From Supercross to Motocross, Ryan Villopoto ruled them all in 2011, including the first-ever million-dollar payout at the inaugural Monster Energy Cup.
has come a long way in a couple years. Remember the freckly red-headed kid who shamed rivals in the 250 class? In 2009 he bulked up and graduated to the premier class. The new man-sized Villopoto impressed as a rookie, but he also had some rotten luck with injuries. First his knee blew out during the 2009 outdoor Nationals, and then his 2010 Supercross title dreams were crushed in St. Louis, along with his tib-fib. For his third premier class campaign, the Poulsbo, Washington rider slimmed back down to more familiar fighting trim, and his 2011 performance was fierce.
Villopoto enters the 2012 racing season the defending champ of, well, everything. He started off 2011 claiming his first ever Supercross title in a nail-biting battle with Chad Reed and MotoUSA’s 2010 Rider of the Year, Ryan Dungey. He then followed up SX success with a title-winning Motocross campaign, again besting rival Dungey. After that RV2 was off to France where the champ played a critical role in securing America’s 22nd Motocross des Nations victory.
Carlos Checa deserves honorable mention for giving his home country of Spain its first-ever World Superbike title.
And to cap it off Villopoto finished the season winning the inaugural Monster Energy Cup. Of course, he didn’t just win it; by claiming all three moto victories he collected the exhibition race’s much-hyped million dollar bonus. That’s Rider of the Year status in our books.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Checa
After almost two decades of professional racing at the world level, Carlos Checa
claimed his first title at the age of 38. King Carlos obliterated the opposition en route to the 2011 SBK Championship. Competing as a solo rider on the Althea Ducati, Checa claimed the checkers in more than half of the season’s races. His 15 victories and 21 podium finishes were untouchable, and his season-ending 505-points is the highest SBK tally since Colin Edwards’ 2002 title-winning campaign (552 points). With one title in the bag, the now 39-year-old is a strong favorite in 2012.