By: Kristen Beat
On August 4th 2008, the Denver Post stated, “While the balance between chasing fads and supporting tradition remains one skill Olympic organizers and athletes can’t seem to master, the X Games continue to evolve with the times while remaining true to a notoriously critical core audience. The sports have moved from playground pastimes to bona fide disciplines with their own leagues and all-star events, and the X Games serving as the Super Bowl.”
X Games 15 once again showcased the professionalism, high caliber athleticism and growth of the extreme sports industry. Motocross competition was exhibited in Best Trick, Best Whip, Freestyle, Step Up, SuperMoto and Super X (Men’s, Women’s and Adaptive). This year I had the opportunity to cover the Men’s Super X race.
In 2007 Josh Hansen took the gold. James Stewart, debatably the most dominant rider in the sport, was the fan favorite to win X Games gold this year. Although, due to an injury in Supermoto Stewart was out and the door was once again left wide open, it was anyone’s gold at this point.
Since X Games are scheduled during outdoor championships most riders skip the competition in fear of jeopardizing their season. The field becomes playground to veteran pros and out-of-season icons such as “The King” Jeremy McGrath and Kevin Windham. As well as riders who choose to put it all out on the line, despite their season involvement, Josh Grant and Jason Lawrence. Josh Hansen landed the Pro-Circuit Monster Energy Kawasaki ride at this year’s X Games. Mitch Payton had this to say:
What has your experience been like with X-Games?
“It’s been pretty fun, we came up yesterday and did practice, then went over to the staples center, and then even headed over to the fantasy factory last night, so it’s been really fun and if Josh does well today it will make it even better. Monster wanted us here so we’re here.”
What led you to choose Josh Hansen for this ride?
“Availability… That was it, he was available. He did win the race last year, so maybe it’s a one-off event and if he did it last year maybe he could do it again. “
Do you approach X Games as competitively as you do AMA races?
“It’s really about having someone out on the bike, and we want to get good exposure, of course we want to win but we put more stock into the season races.”
The format for the racing breaks down like this; 16 racers in round one are divided into two heats. The top four competitors in each heat advance to the final. 5th through 8th in each heat get another go at it in the LCQ, and the top 4 finishers in that race advance to the final. 20 laps in the main event, finish in the front of the pack, and you take home the gold.
During round one, Josh Grant on the Toyota Joe Gibbs Racing Yamaha took a devastating fall and was rushed off track. After checking in with Josh’s Dad, Mr. Grant said, “He’s getting checked out now, we are just waiting on X-Rays.” In the second round Justin Brayton shined. Brayton pulled ahead followed by Kevin Windham who made sure his presence at X Games was most certainly known.
The LCQ consisted of a few familiar faces such as Heath Voss who gained an early lead. While catching up with Voss he expressed his appreciation for the X-Games. “I like the X Games, I’ve done all three of them, it’s more laid back. The track is like a backyard practice track, it has big jumps, and its fun to ride. AMA is more of a business and X Games is great, I’m glad to be out here racing.”
The Finals were up in the air as to who would finish where, but sure enough you could bet Josh Hansen wanted to take home another piece of that X-Games bling. Pulling into the lead position first was Kevin Windham followed by McGrath. As the top runners battled for position J-Law remained stuck in traffic and mid race pulled off the track. Hansen assumed the lead and dominantly gained distance on the rest of the field, allowing him to become a two-time gold medalist at X-Games. Justin Brayton brought home silver and K-Dub took the bronze.
After the racing I caught up with Justin Brayton.
How do you feel about your second place finish?
“I think X Games is awesome, I’m so excited I got the silver medal. Josh rode a good race, and I wish I could have passed Windham sooner, I think I could have given Josh a good run, but it’s not my night and I’ll come back next year swinging and hopefully walk away with a Gold.”
Was the track fun today?
“It was really fun, it was a bit dry and tough to pass but the layout was awesome. It was probably one most fun tracks I’ve ridden. You really had to hit the rhythm and triple in consistently.”
An icon among riders and the motorcycle industry, Jeremy McGrath is a name synonymous with X-Games and went into detail about his experience this year with the games.
“I love X-Games, it’s the biggest PR weekend of all PR weekends. Obviously I wish X-Games was around back when I was riding and doing what I now do only for fun.”
Are you still competitive?
“No way, my internal competitive yes, but the reality of it is I don’t come to X-Games thinking I’m going to win, last years third was way over the top. It’s just not my job anymore I am here to have fun. I don’t like riding mid-pack but I’m twice these guys’ age. Give me another 37 year old I’ll race him.”
How do you feel about the finishes?
“For what it was I’m happy. Josh is a good kid, and I’m happy for him. It seems like he’s really thrown everything away and it’s good to see him shine here, it’s a big race, unfortunately the other 364 days of the year are a little tougher on him.”
Will we be seeing you back at X Games next year?
“As of now that’s undecided, but we’ll see.”
Of course before leaving X-Games I caught up with the golden boy himself, Travis Pastrana as he explained what went wrong with the rodeo 720. “I just got really excited I guess, pulled really hard off the lip I was basically doing 1 1/2 flips and you don’t really get the spin until you’re half way through. I was really in a bad position. If I would have tucked forward at the halfway point I could have done a backflip 180 into a front flip but I would have landed backwards, so probably not the better idea anyway.”
Do you think you’ll give the trick another shot?
“Yeah, it’s definitely something that has to be landed in my opinion. I have another year to work on it until X, and hopefully come back a little more confident next time.”
X Games 15 was full of surprises and special moments. The very nature of action sports relies on progression and expansion of what’s possible and X Games reminds us every year that there’s still plenty more to be seen and done on a motorcycle.
About the Author:
Kristen Beat has been grinding away as a member of the moto press for a number of years now. While the staff over at Motocross.com call her an Intern, she works hard and deserves an additional bit of recognition for all that she has done for us. When she’s not running around the campus of her college (no, we won’t tell you where she goes to school) and writing articles for Motocross.com, she’s doin’ work over at Fuel TV. Is she the next Erin Bates? We think so.