Two week ago, I profiled X Games Los Angeles BMX Vert invite Steve McCann. Since last year's X Games 17, McCann has progressed mightily in the realm of BMX Vert. Last summer at XG17, he debuted two new tricks and landed both with ease -- the no-handed 900 and the triple tailwhip. McCann became the second person in BMX history to land the no-handed 900 in vert competition (Mat Hoffman landed the first no-handed 9 at X Games in 2002) and the second person to land the triple tailwhip on vert (Coco Zurita landed the world's first triple tailwhip in 2007, Zack Warden followed suit just a few weeks ago on the MegaRamp at Woodward West, and yes I am full of useless knowledge, including a picture-perfect memory of Joe Johnson attempting the world's first triple tailwhip on vert in 1989 at Woodward...)
But I digress.
After X Games 17, Steve McCann did the once unthinkable. In mid-September of 2011, he beat Jamie Bestwick at the Dew Tour Salt Lake City stop by .13 points, utilizing the same tricks he had debuted at X Games 17. I'll be honest -- it was exciting to see some new competition for Bestwick, and BMX fans seemed to agree. Though he had been bested by Chad Kagy and Dave Mirra in years past, Bestwick hadn't lost a contest in a long time. And to recant what I had written mere weeks ago, McCann's newfound place atop the vert podium had marked a shift in BMX Vert competitions. Before X Games 17, BMX Vert was a battle for silver behind Bestwick. After X Games 17, Steve McCann had leveled the playing field.
McCann wasn't alone. By the time the 2011 Dew Tour finals had arrived in Las Vegas last October, Vince Byron was also applying steady pressure to the first place podium spot. In the end of the Vegas finals, Byron had taken first place, followed by McCann in second, and Bestwick in an uncharacteristic third place.
Bestwick still managed to win the year-end Dew Cup (his seventh to date, no one else has ever won a Dew Cup in BMX Vert), but he was now pulling out previously unseen tricks to shoot for the first place spot (including the double flair, which he slid out on at the end of his run). After watching the Vegas Dew Tour stop, I started to wonder -- new competition from Byron and McCann potentially meant new trick debuts from Bestwick. As a longstanding fan of vert, that was a good thing for all parties involved, including the riders, the progression of vert, and pure vert fans.
In the months since the Las Vegas Dew Tour finals, there has been one professional vert contest --- X Games Asia in late April of this year. Vince Byron took gold, followed by Steve McCann in the silver medal spot, and Chad Kagy in the bronze medal spot. Jamie Bestwick was invited to ride, but declined the invite. Speculation on the end of Bestwick's run of dominance in BMX Vert began to circulate. Was he over it? Was the competition getting to him? Would we ever get to see those unspoken "rumor tricks" that Bestwick supposedly possessed?
On Saturday, Bestwick proved everyone wrong at X Games Los Angeles 2012. Without even debuting a slew of new tricks, he easily marched into the gold medal spot with tricks that included old standbys such as the double tailwhip flair, new combinations including the downside tailwhip to turndown, and trademark Bestwick finesse that included airs in the 12-foot range, an unmatched vert pump, and flow that spanned the entire reach of the ramp.
He scored an 86, a full 14 points ahead of the silver (Vince Byron) and bronze (Simon Tabron) positions. (Byron and Tabron tied for second place, which was later broken by a tie.) Byron crashed several double tailwhip 540 attempts, Tabron slipped his pedals on a 900 landing, and \McCann went down particularly hard on several no-handed 900 attempts. Meanwhile, Bestwick was able to stay on his bike throughout the entire contest.
Saturday night, once again, Bestwick had no competition, and it netted him the second six-peat ever in X Games history (Tony Hawk and Andy Macdonald six-peated in Skate Vert Doubles from 1997 to 2002).
As for the rest of the field, McCann said recently that X Games ultimately comes down to moments. Last year, he achieved that moment when everything fell right into place. This year, that moment did not happen, but he's not down on Bestwick for taking the first BMX six-peat in X Games history. Instead, McCann congratulated Bestwick for his riding and said "he killed it" on the vert ramp. Then he took an ice bath.
Personally, I have no doubt in my mind that another day will come when McCann and Byron rise to the occasion and give Bestwick a run for his money in BMX Vert. For now though, Jamie Bestwick remains the undisputed king of BMX Vert at X Games, six times in a row.