What a long, strange journey 2009 was. A rollercoaster ride in my FMX life.
The year started out in fine form, partying post-jump with Robbie 'Maddo' Maddison and the rest of the crew, in Las Vegas, after his insane leap off the Arc De Triomphe. Maddo, with the world's biggest hand cast from his injury on the way down, was mugging with DJ Jazzy Jeff and generally having the kind of time you have when you look the reaper in the face and say "cheers"! What a way to start 12 months.
Planning was in full effect for the freestyle season when I rolled into Anaheim 3 Supercross with Jeff Tilton. We had a good trip up there from San Diego and I got to do some interview stuff with the FMF crew before we headed to the Knothole for schmoozing and race-viewing. It was then that the downhill ride started text messages and panicked conversations. Jeremy Lusk had crashed in Costa Rica and it sounded bad. Very, very bad.
It was then that the downhill ride started text messages and panicked conversations. Jeremy Lusk had crashed in Costa Rica and it sounded bad. Very, very bad.
-- Tes Sewell
Within hours, Cameron Steele and Brian Deegan were on their way down to Costa Rica with Jeremy's family and for the next few days the news was shooting back and forth. Videos of the event were on the internet so fast and we could all see that it was a bad crash, but it was almost the same as the crash that he had suffered and bounced back from at X Games in '07. Jeremy would not bounce back this time however and we lost one of riding's brightest stars on February 9th.
After the Lusk funeral in mid February, we moved south to Mexico City for round one of Red Bull X-Fighters in late March. This was the first contest since Jeremy's passing and tensions were high for all concerned. My most vivid memory of that event was the backstage shots of riders openly weeping after they had started the show with a simple, quiet tribute to Lusk's memory. Announcing that event live on TV it was hard to choke back the tears with so much emotion in the air. Then the guys surprised us all by coming out big riding the way Jeremy would have wanted them to ride, shaking off the demons of tragedy and showing the triumphant side of the sport we all love. Our season was officially started.
In May, I dragged my lazy ass up to Vancouver, Canada and managed to suffer through my first half marathon. My full marathon plans got de-railed later in the year, but that's what 2010 is for ... right? Then it was off to Texas and my first experience of the TORC off-road truck racing series. Getting into short-course racing as an ESPN analyst was really, really fun. Those drivers may have a cage around them, but it is just CRAZY when you get up close. Finished off May at the Calgary Stampede grounds for another great round of the X-Fighters series, where Maddo would finally get his first big win.
I spent a lot of time in my English homeland in 2009. Most of it was spent in London where two major projects took shape. The Red Bull X-Fighters event in Battersea Power Station was so cool to work on especially because I lived for some years only a few miles across the river, but the big event for an English kid was Maddo's Top Secret jumping project at Tower Bridge.
Tower Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks in the world and certainly among the top two in England (maybe right behind Big Ben). When you show people a picture of Tower Bridge, they almost certainly know it is in London. It had all started back in 2008 and there we were at three a.m. on a July Monday morning, watching Maddo upside down over the open bridge. So surreal, but with no time for celebration because at eight am I was off on a flight to go meet with the Mayor of Rome and then head right to Madrid where X-Fighters would roll out again at the end of the week.
As high as the ride had been on the Monday in London, the rollercoaster reached its new depths on Friday in Madrid. Cameron Sinclair, coming off a second place finish in the Best Tricks contest on Thursday night, was the highlight of the show. He had proved his mettle the prior month in Texas when he was the first rider ever to put a double backflip in a freestyle run. Tonight the crowd was excited to see him repeat this feat in the bullring and we all felt confident, having watched him pull the trick on the previous evening.
Something went horribly wrong. For some reason Sinclair did not get the full rotation and was slammed to the ground, unconscious, as the bike drove into the landing and threw him forward. The medical teams all worked to the letter of the meticulous plans we had laid out and transported him to Madrid's best hospital. The next few hours were some of the toughest I have ever experienced. We got constant updates on his condition and it seemed dire at best. As a senior member of the Red Bull X-Fighters staff, I had to prepare for the worst, even though my feet were dug in and focused on the best.
Cameron Sinclair is a warrior. He fought harder than any of the doctors thought he could and with his loving Brooke by his side, he rolled out of the Madrid hospital just a couple of weeks later. As I write this, Sinclair has already flipped his dirt bike a feat we would never have even considered him doing on the long, dark night of July 17th. I can't wait to see him ride again.
From Madrid it was back home and a fairly smooth time at X Games in LA, before hopping the pond once more for the Red Bull X-Fighters gig in London. Now THAT was a fun time and the rain of glowsticks being thrown as it got dark made for some awesome pictures. So glad we get to go back there again.
September and October were more rounds of the TORC Truck series and the last two stops of the Dew Tour, which had switched from full contests to some fun smaller events. Mike Mason's ride with crash in Salt Lake City was one of the most inspiring rides of the year and the audience just had to agree. These were the best two months for actually getting out and riding my new Triumph Bonneville. Felt good to actually be on two wheels for a change.
November is supposed to be my 'quiet time', but there we were in a frigid Beijing, China at the Race of Champions. Team USA was Travis Pastrana and Tanner Foust and it is always great to see those X Games stars interact with the likes of F1 Champions Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher. Our guys party by ripping t-shirts and those guys ... well they take it to another level. Hopped the flight back to the USA with Travis and got back to work on his New Years project, making sure the test sessions were all set up.
I am very fortunate to do the things I call "work", but 2009 reminded me that none of this should be taken for granted.
-- Tes Sewell
So that brought us to a very busy December. In the early weeks I got to fly over to Red Bull HQ in Austria and discuss the upcoming X-Fighters season. Always a real injection of energy to be with all of the host countries and talk about the things we can do over the course of a tour that lasts almost all year. Some of the new stops are going to be outrageous in 2010. I better get the camera fully charged.
But the rollercoaster does not always ride up and it was on a snowy day in Salzburg that I got the news about Mike Cinqmars. Cinq was unique in so many ways and, as one of the real OG's of the sport, he defined a lot of what we do today. He was, after all, one of the first people ever to get an X Games medal in the original 1999 event. Cinq's unexpected death was a blow to the whole community and made my last day in Austria just a little more gray.
Thankfully December and 2009 ended on a high note. After a leap of 269' in a rally car and a poorly executed dive into Long Beach's Rainbow Harbor (sorry TP, but it was a bit sloppy!) I got to fish Travis Pastrana out of the water and finally relax over a feat that was months in the making. Robbie Maddison's and Travis Pastrana's records, neatly book ending my year.
I am very fortunate to do the things I call "work", but 2009 reminded me that none of this should be taken for granted. All of it can be taken from us in a heartbeat and what these athletes do is truly and awesomely formidable. Be sure to join me in constantly celebrating their achievements in 2010 and beyond. Happy New Year!