Rockstar Makita Suzuki Team member Ryan Dungey, at age 20, is the youngest rider ever to win the championship, and with Jeremy McGrath, only the second rider to win it in his rookie year. Although track talk frequently revolves around the bikes, the two things that make or break a racer are knowledge and consistency. In a recent interview with MXLarge, Dungey said “At the practice track, what we work on is setting the pace lap-after-lap, so when I get in that race-situation where I’m up front, it’s similar and I think, ‘Hey, I ‘gotta keep putting in the laps.’ There’s pressure when you’re leading, but at the same time I just ‘gotta ride and have fun and do what I got to do.” This kind of fun is about the struggle to master the challenges the courses – the 21st rider – present, as well as the staying ahead of other riders.
Ryan Villopoto offers the inside perspective on his crash in Atlanta: “I was going triple-triple through that section and came up on a lapper,” he said in the MXLarge interview. “I had to change my line and I ended up casing the jump. That sent me over the bars. Worse than that though was the silencer filled with dirt and I couldn’t get the bike restarted. It wouldn’t have been too bad if I could have got going right away. I wasn’t hurt at all.”
Ricky Carmichael was instrumental in helping Dungey prepare mentally for the grind of the championship tour, and took particular note of Dungey’s demanding daily regime that included biking, swimming, and running. Carmichael spoke with USA Today in early May: "When times get tough in this sport, it seems the harder workers excel," he said. "I didn't have the most talent, so I had to work my tail off, and that's definitely what put me over the edge. The same is true with Ryan. It's why he's become the sport's new hero."
Carmichael was the first to carry the G.O.A.T. title, Greatest of All Time, which now graces Ryan Dungey’s Facebook page.