On his first two runs on the MegaRamp at X Games Munich, BMX Big Air champion Zack Warden landed a backflip, bikeflip on the gap jump followed by a triple tailwhip on the quarterpipe. He made it seem easy, and the two-time Big Air gold medalist in 2013 looked like he was warming up for another visit to the top of an X Games podium. Then on his third run, he fell hard on the gap portion of the jump and slid like a rag doll up, and back down, the transition of the quarterpipe. The same thing happened on his fourth run. It looked like it hurt.
"It did," said Warden when XGames.com spoke with him after the event. "This [year] is the first time we've had the MegaRamp expansion, and it's been a little bit of a gift and a curse. I'm really looking forward to having a month off before L.A."
That's X Games Los Angeles that Warden is referring to, the fourth summer X Games stop of 2013, along with Foz do Iguaçu, Barcelona and Munich. To a man, and woman, the athletes say the additional competitions have progressed their respective sports without question. But it's taken a toll on bodies and equipment, not to mention adding three hefty new line items to travel budgets.
We spoke to X Games athletes from BMX, skateboarding, RallyCross and Moto X to see how they are managing this year of X to the power of four and why many think L.A. will be the best stop yet.
X athletes such as Mitchie Brusco (top left), Laia Sanz (top right), Travis Pastrana and Ken Block (bottom left) and Chad Kagy (bottom right) have spent 2013 traveling the world in pursuit of X Games gold. From scenic backdrops and beautiful venues to X Games' firsts and more than a few falls, they share their season-long experiences and tell us why X Games L.A. will be the best stop yet.
Competes In: BMX Big Air and Vert
"We are all definitely riding at a higher level than we've ever ridden and the sport is progressing," Warden said. "But we are so busy we haven't had time to go back to the drawing board and work on new tricks. So it will be nice to have the [month between Munich and L.A.] to take a break. I definitely have a few things up my sleeve and I think L.A. will be one of the best competitions we've ever seen."
Competes In: BMX Big Air
"My third run looked like I slid out nice and easy. But the hip I was sliding on is the one that has a screw in it and a bunch of scar tissue from when I broke my femur a couple of years ago at the X Games and whenever I hit it hurts really bad," said Kagy of one of the two hard falls he took en route to a BMX Big Air gold medal in Munich. "Some days are better than others, but I'll take my office over most people's any day. The two runs I fell on I was trying something totally new -- cliffhanger to a flair, double tail whip -- that I hope to have dialed by L.A. L.A. will be a whole new day a whole new contest."
Competes In: BMX Big Air and Park
"Everyone wants to push it. It's the nature of the sport," Wade said after finishing second in BMX Big Air in Munich. "MegaRamp has progressed a ton this year. We are doing so many new tricks on both hits. We know what tricks everyone is working on and we want to see [each other] stick their stuff. It's exciting when that happens. It makes for a better comp, a better session and happier riders."
Competes In: BMX Vert and Big Air (retired)
The Condor is no stranger to big falls and was on hand in Munich when Warden and Kagy each fell twice in the Big Air competition. Its not easy to watch, said the retired pioneer of going big on a BMX on a quarterpipe. But its part of the deal with progressing the sport and the guys know it. Pictured above in 2011, Hoffman accepts Kagys bronze medal when Kagy was carted off on a stretcher after a crash in Big Air.
Competes In: Skateboard Big Air and Vert
"This global X Games adventure has really been good for me and good for everyone because it gives us all opportunities to try all our hardest tricks more than just once a year," said Brusco, who withdrew from the Big Air competition in Munich because of a back injury. "It's really treated me well overall, though. I've done a couple new things I'd never been able to do before this year, just because there have been more events. It makes it more of a grind and there have been more injuries, but overall I think the extra events have been for the best for everyone."
Competes In: Skateboard Big Air and Vert
"I'm just happy to be skateboarding. X Games adding events this year has been huge for Big Air and for skateboarding in general," said Burnquist, who surpassed Dave Mirra for the most career X Games medals when he took gold in Big Air in Munich. "It's amazing to be able to travel around the world showing people what we do and to have the platform to compete at the highest level. It's really brought the best out of all of my competitors and it's been pushing all of us to keep progressing. It's been awesome."
Competes In: Skateboard Big Air
"It used to be you had to wait all year for X Games for a proper Big Air contest, just thinking about it and thinking about it," said Sloan, shown here after a hard fall in the Skateboard Big Air competition in Munich. He was uninjured and returned to the competition. "Having four events in a row this year has given us a great opportunity to push the sport and get it out in front of some new fans. It's been a great excuse to travel the world."
Competes In: Street League at X Games
Cole nailed his final run in Munich to take home his first Street League win and his first X Games gold medal of 2013. Nyjah Huston didn't compete in Munich because of an out-of-competition injury. Since then, Paul Rodriguez won the Street League stop in Portland, Ore., setting up another SLS clash when Huston returns to compete at X Games L.A.
Competes In: Women's Enduro X
Sanz has done a good amount of globetrotting keeping up with this year's global expansion of the X Games. After dominating the first two races in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, and Barcelona, Spain, Sanz finished second behind Maria Forsberg in the Munich Women's Enduro X race. On the same weekend she won gold in Barcelona, Sanz also competed in the FIM Enduro World Championship in neighboring Portugal. The rivalry with Forsberg takes center stage again Aug. 4 in L.A.
Competes In: Women's Enduro X
"I've had to take time off work due to the X Games schedule this year," said Forsberg, who's held down a real job at Boeing for the past eight years, mixing a 40-hour work week with her racing schedule. "A lot of the girls I race with don't have jobs or they work part-time. It adds up, trying to fit everything in. It's been hard. I try not to complain because I'm truly living the dream. I'm able to fly out Friday and then come back and work on Monday."
Competes In: Moto X Step Up, Best Whip
"Munich was just amazing and I think winning gold in Step Up was my ticket to L.A.," said Podmol, who hails from the Czech Republic. "This year, I've gotten to know great, new people, food and friends and I'm ready to do it again in L.A. It's always been my dream to compete there and I'm ready to show my American fans my wild European attitude."
Competes In: RallyCross and NASCAR
Pastrana is one of the most iconic athletes in the history of the X Games. This year, he's been one of the busiest, too, juggling his GRC racing with a full season of racing on the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Pastrana traveled all the way to Barcelona for the X Games RallyCross race there, only to have it canceled and rescheduled for Munich. "My favorite stop this year was Brazil," Pastrana said. "It was obviously a first for a GRC stop down there and everything wasn't perfect, but it was still a really cool experience to live that for the first time with so many people. But L.A. X Games is the big one and I wouldn't miss that one for the world."
Competes In: RallyCross and Gymkhana GRID
"This year has certainly been a tough year in terms of how much travel we're doing, but it's actually easier from a driving and competition side compared to doing a year of World Rally Car races," said Block, chatting here with Travis Pastrana during RallyCross practice in Foz "More seat time in the car means I get to continue to develop my skills as a driver. I try to learn something new every time I get into the car."
The season and the racing have been hard on the cars, too. In a wet and wild race in Munich -- a makeup race for the rain-canceled RallyCross event in Barcelona -- Liam Doran rode the second half of the race on three wheels to hold off Ken Block for gold. RallyCross has been a great addition to the X Games, but with a price tag of
, per event, it's easily the most costly to contest. roughly $100,000 per team
Competes In: BMX Park
"I already go to Europe for other events in between X Games. So instead of going on three or four overseas trips, I ended up doing like eight in three months," said Dhers, who along with rival Scotty Cranmer will be on the sidelines in L.A. because there is no Park event. "It has been very demanding, but it has been great to ride all these events for sure. I feel like we adapted our riding to the courses and if our tricks weren't progressing from event to event our skills were for sure."
Competes In: BMX Park
Cranmer, last year's gold medalist in BMX Park at X Games L.A., returned to form in Munich with a battle for the ages with Daniel Dhers. In the end, Cranmer settled for silver, then reflected on the extended season. "It's taken a toll," Cranmer said. "I was in Maryland at the Dew Tour the week before Munich. So we are competing week in and week out against an amazing talent level and traveling the world to do it. But the X Games are building great courses. They are big and that's the type of course that allows us to ride our best and put on a great show."