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Experience Isn't the Ticket for Buyten

August 16, 2003|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

Matt Buyten of Carson City, Nev., kept it simple during the motocross step-up competition Friday at the X Games.

When you have a "For Rent" sticker attached to your gas tank, seeking sponsors, that's usually the best approach.

But Buyten proved he was not a typical first-time competitor at the ninth X Games, out-jumping defending champion Tommy Clowers of Ramona, Calif., to win the competition at Staples Center.

While many riders chose to finesse their machines over the bar, Buyten simply tried to jump as high as possible.

"I just tried to hit [the ramp] as hard as I could and land as even as I could," Buyten said of his winning clearance at 32 feet. "That works for me."

The step-up, which has some similarities to the high jump in track and field, gives competitors two attempts to lift themselves over a horizontal bar on 400-pound motocross bikes. Competitors are given about 20 feet to make their approach, then must climb a nearly vertical 12-foot wall of dirt before going airborne. They also must make a clean landing without falling.

Buyten, 23, doesn't practice and has been competing in the step-up for less than a year but was good enough to win the most recent World Freeriders Assn. step-up title. That victory was his ticket to the X Games.

After 15 began competing at 24 feet, only Buyten, Clowers and Ronnie Renner of Westminster cleared the third-round height of 31 feet, which was measured from the bottom of the jump to the bar. The bar was then raised six inches and on his first attempt Buyten nearly landed on an ESPN cameraman filming alongside the landing ramp.

He then charged the ramp on his second try, pointed the nose to the ceiling and let the back wheel follow him over the bar without any manipulation. Renner missed on both his attempts, but Clowers kept the competition alive with a successful clearance on his second jump.

Buyten clipped the bar on his first attempt after it was raised another six inches, then huddled with another competitor, Jake Windham, before launching himself up and over.

"I just told him to try harder," Windham said.

Clowers, 30, then failed on both of his attempts, his front wheel displacing the bar on the way up each time. Clowers said he wasn't surprised a competitor with so little experience unseated him.

"Guys are getting good at it," Clowers said. "There are a lot of young kids coming up now. I just wish the sport was around when I was 18."

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