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Trainer Talk with Aldon Baker

by Racer X Virtual Trainer

Aldon had James' back for the past three years. Now he will be training some of James' toughest competitors in Ryan Villopoto and Jake Weimer.
Virtual Trainer: Hey Aldon, thanks for taking some time today to catch up with us. It’s been a while.
Aldon Baker: Yea, sure thing mate, no problem. Just trying to get everything ready this morning. We are doing a bit of testing early, so I have to get ready for that.

I know you are out in California with your riders this week. It’s been a while since we last spoke and a lot has happened. You are no longer with James Stewart and you’ve picked up Ryan Villopoto and and a few other riders. Get us caught up on what’s been going on with you.
Well, with James, our contract was up for renewal and he decided to go in a different direction and change some stuff up. So that was the deal there.

I know Unadilla didn’t go as planned. Did the separation have anything to do with that?
You know, I’m not real sure about that. He didn’t really give me any reason other than he wanted to go in a different direction and change some stuff up. But I felt going into Unadilla that James was not ready to go racing and I’m not sure that everyone else thought the same. James is a talented rider, we all know that and when he decides to do something he is committed and he does it in a way in which he feels is the best way for him. And as a trainer, you always try support your rider with his choices.

At Unadilla I know I was pretty critical and gave James a hard time for not coming out after the race and talking to the media and interacting with fans. You and I spoke about that right after the race and you explained it to me in a way that really opened my eyes to the other side and made me see it from James’ point of view.
Well James is the kind of rider who gives his all and isn’t willing to go out and do something half hearted on the bike. I think that pulling out was a good thing. I felt that we were not prepared to go racing at that level yet. I felt there hadn’t been enough time on the motorcycle. And after the first race when he had to struggle to even get up on the podium, to me the second race was just dangerous. There was nothing to be gained at all. There wasn’t a championship involved and the hope of going to the Motocross of Nations had gone out the window. So in my mind there was no valid reason why he should have even gone out in the second moto. But he was committed to the fans to at least attempt to go out there but once he got a bad start in my mind I was afraid he was going to ride over the top because he is that kind of guy. If he is going to step on a motorcycle he is going to give it everything and more. To me at that point I was just concerned about getting ready for Supercross. His hand was healing well and everything was good but probably not perfect. So for all those concerns from my end as a trainer at that time was to not put yourself in that situation because if he had crashed and hurt himself we would have gained completely nothing out of it. Pulling out at that point in my opinion was a good thing.

For sure. And bottom line as fans we don’t really care too much about James Stewart’s career. All we want is to see him out there racing every weekend. But from James’ point of view he has to look at it from the business side. So while he may in fact be in it for the fans as he says, it’s just not worth the risk for him to be out there. I think sometimes the fans forget that James and other riders are in fact trying to make a living riding and they aren’t always going to do what the fans want but rather what is right for them. So while we think James should be out there racing no matter what even if that is for 10th that is a really stupid thing to do from a business standpoint.
Exactly, and that is the thing. James knows where he belongs and that is up front not back in 10th. So if he is not racing up front in my mind there is a greater risk of crashing and injury because he is going to push it to get where he knows he belongs. So bottom line, I was happy to see him pull out since there was nothing to be gained out on the track at that point.

Plus, if he were to get injured again at this point that could very well be the end of his career. That might be a drastic statement but things move fast in this sport and you are only as good as your last race.
Yea exactly and that was even a concern for me even going in. I mean he was basically going to that race for the fans because he had said that he was going to go and race. From my end I was like, Gosh I don’t think you are ready but he was still committed to going and giving it his all basically for the fans.

Aldon reviews some no-doubt top secret data acquisition with new client Blake Bagget
Plus at that point the opportunity to go to the MXoN was gone and that was part of the whole reason for racing the last 4 races: to get ready for MXoN. Looking back or even at the time if James would have been chosen do you think he would have been ready to race in top form?
On my numbers and what I looked at I didn’t think we had put in enough. And there were different reasons for that. He had to come out to California for some testing and that throws the plan off. So from my side I didn’t think we were ready at all going into it. Originally we had spoken that if everything is good we would do the last four races and the MXoN. I think he was led to believe that if he did that the MXoN was pretty much a done deal. But that obviously changed. I think another thing that happened was you have to put your entry in something like two weeks prior to the race so when a guy like that puts his entry in its almost like the media ran with it and was like James is guaranteed to race. So that puts additional pressure for us to get ready and at that point we were just going week to week. There was testing to be done and we hadn’t raced an outdoor in over two years. It was a tough undertaking from all sides for sure and maybe even a little tougher than we all originally planned. You know in the beginning James was like well if my hand is okay we can go race a few of the last outdoors and then MXoN because he really wanted to go there and race not only for himself and the fans but also Red Bull and the other sponsors.

Yea and I guess once the MXoN’s was taken off the table the risk involved with riding and not preparing for supercross was just not smart.
Exactly.  From my understanding, James was coming out of pocket for a lot of those races since not all of the sponsors had contracts for the outdoors in the first place. So I respect James for that, to be willing to come out of pocket to go race. Even Larry Brooks I’m sure had some significant costs involved and it was basically to just get James out there to be seen and ride for the fans. But the thing about racing at this level is it can get very complicated with sponsors. So in the end not racing the last three nationals and taking that time to prepare for supercross was in James’ best interest.

Moving on a bit, I know in talking to you in the past that you were not a real big fan of the show James was doing. Not that there was anything necessarily wrong with the show but more the distractions that come along with it. There is a lot of talk and hype on the message boards that James is not focused and has too many distractions. Do you think that the show is a major distraction or does it get over hyped for the purpose of ratings?
No, I don’t think it is a huge distraction but it still took a lot of time. And you don’t always see the amount of time that a project is going to take until you get into it. Obviously, the show people want to make it as easy as possible on James but as you go through it takes a lot of time. As a trainer, I only look at things through my eyes and I don’t want any distractions for my riders. I want everything to do with riding, training, and preparation but I know that that is not always a part of the big picture. I mean a part of the big picture are the sponsors and getting your name out there and getting exposure and the show is one of those areas where you do that. I could see and appreciate the goal and purpose of the show but from my end looking at it as a trainer it wasn’t helping me do my job at all. It’s all about balance and as a trainer I wanted it my way so I can do the best job for my guy as I can but I can also see it from James’ end where he is being pulled in different directions and is trying to grow his name. And I understand that that extra exposure draws in more sponsors and more money and ultimately that is what pays the bills. So it’s a pretty tough balancing act that can create some frustrations for sure.

I’ve known you for a few years now and I know that one thing is for sure with you. You form tight relationships with your riders. This can be a good thing while you are training but can sneak up and bite you when its time to go your separate ways. How did things end between you and James?
You are right, I do form close relationships with my riders. I mean you almost have to with everything that you go through. James and I were together for 3 years and in that time we became pretty close. We enjoyed the highs and lows and we became really good friends and also with his family. It’s tough though. It’s like breaking up with a girlfriend. It’s weird at first but hopefully after some time you can remain friends. I know from my side there are no hard feelings but it will be weird to see him and not be training him. I just hope that after some time passes things will be normal again. It’s just so hard because people say things and it’s taken the wrong way and things can get out of control.

Ryan Villopoto was in the hunt for a SX championship in 2010 until he shattered his lower leg. With Aldon helping him prepare for the 2011 season, RV's chances of success are on the rise.

photo: Steve Cox

Yes, and this time with James it will be really different for you because the last time you worked with a rider of this caliber it was Ricky and when you guys stopped working together he retired and was out of the sport. So you didn’t have to see him at the races and worry about all that. This time with James it will be different. What do you think A1 is going to be like?
Well, I don’t know. I haven’t really analyzed that. I mean I know James is a top guy and will be the guy to beat this SX season. I’m not sure how that is going to feel to be honest. I mean I haven’t forgotten the relationship we had so I still look at James and think wow, that guy is great on a bike. Also from a fans point of view and for the sport it is going to be great to have him out there. The sport needs that competition. With James racing it also gives my job more purpose because I now have to help guys prepare for high-level competition to beat the guys who are driving the sport and James is obviously one of those guys. But I feel when A1 rolls around I’ll be able to go up to James and say hi. I think we have a good enough relationship that it will be good especially with his family. That is important to me. I respect that James moved on and hopefully he will do the same and realize that I have to move on and make a living as well. I look at it like when a guy moves from Yamaha to Honda. Its not like that guy can’t talk to anyone at Yamaha anymore.  

I’m sure there will be a little part of you that will be rooting for James at A1 but on the same token I’m sure it will feel really good if your riders go out there and beat him.
Well, yea, now that I am in a different camp with a new guy and getting to know him and all so I obviously want him to do well. But also I will not discount and disrespect another good rider. All I can be accountable for is how I prepare the guy that I am involved with now and the rest is racing. I just hope every one can respect each other and realize that we have all moved on. It’s a small industry and we all need to get on with it and respect what each person does. I always want the guys that I have worked with in the past to perform up to their potential but at the same time I am forming those same close bonds with the guys I am currently working with and I want them to win as well.

Well, like I said before I have known you for a few years now and I know you to be a really good guy. Not everyone would have that same attitude. Lots of guys would want to go out there and beat the guy just so they could say, “see, I told you you should have stuck with me!” I’m not sure how people turn on someone that quickly that they were so close with just a few weeks earlier but it happens.
Yea, for sure.

Well that leads us up to the present. After you and James did not renew your contract you were unemployed. I know that you went through a little shift in thinking to not want to be involved with just one guy but actually train several guys. This led you to now training Ryan Villopoto, Jake Weimer, Tyla Ratray and Blake Baggett. Tell us how that all came together.
Well, when my contract was up with James and I knew he was moving on I basically just starting getting the word out that I was looking and available to train a rider. At first I was like, geez, what am I going to do. When you have had all your eggs in one basket for so long with one guy and that ends, you are left with out any riders. I obviously still have my road racing guys, Tommy and Roger Lee Hayden and even my NASCAR deal with Jamie McMurray has changed, it is a lot different now that he is up to speed and can do a lot of the stuff on his own and is good to go. But it was a bit of a shocker to sit down and think of a guy who was going to fit in my plan. On the business side of things I wanted to get set up with multiple guys instead of having everything with one guy. I feel like it will be a lot better for me that way and also that my system can work that way as long as there is a good understanding with the riders on the program. When I put the word out it was actually pretty cool. I actually got quite a few responses, which was good. Then it came down to just making the right decision with the right guys. Ryan approached me and I think he is in a place where he is coming off an injury and knows he has not fulfilled his fullest potential and he knows that is what I am looking for. He approached me because he had heard that my deal had changed and wanted to see what we could work out. After we spoke it actually turned out to be a good fit. Ryan is committed and he understands that my program is tough and we both agree that that is what he needs right now. The ingredients that I see in Ryan are really what I look for. I see a lot of potential there that hasn’t been used in Ryan yet and that is really exciting for me. Through Ryan there was a link with Jake Weimer who I didn’t know anything about really. It was a good fit with Ryan because they are teammates and ride and train a lot together. I thought maybe we could put something together and on my end it was what I was looking for because I am getting away from being tied to one rider. I actually wanted to get together with Mitch (Payton) and do more of a team training type deal. We are actually still talking about that and trying to put something together. We are still trying to workout some of the logistics of that which are pretty tough. I’m working on a system for that now. Ultimately, it would be nice to balance it out between the guys on the 450 and 250. But we are still working on a way to do that and I’m hoping we can get something like that set up down the line. With Tyla and Blake, they both approached me and wanted some help in certain areas so I managed to tie in something with him, which fits because they all ride at the same track, which makes the logistics much easier. Even when we are in Florida it will be much easier with the track and system we will have set up there. All the little pieces started to come together and it’s been good. My biggest thing was to pick one team to make the logistics workable.

So ultimately you would like to be working for the team instead of the individual riders.
Yes, that would be the ideal situation because I could oversee the entire program and be more a part of the overall team. I think in the past the team was a little in the dark with what the rider is doing with regards to his preparation. The team does an amazing job and puts in a lot for the rider to have the right machinery and testing and getting it all set up, but I think there is a link missing between the team and the physical training and preparation. In my vision I have a plan to fix that which will be great for the team to have all the bases covered.

With a 2010 250 SX Lites championship under his belt, Jake Weimer will join his good friend and training partner Ryan Villopoto on the Factory Kawi 450 team.

Photo - Simon Cudby

Yea, I can imagine when you work for the rider and not the team there can be some friction when things are not going right. I mean you are getting paid by the rider not the team so you really are not an official part of the team. That is why I have always thought that JGR has it right. Everyone is part of the same team and when something is not going right there is a chain of command and system to follow to fix it. There is accountability from the trainer to the rider to the mechanic and guys in the shop.
You have it exactly right, Tim. I feel that everyone should be accountable and responsible from the rider to the team and the trainer. Everyone has their part and if you can get it synced in to where each has a piece of the pie I think then you have total accountability. That is what my system is all about. Getting the entire team on the same page. There is also the problem of being employed by the rider. If he doesn’t want to do something that you want him to do, there is really nothing you can do about it since he is the boss and writes the checks. If the trainer is employed by the team then you can at least go to the team manager and explain why things are not going well if the rider will not listen. Plus if the trainer was a part of the team he could give advice on things like testing when a good time might be to do certain things with regard to where the rider is physically. Things could just work better with more synchronization between rider, team, and trainer. I think Gibb’s racing has done a great job at this and it is something that has been on my mind for a long time. You just have to get the right team together to pull it all off from the rider to the trainer to the rest of the guys involved.  

With the four riders you have now, Ryan, Jake, Tyla and Blake, how involved are you with each rider. Are they equal clients or is Ryan the main guy who gets the majority of your attention.
Well, once I have run particular tests, then I can determine where the rider fits into the program with regards to flexibility, strength, cardio and mentality. From there I work them into my system so each guy is completely different and then there training is set up individually to address all their issues. Some of the stuff they can do together but I’d say that 90% of it they are doing different stuff and on their own. But it is still monitored all together. Its really good with the crew I have right now because they are all used to doing certain training together and they all understand the system. Its not like they all have to do what Ryan is doing because that is what he is doing today. Each guy has their own plan but they still do certain work together. Testing and specific training is done separate according to their numbers from the tests.

I understand that each guy has his own plan, but I assume that Ryan is the main guy meaning he is writing the biggest check and ultimately gets the most attention.
Yes, Ryan is my main guy, then Jake and then Tyla and Blake. My program actually has different levels that guys can pick and choose from and that is the cool thing about this deal. All the riders knew the deal coming in and all agreed. Ryan has been really good from the beginning with that. So there is no misunderstanding right out of the gate of who is getting what and how the system is all set up. If you have that understanding the system actually works pretty well. Ultimately Ryan had to agree to have Jake, Tyla and Blake part of the plan.

When you go to the races, who will get the majority of your attention?
Well, Ryan always will have priority, but I feel that once the races come along my job is pretty much done. At the races my job is to more monitor things and take care of any little issues that pop up. Each rider knows what I am there to monitor and that I am there as a backup and to make sure everything goes according to plan.

Well that is very cool. Sounds like everything is going well for you and guys are starting to come around to the team training aspect.
Yes, for sure. Things are definitely going well and I feel good about the guys I have and the direction we are headed.

A few weeks ago was Tyla’s birthday. Where you a good trainer and buy him some training equipment like a TRX or rower as a gift?
Well he already had all the toys. It doesn’t take you long to get all the stuff needed to be on the plan. You gotta have the Concept 2 rower, Trixter, TRX, and the Specialized bicycle which is something he really wanted. Specialized  has always been really awesome at getting my athletes dialed in with the best. So his birthday present will be a little bit late but I was pumped when I heard that is what he actually wanted.

No, that's not Aldon on the left with RV. That's Concept 2's main moto guy, Greg Hammond. Need a rower? Email Greg for the MX hookup.
That’s cool. So they all have rowers, TRX’s and road bikes.
Yes, for sure. Greg at Concept 2 has been great supplying the guys with rowers and my good friends at Trixter have been great at supplying bikes for indoor training and Specialized is as awesome as ever getting those guys road bikes. TRX has been good as well but I only have one of those and really need to get more.

Well, the good thing about the TRX is you can have your guys buy one of those without breaking the bank. A ten thousand dollar road bike is one thing but a 180 dollar set of straps is something I think they can afford.
That’s true and sometimes it is actually nicer if you buy it yourself. Then you’re not under any pressure to use it and can truly be neutral when talking about the product. But it’s also nice to get stuff because then its like the company is behind you supporting you.

Yea, TRX has some big-time athletes in their stable like Drew Brees and Carmelo Anthony. I have been trying to convince them for a few months now that they need to sponsor an Action Sports Athlete. One of your athletes would be perfect for that.
Yea, for sure that would be great. And with training you are always looking for new and unique things to keep the athletes interested and happy and the TRX does that for sure. We need to get with them and make a video (laughs).

Yea for sure. I’ll get on that and make it happen (laughs). Well Aldon, I’ve taken enough of your time and as always it was great to talk to you. I feel like every time we talk I learn more and more about training and respect what you do even more. I hope the riders reading this do as well.
Well, thanks Tim. I appreciate that. It’s been good talking to you as well.

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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  1. Gravatar
    ACBR December 09, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    I really apreciated this. I'm a big fan of this guy. Thanks RacerxVT!

  2. Gravatar
    Rafa December 18, 2010 at 4:23 am

    Hello!It's great read this!
    Aldon is a superior trainer and a great person.
    Wish all the best for him and thei riders!
    Great 4ttiude in life sport, and normal life.

  3. Gravatar
    mxinvains January 27, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    Great article...questions were thought provoking and answers were great too. I cannot believe how much of an infant this great sport is! Teams don't have trainers? They leave it up to 18-25 y/o riders? WOW! We all have to push really hard and in due time this sport will be packing stadiums and airing live events every weekend! Keep up the good work RacerX...great article

  4. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer January 28, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks for the compliments guys!

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