Close second-placers push the pace of the race, and the winner, leading to insane (and sometimes surprising) finishes. In Dungey’s case, he has not one but three major contenders: James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto, and Chad Reed, all former champions as well. As a group, they’re dubbed the “Big Four” and according to Short, the group is the largest most successful collection of riders to compete at one time. Generally, only a couple riders (of the 40 competing) race with a shot to win on race weekends. But with these four former champions lined up at the start, anything can happen.
Of the Big Four, Stewart brings Dungey his best competition. The two trained together during their early years in pro racing. While Stewart rides all-out aggressively, Dungey rides with strategy in mind. Before they split ways to train with different riders, "Dungey learned a lot about what it takes to win both mentally and physically from Stewart, who is affectionately known as “the fastest man on the planet,”’ said Short. “It was this relationship that helped get Ryan to the level he needed to be to win consistently.”