Fans of Monster Energy Supercross know Ryan Villopoto as a intense competitor who relentlessly pursues main event wins and championship titles. And when he's on track, that is an accurate portrayal.
But "Ryan Villopoto: A Champion," a CBS special presentation set to air this Sunday(noon ET) will offer fans a glimpse of the personal life of this two-time and defending champion.
During a telephone interview conducted on Thursday afternoon, Villopoto indicated that his career path on the high flying dirt bikes had been laid out before him for some time. "My grandpa raced and my dad raced," he said. "They got me into it when I was young. I was brought up in it."
But even with all of his trophies and other accolades, life has not always been easy for Villopoto. The hard work required to reach the sport's top level meant that sacrifices were made along the way.
"You have to mature way quicker than the average kid," the resident of Poulsbo, Wash. explained:
Growing up in this sport, you're getting paid when you're 16, sometimes $100,000 or $200,000 or whatever you're worth. You're really more like a 21-year-old when you're 16. But you miss out on a lot of things growing up. But the great thing is that I'll be able to go back and make up for a lot of that because I'll be able to retire at an early age.
In the video trailer made to promote the CBS special, Villopoto admits that there were times when practicing on his bike was not always his first priority. His father, however, pushed him to continue working toward the ultimate goal of becoming a top rider.
So considering those struggles early in life, where does this now 24-year-old find the drive that has made him the sport's best. "It's my job," Villopoto explained. "It's how I make my money so I always want to do it well.
"There's a lot of work and time that goes into doing this. And after putting in all that effort, to not win can be devastating."
As the lead rider for Monster Energy Kawasaki has shown in previous seasons, this is a very physically demanding sport. A badly broken leg suffered in St. Louis back in 2010 ended that season and sidelined Villopoto for weeks. Then, a crash in Seattle cut his 2012 season short just after he had clinched the season championship.
So how much longer does he hope to continue?
I have some goals I want to reach. Right now, the focus is on getting my third Supercross championship in a row then moving on to outdoors (AMA Motocross) and winning that championship as well. I missed outdoors last year and really want to win that. I have some plans but plans don't always go as planned.
Then comes the question of what someone so young will do after he has retired from Supercross. Unlike former champion Ricky Carmichael, Villopoto does not foresee NASCAR in his future.
I have some things in the works inside the sport I'd like to do. I always have my eyes and ears open and am looking for things I can do with the right people. But I'm fortunate enough to be in a position that if something comes up and I don't want to do it, I don't have to do it.
As far as the current season and his quest for a third-consecutive title, Villopoto concedes that there have been stumbling blocks but he believes he is still on the right track to achieve his goal.
The first Anaheim was a rough deal and last week I was in good shape until Chad (Reed) had a problem and that put me behind. You know, it was just a racing deal. But I have won two times [Oakland and Anaheim 2] and had a second [Phoenix] so when you take away last weekend it's been pretty good.
The Monster Energy Supercross Series will race this Saturday night in San Diego. That event will be aired live on SPEED.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. For the latest NASCAR news and views please visit his RacingWithRich.com site. And for dirt late model action please visit his TennesseeRacer.com site.
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