Villegas Aims to Beat Sherwood in Munich
FMX - Munich, Germany
Javier Villegas might not be the flashiest rider in the Red Bull X-Fighters 2012 World Tour. But the friendly and unpretentious man from Chile has caught the eye of his rivals by moving into second place with steadily improving performances this season. And he’s got a crystal clear goal: to wipe out Levi Sherwood's 80-point lead in the last two stops and win the $1 million 2012 World Tour.
Villegas, who will turn 29 on Sunday (Aug. 12), hopes to have plenty of reason to celebrate after Saturday’s Munich event. He speaks softly but carries a big stick: Villegas is probably the toughest rider on the tour, able to bounce back from frightening crashes without a limp. He fell off his bike from a height of some 12 meters onto the dirt in Munich during training on Friday morning, which knocked the wind out of his lungs and left him gasping for breath. But he was quickly back on his feet, brushed the dirt off his clothes and just an hour or two later was back on his bike, perfecting his routines for Saturday’s penultimate stop of the season on Saturday in Munich's Olympic Stadium.
“I went to flip the dirt jump but because the dirt is so soft it felt like the bike wasn’t doing anything so I jumped off -- and landed with no bike,” Villegas said. “But nothing is broken and no injuries. Just broken pride. It was probably from about 12 or 13 meters up, about as high as you can get. I landed alright. I came down on my side and it compressed my lungs. I couldn’t breath for a while so I stayed on the ground. But I’m feeling okay now.”
It is that kind of gritty toughness that has made Villegas one of the most respected and admired riders on the tour even if he has not yet won an event. After getting the first podium of his career for third place in the season opener in Dubai, Villegas dislocated a shoulder in training before the second stop in Glen Helen, California. Someone popped it back into place and he was back on his bike the next day – for Qualifying, despite riding in pain. He ended up fourth in Glen Helen. A few weeks later he won a bronze medal at the X-Games in the moto X freestyle final.
In Madrid, Villegas had a brilliant ride in the quarter-finals against defending champion Dany Torres, a performance Villegas believes might have been the “best of my life.” But because the Chilean was up against hometown hero Torres, he ended up being knocked out by a 4-1 score – even though each category was extremely close. Villegas won only the “execution” category but felt he also beat Torres in the “style” and “energy” categories as well.
“I felt I was better than Dany,” said Villegas, who had to settle for a season-worst seventh place in Madrid. “It was probably the best run of my life. All my tricks were super extended. I had no problems with anything. I dunno what happened. That defeat helped me to work hard at improving my riding. The only thing I could do about it was go back home and practice harder than ever before.”
Busty Wolter, a former FMX standout from Germany and Servus TV commentator, agreed that Villegas has never been better than this season and no one should be surprised that he is battling at the top for this year’s championship.
“Javier is a tough guy and this year his talent is really shining through,” said Wolter. “He’s always had a very good riding style and clean tricks, a good dynamic mixture. He’s put it all together this year and broken through to a new level. No one really paid attention to him. But they are now. He’s never been better.”
Villegas may be soft-spoken. But he is not shy about his goals. “My goal is to win some Red Bull X-Fighter stops and to win the overall championship. Levi is pretty far ahead on points right now but I can still surprise him. I’m going to give him a good chase all the way to the end and we’ll see what happens.”
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