The world’s largest convergence of action sports athletes known as the ESPN X Games invaded Los Angeles this past weekend for the event’s 15th year of competition. While skateboarders, bmx riders and rally drivers from around the globe battled it out for medals in some of the most unique and challenging events imaginable, a significant focus was given to the moto community as freestyle, motocross and supermoto riders faced off for their chance at gold.
Thor and Parts Unlimited was well represented at the X Games with competitors in nearly every one of the disciplines: Step Up, Best Trick, Supermoto, Super X and Freestyle. In the end, the riders representing the leader in motocross apparel captured four medals with one gold, two silvers and one bronze.
Josh Hansen grabs his second straight Super X gold in a one-race ride for Pro Circuit.
All the action kicked-off on Thursday evening from the Staples Center. The focus of the night centered around the newest element of moto competition with Step Up. What is essentially a high jump competition on a motorcycle, Thor/Parts Unlimited riders Jeremy McGrath and Matt Buyten, both former winners of the event, took their shot at the gold. As the bar was continually raised, McGrath and Buyten stayed in the thick of the battle alongside Ricky Carmichael and Ronnie Renner. Seven-time supercross champion McGrath was the first to drop out of the final four at a stellar 32 feet. Buyten came close but just missed out at 33 feet, settling for the bronze. McGrath just missed out on the podium in fourth while Carmichael and Renner were named co-gold medalists.
Matt Buyten clears the bar en route to a bronze medal in Step Up.
As the festivities returned to Staples Center on Friday evening, all eyes were on the king of freestyle progression, Travis Pastrana. Known as one of the most highly-anticipated events of the entire X Games, Best Trick annually provides some of the most logic-defying feats ever conceived on a motorcycle. After accomplishing arguably the most memorable trick in history with the double backflip in 2006, Pastrana made his anticipated return to Best Trick with yet another mind-boggling trick in tow. After being convinced that a backflip-rotation combination was possible by BMX legend and rally teammate Dave Mirra, Pastrana spent his two-year hiatus honing the trick in a foam pit. However, in preparation for the event and his first attempt to dirt, Pastrana declared that he “lost” the trick. Ever the determined competitor, he rolled down the ramp Friday night confident he could stick what became known as a 720 corkscrew, or what they call a rodeo in BMX. Upon launching off the takeoff ramp, Pastrana appeared to be on target but began to flatten out, eventually dropping hard to the downside of the landing ramp.
“We are already flipping and spinning so the next step is combining the two,” explained Pastrana. “The last six months I have put a huge focus on this. However, in the last 20 or 30 that I’ve tried to do I’ve just lost the trick. I over-rotated the flip. I had so much flip that when it came time to spin I had to stop because of the momentum and landed on my side.”
Although he came up short in landing the trick, Travis Pastrana continued the progression of the sport by pushing the envelope with a flip, spin variation.
After precautionary medical attention, the crowd favorite got to his feet and saluted everyone in attendance. After careful deliberation, he chose to forego his second attempt. Despite missing out on landing the trick, Pastrana still captured fourth thanks to its high degree of difficulty. Two-time gold medalist Kyle Loza made history with his third straight win. Despite missing out on some hardware for his two wheel efforts, Pastrana ended the weekend on a positive note by taking the silver medal in the Rally Car Racing final.
Saturday brought the busiest day of moto action to X Games with Supermoto, Super X and Freestyle all taking place at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The day began with the highly-competitive and highly-technical Supermoto final. 2007 Gold Medalist Mark Burkhart came into the race as one of the favorites and was hoping to bounce back from a heartbreaking 2008 performance. With an international field of talented competitors, Burkhart lineup up against 19 other riders for a 20-lap battle. As the race got underway, Burkhart found himself needing to do some work to make it to the front. He began to make his way through the top five, eventually moving into second and on the heels of Italian leader Ivan Lazzarini, a European supermoto racer. Burkhart was faster than Lazzarini but found difficulty in trying to make the pass. As the duo headed out of the stadium on the final laps, Burkhart made his move and actually took over the top spot by about a wheel, but Lazzarini refused to back off and out-jumped Burkhart heading to the pavement to take away the preferred line. From there Burkhart looked to capitalize on a mistake but had to settle for second.
Burkhart came up just short of returning to the top of the medal stand in Supermoto.
When he took the gold medal in 2008 for Super X, Josh Hansen shocked the motocross world with a dominating performance. After a rough supercross season in 2009, Hansen was given a one-race deal with the legendary Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team for the X Games. It was a dream opportunity for Hansen and he was determined to take advantage of it. In a star-studded field that included world class riders like Kevin Windham, Josh Grant, Justin Brayton and fellow Thor/Parts Unlimited rider McGrath, Hansen put on one of the most impressive displays in recent memory. As the field of 12 riders blasted out of the gates, Hansen found himself in the top five while McGrath nearly grabbed the holeshot and asserted himself into second place early on. With 20 laps slated for the final, Hansen put his head down and logged consistent lap times which began working in his favor. He quickly moved into third and set his sights on the lead. McGrath on the other hand took a few laps to get his rhythm on the slick and technical layout and lost some ground but settled in and rode a solid second half of the race. Hansen continued his charge, passing Matt Boni for second and eventually catching Windham for the lead. After coming up short on his first attempt to pass, Hansen made his second effort stick just past halfway and never looked back, winning by over eight seconds for his second-straight gold medal. McGrath brought home seventh.
“This is really just a dream come true,” boasted Hansen. “Mitch (Payton) gave me this opportunity and I can’t thank him enough. The track was really slick out there and I didn’t get a great start so I just knew I had to put together 20 solid laps and that’s what I did. This whole deal is awesome. I get to wear Thor gear and the stuff fits really well and is really comfortable out on the track. I can’t thank Mitch enough for this.”
Hansen was at the top of his game put forth an impressive performance for gold.
“X Games is unique in a way that really helps sponsors like Thor get some major exposure,” added McGrath. ‘That is part of what brings me back each year. I still love racing as much as ever but I don’t come out here to win. It’s really just about getting out there and having some fun and I did that so I’m happy. My goal isn’t to really compete with (the full time riders). I just try to get a good start, which I did and go from there. Unfortunately, I screwed that up (laughs). But I’m leaving healthy and that’s always good.”
The action-packed Saturday concluded that evening with the Freestyle competition. Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg held the Thor flag high in search of his first gold medal in the event. Virtually a wide open competition for 2009, X Games organizers presented a new format in the form of a Jam Session. Riders take their best two scores out of three runs throughout a timed session and in the end, the highest combined score wins. Thanks to his endurance and ability to string together a variety of tricks in a short burst, Twitch felt confident about his chances. He started off strong with a 43 to open the final, but found some trouble in run two for a score of 38. In a night full of small bobbles from each of the four finalists, Stenberg was the most consistent rider. His pair of 43’s dropped his low score of 38 but his 86 overall left him just one point shy of the gold medal behind Blake Williams. Williams' opening run of 44 proved to be the difference maker as he and Twitch tied in their final run.
Twitch gets big air in the Freestyle final that featured a new Jam Session format.
“My night overall was really good,” said Stenberg. “I was just pumped to make it through to the very last round. With the new Jam format you don’t really have much time to think. (The judges) want to see a run every single time you’re out on the course. There was definitely a lot of thinking, a lot of planning and a lot of endurance. You needed to be consistent so I was pumped to come out of there with a second. In my second run when I got my low score, I think if I would have landed those couple tricks that would have made the difference.”
About Parts Unlimited
Parts Unlimited is the world's largest distributor of aftermarket accessories in the powersports industry and is owned by LeMans Corporation headquartered in Janesville, Wisconsin. Parts Unlimited sells to over 12,000 dealerships world wide and continues to expand its market penetration with its sister companies, Parts Canada, Parts Europe and Drag Specialties.
Parts Unlimited continues to promote racing through its campaign WE SUPPORT THE SPORT®, helping to drive consumers to dealerships, while entertaining its dealers through hospitalities at the events it sponsors.
About Thor Motocross
Thor is one of the originators of motocross apparel. When Torsten Hallman made his first U.S trip to race and promote motocross in 1966, he inadvertently started to develop Thor riding gear. Thor is a hardcore, grass roots company that understands what it takes to reach the top and more importantly, how to stay there. It is one of a few companies with over 40 years experience in the motocross marketplace.
Thor, a house brand company for Parts Unlimited, combines design and marketing with superior distribution to reach it's thousands of dealers and consumers priding ourselves on key selling features like quality, strength and performance. Thor is more than a brand. It is a lifestyle.