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Golden Child

6/24/2009
Since FMX's induction into X Games in 1999, Travis Pastrana has become the face of the X franchise. Buckley/ESPN Images/Shazamm

Action sports aficionados rejoiced when the initial X Games 15 athlete lists were revealed. Why? Because in addition to Rally Car Racing, Travis Pastrana was slated to compete in every X Games Moto X discipline save Step Up and Best Whip. Unfortunately, the euphoria didn't last long — Pastrana's name soon disappeared from all but Rally and Moto X Best Trick. It's no wonder, really: Pastrana may already be the Most Interesting Man in the World (forget that Dos Equis guy), and a wicked-busy schedule will limit his X Games participation.

"I really wanted to do as much as I could at X Games," Pastrana says. "I feel like I can be competitive in quite a few things. With enough practice I can contend in Freestyle and could put on a show in [Super X]. I'm not a medal threat in SuperMoto, but I like it and think I can finish between fifth and eighth. I even thought, 'Hey, no one has double backflipped the Mega Ramp on a BMX bike, maybe I can do that, too. So I went to Woodward for a while to practice."

Yes, that would've been awesome. But MTV is bringing back Pastrana's popular Nitro Circus for a second season, which is pretty cool, too. Sadly, it means that Travis will be too busy for an ambitious slate of X Games disciplines. "Season two is kicking my ass," he admits with a laugh, speaking on his phone as the Nitro crew drove to North Carolina for yet another show shoot. "I'm not complaining, because the show is so much fun, but it's hard to do much else."

Of course, some believe that Pastrana could score Freestyle gold even without much practice. While flattered, Travis disagrees. "The top guys work so hard at it, and the sport has really progressed in the past couple of years," he says. "I'd need at least six months of work to feel comfortable. If I entered Freestyle and [Super X], I'd go to win. I have courses at my house I can ride if I just want to have fun."

I even thought, 'Hey, no one has double backflipped the Mega Ramp on a BMX bike, maybe I can do that, too.'

--Travis Pastrana

The 25-year-old Annapolis, Maryland, resident already has 14 X Games medals, which is good for fifth on the all-time list. In '09, he's looking for his second straight Rally Car Racing gold and third overall in the discipline. "I really wanted that Rally win last year," Pastrana says. "I had messed up in Speed & Style [finishing sixth], and my Rally season hadn't been going well. I needed that gold."

While Travis may have needed the '08 XG Rally title, he says the win still couldn't top his first X Games Rally victory, which came in '06 in upset fashion when he barely bested the late, great Colin McRae, Travis' friend and Rally idol. "I wasn't expected to do well in '06 and everyone was surprised that I did," Pastrana says. "And just to stay close to Colin was special."

A legend on the world rally scene, McRae was killed in a helicopter crash in September '07. "It [Colin's death] really hit me last year at X Games because we got to spend so much time together there," Pastrana says. "We'd go out for team dinners and do fun stuff. That was hard. I just wish Americans could've seen how skilled he was."

Travis will once again be a favorite for XG Rally gold. He's already won as many Rally events this year as he did all of last season, and his team has a lot more testing time with his Subaru. More of an unknown is MTX Best Trick. The last time Pastrana entered the discipline at X Games was 2006, and he made history — and claimed gold — by landing the first double backflip in competition. How in the world can he top that?

While there have been rumors floated about possible tricks, Pastrana claims he doesn't yet know what he'll try at XG. However, Travis does admit to hiring Frank Bare — an Olympic aerialist coach who landed the first triple twisting quadruple backflip on skis—to increase his air awareness and help him explore trick possibilities.

"I've cleared my schedule for the two weeks before X Games so I can practice into my foam pit," Pastrana says. "Actually, it's more than two weeks; it's 17 days."

Seventeen days. It's not six months, but it just might do.