87. That is the exact number of laps that Rockstar/Makita Suzuki rider Ryan Dungey led during the 2009 AMA Motocross series. During each of those blazing revolutions around the track, Dungey had to deal with the intense mental pressure of being the man in front with 39 hungry pros breathing down his neck. Oddly enough, leading a race is one of the greatest feelings on earth but can also be one of the most stressful, and staying in front of the pack requires focus, extreme relaxation and the ability to just not think too much. We recently asked Dungey what golden advice he might have for the average Dirt Rider reader in regards to leading a race, and how to train your head to ensure that you’re still out front when the checkered flag comes out. Here’s what the reigning West Coast Supercross Lites, AMA Pro Motocross 250 Class and 2009 MXoN champion had to say:“Leading a race, whether it’s indoor or outdoor, is always tough. You’re the head guy, it’s up to you to stay there and you feel like the weight of the world falls on you at that moment. With all the practice and preparation you’ve put in, hopefully you know where you’re at and what you’ve done leading into the race, and at that point it’s just up to you to settle yourself down and to have fun and enjoy it.
“If someone behind you is riding a little faster and is putting the pressure on, it can be hard to deal with. You may get a little frustrated because he is going better, but the more you worry about yourself the better off you’re going to be. The second you start worrying about the guy behind you, you’re going to start losing your focus and momentum. When you’re leading, you just need to be really calm and collected, smart and focused, and only think about what you’re doing.“The pressure that you feel when the white flag comes out and you’re in the lead is something that you just have to learn to overcome and forget about. You’ve got to realize there is always going to be another race, but there is no reason for you to mess up. I’ve always figured that if you don’t take any big chances and don’t do anything stupid on the last lap, you’re definitely going to be all right. Basically, you need to block out that little voice in your head that is telling you ‘Don’t crash, don’t crash!’ You’ve just got to tell yourself, ‘One more to go, let’s keep it collected and keep doing what you do every lap.’ It happens to everybody, we’re all human, but when you’re out front the big thing you need to do is just try to forget about everyone else and live for the moment.”For more info on Ryan Dungey, click on www.ryandungey.com.