LOS ANGELES -- Mike Brown, 40, picked up his first X Games gold medal on Sunday, closing out X Games L.A. 2012 after beating Cody Webb and Cory Graffunder in the Men's Moto X Enduro X race. The win was a major upset over Brown's Red Bull/Factory KTM teammate, defending gold medalist Taddy Blazusiak, who finished just off the podium in fourth place.
"To win a gold medal at my age? It gets harder every year," Brown said. "The track got tough in the main, but it's kinda Supercross-y so it fits my style."
Blazusiak went undefeated in 2011, winning the Enduro X debut at X Games and all subsequent stops in the 2011 AMA Geico Powersports Endurocross series to take the overall 2011 championship title. He slipped to third in May at the 2012 series opener in Las Vegas, proving he's beatable, but was back on top last month in Sacramento, Calif., and was the favorite coming into Sunday's competition. He led by 9.411 seconds over Brown in Heat 1 of Sunday's elimination round, where both qualified for the 10-man finals. Also making the cut were Heat 2 leaders Cody Webb and Geoff Aaron, Heat 3 leaders Taylor Robert and Kyle Redmond, and Last Chance qualifiers Kevin Rookstool, Destry Abbott, Cory Graffunder, and Graham Jarvis.
But Blazusiak struggled out of the gate and took a fall in the chopped wood pit feature on the course, which also featured a water obstacle, logs, tires and rock piles, and kept each of the riders challenged throughout the 10-lap race. Brown took the hole shot from the start and held his lead throughout the race -- while Webb, Graffunder, Abbott, and Blazusiak battled it out to sort out the rest of the podium -- even hanging on to his lead after a last-lap crash of his own.
"I was going up the rock pile and I got kinda greedy there," Brown admitted. "I jumped too far and got into that banner there, and I was struggling to get back up on it. I was thinking, 'Oh, I'm blowing it on the last lap!' At least I got back up, and my Dunlops got me outta the rocks there."
Brown ended up finishing 4.634 seconds ahead of Webb and 5.432 seconds ahead of Graffunder, ghost riding his bike off the final jump in celebration as he passed the checkered flags.
"The track was so slick," Webb said, after claiming his first X Games medal. "I come from a trials background and here I'm riding an enduro bike. I felt like I had a lot of control tonight: I didn't get off to the best start but everyone else was making mistakes and I felt strong. I'm just pumped right now. This is actually only my second full year riding endurocross and Brown's been racing his whole life. When he's on the starting line, he puts everything else behind him. He's a phenomenal rider and in great shape, and that's what it takes to win these days."Full Results »