lot of rest, and lots of stretching. I would spend time with my family, knowing that once the season starts, I won’t be able to see them that much.
In my training on the bike, I would work on speed. Bursts of speed. Speed is a hard thing to develop. Your lungs and cardio will come together as you get into racing full time again.
A perfect example for me was 1986. I was new to the Honda team. I overtrained. And then I got sick a week before the first Anaheim supercross. It showed. It what is billed as the ‘Greatest Supercross Race Ever’. I got tired. I got beat. But I was able to keep pushing myself, week after week. I finally felt as strong as I thought I could be a few races into the season.
For me, I kept working on my bursts of speed. And then I’d let the cardio take care of itself.
I’m looking forward to a great 2011 Supecross Season. I hope you are too!