X Games Munich: What To Watch
The revolving Olympic Tower and famously forward-looking venues built for the 1972 Olympics blend seamlessly with the new structures built here in recent weeks for X Games Munich at the city's famed Olympiapark. Looming in the distance on the park's Olympic Hill is a massive slopestyle course for the first-ever Mountain Bike Slopestyle competition at the X Games. In the foreground, on the lake in Olympiapark, sits a BMX and Skateboard Big Air MegaRamp. It's a fitting backdrop for the action, which gets underway on Thursday with four days packed full of skateboarding, BMX, motocross, endurocross, rallycross, and freestyle mountain bike competition. Here's a look at what's ahead.
Thursday, June 27
7 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. ET: SLS Select Series
The Street League Skateboarding Select Series gives 10 prequalified skaters and five local wild cards from each X Games host city the chance to skate in each main Street League at X Games event. Manny Santiago has been dominating the Select Series, winning in Foz do Iguaçu and Barcelona, where he went on to earn bronze -- his first X Games medal -- behind Nyjah Huston and Paul Rodriguez. Greg Lutzka has placed second behind him each time, however, so Munich could be the stop where Santiago's streak comes to an end.
11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. ET: Skateboard Park, Skateboard Vert
Speed and flow rule in Skateboard Park, and those traits have been Pedro Barros' stock and trade, propelling him to four gold medals and a silver in his five X Games appearances. Barros, 18, and Curren Caples, 17, represent a generation of skaters who grew up in the concrete skatepark era and now seem all but unbeatable in the bowls. (Barros has used some of his X Games winnings to build his own backyard skate paradise back home in Florianópolis, Brazil.) But don't count out veterans like Danish skater Rune Glifberg, 38, who has competed at X Games every year since it first began and has 12 medals to show for his 20 X Games appearances.
Bucky Lasek, the oldest skater in the field at 40, has successfully held off a similar generational shift in Skateboard Vert. He'll be looking for a three-peat in Munich, bringing his career X Games Vert gold tally to six.
Lasek still has to watch out for Mitchie Brusco, 16, who became the youngest Vert medalist in X Games history last month with his bronze in Barcelona and has been consistently landing 900s on the vert ramp.
After a brief flirtation with new competition formats that emphasized lip tricks and best tricks, the Munich contest will return to basics with scoring based on the best full-run scores.
Friday, June 28
12 p.m. - 2 p.m. ET: GoPro BMX Big Air
Zack Warden nabbed his first X Games gold in Foz do Iguaçu and his second one month later in Barcelona. His secret weapon? The bikeflip backflip over the MegaRamp's 70-foot gap. He debuted the trick in Brazil and upgraded it to a bikeflip backflip tailwhip combo in Spain, which he then followed with a massive triple tailwhip on the quarterpipe. There's no telling what else he might have up his sleeve for Munich.
Other podium favorites in the mix include Chad Kagy and Steve McCann, who've each won Big Air gold twice before, and two-time silver medalist Vince Byron.
2 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. ET: Moto X Best Whip, Moto X Step Up, Moto X Speed & Style
The fan-voted Moto X Best Whip competition has mostly been the domain of longtime fan favorite Jeremy Stenberg, but his four-peat attempt in Barcelona was thwarted by local hero, Spain's Edgar Torrenteras. Munich looks to be a rematch between to two.
Another rivalry to watch for is the long-running one between Matt Buyten and Ronnie Renner in Moto X Step Up, who each have four gold medals to show for their back-and-forth raising of the bar. Renner has the all-time height record, setting the mark at an astounding 47 feet at X Games Los Angeles 2012. His win in Barcelona came at 32 feet.
Another Step Up highlight is the return of Brian Deegan, who is making his 22nd X Games appearance in Munich. "I just want to win it so I can retire my Step Up bike," Deegan said of his return to the event. "It's so brutal. You know you are going to have this really brutal landing even before you jump."
Mike Mason has both Arenacross-honed racing chops and the freestyle moves needed to strike the perfect balance in Speed & Style, a head-to-head battle that has become a crowd favorite at X Games. In Barcelona Mason became the first athlete to win back-to-back gold medals in the discipline. In Munich he'll have to contend with Nate Adams, another previous gold medalist, and Swiss rider Mat Rebeaud who holds a silver and bronze in Speed & Style. In addition to this, Norwegian rider Andre Villa says he's retiring from all other Moto X competition to focus exclusively on Speed & Style. The field is heavy for this event.
Saturday, June 29
7 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. ET: BMX Park
After 15 appearance in BMX park, Gary Young grabbed his first X Games gold last month in Barcelona. He will be defending in Munich against a stacked field that includes four-time BMX Park gold medalist Daniel Dhers, three-time gold medalist Scotty Cranmer, two-time gold medalist Ryan Nyquist, and X Games Foz do Iguaçu gold medalist Kyle Baldock. Cranmer, however, just might be the favorite in Munich's skatepark-style concrete course, which fosters fast and creative lines as well as big tricks.
9:30 a.m. - 11 a.m. ET: Ford RallyCross Race No. 1, Skateboard Big Air
The RallyCross drivers have been revved up and ready to go since the X Games Barcelona race was canceled due to rain last month. Saturday's Barcelona make-up race means that there will be two separate RallyCross events in Munich -- as Munich's official race will still take place on Sunday -- in order to keep the Global RallyCross Championship series stats on track.
The course in Munich is 41 percent asphalt (for comparison, the course in Foz do Iguaçu was 90 percent dirt), and should make for more open racing. Favorites include previous gold medalists Tanner Foust, Scott Speed (who won in his RallyCross debut in Brazil), Brian Deegan and international rally stars Toomas Heikkinen, Patrik Sandell and Liam Doran.
Perennial fan favorite Travis Pastrana will miss the Munich events to compete in the NASCAR Nationwide stop at the Kentucky Speedway.
Sixteen-year-old skater Mitchie Brusco has been landing 1080s and variations on the 900 on the MegaRamp's immense quarter pipe, and he's also been adding technical new moves over the 70-foot gap in an attempt to catch up to six-time Big Air gold medalist Bob Burnquist. Brusco now has two silver medals in Big Air. He'll have to get through Burnquist, two-time gold medalist Jake Brown, and thirteen-year-old 1080 spinner Tom Schaar to get to gold.
The gap and quarterpipe won't be the only challenges: the Big Air ramp in Munich is built over water, adding a new element to one of the most demanding events at X Games. Bailing out could mean sending a runaway board for a swim.
1 p.m. - 4 p.m ET: Enduro X
Maria Forsberg -- the 2011 and 2012 Women's Enduro X gold medalist who also went undefeated on the GNCC circuit in 2012 -- has been thoroughly rattledby Spain's Laia Sanz Sanz, who is new on the X Games scene, has won every race she's entered this year and will be the clear favorite in Munich. The German fans will be rooting for Steffi Laier and X Games rookie Maria Franke, while Forsberg says any of the competitors could end up on top, including Tarah Gieger and newcomer Jolene Van Vugt, a veteran racer better known for her freestyle antics with Travis Pastrana's Nitro Circus.
Men's Enduro X has been a constant tug-of-war between KTM teammates Mike Brown and Taddy Blazusiak, who are the only racers to have taken home gold from an X Games event. Podium regulars David Knight, Colton Haaker, Cory Graffunder, and Justin Soule will be threats in Munich while German riders Andreas Lettenbichler and Adrian Guggemos will most likely bring the biggest cheers from the home crowd.
Sunday, June 30
4:30 a.m. - 11 a.m. ET: Mountain Bike Slopestyle
Ready for big BMX-inspired tricks on a steep downhill course with enormous jumps and jibs? Mountain Bike Slopestyle is making its X Games debut in Munich. The event has attracted 16 of the world's top riders, including current FMB World Tour leader Sam Pilgrim, 2012 overall champ Brandon Semenuk, 2010 champ Cam Zink, and rising star Thomas Genon. The final will be the must-see event of the week.
11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. ET: Ford Rally Cross Race No. 2, Street League Skateboarding
Crossover heroes like freestyle motocross pioneer Brian Deegan, Lasek and Formula One star Scott Speed will have a lot to prove in front of the hardcore European rally fans in Munich. But Deegan says he isn't phased: "I study the best drivers and why they are the best. Then I figure out how I can beat them."
Defending 2012 Street League Skateboarding champion Huston has been absolutely dominating the series in 2013. Unfortunately, a recent rib injury will keep him out of competition in Munich. With Huston absent, four-time gold medalist Paul Rodriguez will be the favorite to win again, but don't count out two-time gold medalist Chris Cole and skaters like Luan Oliveira and Manny Santiago who have been rising quickly through the SLS ranks.