2011 NORA Cup Predictions -- Ramps

Zack Warden introduces the backflip bikeflip to the world of BMX for his first Asian X Games Gold.

As the Ride BMX 15th annual NORA Cup Awards approaches in mid-September, it's already time to take a look back at the last 12 months in review and see who killed it. First up, we take a look at the NORA Cup Ramp Rider of the Year award, and who might take the win come September 15 in Las Vegas.

Last year, the win went to DK's Drew Bezanson, and there is not a doubt in our minds that Drew will again be nominated this year. Alongside Drew, we've chosen the best of the best from the past twelve months. As a reminder, the NORA Cup is based on, according to Ride's Ryan Fudger, "who you think has been killing it starting from NORA Cup 2010 (September), not who's the best ever."

If it was the "Best Ever," I'd throw in the towel early and opt out with Mat Hoffman, but that's not the case here. Instead, I've narrowed it down to Jamie Bestwick, Drew Bezanson, Dennis Enarson, Chase Hawk, Gary Young, Daniel Dhers, Zack Warden, Chad Kagy, Scotty Cranmer and Tom Dugan. Without a doubt, they've all had stellar years, pushed the boundaries of ramp riding in general, and all deserve a nod for even making it onto this list. But this category, based on the generality of calling it "Ramp Rider of the Year," always throws me off a little, and here's why.

Yes, Bestwick had an amazing year, but he only rides vert. And the same goes for Daniel Dhers -- he can shred a Dew Tour park course to bits, but that's only one type of ramp riding. Maybe I over think this, but to me, the idea of "Ramp Rider of the Year" seems more applicable to the type of rider that rides any type of ramp in his path, from MegaRamp to vert to park to the local pre-fab skatepark. And on top of that, I like to know that my choice for Ramp Rider of the Year is pushing the progression of not only themselves, but the sport.

Last year, I went with Chad Kagy. He didn't win, and didn't even make the top five nominations, but he met all of my over-thought requirements, and he did it with conviction and a smile on his face. This year, I could've easily picked Chad again, and not had any qualms about it. But I decided to take my vote in a new direction, and went with Hoffman Bikes rider Zack Warden.

Alli Sports/Pete Demos

Personally, we feel that Zack has pushed himself in all areas of ramp riding within the past year, from inventing new box jump tricks (such as the 360 bike flip and backflip bike flip), to winning Mini Mega at Asian X, to gaining a few feet on vert airs.

At X Games 17, Zack Warden stayed in a dive hotel for $60 a night on the outskirts of old town in Los Angeles. He rolled the dice in Big Air and unfortunately didn't land his now trademark backflip bike flip over the MegaRamp, but he went for it each and every time before riding his bike two miles back to his dive hotel room. Earlier in the year, Zack's go-for-it attitude did actually win him a Gold Medal at X Games Asia, and before that, he was bringing new tricks to the table, including the backflip bike flip and the 360 bike flip (a trick he calls the 'Iron Lotus.') Zack is actively pursuing new horizons in all areas of ramp riding, including vert, and I know that even though it's a long shot, I can confidently say that Zack Warden stepped it up in the past year, and deserves some recognition for his efforts.

And that's why I voted for Zack Warden as Ramp Rider of the Year.

The 15th annual NORA Cup Awards hits The Palms hotel in Las Vegas, Nev. on Sept. 15. Who takes the Ramp Rider of the Year award for 2011 is anyone's guess, but our gallery might offer some helpful hints in the meantime. See you in Vegas.

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