X Games Moto: Step Up, Best Whip and Best Trick
Moto X Step Up
The motocross action at Staples kicked off the action Friday evening with Moto X Step Up. The competition is essentially a motocross version of high jump where riders launch up the face of a steep jump, clear a 26-foot-high pole without knocking it down and then pull the landing on the back side of the jump.
Just a few hours before the event we learned that crowd favorites Brian Deegan and Jeremy Stenberg (ankle injury) both were scratched from the six-man final. The field then included Myles Richmond, Jeff Kargola, Beau Bamburg, Todd Potter, Matt Buyten and Ronnie Renner.
The high-jump bar was put in place at the starting height of 26 feet, maxing out at a height of 36 feet. Each rider gets two attempts to clear the bar (which is loosely held in place and will easily come off if touched), and as well as clearing it they must also stick the landing without falling off the bike. Defending champion in Step Up is Ronnie Renner, who won last year’s event after clearing a height of 34 feet.
At the first height of 26, all riders cleared the height. The bar was then bumped up two feet to 28 feet, which caused Bamburg some trouble after he knocked down the bar on his first attempt. On his second try, he also nicked the bar but it managed to stay on and he cleared the height with the rest of the field.
Next the bar was raised to 29 feet and 6 inches, and Bamburg was the first casualty of the height after missing the jump in his two attempts. Kargola also was eliminated after clearing the bar with relative ease but catching it on the way down with his rear tire. The bar was then raised another foot, which the field cleared. The bar was then raised to 32 feet, 6 inches, which proved to be too much for Potter and Richmond, who both hit the bar on their two attempts.
The final saw defending champion Renner battle with Buyten at a height of 33 feet, 6 inches. Buyten was unable to clear the pole and all Renner needed to do was clear the bar on one of his two runs to take the gold. Renner seemed to just choke, having two of his worst jumps of the night where he hit the bar on the way up. So, since neither could clear it they both got one more shot each, which Buyten cleared on his run and Renner couldn’t. Buyten took home the gold, Renner the silver.
"Every year, Step Up is a dog fight, and I knew it was going to come down to me and Renner," Buyten said. "It's much harder than it looks to do, and the landings are rough. I have a massage already scheduled for Monday."
1. Buyten 33, 6
2. Renner 32, 6
Tied 3rd. Potter, Richmond, 30, 6
The Best Whip competition was the next up, and the field was set for the final with riders Jarryd McNeil, Josh Grant, Beau Bamburg, Josh Hansen, Jeremy Stenberg and Todd Potter. The format gives the riders 10 minutes of free forum riding broken into 5-minute segments. Instead of having judges choose a winner, the catch with Best Whip is the winner is determined by fan voting with texts.
The idea behind the whip maneuver is essentially is getting the bike as sideways as possible, and this group clearly take the classis motocross move to another level. When the votes were tallied, Potter earned the voting public’s love and took the gold. Finishing in second and taking the silver was McNeil, while the Stenberg took the Bronze in third.
"I felt great tonight, and thank you for voting for me," Potter said. "This event has always been good to me. I am already considering how I can take it to the next level for next year."
Moto X Best Trick
The final event of the evening at Staples Center was Moto X Best Trick, which gives each competitor two runs to landed the craziest trick. The judges score the trick for stle and difficutly and award a score based on those factor. In the end, the top three finishers were all first-time medalists at the X Games. The field included Taka Higashino, Todd Potter, Rich Kearns, Clinton Moore, Robbie Maddison, Cam Sinclair, Paris Rosen and Kyle Loza.
Sinclair came out and set the bar very high early, as he launched a double backflip on his first run, which is only the third time the trick has been landed at the X Games. Sinclair set the bar so high that no one was able to beat his score with another trick, and he didn’t even need to perform his final run. The Australian had been recovering from a bad injury after an accident at an event in Spain.
"After my accident in Spain, I had lots of practice and preparation for this competition," Sinclair said. "Even though I have completed the double backflip eleven times, I was really worried because the set-up is different everywhere. I am excited that I was able to pull it off."
Sinclair’s fellow Aussie native Maddison took home the silver after landing a smooth spin on his first run and then landing a Volt to side-saddle lander that he made look easy. Higashino earned his first medal with a double grab indy air that Maddison said was an amazing trick that could’ve easily earned him the silver.
"I am honored to get silver and am stoked to get my first medal," Maddison said. "Taka's trick was insane, and to me, I see no difference between second and third."
Higashino was excited to earn his podium spot after not placing in the top three in his previous X Games appearance.
"I am super excited. This is my fourth year at X Games and my first medal," Higashino said. "Sometimes the difficulty of the trick messes with my head then I think about Jeremy Lusk. I felt like he was with me and I stuck it."
The competition did have a very unfortunate moment when Paris Rosen was injured attempting a front flip. When he took off the from the jump it appeared as though he didn’t have enough momentum in his spin to get the bike around, and the end result was he landed on his back on the backside of the jump. Although he was taken off the course on a stretcher, his manager did say that he was able to move his toes but was being taken to the hospital for X-rays.
1. Cam Sinclair – 94.33
2. Robbie Maddison – 93.66
3. Taka Higashino – 90.66