BARCELONA, Spain -- After Chad Kagy successfully pulled off several awesome flair tricks in the BMX Vert contest Friday evening, Jamie Bestwick went over to him atop the ramp and told him, "Well done. Good job." The two also complimented each other off to the side after Bestwick won his eighth consecutive gold medal in the event.
That may not sound like Republicans and Democrats agreeing on a budget, but it was a noteworthy moment and perhaps marked a turning point Kagy says he would welcome. The two competitors were great friends once upon a time, but competitive tensions have ruptured the relationship to the point Kagy did not invite Bestwick to his wedding last month.
"Jamie and I have had tension over the last couple years and we spoke more today than we had in the last 12 months," said Kagy, the last person to win X Games gold in BMX Vert before Bestwick started his phenomenal run. "Whatever has happened in the past, happened. It is what it is. Today we made it to the point where we took a private moment off to the side and said, 'Let's be done with it. Let's get over it.' There are only a few of us out there. Let's enjoy this. There doesn't need to be that much drama out there.
"I mean, for God's sake, we are riding little kid bikes for a living. That's always my joke. How much drama can there be when all of us are grown men riding small bicycles?"
Good point. But when you get right down to it, all sports are inherently trivial, whether they are men riding little bikes or riding $15,000 carbon fiber road bikes or driving $125,000 race cars or, for that matter, simply throwing leather balls around a field. Competition breeds rivalry, and it's not always friendly.
As silver medalist Simon Tabron said of the relationships in his event, "There are very, very big tensions and there are very close friendships."
Kagy, who finished fourth Friday, admits that he used to have such a gnarly competition focus that other bikers told him they feared his prerace glare would slice their heads in half. "Some get involved in the competition more than others at different times of our lives," he said. "Not to point any fingers at anybody because we've all been guilty of it at certain times of our lives."
"Jamie is the most ferocious competitor," Tabron said. "He's driven, OK? And he and Chad have fallen out over that. They were friends once but they aren't friends right now, but that's not to say they won't be friends in the future. But when people are really, really driven I'm sure you can appreciate that it can be hard to be around people like that. People rub each other the wrong way sometimes."
Such a fierce drive is what keeps Bestwick at the top. He won again Friday despite his nearly 42 years, despite a painful Achilles tendon he dinged on his second run and despite a highly competitive field that saw the three medalists finishing within a single point. That's quite a contrast to Bestwick's usual double-digit margins of victory in recent events.
"I've felt them at my heels for years," Bestwick said of his competitors. "I'm going to be 42 and these guys are younger than me. It's no shame to lose to any of them. I know that every top guy has his time, but while I'm at the top I'm still going to milk this puppy for all it's worth."
Despite landing front flip flairs and a flair double tailwhip, Kagy finished just behind bronze medalist Vince Byron and off the podium.
"I think it's fair to say Chad Kagy stole the show with his front flair but we had solid runs," Bestwick said. "It's a 30-second contest and I think that's what the judges are really looking for. You've got to be high, you've got to be smooth. You've got to be going in all directions. And sometimes that's what it takes to win a contest."
Kagy said Friday was one of the top three Vert contests he has ever seen or competed in. "The camaraderie, the friendship and the battle up there rank in the highest as well," he said. "Everyone was smiling and everyone walked away. Usually those really gnarly contests end up with someone going away on a stretcher."
Indeed, last month's X Games in Brazil ended with Tabron riding away in an ambulance after he broke his nose on the handlebars and bled all over the ramp. That not only ruined his competition, it spelled potential trouble for Kagy's wedding because Tabron was set to be the best man.
"I was in the ambulance texting Chad, 'I'm going to look like a panda bear at your wedding, I'm so sorry,'" Tabron recalled, adding the nose didn't look too bad at the ceremony. "It was a little yellow, a little swollen, I still had the stitches. I had this magic tape over it and the lights were down low for the speeches, so it was OK. But fortunately, at least half the wedding guests had watched the X Games so they knew what happened. It was a great talking point -- the best man with a broken nose."
But it wasn't as great as Kagy riding into the reception with his bride standing atop pegs attached to the rear wheel and a "Just Married" sign on the handlebars. "I was scared her dress was going to get pulled into the back wheel," Tabron said. "It was some clever maneuvering. You could tell Chad was a professional."
There were several top bikers at Kagy's wedding, but Bestwick was not among them. They were once good friends, they live in the same town, their wives see each other at yoga, but Bestwick did not receive a wedding invitation. But perhaps Friday was a sign that an invitation to an anniversary party is not out of the question.
"Our relationship is and has been for a few years, professionally based," Kagy said. "I think as time goes on, we'll see how things progress -- you can't count your chickens until they're hatched -- and see how things go. We've been great friends in the past ...
"Turning points are always good. Positive directions, I like those."