The X Drop: week of July 19
You've probably heard by now that one of the coolest buildings on the planet, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, will host a generous portion of X Games action this year. Skateboard and BMX Big Air will be back in the open air, Rally cars will race around the 93,607-seat stadium and Super X will come home to its roots: the Coliseum is the birthplace of the sport created by Mike Goodwin in 1972 as a twist on motocross. Goodwin's tailpipe dream started with a stadium track sketched on a napkin and was brought to fruition on July 8, 1972, when the Coliseum hosted the first Supercross in front of 30,000 fans.
Adaptive athlete Chris Ridgway is the only 2010 X Games Super X athlete who has raced in the iconic building (the last Supercross race at the Coliseum was held in 1999); the rest will get a taste of history at X16 when they tackle the Coliseum's unique Supercross feature: a climb from the stadium floor to the peristyle that runs atop the bleachers, under the famed arches, and then a return to the arena track (check out the course layout here). It's a challenging but fitting feature for X Games and Supercross' return home.
Blake "Bilko" Williams had a moment of glory-cum-agony at X Games 2009 when he jumped off his bike to celebrate his Freestyle gold and tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee. The surgery to repair the knee was the first of five surgeries he has endured since his X15 victory.
While down with the knee injury, the Aussie had a plate and four screws cleaned out of his right foot from an injury at X Games Mexico in 2008 and had a couple of left toe ligaments repaired. Bilko was back on the bike and 100 percent for the 2010 Nitro Circus tour, saying "My confidence was back and so were my tricks." Perhaps the bag of tricks he was referring to didn't include non-motorized bike tricks; Bilko rode a BMX bike off the Nitro Circus' Giganta ramp "for fun" and tore his left MCL and meniscus. He had surgery to repair the damage the first week of June.
Though he didn't feel fully recovered from the knee injury, Bilko headed to Moscow three weeks post-surgery for X-Fighters, where he crashed in practice and broke his left collarbone. "There were complications with my visa before I left [for Moscow], and looking back I wish I had never gotten one," he says.
Another surgery at the end of June meant more time off the bike, and Bilko isn't expected to be back in the saddle until about a week before XG. With a plate in his shoulder that doctors have warned him he can't land on and an excessive amount of time spent under the knife rather than on the throttle, the 2009 double medalist -- he added Best Trick silver to his Freestyle gold -- enters X16 as an underdog despite being the champion.
Jamie Bestwick is the three-time defending BMX Vert gold medalist, and he'll be hunting for the first four-peat in X Games BMX Vert history. Bet on Bestwick: The man treats the vert ramp like a playground, linking smooth, progressive tricks from one edge to the other, and has trophy cases full of hardware from X Games (nine medals) and beyond (five consecutive Dew Tour Vert titles) to prove it.
Perhaps in the interest of preparing for his days post-vert domination, the 39-year-old Bestwick has been busy off the bike as well. He has been doing some on-air commentating for NBC's coverage of the Dew Tour, and he's even hit up a few AMA Motocross events as a sideline reporter and in the broadcast booth (guest-appearing with play-by-play man and X Games Super X researcher Jason Weigandt).
When he's not perfecting his Vert runs for X Games or using a mic, Bestwick has been going faster on a bike than a self-propelled two-wheeler could ever take him. He earned his CMRA (Central Motorcycle Roadracing Association) license in March on a 600cc road-racing motorcycle and has since hit the track at seven races, even logging a couple of top-ten finishes.
These distractions might lead the average viewer to believe that Bestwick will have trouble bagging the four-peat, but the world of X knows better. The real question is ... who will claim silver?
Speaking of silver, no one was more disappointed with second place at the X Games than Travis Pastrana was with his Rally Car Racing silver in 2009. Ford drivers Kenny Brack and Tanner Foust earned gold and bronze respectively, and it was the first time an X Games Rally medalist wasn't driving a Subaru.
So what's up with the Fords? Ford and their prep team, Swedish Olsbergs MSE, made a serious push in 2009 to become more competitive on the Rally front, and the push paid off. Something you can bet Subaru and the Vermont SportsCar team isn't happy about. For 2010, Pastrana, Dave Mirra and European Rallycross champion Sverre Isachsen will be sitting behind the wheels of factory-backed Subarus, while Ken Block has turned to Ford alongside Brack, Foust and Brian Deegan.
So what's the big dif; what are the advantages of one over the other? The Fords are built with a shorter, more compact course in mind -- you know, like the one at X Games. They have a smaller wheelbase than the Subs and should be fast off the start and in the straightaways. The Subarus are built with a "go-the-distance" mentality and feature complex, electronically-controlled differentials to finesse through the corners, and that is where they will make up time. In the end, though, driver skill and a little luck is the biggest factor at X Games.
The X Games 16 Skateboard Street course will host an abundance of the "regular" faces such as Chaz Ortiz, Ryan Sheckler and Nyjah Huston, but this year's athlete list also features an assemblage of X rookies who could shake the course like a SoCal earthquake.
Steve Olson, Thrasher mag's Skater of the Year in 1979, has passed the genes down to his son, Alex, who hopes to follow in his dad's footsteps. Sacramento skaters Omar Salazar and Stefan Janoski (who now lives in NYC but still considers Sac-town his home) will skate at X this year. Salazar already has a Thrasher cover under his belt (March 2009) and Janoski is the second person in history (after Paul Rodriguez) to have a Nike SB pro model. Other rooks on the roster are Australia's Shane O'Neill, Peter Ramondetta and Justin Brock, who hails from Mount Airy, N.C., the town that Mayberry (yes, the Andy Griffith Show) was based on.
An X Games rookie has never won Skate Street, but records were made to be broken. Find out when the final airs live on July 31.