The motocross superstar, left, has no trouble winning races, but now he’s combined cycling with his competitive drive to take on a new opponent: cancer.
By Adam Newman. Photos courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool and Target
Ryan Dungey was practically born on two wheels. Growing up in Minnesota in a home surrounded by motorcycles, riding on the weekends was a family tradition. While his father and siblings were amateur racers, Ryan remembers seeing professional motocross on TV as a kid and realizing it could be a career. "That’s kind of where it all started," he said.
Fast forward to 2009 when, at the age of 19, he captured both the American Motorcycle Association Supercross and Motocross series championships.
As the years went by and the competition got faster, Ryan knew he needed to step it up a notch. He picked up a cheap road bike and started riding.
"By the time I got old enough to know about cross training, I knew how much it could benefit my motocross career," he said. "I tried to do an hour every day, which turned into intervals and longer rides."
Turns out, several of the top motocross pros use cycling as a way to stay fit and just enjoy themselves on two wheels. "If you don’t ride, you’re kind of missing out," Ryan said, adding that the riders are as competitive on their bikes as on their motorcycles and like most young men, they all want to have the nicest toys.
But his career hasn’t all been full throttle. When he lost his grandmother to cancer in 2005 it opened his eyes to new goals. "I had never experienced anything like that," he said. "She inspired me watching her go through her treatments. Even to this day it feels like yesterday."
Thanks to a partnership with Target stores, Ryan now hosts the MN Major River-to-River Ride with 100 percent of the registration fees and donations benefitting the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. This year the ride offers two loops with distances ranging from 19 to 56 miles along the Minnesota and St. Croix rivers, about 45 minutes east of Minneapolis.
Participants are treated to timing chips, a hill climb challenge, basic mechanical support, rest stops, kids events and even an Event Village with food, slushies and beer.
"It’s pretty neat to have a charity ride," Ryan said. "I’ve always wanted to do something along the lines of charity, and I never could quite figure out how to do it. But as my career unfolded I’ve put myself in a position to do it."
He doesn’t just talk the talk. Ryan joined the Livestrong Global Envoy team in 2011 and last year he made a visit to St. Jude’s to see the kids. "It was a really powerful experience and confirmed that this is what I really want to do. It’s been really cool just to be in a position to help. Motocross has been really important, but this has been number one."
Ryan will be racing motocross the day before the ride in nearby Millville, Minnesota, at the Spring Creek Nationals. Stop by to see the action in person or tune in to NBC from 3-4 p.m. Eastern.
For more than a decade, Target has supported the lifesaving work of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In 1999, Target established the St. Jude Target House in Memphis, Tennessee, as a home away from home for kids undergoing long term treatments and their families.
MN Major River to River Ride
- July 28, 2013
- Afton Apple Orchard, 14421 South 90th Street, Hastings, MN 55033
- Registration opens at 7 a.m.
- Ride starts from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
- Event Village open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- $50, with incentives for additional fundraising