2011 -- The Year in FMX/Motocross
And now, a year-end list recounting the good, the bad, and the ugly in FMX and motocross in 2011...
A first time for everything
Jackson "Jacko" Strong made FMX history in the Moto X Best Trick competition at X Games 17 with the first front flip ever landed in competition, beating out Cam Sinclair's double backflip nac-nac variation and Josh Sheehan's double backflip. Did it just get a little bit crazy in here? Mark Monea upped the ante at the Monster Energy Cup in October with an off-axis front flip 360 he's calling a "Carry On.". What's next? We can't wait to see.
Former AMA Supercross and Motocross champion James Stewart ended up on the wrong side of the law after using flashing blue lights he bought at a flea market to prank another vehicle in Orlando, Fla. in March. It was all fun and games except that two off-duty highway patrol officers happened to be driving the vehicle he pulled over. Whoops! Stewart ducked felony charges for impersonating a police officer but was fined $500 and sentenced to 75 hours of community service after pleading "no contest" to a misdemeanor charge of improperly using flashing or rotating lights on a motor vehicle. In happier news, Stewart signed with Joe Gibbs Racing to race on Yamaha through 2014, after finishing fourth overall in the 2011 AMA Supercross series
Villopoto rules moto
Ryan Villopoto cleaned up all season long, winning the 2011 AMA Supercross title and the 2011 AMA Outdoor National Championships. He also won the Motocross of Nations (held this year in St. Jean D'Angely, France), leading Team USA to its seventh consecutive MXoN win, then picked up a cool $1 million at the Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas in October, and put out two new signature shoes with Vans, a longtime sponsor. Cha-ching! Look for him to defend all of those titles -- and rock those new kicks -- in 2012.
¡Viva el Toreador!
After taking the bronze in Moto X Freestyle at X Games 17, Spanish rider Dany Torres beat out defending champ Nate Adams and Andre Villa to win the 2011 Red Bull X-Fighters international championships after a strong season with wins in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and on home dirt in Madrid, Spain. He also won the Freestyle.ch event in Switzerland in September, and will be the hombre to beat in 2012. Torres is proof that the future of FMX is becoming increasingly international.
Pastranathon goes on and on
The busiest dude in sports got even busier in 2011, with a MegaRamp marriage proposal to professional skateboarder Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins at the end of their Nitro Circus Live tour together; the couple married in November in an uncharacteristically private ceremony. Pastrana started the year with plans to race in NASCAR's Nationwide series, tour the world with his Nitro Circus, keep up his rally car racing commitments, and throw down at X Games 17, but it all came crashing down -- quite literally -- when he wiped out and broke his foot and ankle on a 720 "TP Roll" attempt in the Moto X Best Trick competition at X Games 17. He still managed to finish fourth in the X Games RallyCross event, driving a Subaru rigged with hand controls for the occasion. Other Pastrana achievements in 2011 included a Rider of the Decade award at the International Freestyle Motocross Association's 10th annual FMX Awards, induction into the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame, a six-page fashion spread in GQ, an ESPY nomination, and the grand opening of his new Nitro City Panama Action Sports Resort in Punta Chame, Panama (seriously!). By the end of the year he was back in action, competing in the Race of Champions on an unlikely team with longtime rival Brian Deegan. Not awesome enough for you? He's also currently a finalist in SportsNation's 2nd annual Awesomest Dude of the Year poll.
If it has wheels and a motor, then Brian "The General" Deegan can probably kick butt with it. In the ever-unfolding sequel to his long FMX career, the Metal Mulisha co-founder won RallyCross gold at X Games 17 then went back to truck racing to claim the dual class championship in the 2011 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. And wait, there's more: In November he unveiled his new Metal Mulisha/Ford monster truck and announced plans to compete in the 2012 Monster Jam events. Deegan, smash! He also pummeled BMX star Dave Mirra (and took a beating himself) to win the EllisMania title in a boxing brawl in September, released a new signature etnies shoe in October, and joined Pastrana in the Race of Champions in Dusseldorf, Germany in early December. He'll also have a big part in the Metal Mulisha film Black Friday, directed by Jay Schweitzer and due out any day now.
The FMX field was plagued by injuries in 2011, a reflection of just how risky the sport has become as the tricks have progressed, and three motocross deaths this year hit hard for action sports athletes and fans alike: Motocross racer Josh Lichtle died of heat stroke complications at the 2011 Rockstar Energy RedBud National in Michigan in July, prompting his family to found Godspeed 811, a hyperthermia campaign aimed at educating other riders about how to battle dehydration. Jeff "Ox" Kargola died in April in an accident during the Rip to the Tip ride in Mexico. And Jim "The Real Deal" McNeil died in November while practicing for an exhibition at the Texas Motor Speedway. Chris Ackerman, a Metal Mulisha lifer who has been in a wheelchair since his spinal cord injury eight years ago, gave a moving tribute to the fallen riders on Sunday at the R.A.D. Awards, asking everyone to "Take a minute to remember our friends...we miss you guys."
X Games sets the tone
Enduro X made its X Games debut this summer, introducing action sports fans to endurocross, the gnarliest breed of racing we know of. The event turned out to be a crystal ball on the rest of the endurocross season: After beating Mike Brown and Justin Soule to win gold, Polish rider Taddy Blazusiak went on to complete a perfect season, claiming his third consecutive AMA Endurocross title after wins at all eight of the season's main events. He also won the FIM World Indoor Enduro Championship, and claimed his fifth consecutive win at Erzberg, an extreme enduro in Austria. Maria Forsberg's Enduro X win at X Games 17 was similarly prophetic: After beating Tarah Gieger and Kacy Martinez to top the podium in Los Angeles, Forsberg also went undefeated in 2011, winning her second GNCC Championship title, taking AMA Racing Female Athlete of the Year, and landing a deal to become the first female rider with a factory deal from her longtime sponsor FMF/KTM Racing.
Raising the bar
And, rounding out our year-end highlight reel, Matt Buyten set a new world record at X Games 17, beating out Ronnie Renner and Myles Richmond with a massive 37-foot jump in Moto X Step Up. Other big moto moments at X17 included Nate Adams' Moto X Freestyle and Speed & Style wins, Jeremy Stenberg's Best Whip, and Vicki Golden grabbing the gold over Tarah Geiger and Livia Lancelot in Women's Moto X Racing. We can't wait to see what 2012 will bring.
Maddo goes the distance?
We're speculating here, but our money's on Robbie Maddison to reclaim the distance jump record on New Year's Eve at the Red Bull New Year. No Limits event, which will be televised live on ESPN. The current record, set by Ryan Capes, stands at 391 feet; Maddo's aiming to push past 400, leaping across San Diego Harbor and jumping in tandem with snowmobiler Levi LaVallee while he's at it. The scariest part? We're guessing he has even bigger New Year's resolutions heading into 2012.