At X Games 16 on Friday evening, July 30, 2010 inside Los Angeles, California’s STAPLES Center, an unknown rider from Yarrawonga, Australia idled out of a tunnel along with competitors Todd Potter, Jeremy Stenberg, Beau Bamburg, Josh Hansen and Josh Grant. Competing in Best Whip, the riders’ name was Jarryd McNeil, and once the contest began, he threw around his YZ250 like a toy, tossing out the most pitched-out, upside down, 180 whip imaginable. The 19-year-old Australian was pure magic and ultimately won the Silver medal. Recently, McNeil was signed on by Monster Energy and given his first mission: Head to this past weekend’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and try to win the Best Whip contest at the Dew Tour Championship round. And that’s exactly what he did.
Racer X: Jarryd, before we jump into your Dew Tour success, just how did you end up competing in the United States?
Jarryd McNeil: Basically, I was on the Nitro Circus Live Tour in Australia last May when Travis Pastrana spoke to me about trying to compete in Best Whip at X Games. At that same time, Rick Alessandri of ESPN came back from the Asia X Games. I was introduced to him and Travis and Rick put their heads together to try and get me to the Summer X Games in Los Angeles.
How did Travis take note of you?
We were out at a practice session and Travis and the Nitro Circus crew were amazed at how I could throw the bike around. They had never heard of me and they were pretty amazed. I hung out with them for the next six weeks or so on the tour. At the last stop at Melbourne, I met Rick again. He watched me ride in the show. Afterwards he approached me and we talked for a little bit. I didn’t hear anything from him, but a month later I heard from Travis and he had been talking to the guys at X Games about me. Then, out of nowhere, I received an e-mail saying I was invited to X Games 16.
So this was sort of your big break, huh?
Yeah, that’s when the ball really started rolling and I knew would be competing in Best Whip.
How did you begin preparing for the X Games?
I had a month and a half to get ready for X Games. I then started practicing a few different whip variations. When the time came, on July 14, WAR MX flew me to Los Angeles. At that time I didn’t have a bike, so WAR bought me a bike. I had two and half weeks of getting used to riding here. I mainly rode at Pala Raceway. They have a special freestyle section there. I also spent a couple days riding at Robbie Maddison’s house. Not long after, it was time to head to the STAPLES Center.
Upon arriving and checking out the reality of your surroundings, how did you feel?
We turned up there and they sent me down into the tunnel. I got my little pit spot and then I checked out the area we were riding. I talked with a few of the riders and I guess you could say I was feeling a little nervous. We then went out for practice and I was feeling a bit sketchy. But then I got used to the ramp and started to flow a little bit better.
What was going through your head before the contest started?
I felt confident, but I didn’t know what to expect because a lot of the guys had big names and I had come out of nowhere.
And when the contest did start and you starting whipping it, were you "feeling it"?
Yeah, as soon as my first competitive session was over I started to feel more comfortable with the atmosphere and my riding. My confidence definitely stepped up. I knew I could compete against the guys and give them a run for their money. In the second five-minute session I was a lot more relaxed. I went out there and had a lot more fun and tried pushing my limits even further. There were a lot of Australians -and fellow Australian riders and family and friends – and that gave me a lot more confidence. I was giving it my all, but I really didn’t know where I stood amongst the other riders. Then the time period was up and we all rolled to a stop and shut our bikes off. We were there for a few minutes waiting while the votes were coming in. I didn’t know if I was going to be on the podium or what.
What did you think when it was announced that you had won the Silver medal?
When the results came in, Potter was on top. I finished second and Twitch [Stenberg] was third. I was in shock. I was surprised I had done so well. My family and friends and all that were really excited with how I had done. We were all very amazed. There were also quite a few people who came up to me and said I should have won. I was happy to hear that, but still, I was pretty happy that I’d finished so well.
Why ride the old-school 250cc two-stroke in competition?
I weigh 120 pounds, so the two-stroke 250 is a lot easier for me to throw around.
When all was said and done in Los Angeles, what came next?
Well, I was approached by Jay Clark to race the Pala National in the 450 class. I started training and riding. I hadn’t raced for a whole season, so this would have been my first race in over six months. A week prior to the race I was out training when I had a crash and lacerated my liver. I spent three days in the hospital and knew I had missed out on my chance of racing in the U.S. After that I packed my bags and flew home to rest up. As I was flying, Ash Hodges at Monster asked me if I’d be interested in doing the Dew Tour stop in Las Vegas. I agreed to do the deal. I was off the bike for three weeks and had two weeks at home in Australia to practice and get ready for the contest. I flew back on the eighth of September and spent a few days out at Pala. I then bought a truck and headed off to Vegas with my mechanic Josh Brown. We drove to the Hard Rock and arrived there on Friday night.
When you rolled up, what did you think of the Hard Rock?
We were pretty amazed by the place. Me and Josh just walked around and checked out what the Hard Rock had to offer. We soon found it had plenty! For three days, I ended up never leaving the place. On Saturday me and the riders had a meeting about the course set-up. We had to make a few changes. I ended up hopping on one of the Bobcats and fixing up the landing ramp. After that, practice was at 4:00 p.m. Practice lasted for fifteen minutes and I could tell I felt good and I was riding well. I got used to the ramp really easily. The atmosphere of the event in Vegas was a lot more relaxed than X Games. It was more about having fun with the other riders. Twitch and I were mucking around while we were riding and just having a great time. The competition was a lot more relaxed. We went out and had the first intro jump followed by two more jumps that were judged. After that, we had a five-minute jam session. The crowd was really getting into the vibe. Me, I felt good about my riding and figured I had a pretty good chance at doing well.
Jeremy Stenberg, Ronnie "Kung Fu" Faisst, Myles Richmond, Destin Cantrell, Lance Coury and yourself all rode hard. Moreover, the combo whips and near-180s you threw during your five-minute run were amazing. Were you pleased when you shut the bike off and waited for the scores?
When it was over, we pulled up in line in order and waited for the judges to tally up the scores. After about five minutes, the judge began announcing the results. Myles Richmond was announced third and then Destin Cantrell was announced second. So then I was on pins and needles. Then they announced I had won. I was in a bit of shock, but I was really happy. I was really stoked I got the judges’ votes!
Two-time X Games Best Whip Gold Medalist Todd Potter did not compete in Vegas. Do you wish he did?
Yeah, I wish Potter would have been in there. I wish I could give him a second run for his money – this time with judges! In fact, I’m hoping the 2011 X Games are judged.
Do you consider this Dew Tour win to be one of the highlights of your career?
I definitely think this is one of the highlights of my career. Growing up as a farm kid I was always dreaming and thinking about one day being in America and doing the X Games and Dew Tour. So now, especially with this win, it’s certainly become a reality.
So what’s the master plan from here, Jarryd?
The plans are to work on my back flips for next year. For 2011 I have the Nitro Circus LIVE Tour lined up in New Zealand in February. The Australian Tour will be in March. After that, I’m hoping to be back in America preparing for X Games and any other events I can find my way into. In fact, I’d really like to compete in X Games Step-Up in 2011.