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Rev-Up: Gladiator

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glad•i•a•tor

1. One who engages in any fierce combat or controversy in public.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Rev-Up. Well, the winter season is upon us, which means it is time to take it indoors. With the Des Moines Arenacross and the Paris Supercross on the card for this weekend, I wanted to put down some words about big racing on small tracks. One of the main attractions to riding a dirtbike is the solitude the trade affords you. Way, way, back in the beginning, I used to love riding out across the wheat fields of Kansas all by myself or with a couple friends. The views you see and feeling of isolation was what made weekend rides fun. After a while, those rides became all too monotonous. I found myself trying to go faster than whoever I was riding with. Soon, I found myself behind a starting gate at a “motocross race.” Racing with a full gate of other guys was surely the biggest rush you could ever feel on a dirtbike. Well, close. To each their own, but the blood has never shoved through my veins quite like the first time I pushed my bike to the starting line inside an arena with thousands of screaming people. The thrill and nervous energy of competition is enough to get the shoulders back, but when you throw on the helmet for a main event inside a packed stadium, son, you are leaving footprints in the concrete as you walk through the tunnel.

  • Josh Grant at Bercy '07
I’ve gone through practice crashes that left me barely able to walk, but when you emerge from the tunnel to smell the smoke, see the lasers, and hear the crowd, you clench your fists and you feel no pain.

Nothing can compare to the electricity in a small arena. It’s easy to forget what you are racing for sometimes. Are you simply trying to take the checkered flag, or are you trying to make the crowd stand up and scream? The best can do both, but you don’t have to win to get the house on your side. There is a plethora of actions a rider can perform to get some towels swinging when he takes it around the track.

A lot of people argue where the sport of Freestyle Motocross got its start. Hell, I know where it started because I watched it happen. It was the guys running in the back of the pack at arenacross races throwing heel clickers and whips. Promoters caught on to this and began having “jump contests.” Guys like Guy Cooper, Jason Upshaw, Clifford Adoptante, and Edgar Torronteras were some of the first Gladiators of FMX who laid bricks on the road that guys like Nate Adams and Adam Jones drove down to X Games Gold.

Speaking of jump contests, the Paris SX has seen some of the biggest ones in history. Remember when Jeremy McGrath busted out the first “Superman Air” circa winter ’94? But Bercy is about much more than jumps and tricks. The King of Bercy crown is a highly sought after trophy. American riders receive big bucks to make the trip across the pond to race for it. This time, the French fans will be rewarded with some sickness they’ve never seen before. That’s right, James “Bubba” Stewart will be holding a hand to his ear and asking for some French admiration.

Meanwhile, the city of Des Moines will be holding an indoor race of its own. Des Moines is one of the oldest venues in the arenacross world. She always hosts wild fans and intense racing. Josh Demuth will be showing up to blow up and reclaim his arenacross crown. He’ll have to fight hard for it, though. Like I always say, “Ain’t no step for a stepper.”

Trophies, trophy girls, prize and contingency money... All of that is just fickle glitter and shine to a gladiator. When a real warrior pulls on his armor, he is gritting his teeth for two things; the glory of crushing his enemy, and the thrill of hearing the crowd’s approval. I speak from experience when I say there is no feeling on earth like winning and then pointing to the crowd in victory and seeing them pointing back. It’ll be on this weekend.

Thanks for reading, see you next week.

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