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Interview: Aldon Baker on Maintaining Focus

by Racer X Virtual Trainer

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Ryan Villopoto celebrates his 2nd staight Supercross championship. But there are four rounds to go. How will he handle the remainder of the series?

You might think that trainer Aldon Baker's life would be easier now that his main rider, Ryan Villopoto has the 2012 Supercross championship all wrapped up with 4 races to go. Can you believe that; when the series started at Anaheim 1 back in February, everyone was expecting a series that would go down to the last race in Vegas. Things didn't turn out that way as many of the top riders succumbed to injury and are out for the season. That, combined with a rock solid race program, Villopoto could sit out the remaining rounds and still be crowned champion. That by itself is truly amazing.

But the last thing a rider like RV wants to do is sit out and not ride. But both he and Aldon face a unique challenge in these final four races. As a rider, how do you back it down just enough to not be on the scary edge but yet fast enough to still be in your comfort zone. It's an interesting situation in that Ryan could certainly ride around in 4th protecting himself from injury while maintaining his swagger going into the Outdoors. But when you ride differently bad things can happen. Just like a prevent defense in football is sure way to lose a football game, not riding like you know how and keeping your focus razor sharp can lead to disaster. And as a trainer how do you keep your rider focused and hungry when the main goal has been met.

Instead of me sitting here pontificating on what RV should and should not do, I called up my good friend Aldon and asked him directly. How will you handle the remainder of the season? And just for the record, my recommendation would be to race like you have to win every race to win the championship. Twist it to the stops, RV. It's the only way you know how to ride!

Virtual Trainer: Hey Aldon. Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your day to chat a bit.
Aldon Baker: No problem mate. It's always good to talk training.

What I want to talk about today is how you plan to keep Ryan's focus on point with 4 races to go and the championship already won. Congrats on another win by the way!
Yea, thanks for that Tim. It's been a great season so far for sure. But like you said we still have 4 races to go and we have to make sure that the focus is maintained. But it is nice to wrap up the championship early because now we can start focusing a little earlier on the Outdoors. The biggest thing right now is to stick to our routine and try to do what we have been doing to this point. It was nice last week to get some Outdoor riding in and for me to see where Ryan is in regard to the Outdoors. But this week we went back to our Supercross routine. In practice, the goal is always to be consistent with lap times from week to week so that keeps Ryan on his toes there. If the rider keeps his lap times fast and consistent then you have to be focused to do that. The other thing is as the guy with the #1 plate, I keep on Ryan to go out there each time and ride like the champion he is. Plus there are still races to be won and no one should ever give up a chance to win a Supercross. The fans and the sponsors also deserve a top performance at every race.

So is the goal for the remaining rounds to win every race?
Yea, we've talked about it a little to go out and try win. But mainly the thing is to be smart. The cool thing is he doesn't have to go in and preserve points or ride on that extreme edge and risk yard-saling.

That is the interesting thing and the reason for my phone call. I know that these guys have two speeds; warp speed and super warp speed. I think pro riders are in way more control and like you eluded to earlier, more focused when they are riding on that edge. The tendency is to focus otherwise risk the consequences of a huge crash. But there is a fine line between the edge and the scary edge.
Well, you have to cover who you are racing against for sure. It is amazing you know, if any of the top guys are there, then he knows he has to run that edge a little better and he has to be on his game.


It's not all work for RV. Here Ryan and his wife Kristen take part in what appears to be a mud run.

Photo: Kristen Villopoto's Twitter (@KristenV2)

Yes, and that's another issue to think about. James is struggling a little bit right now and the last ting you want to do is let that guy get on a roll and start getting his confidence back. So if James is really on it and passes Ryan, is Ryan's mentality going to be to let him go or attack and fight for the win?
Well, it’s like anything else really. You always have to weigh the risks and rewards. Ryan is a great position now where he can race James for that win without having to worry about protecting points. He feels like he can go out there and just race. But obviously he has to be smart about that and not take too big of risk when the Championship is already done. I mean bottom line is Ryan wants to go out there and win and prove that is why he has the number 1 plate. He is a racer and wants to win. The one thing Ryan does really well is he focuses on his abilities and what he can do. Not what other riders may be doing.

The other thing to consider is Ryan's legacy. I have been reading articles about his number of race wins and championships and he is right on pace if not slightly ahead of James, Chad, and Ricky at this point in their careers. Not saying anything bad about the rest of the competition but Ryan certainly has the field covered at this point and you never want to leave race wins on the table. Not at this level.
Yes, you are certainly right about that. And the rest of the guys out there are all fast and certainly capable of winning. I even heard that Dungey was going to be back for New Orleans and James is never out. So we have plenty to keep our attention on what we need to do, and that is win. The other thing about Ryan, and I am the same way, he is not into the record books at all. We don't get all caught up in that. We go to the races each week to win and that is what he will try to do the rest of the year.

A couple of years ago at the Vegas round when you were working with James, I remember all James had to do was get 2nd or 3rd to Chad and he won the Championship. There was the section that went outside the stadium and Chad could have punted James into oblivion if he wanted to and I remember thinking, wow, what a chance James is taking by riding like he is protecting the lead instead of riding like he has to win. It seemed to me like James changed his mental focus significantly in that race.
Yea, I remember that. It was kind of strange right from the start. James got a decent start, which was the key to put him in a good position, and then it was like he was watching where Chad was the entire time and not focusing on himself. He started to make mistakes and was trying to regroup and like you said that is a tough place to be in when you are not riding where you are comfortable. And that is what happened there in my opinion. James was not riding like he knew how for sure and it almost cost him the championship. That was a big lesson to learn for sure when the rider loses focus on his self and focuses too much on the other guy.

Do you use situations like that in the past and tell your current riders about situations like that as a way for them to learn from past mistakes.
I don't really use specific situations like that but the cool thing is all my riders obviously know who I have worked with in the past and when I tell them that my past experience has been that when you lose focus or something else, things go wrong. I try not to use any of my past riders to illustrate something negative to my current riders. But certainly I talk about past experiences and try to learn from the good and the bad.

Yea, I can imagine your riders listen pretty intently when you explain what you went through with Ricky with all his championships and James as well.
Yea, its good to have those great past experiences that I can go back on and hopefully use to help my current riders.

Well, Aldon you certainly have the experience to guide Ryan home the final 4 races. He is in good hands for sure. Thanks for your time and as always I appreciate all you do for the Virtual Trainer website.
Thanks Mate and its always a pleasure, thank you for your support.

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. VT Signature

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