After 11 rounds of exciting competition, the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross Series has settled into its standard ebb and flow, with four riders contending for the 450cc class championship. Taking the sport's most prestigious honor takes far more than flat-out speed, as athletes must withstand consecutive weeks of competition, avoid injury, and maintain a level of consistency through all 17 main events. After starting with a run of dates on the California coast and in the Southwest, the tour moved to the Midwest and East Coast for a three-month stretch. The intensity seemed to increase after the cross-country move, as though every lap and position on the track meant more to the overall championship. Some racers were able to survive the pressure, while other succumbed to the stress and schedule. Only six rounds remain in the 2014 season, but anything can happen to change the course of an already incredible season.—Michael Antonovich/TW Moto
Ryan Villopoto: Going for four
Ryan Villopoto is the clear-cut favorite to take the premier 450 title as the season hits its final rounds, and it comes as no surprise. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider has been almost unstoppable recently and came into the year as the three-time and defending champion. The 25-year-old worked to find his flow on the hard-packed tracks of the West Coast in the early portion of the series, but reasserted his dominance when the circuit moved to the softer soil of the East Coast, which better suits the Poulsbo, Washington, native's riding style. Of those in the 450 class, Villopoto is the only rider to have finished in the top five at every event held thus far, putting him well ahead of the competition in the point standings.
Ryan Dungey: Consistency
Consistency is one of the many things that Ryan Dungey has become known for, and once again a string of solid finishes has put him on the hunt for the 450 championship. The year started a bit shakily for the Red Bull KTM rider, as crashes at two of the three rounds held at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, California, buried him in the point standings, yet he has climbed out of the hole through the middle of the season and is now the only rider with a statistical chance at stealing the championship away from Villopoto. His one win of the season has helped, but the 24-year-old from Belle Plaine, Minnesota, will need to click off a few more to close the 31 points that separate the two in the standings.
James Stewart: Chasing the record books
There were questions of how much longer James “Bubba” Stewart would continue racing at the start of the 2014 season, as it marked his 10th year in the 450 class and came after a long history of injuries and issues that would have destroyed the confidence of many. When he hit the ground while vying for the lead at the opening round, many thought this was the beginning of the end for the Yoshimura Suzuki rider, but he quickly rebounded with a collection of podium finishes and wins. Just when it appeared that Stewart was back in contention for the title, however, a mechanical issue at Daytona dropped him farther down the standings. With the championship out of reach, the 28-year-old from Haines City, Florida, has turned his attention to improving his place in the Supercross record books. At Round 11 in Detroit, Stewart recorded his 48th main-event victory, tying Ricky Carmichael for second place for most career wins. With a handful of races left in the year, Stewart could single-handedly take the position.
Ken Roczen: Rookie sensation
No matter how the remaining rounds of Ken Roczen's 2014 Supercross season turn out, they should be considered a success for the 450 rookie on the Red Bull KTM team. While there were no questions about the former world champion being competitive in the sport's most prestigious class, few expected the import from Germany to win the first round of the year and then stay in the hunt for the title against the experienced Villopoto, Stewart, Dungey, and Chad Reed. A second win kept Roczen contending for the championship against close friend Villopoto, but two difficult nights since have shuffled him back down the order. Roczen will be one to watch in the years to come.
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