With all the drama, excitement and tragedy that surrounded this year’s Winter X Games, we would be remiss if we didn’t give proper respect to the snocross winner and six-peat record holder Tucker Hibbert. As much as we try and elevate the entire sport and put the spotlight on new heroes, there is no overlooking the talent, effort and determination of Hibbert and the entire Monster Energy/Arctic Cat team.
Hibbert is back to his dominating form of pre 2011 and it’s going to take a twisted ripple in the cosmos to change that anytime soon.
By now you’ve all seen or heared about who finished where at the X Games, so here are some observations and backstories from our last seven days on the road with the snocross circus.
First of all being a professional racer is not the glamorous life you might expect. The days between races are filled with hours and hours of testing and travel and often times not during the most prime times or conditions. Four days of hanging out in Aspen sounds great, but the reality is that very few even make it into town for anything more than an overpriced meal.
One of the most dramatic moments of WXG snocross happened during Saturday night practice and never made TV. As the riders and crews gathered in staging at the side of the 110′ downhill double, the air became thick with anxiety, not to mention the huge snowflakes that were coming down like nobody’s business. For the first time that we have ever seen in over 25 years of being involved with the sport, the entire staging area was dead silent as Robbie Malinoski and Darrin Mees, the only two riders on the track, made several run-ups to the big double. On about the fifth attempt, Mees committed, clearing the gap and landing just beyond the second lip, rebound another 20 feet down the landing and eventually riding it out. Malinoski then followed and the two made another handful of completed passes before the track crew ultimately shaved four to six feet off the top of the landing and turned everyone loose.
Idaho’s Willie Elam came out of virtually nowhere to compete in all four snowmobile categories and do a respectable job in each. Elam, who is one of the nicest guys in the sport has always had tons of natural ability but never quite flourished in the pressure-packed atmosphere of a national tour. Willie has spent the last couple of season developing his freestyle skills and was a bit over matched in the straight up big trick comps, but just missed the podium in Speed and Style and grabbed a holeshot over Tucker Hibbert in his snocross qualifier and was looking good until going off-track at mid-race.
AMSOIL’s Robbie Malinoski had a week he would just as soon forget. After badly bruising his knee during the final at Eagle River last week, Malinoski was barely able to test with the team in Colorado and then found himself getting bounced a couple more times in his heat and LCQ and had to spectate for the main event.
Team Sweden seems to be finding their stride at mid season as Emil Ohman finished fourth on the Warnert Racing Ski-Doo with Petter Narsa turning in an equally impressive performance for Boss Racing in fifth and Johan Lidman rounding out the top 10 on his Arctiva Polaris.
Derek Ellis shuffled back and fourth between the midwest, New York and Aspen to make his first appearance in the X Games. Ellis was steady throughout the day, making the main event and finishing a very respectable eighth.
Kody Kamm made his mark at Winter X by being the only rider to jump the entire step-on, step-off quad on the uphill. All of the air time didn’t translate to a quicker section time but sure looked wicked. Kamm was in the hunt for a fourth place finish but admitted after the race that having to ride the LCQ took too much out of him and he just plain wore out in the closing laps and had to settle for sixth.
Mike Schultz is hands down the quickest guy in any adaptive sport he enters, but Sunday’s snocross final was anything but a cakewalk. Schultz crashed hard in morning practice and had to thrash to get his sled ready for the final. With all of the adrenaline flowing, Schultz turned over in the first corner and had to make a made dash through the field to get the win.
Heath Frisby and his Monster Energy Ski-Doo took a beating in Thursday practice and never regained form to make a run at best trick. He did pull a wicked underflip and got jobbed on the score. Speaking of which, Joe Parsons’ gator wrestler to switch landing was the most impressive jump of the weekend but he, too, got the short end of subjective judging.
Levi LaVallee reinforced his place in history as a legit freestyler winning two golds, but an injury from the heavy weekend workload, forced him to withdraw from Snocross and Best Trick.
Zack Pattyn and the Stud Boy team suffered through an emotionally devastating weekend, as Pattyn battled a gnarly flu bug and had to withdraw at the last minute in the best interest of his and other competitor’s safety.
With LaVallee and Pattyn pulling out, Pro Lite racers Jake Scott and Dave Joanis cashed in their alternate chips and were included in Sunday’s lineup. Joanis just missed the last transfer in the LCQ, while Scott continued his climb toward the A list with a seventh.
Back to rockstar lifestyle… several of the teams had trouble with their rigs between Aspen and Deadwood. Most of the issues were generator related, meaning a full day of shuffling around in the cold on what should have been an easy setup day. The Carlson Motorsports crew was forced to drop their genset at a shop in Buffalo, Wyoming, while even the pride of the fleet, Judnick Motorsport hauler required a fuel pump swap.