2015 Moto X Step Up qualifier finals
Water crossings in Vegas
For the first time in more than a decade, X Games Moto X Step Up held an open qualifier to determine which athletes will get to compete at X Games Austin 2015. That qualifier took place Friday night in Las Vegas amid one of the biggest sporting weekends of the year. Alongside Endurocross Las Vegas at Orleans Arena, Moto X Step Up contenders did battle on Vegas dirt. Here, Stephen Foord of Calgary, Alberta, blasts through to the roar of the crowd in early enduro action. The Vegas track also featured the first water crossing of the season.
Practice makes perfect
Step Up practice got underway early in the day. Here, Kevin Rookstool watches Wally Palmer testing the jump.
Two out of three aint bad
Australian Jarryd McNeil ultimately didn't qualify for X Games, but he stunned the crowd with his height and bike control. Of course, not all is lost for McNeil; he still plans to compete in Best Whip and Speed & Style in Austin.
Riders constantly pack and tweak the jump. Massimo Bianconcini and Wally Palmer labor with shovels and sledgehammers to perfect their lines. Shaping the jumps would pay off in dividends for Bianconcini, who finished first in the finals.
The night's action started with the chaos and pileups of early Endurocross heats. Here, Kyle Redmond charges through the boulder fields in Heat 1.
Massimo Bianconcini showed off his FMX experience, qualifying for X Games Step Up in the process. "I'm really happy for my results in Vegas. Now I am ready for X Games," he said.
X Games Austin 2014 Moto X Best Whip gold medalist Tom Parsons and Jarryd McNeil discuss the jump shape and potential lines they've selected.
Vicki Golden would show tremendous potential with huge clears early in the competition, only to crash out at later heights. While able to walk away from her crash, she had to withdraw due to resulting mechanical issues. She is still slated to appear in Moto X Best Whip at X Games Austin.
Fans packed the arena to watch the action. Here, Kevin Rookstool clears an early height. He wouldn't end up qualifying for X Games, but the fans were happy to see his big airs regardless.
The run up
The short run into the jump had riders vying for various lines and struggling with traction and low-end power.
Riders throttled all the way up the takeoff, digging for traction as the bike nears vertical. Here, the technique is demonstrated by Wally Palmer.
Air up there
Relatively unknown South African FMXer Alastair Sayer rode a stock 450cc and sported little protective gear, yet he had the skills to make X Games qualification. He placed second in the finals and advances to X Games Austin in June.
This Endurocross competitor had the best seat in the house for one of Jarryd McNeil's clears.
Tom Parsons cleared the final height to take the third X Games qualification spot. And this year, he's entering the Austin competition without any injuries. (Last year, he competed with a broken leg that was on the mend.)
Back to Enduro action
After Moto X Step Up finals, it was back to the Endurocross action, with Destry Abbott sneaking into the men's finals with a win in LCQ #2.
Sandra Gomez Cantero would take the holeshot and lead all the way through Endurocross finals, dominating and lapping most of the field on her way to winning the women's final.
X Games veteran Geoff Aaron absorbs the bumps and bruises of the boulder field on the way to third place in the men's final.
X Games gold medalist Mike Brown, celebrating his 43rd birthday, stayed with the leaders early but faded to 10th place in the finals.
Colton Haaker (left) and Cody Webb battled throughout the final, with Haaker edging Webb for the win.
Next stop, X Games Austin 2015
When the dust settled, X Games had three new Moto X Step Up qualifiers who are headed to Austin.