Place: St Petersburg, Florida.
|Ride BMX US august 1998: Television makes things easy. Want to be entertained? Push a button. Want to be informed? Push a button. Nowadays freestyle is the same way. Push the right button and you've got Dave Osato doing a tailwhip in your living room. Of course you have to sit through some bad announcing and a few Pontiac commercials, but the bottom line is that if you live in the middle of nowhere and want to see freestyle on TV, then ESPN is your best bet.
Last year's box jump oriented street course got changed up big time for this year. The course in St. Pete, Florida was so tight that it was a lot like riding a bowl with a bunch of weird extensions all over the place. If you had a line planned and missed a trick, you were pretty much screwed if you didn't think fast. There were enough rails and transfers to make the course more fun for the real street guys while still keeping enough transitions to keep John Q. Public entertained. Other than the street course, ESPN is sticking to the same formula as last year-a bunch of big ramps on the beach with flatland stuffed somewhere out of the way.
|Ride BMX US august 1998: ESPN is not stoked on flatland. If the cigar-smoking head-honchos back at the office had their way the only flatland you'd see on TV would be on some other channel. Luckily Matt Hoffman keeps telling ESPN that they have to include flatland, otherwise they would have cut it a long time ago. ESPN raised the purse for all of the classes this year but the flatland pro purse didn't grow quite as much as the ramp classes. To make up for the lack of cash, ESPN gave the ground riders a prime riding area: bumpy pavement with a big hole at one end. I think flatlanders have finally realized that nothing is ever going to change, so most of them just dealt with it instead of complaining. There were so many guys in Pro flatland that it was impossible to remember who did what. What I do remember is that Martti Kuoppa did some of the hardest stuff out, like fire hydrants straight into turbined hitchhikers with no problem. Martti rides for Chiquita and they actually fly him to the contests all the way from Finland. Those guys are bananas. Other craziness included Dylan Worsley doing the hitchhiker twist (crossfoot hitchhiker-tobackwards backpackerto-cross-foot hitchhiker) and Alexis Desolneux doing impossible front wheel scuff switches with no brakes. In the finals it was really close between the top three guys. Day Smith snapped a brake cable in the middle of his run and just kept riding anyway pulling everything for third. Second place went to Trevor Meyer who carved an insane lawnmower-walk-over into a deathtruck, and then he G-turned the deathtruck, let the bike go upside-down, stepped on the front pegs and went into a backwards hitchhiker. First place went to a dialed, stoked, and mustached Chad DeGroot. Trevor was actually pretty bummed when he heard the results because he was pretty sure he had won, but most of the other riders agreed that Chad deserved first.|
STUNTMEN FLAT: 1.Chad Degroot 2.Trevor Meyer 3.Day Smith 4.Andrew Faris 5.Nate Hanson 6.Gabe Weed 7.Martti Kuoppa 8.Sean Peters 9.Jason Brown 10.Rob Compton
STUNTBOYS FLAT: 1.Kip Williamson 2.Andrew Cooper 3.Terry Adams 4.Yasuyuki Takeo 5.Shawn Kacar 6.Mykul Yeager 7.Michael Gaidos 8.Tim Tacie
|Ride BMX US august 1998: When ten guys are making it to the finals it really sucks getting 11th, but that's where Eben Krackau was stuck. A lot of people thought Eben should have made the cut but rules are rules. The ten guys who did make the finals weren't all the same names you're used to hearing about. Sure Mirra, McCoy and Miron made the cut, but so did guys like Rick Thorne, Ryan Nyquist and Jon Peacy. Thorne is on a vert mission this year and Peacy could stay off his bike for six years and still be able to go off at will. Nyquist's highest airs were around seven-feet but he did tricks like a 2-1/2 barspin and a toboggan-to-look at the judges-to barspin. If Ryan starts going higher he will be a serious top four guy in no time. Jimmy Walker has been riding in contests forever and he is finally getting the respect he deserves. Jimmy took fourth with some huge airs and plenty of sick tricks. Third belonged to Jay Miron who had the height and the flow, but he rung his bell pretty good on a 540-tailwhip gone sour. Dennis McCoy rode so well that I thought he was going to take the win. At the end of his last run he pulled a big flair, did a few more airs and then did a flip fakie to finish things off. Then there was Mirra. Dave can now carve eight-foot high airs 30-feet going the opposite direction and twist off variations on the way. Dave has every trick in the book wired. He started off his last run in the finals with a seven-foot flair and it just kept going from there. McCoy may have ridden awesome, but there was no stopping Mirra. First place and $3,500.|
STUNTMEN VERT: 1.Dave Mirra 2.Dennis McCoy 3.Jay Miron 4.Jimmy Walker 5.Rick Thorne 6.Ryan Nyquist 7.Pat Miller 8.Pat Dehne 9.Jon Peacy 10.Jason Davies 11.Eben Krackau
STUNTBOYS VERT: 1.Travis Fontaine 2.Chris Shellkopf 3.Michael Corely
|Jay Miron was super smooth whith tricks like 360 tailwhip and a no handed backflip.
Ruben Alcantara "Pollo" pulled double tailwhips over the box and in the finals he came so close to pulling a 360 double tailwhip you can consider it done.
Ride BMX US august 1998: There were so many riders in pro street that they had to practice in heats, but every time Ruben "Polio" Alacantara was on the course things went nuts. Most of his big tricks were coming from the box jump and I do mean big. Double tailwhips, huge superman seatgrabs and Indian Airs were just some of the things he was doing. In the finals Ruben got a little sketchy, but he still came close to pulling a double tailwhip 360. Ron Kimler and Sandy Carson were both major standouts in the finals. Sandy flowed around the course with true street lines and Kimler grinded all the way up a crazy rail. Kevin "The Gute" Gutierrez started his runs off with a flail boomerang on a wedge and then proceeded to scare the crap out of everyone watching with the rest of his bizarre tricks. At one point I thought Kevin was going to rock-walk across the deck of every ramp on the course. First and second place were pretty close. Dave Mirra came out with a whole new street style for '98 (and no front brake) and was doing rails, bunnyhop barspins over gaps, and other street moves you wouldn't expect from one of the "Fab Four." Second place. The big first place check went to Jay Miron who hasn't entered an ESPN contest in almost a year due to injuries, but he was back at the top of his game this time around. Jay is now doing some kind of superman during tailwhips, and he also tried to nollie over a rail gap from a nose wheelie. The Canadian Beast is back.
One-footed frame-grab fakie from the Gonz. Photo by Mark Losey.
STUNTMEN STREET: 1.Jay Miron 2.Dave Mirra 3.Ron Kimler 4.Sandy Carson 5.Ryan Nyquist 6.Rob Nolli 7.Dennis McCoy 8.Mike Laird 9.Kevin Gutierrez 10.Ruben Alcantara
STUNTBOYS STREET: 1.Chris Shellkopf 2.Josh Stricker 3.Sean Emery 4.Bob Pratt 5.Ryan Jackson 6.Aaron Nardi 7.Mike Corely 8.Alex Krauss
|Ride BMX US august 1998: If ESPN had its way, every person at their contests would act like a well-mannered school child. That may happen with the kids with one roller skate in their hand, but not with the bike riders.
The Gonz should have been wearing a target on his back at this contest because security was keeping tabs on him everywhere he went. During Ruben Alacantara's first run in the finals, Steve Swope announced that Ruben was "El Polio," and The Gonz instantly grabbed his bike and started riding the course. Ruben didn't know what the hell was going on and when Gonz finally stopped he said, "Oh, I thought you said El Torro. I'm El Torro!" Anyone else saying this would have looked insane, but it seemed normal coming from Gonz.
During an earlier run, Jimmy LeVan hit a ramp and launched out of the course to about a 12-foot drop. Jimmy made sure no one was in the way, but ESPN was not happy-and they made sure everyone knew that they were not allowed to jump out of the course. Everyone but Gonz, that is. When Gonz was getting ready for his last street run some people took a sign off the top of a nine-foot tall wedge ramp so that Gonz could do a barspin launch out of the course, over a sidewalk, and into the grass. ESPN caught on, and pretty soon there were security guards standing all over the course while Hoffman's Mark Owen tried to get in front of The Gonz to stop him from cranking him at the gap. The launch never happened, but it was pretty hilarious watching security.
During the pro street finals, some kid in the crowd was holding up a homemade sign saying "Ryan Nyquist rules" or something like that. At the end of Nyquist's last run, he rode over to the crowd to thank the kid, but he didn't see a freak wearing nothing but a leopard skin speedo and a yellow afro wig standing in the crowd next to him. When Ryan got close enough, the freak jumped the fence and started hugging Ryan. Nyquist thought this was pretty funny, so he jumped in the freak's arms and let him carry him around the street course. The crowd was loving this, but when the kook jumped back over the fence, there was Mr. Security Guard waiting for him. Busted.
The best security/rider incident came from the flatlanders. The rent-a-cops at the flatland area were trying their best to make sure that no bike riders were riding their bikes at a bike riding contest (?). At one point, a fat security guard grabbed Chad DeGroot and was flipping out while Chad just kept looking at him and smiling. The guy kept getting more irate when Chad looked him straight in the eye and said, "But I have a mustache." The rent-a-cop had no clue how to handle this so he started to walk away mumbling, "You're a butt head." Smooth.