Whenever I get a "top secret" video from Travis Pastrana in the months leading up to X Games, I know it has to be something good. This year was no exception when Pastrana sent an e-mail of a guy doing a crazy new trick at his house in Maryland.
The rider on the video was 25-year-old Canadian Bruce Cook, who is about to take the biggest stage of his life. Cook is one of those quintessentially unassuming Canadian people who just seem to exude "nice." I caught up with our pleasant neighbor from the north in his final preparations for Los Angeles:
ESPN.com: Where is Bruce Cook from?
Cook: I am from Kelowna, B.C., Canada.
What's your history in the FMX world?
Got into it about seven years ago, kind of as a hobby, more than anything, in the back yard. My parents have 60 acres, so natural progression with boys and bikes and just building jumps and then building bigger jumps.
My buddy Kris Garwasiuk set up a ramp and landing at my place, so I kind of started poking away on that and started moving back farther and farther and before you know it I was 70, 75 five feet and starting to learn the basic tricks.
I think in '05 I had enough tricks and got invited to do a small demo, out in the Prairies in Saskatchewan. From that I was hooked and practicing, getting a bigger bag of tricks and doing bigger and bigger shows.
Do you make all your money from freestyle motocross?
Basically this will be my first year that I will be full time. I've also got a contracting company that I have been running, and in between you go do shows on the weekend. Sometimes you don't get a full schedule and every weekend booked up, so I am doing landscaping and tree removal and labor work for myself. I'm doing that but it is kind of tough when you are trying to do good at both. So this year I am concentrating on riding and freestyle and that's what I want to do, so you've got to pick and focus and it's what I have been doing this year for sure.
How did you meet Travis Pastrana?
I guess about three or four years ago we did a seven-stop tour through Mexico and one of the riders was Billy Van Vugt and obviously his sister is Jolene Van Vugt. Then with Jolene being on Nitro [Circus] and being best buddies with Travis I kind of went through Billy to Jolene to Travis. Everyone has been on my side and everyone has been a huge help and even Travis has been so welcoming and just gung ho from day one.
"Gung ho" is probably a good way to describe Travis.
[Laughs] Among other words, yes! He's fired up for sure.
What is it like when you actually get to train at TP's compound? What does a typical day entail out there?
Two years ago I learned to flip and that was the first time that I had been out to his place and met him. Most kids kind of grew up idolizing him and he has really been kind of my style -- just loves the sport and progression. That's been key with me so it was really cool to meet him and that atmosphere has really been amazing.
Everyone who is down there and around there is a professional something and working towards something so the atmosphere is really positive and everyone is driving to be better at whatever they are doing. Every day you wake up and there is a full gym downstairs in his place, so I usually hit the gym for a bit.
Then you've got the pool and hot tub for the sore muscles that the foam pit definitely brings. This past week we have been doing about four or five separate foam pit sessions a day where you gear up, hit the foam pit, gear down and maybe go for a swim and then gear up and start from square one again.
By that time it's nine o' clock at night so you hit the hot tub again and grab some dinner and turn in for the night. It's pretty exhausting.
You are heading home from Travis' right now, so has being there been the main component in learning this trick?
Absolutely, without him it would not have been so easy. He just welcomed me in and I did the best to try and earn my keep. He was on board right from the get-go and it is so nice to have such easy access to a foam pit -- other than it being on the other side of the country [laughs], but we take one flight over to Philly and drive down with my East Coast bike so it's fairly easy and has been key in learning this trick, that's for sure. It's not a trick that I would like to learn to dirt.
So are you ready to reveal this top secret trick or not?
It is a trick where I am upside down and letting go of the bike completely at one point or another. So that's kind of where I am at right now and it leaves a little bit to the imagination.
Have you done this thing to dirt yet?
I haven't, but I'm pretty confident into the foam. I have had some really good sessions and it is feeling good.
As soon as you mention new tricks everyone always asks "What ramp are they doing it off"?
This one is off a standard superkicker, just flat on the ground. We were toying around with jacking up the superkicker a bit. We actually got it up to six inches and then dropped it right back down to flat. That's kind of been the most comfortable and the best trajectory.
What distance is it set at?
It's between 45 and 50 depending on the landing and where the knuckle is at. Somewhere in that range.
In every trick there is the toughest part, like the "crux" in climbing, what's the toughest part of this trick that has the biggest potential for a mistake?
Basically there are a lot of steps. For me it has been about learning the steps because if you miss one step you screw up the trick. It is a backflip so you have to remember to do your backflip first and then everywhere you put your hands has got to be bang on every time. I say the biggest hurdle is remembering it all in your head because you only have those two or three seconds in the air to get a lot of things done. It's a lot of stuff to remember and get through your head in a short space of time.
Forgetting about the trick for a while -- your first real competition is going to be X Games, how did you feel when you realized you had been given that invitation?
I'm not sure I fully have yet [laughs]. Two years ago I wanted to do this trick, but unfortunately it didn't work out for doing it at last year's X, but I have been thinking about it for two years. It has been beating on me big time. For me I am my own biggest competitor so when I get something in my head that I want to do, it's going to get done. Having the invitation to X was kind of the goal and I have accomplished that so now it is all about "go and do it." If I can pull it off clean and ride away then I will be content and happy.
Is there any special kind of preparation you are doing for X Games that is different from what you have done in the past?
Obviously lots of foam pit, which is different because most tricks you are learning and just progress onto dirt at 75 feet. That and then for the first time I have a personal trainer. I showed him the trick and he definitely has been helping out with some of the different muscles that you don't think about and helps on keeping yourself from getting too sore.
This time has been a lot easier on my body because I have been going really hard these past two months. The goal of the workout is to help you survive the foam pit more than anything. It definitely helps so my body is feeling good. I've got the usual aches and pains, but I will go home and hit the gym for a while and get loosened up, lots of stretching and then we are headed to X.
Have you taken up yoga yet?
Yep, with this gym and trainer you get free yoga so I have done that a few times. I don't really like the "Woo-sah" kind of stuff [laughs], but this is more that you are here for a reason and you are stretching and you've got some good tunes on and you are there to loosen up and stretch and get more flexible
Maybe you can get a sponsorship from Lululemon and get a Canadian yoga company behind you?
[Laughs] Not quite that far!
Have you actually been approached by any new sponsors once they found out you were in X?
I have been building with my existing sponsors because I have excellent relationships with them and this is kind of a reward for them since they have been really good.
I have been talking to a few people and a few different sports managers and they are saying "Who is Bruce Cook?" like no one really knows. There's no offense taken because I have been doing my thing in Canada and have not really made a name for myself in the U.S.
That has been my game plan from day one, to kind of come out of the blue and have this trick and just do my own thing. Everyone has been saying it's kind of crazy down there, but for focus and my mental game it is probably best for me to go and do my thing and worry about the rest later.
X Games is a very different stage to everything you have done before and we have seen the pressure crush people in the past. What are you expecting that circus is going to be like?
I have been getting pretty good preparation from Billy, Jolene and Travis. Travis' trainer has been a big help actually, he has been at the house most of the week helping me out big time with a lot of the mental game.
I think I have prepared myself for what's to come and I am usually pretty good with that kind of thing. I can turn a switch and focus on my own thing and once you are coming up that ramp you are only focused on one thing and that's getting the trick done.
I'm prepared for a little bit of a shock because, as you said, it is kind of a different stage, but I am prepared for that shock and it should not be too much of an issue.
Any concerns that you are going to be ready to jump out there and someone else is going to have a similar trick?
That's always possible, but I have been away from the Internet and not really looking at what the other guys are doing.
Like I said: From day one this has been what I am doing and I am going to do it the best I can. Whatever anyone else has, that's cool because I have huge respect for those guys and a couple of tricks that I have heard about are crazy. Everyone is out there doing their own thing and I think this year the tricks are going to be really big, really new, really crazy tricks.
I'm just out there to land mine and whatever else happens, happens.