In this May 8, 2019 image provided by Racer X Illustrated, motocross rider Cooper Webb rides during testing at Fox Raceway in Pala, Calif. Webb expected his first season with KTM Racing to be a building year, particularly after struggling the preview two years. Instead, he enters the outdoor season as one of the favorites after winning his first Supercross title.(Simon Cudby/Racer X Illustrated via AP) (Associated Press)

Cooper Webb expected 2019 to be a building year.

He had an injury-filled start to his 450cc career and a big letdown at a major international race. The 23-year-old switched teams, had a new bike, trainer, even a new mechanic. He also moved from his home state of North Carolina to train with other riders in Florida.

What a building year it turned out to be.

Comfortable from the start, Webb won his first 450 championship, taking home a Supercross title not even he saw coming.

“Coming into this year, it certainly was unexpected but I was able to have a great year,” Webb said. “It was a dream come true for me and pretty crazy to look back on and see that I was able to achieve it.”

Webb’s achievement makes him one of the favorites as the outdoor season kicks off this weekend at the Hangtown Classic outside of Sacramento, California.

Eli Tomac will be the likely front-runner after winning the past two outdoor titles, but Webb’s Supercross title shows he can run up front.

His 450 career didn’t start that way.

Webb had an accomplished 250cc career, winning three titles before bumping up to motocross’ premier division in 2017.

It took him time to adjust to the rigorous schedule the 450 riders face and the injuries started piling up, so he had an inconsistent start.

Webb also was plagued by an unfortunate wreck at the 2016 Motocross of Nations.

The United States team of Webb, 2018 Supercross champion Jason Anderson and Alex Martin was strong through the three-stage event before Anderson suffered a bizarre injury. Shortly after crossing the finish line to win the second moto, he was landed on by a lapped rider and knocked out of the event.

The U.S. team still had a shot at winning, but Webb, who was sitting fifth, crashed on lap 16. France went on to win the Motocross of Nations and the Americans finished third, leaving Webb crestfallen.

“That was one of the lowest points I had ever encountered,” he said. “I felt like I let a lot of people down, I let my country down. When I look back, it’s one of those things that taught me a lot, taught me a lot more losing than had I won. It took me a long time to get over and I think it affected me my rookie year, but I understood it and moved past it, and I think it helped my career.”

Webb earned his first career Supercross podium as a rookie in 2017, but was derailed by a shoulder injury and finished 13th overall. He finished eighth his rookie outdoor season and was ninth in both outdoors and Supercross last year.

Then came the changes.

Webb moved from Yamaha to KTM Racing, which helped retired rider Ryan Dungey win multiple championships. He also started working with Aldon Baker, who’s made a name for himself training some of the series’ top riders.

And with the move to Florida, Webb can train with fellow riders such as Anderson, Zach Osbourne and Marvin Musquin, one of his top rivals in lower classes.

“It goes with the program we’re on,” he said. “Being able to ride with all the top guys in the sport, it’s a really good group of guys and we work well together. We have a lot of competitiveness, but it also makes us stronger.”

All the changes and the work led Webb to his first major title and the confidence boost that comes with it has him eyeing more, starting this weekend in Northern California.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.