Joe Parsons emptied his bag of tricks to beat close friend and training partner Heath Frisby in the Freestyle semis and then Justin Hoyer in the gold medal final tonight for his second gold of WX '09.
Frisby and Daniel Bodin, who lost to Hoyer in the other semifinal, met in the small final for bronze for a third straight year since Freestyle debuted at WX. And for the third straight year Frisby got the bronze and Bodin finished fourth.
Mark KohlmanParsons twisting his way to the gold.
Mission Man "It's definitely mission accomplished. Me and Friz and Isaac [Sherbine] worked super hard this year and it all came together. This is what happens when you work hard and it's all you want."
Taking on Frisby "I went second in the semis so I got to see what Heath did first. And he killed it. My first run [in qualifying] wouldn't have made it. I was sitting there like, 'Man how to beat something like that?' Friz is just amazing when he's on his sled and on his game. But something had to happen so I tried to throw down everything. So I can-flipped the big one, and that was kind of the separator, plus I was getting the extra two hits, so that was pretty much it."
Disneyland? "Nope, me and Friz have this thing called 'Leisure Week' after X Games, and it's where you don't ride, you don't do anything, you just hang out and have fun. And that's what we're doing for a week up in Cascade, Idaho, at the Frisbys' cabin."
Semifinals "I felt good about it. When Joe got back here, I was like, 'Oh, man, I wouldn't want to judge that run.' But it is what it is. I trained all year and I got beat by my buddy and I'm going back home, But I'm coming back here next year and I'm going to want it even more than I did the last three damn years. So same mission."
"When I went out there, I told myself, 'You know what, I love what I do. Let me be consistent and let me get through this run.' And I did my thing and I was stoked on it."
Finals "Obviously I wanted to win. But I'm ecstatic just to be here and to do as well as I did. Yeah, I'm pumped. And it gives me tons of fuel for the fire for next yearJoe was racing the course a bit. That's really not my style, but I tried to race it like he did in the final and get a few more hits. But that didn't work out. I should've played it cool like I was doing. But no big deal, you know, I'm stoked I got silver."
The Parsby Tribe "Yeah, that's a serious deal over there with Joe and Heath. They've got the full support going on and that's something I've gotta work on, getting more technical support for my sleds. But everyone's been great who's helped me outColorado Sledstyle and Tod Welch and everybody else, I've got to thank those guys."
On Deck "A show next week in Colorado, and then after that I'm going to Ireland, Austria and Czech Republic, so I won't be in Ellsworth for a while."
X Memories "Before this week I didn't like coming here. Either I'd get hurt here or I wouldn't do well, so it was just a head game. But this time I actually enjoyed myself and I'm back at a point where I just ride and I enjoy it. It's like a dream. And like I've said, I was put here for one reason: To shred. So I'm just doing what I love to do and I thank God I do this for a living. This is amazing."
Friends vs. Friends "Hoyer is such a good friend of mine and we've practiced together a lot. So I'm not that disappointed losing to him, I'm more disappointed that I got fourth place three years in a row now. But Hoyer definitely deserved it. He put on one of the best runs I've ever seen in my life and I messed up a little bit. He was better."
Joe and Heath "I was against Hoyer and Parsons was against Heaththey're best friends just like me and Hoyer are pretty much best friends. So it's a funny situation. And I didn't know what to expect when I got here, or about how much the rest of the guys had been practicing. But me and Hoyer were practicing together before X Games, so we pretty much knew where we were at, but I had no idea what to expect from Heath and Parsons and Levi. And Levi put that seat grab flip out there. That was pretty cool, I mean, oh my God, he's tough."
Next "Go back home, build a foam pit and start practicing backflip variations. Because oh my God the level is just growing and growing. Now we're flipping like 30 meters, like 110 footers, it's unbelievable. There's no stop, definitely no stop. And the machines are getting better and betterthe Polaris that I rode is such a good sledand I don't know where it's gonna end. Levi tried a double flip and maybe in two years everyone's doing double flips. You never know. It's crazy, and I'm so stoked to be a part of it."
1) Joe Parsons
2) Justin Hoyer
3) Heath Frisby
4) Daniel Bodin
5) Levi LaVallee
6) Isaac Sherbine
7) Jeff Mullin
8) Sam Rogers
9) Jimmy Fejes
10) Chris Burandt
Justin Hoyer's super-sick trademark Tsunami off the BAR jump served as the centerpiece of the top-scoring run in the Freestyle Elimination round this afternoon.
davelehl.comJustin Hoyer waches as heath Frisby hucks one.
Hoyer's score of 91.33 earned him the top seed for tonight's four-man final, while Joe Parsons and Heath Frisby tied for second (89.66) and Daniel Bodin locked up the final slot with an 85.66. In the finals tonight, it's friend against friend as Hoyer faces off with Bodin in one head-to-head semifinal and Parsons vs. Frisby battle in the other. Based on just one run in the bracket format tonight, winners advance to the gold medal final while the losers enter the bronze medal final.
Levi LaVallee went for broke in his second Elimination run, flipping the BAR jump to start and then wrecking spectacularly while going for a seat-grab backflip. He finished fifth - just off the bubble for the finals.
Tim MutrieJustin Hoyer is your No. 1 qualifier for Snowmobile Freestyle.
"Honestly I came in with no expectations. I had tricks my dialed, but I wasn't coming in with something super new. So I just wanted to throw down what I had and I knew if I did that I'd probably end up in a good spot. But I didn't expect this at all. I'm pumped and having fun."
"I've got a lot of respect for Levi. He's a tough son of a bitch. And he did so many events this weekend, it's just crazy. He's super-talented and it's a shame he didn't make the finals, but, man, I think maybe he's a little bit wore out and tired and I wouldn't blame him one bit considering."
"I'm just going to lay my cards down again like I did, and see how I stack up. Probably gonna try and take a nap now, get something to eat, and take some DayQuil because I'm still sick as a dog. But I've only got two more runs to do, and then it's home free."
"You can definitely see who's been out and training really hard. Our whole group trained so hard for this, I trained so hard. I made a couple little bobbles on my first run, but you pull it back together and you just keep going."
"I went into this wanting to be number one out of qualifying. I was off that mark by one point or something, and I wanted to get that on my second run, but with the wind picking up and a few mistakes, it made that more difficult. But I'm going to come out swinging in the next round and do everything I can to get into that gold medal round. I've never made it there and I want to more than ever now."
"Joe's gonna come uncorked, I'm gonna come uncorked. Both of us, we want to go the finals. We're really good friends, but we both just want to make it into that final round. That's all I've ever wanted, to make it into that final round, ever since the first time I ever watched Travis Pastrana win X games. That's all I've ever wanted, to win a gold medal, and that's what I want tonight."
LEVI LAVALLEE: "I took two gnarly, gnarly spills -the double backflip and then just now on a seat grab flip. Them are a couple of the hardest hits I've taken in my life. And to walk outa here with just some bruises and a tweaked ankle and stuff, it's a good day."
davelehl.comLevi LaVallee didn't make the finals but maybe now he can get some rest.
"I came into this X Games with one thing in mind: I came in to do the double backflip. And I put so much effort into that that I know it took away from my Freestyle and SnoCross a little. It kind of bums me out doing the Freestyle and knowing that I wasn't as prepared as I would've liked to have been. I had a seat grab flip that I was working in the foam pit-but it was only for a day that I worked on it. So I came out today and was kind of feeling it out and doggone missed the grab handle and it ended pretty bad. But hey, I'm moving and I would definitely do it the same again."
"I even changed my run for the second one because I hadn't flipped the big [BAR] ramp yet; not even in practice. So I went out, 'OK, I'm gonna flip the big ramp and try to poke out a nice seat grab flip.' And I figured if I could get in two more hits like my first run and all my other tricks were clean, I thought maybe I'd have a chance to edge out Bodin for the last qualifying spot. And things were going good, I felt really good about the first part of my run, flipped the big dog super smooth and then went for the seat grab flip and sure enough missed the grab handle."
"Gosh, you're going to see absolute madness tonight in the finals. These guys are all going so huge. This is their main focus so they're able to train and work solely on their tricks. And they've all got crazy new tricks from last year. And that's what's awesome. These guys are really pushing the limits of what can be done on a sled and it's amazing to watch."
Paul Thacker wrecked this morning and he's out"My day is done," he said. And Freestyle alternate Isaac Sherbine went to the hospital after a wreck on his own.
Tim MutrieThe AK crew after Freestyle practice today: Sebastian Landry, Paul Thacker, Jimmy Blaze's girlfriend, Jimmy Blaze and Giles Landry.
So, yeah, there's a nervous, uneasy energy at the Freestyle venue this morning as the dial of the carnage meter begins to flicker.
Thacker's sled bogged on him on a take-off and he had to ditch the sled in mid-air. He came down on top of the sled but was able to walk away. "Surprised I didn't break bones," Thacker said, saying still he was disappointed to be dropping out. Sherbine, the newest rider on the Heath Frisby talent development team, went to the hospital after his sled bogged on a take-off too. He back-sided into the landing. According to pit buzz, he's getting X-rays for a suspected ankle/heel injury.
"There's a reason all the wrecks have been today," said Sebastian Landry.
"Yeah," Giles Landry added, "People are f**ing nervous."
"Racers are used to game days like this," Sebastian said.
"But these guys aren't," said Giles. "And it's freaking 'em out."
Justin Hoyer had a near-miss too, shorting the landing off the BAR ramp. "He hit so hard that his seat came off," Giles said.
Tim MutrieJoe Parsons, side car, this morning.
Though it's unofficial at this time, with Thacker saying he's out and alternates Sherbine and Teddy Culbertson apparently unavailable (Culbertson reportedly re-aggravated his knee on a hard landing this morning), it would seem that Jimmy Blaze willbe in for the Freestyle contest.
Meanwhile, today's practice session saw some dead bodies to no hand-landers by Heath Frisby and a few super-ish flips by Levi LaVallee. "He's got a seat-grab flip that we haven't seen yet too," said one observer.
*UPDATE* Rumor has it Isaac Sherbine is back from the hospital and feeling good. He may be in the Final after all!
Just like Justin Hoyer, Daniel Bodin had his "set list" - an ordered list of tricks, ala a song set list for a band - taped onto the instrument panel of his sled today. "You can take a photo of it," conceded Bodin, "just don't put it up on the Internets 'til Monday." Chris Burandt, too, was working up just such a set list as well tonight at the SnoCross final.
Mark KohlmanSingular focus: Heath Frisby=ramp.
Because tomorrow set lists become playlists in the age old story of what goes up must come down - and the occasion is the almighty WX Freestyle comp. Dane Ferguson has been actively trying to sell off his own spot in the contest, but to date no official word about the actual field - who's in, who's out, Great Dane, no Dane - have yet to be made official. So we'll probe that further in the morning at the practice session. Then comes the elimination round followed by the finals at night.
This much we know: Parsons, Frisby, Hoyer and Bodin will be throwing down especially.
Seven laps into the 20-lap final of SnoCross tonight and Paul Thacker was exhausted. Of course, Thacker, a Freestyle rider, was simply observing the race from ringside.
"Are you kidding me? This is only lap 7 of 20?! I'd have pulled off by now to throw up in my helmet," cracked Thacker. No doubt though a number of racers were feeling the same thing as Tucker Hibbertby lap 11extended his lead to more than 22 seconds. At the end the contest, the marginby racing standardswas basically a factor of infinity.
And that's how things are going in the SnoCross world this season. There's Hibbert and then there's the rest of the field. So-no surpriseHibbert claimed his third straight WX SnoCross gold while Robbie Malinoski gallantly won the race for second place. Danny Ebert, a semi-pro, hung on for third placeand was excited to the point of incoherence afterward. Levi LaVallee, after battling through the LCQ to the final, pushed through a back row start position to finish just out of the medals in fourth.
"It was a hard ride," said Malinoski. "[Ebert] got up in front of me and I just had to keep hounding him. The track's so technical so you just try to pressure someone into a mistake. And when they make a bobble, you can capitalize on it, other than that, it's pretty single file."
"I couldn't see nothing when I was behind Danny. It was roost in my face the whole time. It was a real tough go, but you know what? It worked out and we got second. We couldn't beat Tucker, but no one has this year so I don't feel too bad about it."
Hibbert is six-for-six on the National circuit this year, and three-for-three at the last three X Games. It ain't over til the fat lady sings, or so we've heard, but that theory doesn't seem to hold up this year with Tucker Hibbert. And so we asked Tucker's dad, Kirk Hibbert, who is also crew chief of the Monster Energy-Arctic Cat Hibbert Team, just what exactly is going on.
"The extra domination you're seeing this year is him. He's reaching deep, just determined to go as hard as he can go and do the best he can. And that's where that extra is coming from, the inside of him coming out," said Kirk Hibbert.
Ebert told ESPN his goal at WX was the make the SnoCross final. Then he won his qualifying heat last night - fast tracking himself into the final - and ran in the top five in the early going. When DJ Eckstrom had a get off on Lap 7, Ebert moved from third to second, a position he held until Malinoski passed him on the chicane on Lap 14.
"Honestly this is crazy," Ebert said, looking genuinely stunned. "Unbelievable. My goal was to make the final. And to run as good as I did, I mean, I know I got tired but I think everybody else did too. But still, unbelievable. If someone were to say that I was going to go to Aspen and make the final and get third, I never ever ever ever would've fathomed it. I'm just ecstatic right now. I cannot thank my whole team enough; just unbelievable."
Hibbert, as usual, was pleased with his ride and credited his continued success to his hard-working team. Could things have gone any better, Tucker? "Not really," he said. "I got a good start, and I was pumped because that's what I wanted to doget out there clean and get away from all the other guys. And it worked out good. I got out early and pushed hard."
"I don't know how to explain the success, but it's just been going awesome. I work hard and I've got good equipment, good snowmobiles, good people, sponsors and it all comes together and we get results."
1) Tucker Hibbert
2) Robbie Malinoski
3) Dan Ebert
4) Levi LaVallee
5) Ryan Simons
6) Dave Allard
7) Bobby LePage
8) Matt Piche
9) Brett Bender
10) Matt Morin
Josh DuplechianTucker Hibbert is the leader of the pack once again.
After nearly getting tipped over in a bunched up start of the Last Chance Qualifier tonight, Levi LaVallee picked his way up through the field to finish second and secure a berth in the SnoCross final tonight.
Tim MutrieLevi LaVallee is thoroughly soaked following his second place finish in the Last Chance Qualifier tonight.
But LaVallee never managed to catch Ryan Simonsthe LCQ winnnerand as a result was getting roosted with heavy wet snow through much of the eight lap LCQ. Sean Crapo, Bobby LePage and Paul Bauerly rounded out the top five, so they're also going to the final.
"It's so gnarly out there," said LaVallee. "The snow is so wet and stickyit's like someone's taking a bucket of mud and throwing it at you every time you get roosted. My upper lip here, it feels like someone's been throwing rocks at. It's raw."
LaVallee didn't know if he had enough time to change into a dry suit. "I feel like someone just hosed me down with a hose," LaVallee said. "It's so wet and gnarly out there, but I don't know if I have time to change, but I'm going to try to. I am going to put some duct tape on my lip because it's getting a little raw. And then I'm just gonna go out and pin it. I gotta get a good hole shot so I don't have to mess with all that roost [in the final]."
Dan Ebert, last night's winner in Heat 1 SnoCross qualifying, only spun six laps around the track this afternoon in the final practice session before the LCQ and final tonight. That's because Ebert - in his third appearance at WXhas already surpassed his expectations for the weekend.
Tim MutrieDan Ebert is ready to go for tonight's final.
"It's pretty crazy that I won my heat last night," Ebert said today after calling his practice session early. "To be perfectly honest with you I never ever, ever would've dreamed it. My goal was just to make the final. This is my third year [at WX] and I've never made the final. I've been close, but just to make it, the weekend's a success regardless of how I finish now. I'm super stoked."
"X Games is so different from the normal circuit we run," Ebert added. "The jumps aren't nearly as big on the National circuit, and it's a lot rougher and it's a lot smaller. At X Games it's so bigso much big airand the tracks are always awesome. X Games is just kind of the pinnacle it's cool to be here."
According to unofficial lap times from practice, Tucker Hibbert was still the fastest guy on the trackwith a best-lap time of 54.024 seconds. TJ Gulla posted the next fastest time (54.814) followed by Ryan Simons (55.673), Steve Taylor (56.208) and Ebert (56.485) rounding out the top five.
Ebert praised his crew for putting together a fast sled for him. "I just wanted to get a fresh feel for today, get loosened up again, and just make sure everything's dialed for tonight. I'm pretty sure my Arctic Cat's gonna be real good," he said.
Ebert said wet snow conditions and intermittent rain shouldn't pose too many problems for racers. "We're used to it for sure, but it makes it tough when it's raining. The snow's always been soft and powdery when I've been out here before [at WX], so this is a lot different. The snow tends to stick to your goggles a lot more and makes visibility more of an issue. And you get a lot more feedback in your handlebarswith the skis grabbing moreso it makes you have to work on your suspension and dial it a little differently. I worked on my chassis with some different geometry, different A-frame angles, to get my sled to work for me a little better in these grabby conditions."
Tim MutrieCarly Davis: "Itís been my dream to make it to X Games."
Carly Davis, younger sister of Speed & Style bronze medalist Cory Davis and a top racer on the women's pro SnoCross tour, was on hand during this afternoon's practice. Going forward, however, Davis said she would prefer being a WX competitor rather than a spectator.
"We're trying to get in touch with the right people to get a women's class started at X Games," she said. "But it's hard, and the biggest problem isare there enough women to compete? I think we could do it though, and it's definitely been my dream to make it to X Games. I think it'll happen."
Tim MutrieLevi LaVallee was back out on the track just after noon today. Brap, brap.
Tim MutrieRiders who pull no hander backflips rely on jury-rigged stirrups like this one on Hoyer's sled.
Tim MutrieThe BAR flip club now includes Parsons, Frisby, Blaze and Bodin.
Epicenters of discomfort for Levi LaVallee this morning include ankle, knee and butt cheek. That was the short report from LaVallee after he emerged from his trailer before noon today for the second hour of another Freestyle practice session. He was greeted with congratulations and questions from fellow riders like Justin Hoyer and Cory Davis and friends.
Tim MutrieA Justin Hoyer set list duct taped to the dash.
"Hardest landing of my life," LaVallee told the group. "I'm glad I'm still walking here."
LaVallee was his happy-go-lucky self otherwise. "I can't believe I've gotta get back out riding now," he said with a laugh.
Daniel Bodin, meanwhile, joined the BAR flip club this morning. Now four riders have flipped the big one -Frisby, Parsons, Blaze and Bodin.
"I had to get that one out of the way, you know," said Bodin. "We've got four guys flipping the big one now and I think more guys can do it. They just have to do it."
Freestyle riders - the big event is tomorrow - have enjoyed more practice time on course this year than the previous two years of WX Freestyle. And it's starting to show.
"This year the course is way easier than it was last year. And it's faster and you can choose different lines. It's just way better this year. I love the track. Everything is the same level and everything is so much easier with timing all the hits. I love it," said Bodin.
Despite all the practice sessions, there's a sense on course that some riders are still holding some tricks back from public display.
"I'm sure all of us have something in our sleeves, you know, for you. At least I've got something," said Bodin. When pressed, he acknowledged it's a flip variation.
Has anyone seen it yet? "Yes, they've seen it," said Bodin. "But they've not seen it this year."
Meanwhile, SnoCrossers hit the track for practice later this afternoon with the LCQ and Final slated for tonight. Brap, brap.
Tonight, jaws agape, we saw the double flip and then an impact-to-flat so violent that Levi LaVallee bounced off his machine. And that historic bounce allowed Alaskan wildman Dane Ferguson to capture the gold medal in the debut of WX Snowmobile Next Trick with a trick the Twist-Offdedicated to a late friend.
What can we say about the obscene events of the night? Nothing that Ferguson and LaVallee couldn't say better themselves:
You were preparing for the double backflip too but abandoned it because you didn't have the right sled, among other things. Take us through the challenges of just getting here?
DANE FERGUSON: Going back over a month ago I thought everything was going to be set upwe thought we had the sleds and the money to do the double. We went down to California and put some hard work in, but then we had some unfortunate sled issues and ran into a budget problem. So I thought it was a good time to pull an old trick out of the book and dedicate it to my buddy Christoph [von Alvensleben]. He's the one who backed me into a corner and made me do the trick in the first placeand I'm glad I was able to pull it off. I didn't pull it off as big, clean or gnarly as I was hoping to, but it was just good enough to win today and I'm very happy with that