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Moto X Racing becomes the next level for Games

August 02, 2007|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Ricky Carmichael had seen the X Games time after time on television, and each time the same thought would pop into his head.

"Boy, I'd like to be in the X Games," he said.

The problem was there wasn't an event that suited one of the most accomplished motocross racers of all time.

"The X Games were all about flipping and twisting and doing tricks," Carmichael said. "I was a racer."

This year, that problem is solved. Carmichael worked with X Games organizers to create a new event called Moto X Racing, a motocross-style event that has not only attracted Carmichael, but also rising star James "Bubba" Stewart and Chad Reed, another top rider on the American Motorcyclists Assn. circuit.

That event and the big stars are part of the continuing evolution of the X Games, which begin today and continue through Sunday at Staples Center and the Home Depot Center.

Evolution and progression are the founding principles of the X Games. Last year, Travis Pastrana performed the first double back flip on a motorcycle, BMX riders competed on the big air mega-ramp previously reserved for skateboarders and four-wheeled motorized vehicles debuted with the addition of Rally Car Racing.

So, with such a tough act to follow, X Games organizers came up with the idea of trying to tap into a segment of sports fans they hadn't yet reached: Motorcycle racing purists.

"It gives us an extra level of credibility," X Games General Manager Chris Stiepock said of adding the more mainstream style motocross event. "I think that the supercross and motocross world always tuned in with one eye to the X Games, but I think with Moto X Racing, they'll have a vested interest to tune in with both eyes."

Pastrana is paying attention. So much so, in fact, that he is passing on both the Moto X best trick and freestyle competitions this year so he can focus on the Rally Car Race, Supermoto and Moto X Racing.

"I'm totally excited to race against some of the legends of this sport," Pastrana said. "You already have heroes established in that sport. They already have a big following globally. Supercross has its own identity and I think it's going to bring an entire new demographic."

Of course, Pastrana's excitement for those events means he'll be absent from those that made him a star. He completed his double back flip during best trick competition last year and has won the freestyle event five times in seven years.

But while focusing on the racing events, Pastrana said he hasn't had time to work on new tricks and said he'd be cheating the fans if he were to compete in those events.

"Yeah, I could still be fairly competitive with what I had last year, but that's not what freestyle is about," he said. "Freestyle is about innovating new tricks. If I'm doing what I did last year then there's no point."

That doesn't mean somebody else won't try what Pastrana did last year.

Scott Murray, a relative unknown, was a late addition to the Moto X best trick competition after a video circulated on the Internet showing him landing a double back flip. Murray is expected to try it in tonight's competition at Staples Center.

"This guy has been trying to make a living in motocross for a while, but just hasn't gotten to that next level," Pastrana said. "So he says, 'I have an opportunity to make a name for myself,' so he spent the entire last year in a foam pit, working, training, practicing, that's all he was doing was the double flip. That's his single intention."

But while we may see another double back flip, we won't see the BMX dirt competition or the Skateboard vert best trick. The BMX big air and Skateboard street best trick have replaced those.

And the big air ramp, an 80-foot-tall ramp that sends competitors over a 70-foot gap that is fast becoming the landmark of the X Games, has been moved indoors for the first time. Both the skateboard and BMX big air competitions will take place inside Staples Center while the vert ramp has moved to a location outside the Home Depot Center.

"It's so much better because there is no wind," said Kevin Robinson, the defending champion in BMX big air. "When you're sitting up there getting ready to drop in, the last thing you want to be concerned with is how windy it is."

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peter.yoon@latimes.com

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