X Games Moto X Takes Downtown Los Angeles by Storm

Records and riders fall at X Games 17

X Games 17 had downtown Los Angeles buzzing this past weekend – much of it accented with the sounds of two- and four-stroke motors revving inside Staples Center. A number of dirtbike competitions took place over the four-day event, with some spectacular highs and lows keeping all in attendance, as well as those watching at home, on the edge of their seats.

Step Up

The Moto X competition was kicked off with Step Up on Thursday night – essentially an extreme version of a dirt bike high jump. Six riders entered the competition – Tommy Clowers, Brian Deegan, Myles Richmond, Todd Potter, Ronnie Renner and Matt Buyten. Each rider would charge up a steep dirt jump and try to clear a high bar and then stick the landing. If the bar falls or the rider can’t complete the landing, the jump is deemed unsuccessful and they get a second go at it.

Amazingly, the field cleared everything up to the 33-foot mark, but once the bar moved to the 34 ½ mark, riders started being eliminated. The finals came down to Renner and Buyten. Renner was unable to clear the 37-foot mark on his two attempts; however, Buyten nailed his first attempt and took home X Games gold and set the new record for the competition.

X Games 17 - Matt Buyten

“That’s the highest I’ve ever been. I’m just stoked; this is insane,” Buyten said after his win. “This is everything. Everything is on the line right here. This is the X Games, there's no backing down. You can't explain the pressure. The bar just keeps climbing and climbing and the pressure keeps building.”

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Best Whip

The Best Whip competition was a 10-minute jam session where competitors (Jeremy Stenberg, Nate Adams, Josh Hansen, Jarryd McNeil, Thomas Pages and Travis Potter) would literally whip the rear of the bike as far around as possible. Fans were able to text in their vote to determine the winner. Although there were some great performances during the session, Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg walked away with the gold after earning 27 percent of the votes.

“I am stoked to get this gold out of the way,” Stenberg said. “I’m looking forward to two more X Games medals this week.”

X Games 17 - Jeremy Stenberg

Best Trick

X Games 17 - Travis Pastrana

Saving the best action for last on opening night, Best Trick offered an eight-rider field of the world’s best freestyle motocross riders to bust out the best trick. Each rider could take two runs to perform their best single maneuver to try and impress the judges in hopes of earning the highest score.

Although last year’s winner Cameron Sinclair busted out a nac-nac double backflip, it was young Jackson Strong (known as “Jacko”) who earned the best score with the first front flip ever landed in X Games competition.

"I was going to be pumped whether I took first or last place, it was just my goal to do a front flip at X Games," Strong said. "I think everyone saw how deep I had to dig. I had to hang on tight for that landing for sure."

X Games 17 - Jackson Strong

Some of the biggest news in Best Trick centered on X Games darling Travis Pastrana, who crashed while attempting his 720 “TP Roll” trick. His first attempt came up short and he crashed but quickly hopped to his feet. Without waiting for his second run, he went straight into a second attempt but didn’t complete the final rotation and came down hard on his right side, which resulted in a broken foot and ankle. The crash was especially bad timing considering he was to race in his first NASCAR Nationwide event. He somehow still managed to race in the RallyCross event on Sunday, but he came up short of medaling by finishing fourth.

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The Freestyle competition on Friday had riders piece together their best 60-second routine of gnarly tricks. The finals came down to Taka Higashino of Japan, Americans Nate Adams and Adam Jones, and Dany Torres of Spain.

X Games 17 - Adam Jones

Every one of the riders put together solid runs in the finals. Higashino of Osaka, Japan, who looked to be in serious contention for gold in round one, just didn’t have the same pop in the finals and finished in fourth place. Dany Torres of Arahal, Spain, performed some spectacular moves through the event, and his efforts earned him the bronze.

The two Americans finished first and second, with Adams edging out Jones for the gold. The win was Adams’ first in X Games since 2004.

“I don’t even know what to say right now,” Adams said after the race. “I thought by ’04 I was on top of my game back then, and young and dumb and fearless, and I thought I’d win it a half dozen times by now. But everything happens for a reason, and this just makes me want it and appreciate it that much more.”

Jones was happy with his silver medal finish, saying that this type of course suits his riding style.

X Games 17 - Nate Adams

"I liked the smaller arena a lot better,” Jones said. “A course like this is what I am comfortable riding on. I was so excited to come this far in this contest and I wasn't going to give up. You can't buy this feeling, you have to earn it and we got it today."

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Enduro X

X Games 17 - Moto X Course

The final event of X Games 17 is a new competition to the Games called Enduro X, A.K.A. Endurocross. This unique form of dirtbike racing is staged on an obstacle-riddled course that includes giant logs, rocks, a water crossing, tires and more. 

Thirty well-known and many very accomplished off-road racers made up the field. There were three round-one heats made up of 10 riders in each, with only the top two racers advancing to the finals. Those who did not advance would go into one of two last-chance qualifiers (LCQs).

The competition was pretty exciting, and the course was a challenge for even some of the best riders in the world. It’s not often that crowds will see elite racers crash numerous times during a race. The racing requires a great deal of balance, throttle control, and a never-quit attitude. It looked exhausting, and riders would often get their bike stuck in a rut, on a rock, and fall over onto the obstacles and then have to get their bike up and fire it back to life. 

X Games 17 - Moto X Crash

In the first heat, Geoff Aaron and Justin Soule advanced. In heat two, Kevin Rookstool and Taylor Robert were the top two finishers, respectively, and moved on to the finals. The top two in the third heat were Mike Brown and Joakim Ljunggren. In the first LCQ, two accomplished off-road racers who just missed qualifying got through, as Taddy Blazusiak won while Cody Webb earned second. In the second LCQ, Destry Abbott and Kurt Caselli earned the final two spots.

The 10-man final was set, and racers fired off the starting line hoping to survive the course for 10 more laps. In the end, Polish racer Blazusiak earned the win by staying mostly out of trouble and on the bike during the final.

"You just try to push yourself to the limit and that's what I tried to do, and you had to make a decision in the split of a second," Blazusiak said.

Brown, of Bluff City, Tenn., also stayed in the hunt but finished about 14 seconds behind Blazusiak to earn second place.

X Games 17 - Taddy Blazusiak

"It's my first time at X Games and it was great,” he said. “It's fun to watch and there's always something going on in this sport. I hope we get to come back again next year and put on a good show for everyone.”

Finishing in third is Soule, the Victorville, Calif., off-road racer glad to put the sport on the map in X Games 17.

"This is awesome because everyone gets to see what Enduro X is,” Soule said. “Everyone knows what BMX and skateboarding is and now they know Enduro X, so it's cool and it's an honor to be a part of this."

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