Untouchable



Seven laps into the 20-lap final of SnoCross tonight and Paul Thacker was exhausted. Of course, Thacker, a Freestyle rider, was simply observing the race from ringside.

"Are you kidding me? This is only lap 7 of 20?! I'd have pulled off by now to throw up in my helmet," cracked Thacker. No doubt though a number of racers were feeling the same thing as Tucker Hibbert—by lap 11—extended his lead to more than 22 seconds. At the end the contest, the margin—by racing standards—was basically a factor of infinity.

And that's how things are going in the SnoCross world this season. There's Hibbert and then there's the rest of the field. So-no surprise—Hibbert claimed his third straight WX SnoCross gold while Robbie Malinoski gallantly won the race for second place. Danny Ebert, a semi-pro, hung on for third place—and was excited to the point of incoherence afterward. Levi LaVallee, after battling through the LCQ to the final, pushed through a back row start position to finish just out of the medals in fourth.

"It was a hard ride," said Malinoski. "[Ebert] got up in front of me and I just had to keep hounding him. The track's so technical so you just try to pressure someone into a mistake. And when they make a bobble, you can capitalize on it, other than that, it's pretty single file."

"I couldn't see nothing when I was behind Danny. It was roost in my face the whole time. It was a real tough go, but you know what? It worked out and we got second. We couldn't beat Tucker, but no one has this year so I don't feel too bad about it."

Hibbert is six-for-six on the National circuit this year, and three-for-three at the last three X Games. It ain't over til the fat lady sings, or so we've heard, but that theory doesn't seem to hold up this year with Tucker Hibbert. And so we asked Tucker's dad, Kirk Hibbert, who is also crew chief of the Monster Energy-Arctic Cat Hibbert Team, just what exactly is going on.

"The extra domination you're seeing this year is him. He's reaching deep, just determined to go as hard as he can go and do the best he can. And that's where that extra is coming from, the inside of him coming out," said Kirk Hibbert.

Ebert told ESPN his goal at WX was the make the SnoCross final. Then he won his qualifying heat last night - fast tracking himself into the final - and ran in the top five in the early going. When DJ Eckstrom had a get off on Lap 7, Ebert moved from third to second, a position he held until Malinoski passed him on the chicane on Lap 14.

"Honestly this is crazy," Ebert said, looking genuinely stunned. "Unbelievable. My goal was to make the final. And to run as good as I did, I mean, I know I got tired but I think everybody else did too. But still, unbelievable. If someone were to say that I was going to go to Aspen and make the final and get third, I never ever ever ever would've fathomed it. I'm just ecstatic right now. I cannot thank my whole team enough; just unbelievable."

Hibbert, as usual, was pleased with his ride and credited his continued success to his hard-working team. Could things have gone any better, Tucker? "Not really," he said. "I got a good start, and I was pumped because that's what I wanted to do—get out there clean and get away from all the other guys. And it worked out good. I got out early and pushed hard."

"I don't know how to explain the success, but it's just been going awesome. I work hard and I've got good equipment, good snowmobiles, good people, sponsors and it all comes together and we get results."

Results:
1) Tucker Hibbert
2) Robbie Malinoski
3) Dan Ebert
4) Levi LaVallee
5) Ryan Simons
6) Dave Allard
7) Bobby LePage
8) Matt Piche
9) Brett Bender
10) Matt Morin

Josh Duplechian

Tucker Hibbert is the leader of the pack once again.