Interview: Aldon Baker (9/6/12)
by Racer X Virtual Trainer
If Baggett can return to his winning ways, he will be crowned the 2013 250 Outdoor National Champion.
Photo: Carl Stone
It's been a while since we last chatted with trainer, Aldon Baker so I picked up the phone to check in on the status of Ryan Villopoto's knee and to see how Blake Baggett is handling the pressure of carrying the red plate since Hangtown.
Virtual Trainer: Hey Aldon, thanks for taking my call. Been a while since we last talked. How are things going down in Florida?
Aldon Baker: Yea, no problem mate. It has been a while.
Yes, actually the last interview we did was right before RV got hurt and I was asking you how you keep him focused since he had the SX Championship wrapped up at that point. Now you find yourself in a very similar situation with Blake Baggett. What have you been telling Blake and is how is he handling the pressure?
Well, yes it is very similar. It's always a tough scenario because you notice how the rider starts to protect his lead when he has a decent points lead. He ends up trying to protect his points and not do anything crazy. Which is natural because obviously if you crash you can throw it all away. There is a fine line but I always worry that when they are trying to protect points they don't ride like they know how and they are sort of in no-man's land. I think that is what he did last weekend (Steel City) and kind of gave a bunch of positions away to guys that have nothing to lose and are really gong for it. But I would rather be in a position to protect points than have to ride like crazy to gain them. The problem is that when a rider is protecting a lead he ends up monitoring so much more on what he can and cannot do and the consequences if he crashes out, that he doesn't ride like he practices and trains. But I think Blake learned a good lesson last weekend that things can happen when you don't buckle down and ride like you know how. But with two races to go there is no way he is going to just hand over that red plate.
It's a big thing for an athlete to learn how to control those emotions and situations while still analyzing and making good decisions. That is what separates Champions from second place.
For sure, you are exactly right. That is the big step to learn how to control those emotions and keep it together. There really isn't a good way to train for that. I think you can either handle the pressure or not. One thing that I try to stress to Blake is to not have me believe in him more than he believes in himself. That is a decision he has to make. That is really something he has to push for and know that it is true. He knows it from winning past races and he knows he has the fitness and the speed to win. He has it all so now he just has to do it. He needs to go out there next weekend and claim it like he owns it. He's had that red plate for a long time so he does feel like he owns it.
Has Ryan villopoto given any input to Blake on how to handle the situation?
Not too much right now because Ryan is not at the races. Ryan has been in Florida riding and regrouping so they have not had a chance to get together much. But I'm sure he will have some words of advice for him before this weekend. But up to this point it hasn't really been a big thing. But now the points are tight and Blake can't just go into next week and sail comfortably along.
Absolutely. If Tomac goes 1-1 and Blake get's 4th overall, the Championship is Tomac's. So it sounds to me like what you are saying is Blake has been trying to manage the Championship the last couple of rounds instead of going out and being 100% focused on winning races.
Yes, for sure. It's funny how when a rider is going down close to the end he doesn't seem to attack the race track like he did earlier in the series. That always gets to me because it never seems to work out well when a rider does that. From my experience I know this, but to get the rider to see it that way is tough. It's funny because the race I thought he would struggle with was Southwick in the sand but he came out of there with the overall. And the next two rounds where I expected him to do well were his bad races. So you just never know.
I think a lot of people, including myself thought that Blake was just going to run away with the Championship in the middle of the series because of the way he was able to run the rest of the field down and dominate. He looked so strong and fit that I really thought there was no way any one was going to catch him. But then the last two rounds he wasn't able to find that extra gear and put on a charge. That's the danger of an early points lead.
Yes, and to me the race conditions of those last two races were very manageable. The temperature was not brutally hot and the conditions were pretty good. So to me that leveled things out on the fitness side where other guys were not struggling with heat. So any advantage we may have had in that area was gone. If those rounds would have been scorcher things may have been a little different.
The other thing when it comes to fitness, it doesn't hurt for Eli Tomac to have his dad who is an ex pro mountain biker training him. John knows what he is doing and looks to me like they may have learned a thing or two from few mistakes they made last year. Eli looks strong and fit for sure!
Oh for sure. John is very fit himself and knows his stuff. Fitness is no problem for Eli.
Plus it looks like Eli is really maturing body-wise. He definitely is starting to grow into his shoes.
Yes, and to me Blake is such a small guy. In my opinion he needs to get a little bigger and stronger. But he is build pretty small and he is only 20-years old so he still has some room to grow and that will come along with time.
I was reading on Racer X's 250 Words, that Blake needs to not look at the computer, ignore the message boards, and go into Lake Elsinore and take care of business. Does Blake pay attention to the message boards and social media?
No, not that I know of. It's not like he has come to me and said anything that has upset him from what he saw on the Internet . But I'm the same. I don't really have time for checking out all the web media.
Well, let's shift gears a little and talk about RV and where he currently stands with his knee injury. I know he is back on the bike and preparing for the Monster energy Cup in October.
Yep, he is back on the bike and the knee is 100%. The plan is to get back in the groove with the Monster Cup and then start preparing for A1.
From a training perspective, how much fitness has he lost and will he be 100% going into MEC?
Well, that is the thing about this knee injury it really did not set him back too much except for not being able to ride his motorcycle. He wasn't out too long before we were able to get back in the gym and start with the exercises. So I really don't feel like we lost too much at all. He is back riding and he looks good on the bike. His fitness is good, his speed is good, and they have actually made some more improvements with the bike. As a matter of fact he just went back out to California to do some additional testing. The combination of bike and rider looks really good at this point. I am not concerned at all that he has lost anything. If anything this break has made him hungry to want to go out and race. He is really fresh both mentally and physically. So that is always a good thing. It's really tuff on these guys to sit around all summer and watch the races when they know they should be out there racing doing what they love. He was even tempted to come back and race the last two rounds but in the end that just didn't make sense and there wasn't anything to be gained by doing that.
I'm sure…..It sounds like RV is fit and healthy and ready for 2013. I posted on FaceBook that I was going to be talking to you and asked if anyone had any questions to ask. So I'll pick out a few and let you respond. Tyler Walker asked, "What type of diet do you put your riders on?"
Nothing too special. I just try to teach them how to eat clean and healthy. I don't monitor everything they eat or anything like that. I try to teach my riders about nutrition and what you put in your body as it is important for not only performing on the track, but how your body recovers. Performance and recovery go together.
Have you ever had any riders where you really struggled to get them to understand the importance of nutrition and monitor their intake more? I know that Ricky takes a beating on the internet regarding his weight since he has retired. I really feel bad for the guy sometimes.
Yea, for sure. Ricky really had to watch what he ate when we were training. His diet was a little more strict and I watched it a little closer. I mean, it seemed like he could drive past a McDonalds and gain 5 pounds (laughs). He really struggled with his weight, but everyone is different. Blake could eat anything he wants and not gain a pound. Ryan is a lot more like Ricky. He has to watch his diet a little closer than the other guys. Mostly just educating them on what to eat and what to stay away from. So it's a bit harder for Ryan but he has it figured out and does what he has to do. But diet isn't really a big issue for any of my current riders.
Simon Pettersson asked, "Which rider has been the most fun to work with and why?"
You know, honestly they all have been great. And that is the truth. There hasn't been one guy where I was glad when we stopped training together. Each rider has been so unique. I've have fun times and tough times with each rider. But Ricky probably stands out as the most fun because we were together for so many years. 8 years total. But I look at the crew I have now and it's just amazing. When we are all together I am just so amazed at how each guy is so unique. And that is so special. Anyone with kids can understand that it's hard to pick a favorite, they all have there special qualities.
Greg Hammond from Concept 2 wants to know, "What types of baseline testing do you use with your riders to evaluate performance gains or signs of over training?"
With regard to baseline testing it's the basic flexibility, strength and cardio tests. All that is done initially to evaluate where the guy is and what he needs to improve. To address over training, a lot can be seen in lactate levels linked to heart rate patterns and blood tests. I'm also around my guys a lot and I can tell from their attitude, general look and responses to training to see if they are feeling tired or possibly over trained.
A couple of people on Twitter wanted me to ask about this whole Lance Armstrong deal. What's your opinion on that situation?
I look at him as such an amazing athlete, so high profile, and he has done so much for the sport. I think there has been a lot of cheating to some degree for a long time, but I do think the tests have got better and they are slowly cleaning up the sport or at least making riders think a lot more about taking the wrong path with drugs. What I would like to know is if they strip him of his jerseys, who are they going to give them to? I think every guy below him has been caught doing something illegal.
I posted an article on Facebook a few weeks ago that to me is 100% exactly how I feel about the situation. If you are at all interested in the Lance Armstrong deal, it's worth a read.
Yea what bums me out the most about this whole deal is that it tarnishes the amount of work that each guy still has to put in. It's not like you take PEDs and then don't have to train. It's still a brutal thing to go through. No matter what drugs a guy is taking if he doesn't put the time in to training he is still going to get blown out the back. Lance, to me, put in more work than everyone else anyway, that's what I admired about him the most. He was better than everyone else in the same scenario at the time. The other thing is that there seems to be a big vendetta from the USA side against Lance. To my knowledge he has passed all the tests, while others failed. Not sure what they want out of this deal and what is it helping? Don't get me wrong, cheating is wrong and should not be tolerated, but he has never failed a test and has been retired for a while now. I just don't see what is to be gained by discrediting him now and going after him so relentlessly. If he was doing something illegal while he was riding and got caught, then yes, I agree he should be punished. But now, I don't see the point. What is going to change now?
I agree and one of the commentators during the tour had a really good point on whether drug testing is effective or not. His opinion was that it is effective simply based on race results. Bikes and training are getting better and better but the times are not improving. If drug use was still being abused in the sport, race times would be getting faster. This is proof that drug testing is effective and less guys are breaking the rules.
Yes, for sure. The other way to see it is no one really decimates the field anymore. Most of the riders have a bad day hear and there and that is where PEDs really give a rider an advantage. If you are not using PEDs I don't care how spot on and perfect your training is, you will have a bad day here and there. That is what I see as proof that drug use is on the decline. And I really hope that is the case because to me what should determine the winner is training, heart, desire, discipline and all that. Not cheating to gain an advantage.
I couldn't agree with you more. Thanks again for you time and good luck this weekend at Elsinore.
No problem Mate. Thanks for the interview.
That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness.