Motocross

Flat-out!

Flat-out!

I’M WRITING this one day after Belgium’s overall victory in the Motocross des/of Nations (it’s odd that the Euros are going with ‘of’ while we Yanks seem to want to stick with ‘des’, even though we famously only I’M WRITING this one day after Belgium’s overall victory in the Motocross des/of Nations (it’s odd that the Euros are going with ‘of’ while we Yanks seem to want to stick with ‘des’, even though we famously only speak English). Stateside, the event made a stunning leap from virtual irrelevance to it’s-all-we-can-talk-about status during the past month. At the centre of the excitement was the much-hyped Stefan Everts V Ricky Carmichael showdown and the result – Belgium taking the team overall and Carmichael edging Everts in the individuals – should set the table nicely for next year’s event. Let’s just hope a few more countries decide to send their first-team players in ’04 and that this great race remains an important tradition for years to come.
The past month also saw a bizarre turn of events in the AMA Chevy Trucks US Motocross nationals as the final round at Kenworthy’s MX Park in Troy, Ohio, was flat-out cancelled due to flooding. The race had already been moved once before thanks to the Great Miami River’s swollen banks – the track was under six feet of water the weekend before the event – and its temporary position as the season-ending event didn’t last long. Once again the river burst its banks after heavy rains and the AMA had no choice but to truncate the series, calling it a day after 11 rounds.
This played into the hands of former world champion Grant Langston who was in the 125cc points lead at the time and the South African took (or, as some have said, was handed) the title. Of course, second-placed Ryan Hughes – who was in brilliant form all year after suspending his retirement – was less than thrilled by the outcome. Troy was his last chance to make up Langston’s seven-point lead but that chance never came. The topic remains highly controversial but there’s simply no dodging the truth – like it or not, there was nothing else that could be done. The logistics involved in moving the race were tremendous and the factories wouldn’t have tolerated yet another week tacked on to the schedule. It sucks for Ryno and Grant’s championship will forever carry an asterisk, not the way either man would like it – but there you go.
Finally, I’d like to spend some time on my fellow dbr columnist Travis Pastrana. The ’03 Gravity Games marked the first time Travis has ever been defeated in freestyle motocross competition. His defeat came partially via Nate Adams, whose solid second run topped Travis’ first heat (at least in the judges’ minds). But the fault was mainly Pastrana’s and can be pinpointed to his own ambition.
Travis’ attempted back-flip seat-grab failed to gel and he was knocked briefly unconscious when his head smacked the ground on landing. The trick was a lost cause from the beginning, the trajectory of the dirt launch just didn’t seem right for it and freestyle’s Golden Boy was forced to bow out of the competition. It wouldn’t have counted anyway – his time had already run out.
Seeing him get up in a daze, national television cameras clinging to him for dear life, was depressing. Worse yet were his first words – "I hate getting knocked out" – which reminded viewers that these things are just a normal part of his life. Travis then got up slowly, removed his helmet and began jogging over to the crowd. He jumped the fence and began celebrating wildly with the awestruck onlookers, running up into the bleachers – much to the dismay of the event security and especially his mother.
Safely tucked into the staging tower, the cameras still glued on him, Travis began talking in a rapid, confused manner. "I lost my vision, having…I don’t remember anything… What’s they say? Am I leading…?" In fact he was leading but he had no clue as to why because he had no memory of his run. When the NBC announcer interviewed a still-dazed Pastrana, the following exchange took place.
NBC: "Travis, you knew you were going for that trick at the end."
TP: "What did I do?"
When the back-flip seat-grab was mentioned, Travis asked if he had landed it. It was sad of course but in an unusual sort of way. The thing is, you never see your heroes that vulnerable. Here was the superhuman, multi-talented, indestructible boy, an icon to a generation and an athlete gifted with immense creativity and bravery, enduring post-concussion amnesia on national television. It was reminiscent of another sporting icon – Muhammad Ali. And if you’ve seen what has become of the Champ, whose Parkinson’s Disease has been linked to repeated blows to the head, you can’t help but wonder where we’ll be able to end that comparison. Pastrana was a complete mess and that hasn’t done much to ease my mind.
I hope Travis and his family will stop and think about where life is heading. He’s due to have knee surgery now, so maybe the time off will give him that chance. He has already suffered more than 10 serious concussions, not to mention 30-plus broken bones and a dozen or so operations. I realize that riding motorcycles is a huge part of Travis’ life but I’m more concerned with what kind of life he’s going to have, say, 10 years down the road. You know, when he’s 29.
Jeff Kocan, courtesy RacerX