Renner's time to Step Up

Barcelona finalists Ronnie Renner and Josh Hansen (before he withdrew with a wrist injury) look ahead to another battle at X Games Munich.

Ronnie Renner holds the quarterpipe world record at a dizzying 63 feet, 5 inches and the X Games Step Up record, set in Los Angeles last year, a whopping 47 feet. So you could say the motocross rider is pretty comfortable high above terra firma.

The field for the upcoming Moto X Step Up contest at X Games Munich, taking place this week, is as strong as ever. Five of the seven competitors have medaled in the sport and two of them, Renner and Matt Buyten, have won eight golds in the past 11 years.

Plus, RallyCross driver Brian Deegan is back to challenge the high bar: Deegan broke Tommy "The Tomcat" Clower's 11-year standing record of 35 feet, 6 inches in 2011 and first medaled in Step Up in 2000 in San Francisco. We spoke with Renner -- the defending gold medalist from X Games Barcelona -- recently to talk about personal style and who his major competition will be in Munich.

Mark Kohlman/ESPN

Ronnie Renner won Moto X Step Up gold at X Games Barcelona. Can he repeat in Munich? What gives you the ability to be so dominant in this sport?
Renner: I guess confidence. I like jumping high, I'm comfortable with my setup, confident in my bikes. I think I'm getting more confident as I go on. I know what to do to adapt to different builds. Confidence is key, right?

Your style seems quite different from everybody else's, too.
I'm not at all trying to be flashy or whipping it. It's just that's how I can get in my best zone. You've got to be confident and definitely I am hungry. But I like competition and especially with freestyle being judged and this is a venture of freestyle, it's kind of my way to know I won something hands down.

At X Games Barcelona in May, everyone seemed to fixate on that one vertical line they wanted to ride and then you just came and kind of carved across everything. It looked like a scary way to do it.
For most it would be, but that's how I get more comfortable for some wacky reason. I would have to say that it's all the freeriding I do and the whip was always one of the better tricks in my heyday. I'm just really more comfortable with where I can put my bike when I am whipping it that direction. Even going up something that steep I feel like I don't hit my hips on the handlebars and I can just control the bike better that way.

Now we are a few rounds into the X Games global tour. Who do you feel is a threat on any given day?
I have always got to consider Buyten. I think we share the same amount of medals at this point. You watch somebody like Libor [Podmol] who is super crazy and just seat bounces it and throws caution to the wind. I have always just considered everybody who is in it a contender because you never know who is going to come out of the woodwork and just send it. Look at Bryce [Hudson, the Step Up gold medalist at X Games Brazil]. I knew Bryce would be good in Brazil, but I probably didn't have him on my list to beat me. I knew he would do pretty good because he has that "huck it" kind of style. 

What happened in Brazil when you were nearly duking it out with Josh Hansen?
In Brazil, I just wanted to get it over with because I felt it was a pretty unprofessional situation. It was obviously getting in my head, when someone is yapping and yapping and you're trying to focus, it's going to get in. My frustration just escalated [to] where I was kind of pissed that the organizers down there weren't saying anything, so I realized I had to take matters into my own hands. Not my preferred route to go, but I wanted to get it over and done with before the contest got going [into the deeper rounds]. In Barcelona, I was just laughing at the irony in that we had already hand-shook it out and everything was fine. It was apparent to me that he came with a completely different mindset, but I just had to chuckle and shake my head when I realized it was him and me in the final. No doubt about it, some extra motivation.

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