In November 2011, when blatantly asked if he could win on a pumpkin Ryan Dungey said "Yes." By the second round of the season he had done it and proved that the bright orange KTM brand is capable of winning Supercross races and more.
Like all the top riders of Monster Energy Supercross, Dungey missed part of the 2012 season, but he was able to return in time to win three more rounds and then 10 rounds and a title in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championship. It was a historic year for KTM and only one frontier remains for the brand: Monster Energy Supercross.
In the following interview, Dungey discusses the team's testing improvements, how he needs to be more aggressive and why only a handful of riders actually have what it takes to win on any given Saturday night.
XGames.com: How has testing been going?
Dungey: We had an idea of where we could be better with the bike before. We had gathered our information earlier in the year, that way the two weeks leading into the Monster Energy Cup was productive testing. I feel like we made good gains.
Our package is good, consistent, better and more comfortable to ride and I feel more comfortable on the bike. I hope that carries over into the races. It's going to be a tough year. There are a lot of great guys and more guys moving up. I think our bike is good and I'm excited.
Last year you said you could win. Did you make a lot of believers out of people?
I hope so. The goal wasn't necessarily to make believers out of people but then again it was. Now with full seasons of Supercross and motocross under our belts we got a direction of where we want to go with the bike. It wasn't easy at all. We had a lot of work to do and we did a lot of work.
We're out there to show even more of what we showed last year and keep moving KTM up the ranks as a top manufacturer.
What were your biggest changes over the past few months?
At this point it's not huge steps. Now it's bits and pieces and where you can find tenths and hundredths of a second. It's such a fine line. Through all the testing I feel like the few things that we were able to improve was a little bit better on the motor. I feel like we got better at suspension as well. With what we learned in the outdoors we were able to apply it to the supercross setup.
And also, just alternating my program and making sure I'm getting the best out of myself and preparing the right way and just being on top of and monitoring everything really nicely and having a complete package put together.
On your results in 2012, KTM team manager Roger DeCoster told Cycle News, "As much as we could have expected." That must feel good.
I think last year was, considering the collarbone injury and the tough races that we did have, we had a few where we really fought the bike and had some struggles.
Up until the point of the collarbone injury, and that was Round 10 so we were past the halfway point of the season, we were 10 points out of first. I think that was pretty good considering the tough races that we did have.
We had a few where we really fought the bike and had some struggles, but overall getting a podium at the first race was great and getting our first win at the very next round came earlier than they expected. At the same time we just kept being there every single weekend.
A year ago it was "Can KTM help Ryan Dungey win?" Now, with a proven bike, do you feel it's more on you?
Yes and no. I feel that KTM has done everything they possibly could. Yes, it is on me a little bit. It was a brand-new bike and I very well knew that signing up with this manufacturer what I was signing up to.
We knew that SX was going to be our biggest challenge but they got serious and went full bore ahead and hired the best people. I thank them for putting their trust in me.
Roger said you need to be more aggressive.
I think it all starts in your mind. This offseason I've had a lot of time to think, sit back and really understand things more and put more energy and time into thinking about it; trying to think of ways to become a better rider and how I can control myself mentally.
I feel like I've learned a lot and I feel like my approach is a tad different. I really feel that in past years it's been said that when a rider comes up to me and gets aggressive that I won't do it back on him. It's not that I don't want to get aggressive and take a guy out because it gets you fired up, but I'm also out there to get a job done.
Bottom line, I'm out there to race, I'm out there to win and I'm out there to get the job done but I'm not going to be pushed around by these guys or anything like that. I'm not going to lay down and let them walk all over me. I'm not going to let that happen.
We always hear about how deep the field is and how 10 guys could win, but 10 riders never do win. Why?
Respectfully, and I mean this in the best way, it takes lot of mental and physical energy and being in the right state of mind. There are a lot of guys out there with a lot of talent but talent alone can't carry you through winning championships. It's going to take a lot more than that. The guys who have put in the time and worked their butts off during the week and, whether anybody knows it or not, everybody is true to themselves, but it's the people who put in the most effort into their sport and their career and want it more. There are guys always up and coming so I think there are a lot of guys who are capable of winning, but it's a long series. Can't underestimate anybody.
If you were able to look at somebody's life more from the inside you would see it if you hung out with them more. If a guy was able to watch 10 riders every day of the week, see what every one of them did and could see what the differences were, it would be pretty clear cut.
It's what happens when nobody is around, isn't it?
Absolutely. To be able to keep pushing yourself harder when nobody else is around or three weeks in, after you feel like you're starting to lose that drive but there's that something inside that tells you to keep pushing, to keep driving. That ability for athletes to keep pushing past the point where others would already feel that, "I've already gone too far."
It's almost like when you're tired and the will to go out there and give it all you've got and everything else is telling you to shut down, but in your mind you tell yourself to keep going. You override it.
So what are your expectations this year?
I expect the competition to definitely be tough. I feel like it's going to be a good year. I'm just going to go out there with the game plan we have and switch up the mindset with a little bit different approach and be as ready as we can be.