BARCELONA, Spain -- Tennessee off-road racing legend Mike Brown grabbed the holeshot and defended his lead through a captivating finish to win his second Ford Men's Enduro X gold medal Saturday night.
Brown, who at 41 was the oldest man in the race, narrowly held off silver medalist Colton Haaker, 23, who came within inches of passing Brown at the last moment. Brown's bike got stuck between two rocks and his back wheel started spinning, but he muscled it free just in time to rocket the final 50 feet through the finish.
Cody Webb claimed bronze for his third medal in his last three X Games appearances.
Poland's Taddy Blazusiak, the perennial favorite and defending champion in the event from X Games Foz do Iguaçu, shadowed Brown for much of the 10-lap race, pulling even while both were suspended 20 feet in the air on Lap 9. But the landing bucked Blazusiak, and he fell back from there, ultimately crashing near the end of the race and settling for fourth.
"That's what you call a good race," Brown said. "It's hard to get a start like that and beat Taddy and lead in front of him. I had arm problems from probably Lap 5 on but was just like, I can do it, I can do it, one more lap and then another lap and another lap."
Brown also won gold last summer in Los Angeles before dropping to sixth in Brazil last month.
His KTM bike ran well throughout the night Saturday, propelling him to a qualifying heat win then the crucial holeshot around the initial 180-degree turn in the final. He led Blazusiak by one to two seconds for most of the race until Blazusiak's fall gave Brown a bigger margin. Brown crossed two seconds ahead of first-time XG medalist Haaker and 23 ahead of Blazusiak.
"That last lap I had arm troubles," Brown said. "I thought I'd take it easy through these rocks, I've got a little bit of a lead, and that always happens when you relax -- something goes wrong. I got stuck on the rocks there, and I wasn't paying attention."
In retrospect, Haaker said that after he passed Blazusiak he was focused on second place as opposed to the win.
"And then Brown ended up messing up twice in the last section, and I'm like, 'Oh, I shouldn't have given up. I could've been right there and went right around him for the win.'" Haaker said. "So lesson to be learned: Always keep pushing and moving forward."
Ford Men's Enduro X Final