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Sunday, August 5, 2007
Updated: August 7, 2:31 AM ET
A-Gamer

By Brian Kamenetzky
EXPN.com

Attention X Games athletes: Adam Jones will smoke you at Guitar Hero.

Adam Jones
On the hunt for gold, a shaolin flip never hurt anybody.
It doesn't matter if you're the badass cosmic hi-def pixilated lovechild of Jimi Hendrix and Jack White, Jones will crush your spirit in a fiery blaze of button pushing and leave you curled in a fetal position on the floor, whimpering for Mama. "I'll just lay this down right now," Jones says, chilling in the Moto paddock before Saturday's elimination round for Moto X Freestyle. "Any athlete in the freestyle, skating or BMX sports world. If they think they're bad at Guitar Hero, call me. Call my manager."

Yes— Adam Jones is a struttin', smack talking,' self-satisfied dude.

Assuming you're talking about Guitar Hero, of course. Freestyle motocross riding? That's a different story. Jones becomes a walking Chicken Little, waiting for the sky to fall. "He's kind of notorious for that," says Jeremy Lusk. "Always get's pissed off at himself really easy and doubts himself. I mean, every contest he's like that. Everyone is used to it."

On the one hand, it's hard to figure. The guy went into Saturday night's Moto X Freestyle competition with three X Games medals and a bunch of other podiums on his resume. But, Jones has witnessed disappointment before. Last year, he was primed to win freestyle gold until some dude (Travis Past-romthing-or-other) took it away. Jones brought two new tricks—stripper and Shaolin flips—to this year's Best Trick comp, and saw the impish Kyle Loza get all Chuck Carothers and knock him to the second spot.

Nate Adams
A busted finger won't keep Nate Adams off the podium. Gauze plus adhesive equals Silver.
Saturday, with Pastrana racing rally and selling books, and Adams having had four pins inserted into a crack left index finger Tuesday, Jones knew the opportunity to shed his bridesmaid status was there. "The thing that's killing me right now is that I know I have a real shot at winning this event with my two new tricks," he said from his trailer. "I have a chance, and I want to win. But I keep telling myself it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter, just ride, you're not going to win. Because the more I tell myself I'm not going to win, the more I won't think about it."

Sports psychologists, start your engines!

Moto riders are generally a social bunch, even during competition. They hang out, cheer each other on, talk a little trash and generally look like they're having fun. Not so with Jones. During the elimination round Saturday afternoon, Jones stood at the far end of the drop in, away from the action, looking like he'd swallowed a lemon. "It messes with me to sit there and watch everyone else do their runs and do them good," he said. "If I know that everybody stuck their run, it puts more pressure on me. If I don't know what anybody did, then I'm just riding. Sitting back away from everything helps." Whatever works. Jones stomped his first qualifying run for a 94.20.

Hello number one qualifier, hello happiness, right?

Jeremy Stenberg
Twitch is just happy to be out of a chair.
Please.

"I'm so psyched to be sitting where I am," he said after prelims. "I'm pretty confident that if I ride my best tonight, I'm gonna win. Pretty confident. But I'd better not get too excited yet." Besides, that Adams guy, generally considered by his peers as the top freestyler around, managed to sneak into the final on his second run, bad finger and all, with a 91.20.

Jones caught a break, so to speak, when Lusk landed short on his heart attack flip in their semi-final match, meaning all Jones had to do was complete his run to move on to the final. Easy peasy. In the other bracket, Twitch threw a big Indian air over the 115-foot gap, along with a flip whip and a no-handed flip, but lost out to Adams and his Lazy Boy flip, corked backflip and big no-handed flip to no-handed landing—93-92.

That meant Jones, who may have thought Adams' injury left the door open to his first X gold, would have to go through Adams. A bleeding-through-his-left-glove-like-Curt-Schilling's-bloody-sock-primed-for-the-Hollywood-ending Adams. All Jones could do was ride. He stuck his Shaolin and stripper flips, drilled a cordova flip, and even tossed in a subtle can-can flip with a saran return, just for good measure. 94.40.

Adam Jones
It's half empty. Of gold.
"When I came off the track, I thought it should be a win, but you never know. That was the best run I could possibly do," Jones said. "If Nate were to beat me, he was the better man today." He wasn't. Adams again went big, but not big enough. Finally, Jones had his gold. He hoisted his wife Dara in the air, then hugged his dad. "I never in a million years thought I'd be getting a gold medal," he said.

No kidding. But don't expect his gray-sky routine to change now that he's won. "I don't know. If I keep my expectations low, it's easier for me."

Who needs expectations anyway?

Notes

•During the elimination round, Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice to you, me and the 12-year-old girl in all of us) found her way into the athlete staging area without the required green wristband, no less. She was introduced to Twitch, and her kids took turns climbing aboard his bike.

•Lusk wasn't the only rider to crash. Taka Higashino took a nasty fall in his first qualifying run, suffering a broken left collarbone as a result. Not that it wiped the smile off his face (though that could have been due to pain killers).

•Ronnie Faisst received a re-ride after he crashed into a cameraman during his second run. Kung Fu managed to stay on his bike, but the camera guy left on a stretcher. Faisst himself would fall later in the run, badly overshooting his 360 attempt. Given another crack at it, Faisst again crashed on the 3. In fairness, it ain't exactly the easiest thing in the world to pull off.

•Showing they have a sense of humor, the production crew showed footage of Pastrana knocking off Jones in the '06 final on the Home Depot Center jumbotron during the commercial break before the comp.

Quotes

•"I was excited. From sitting here in a wheelchair here last year to getting a bronze medal this year, it feels like a gold medal to me." Stenberg, on winning his bronze.

•"I need a backpack." Adams, while struggling to situate himself and all his gear before the finals.

•"Jones already has some medals. He just wants a gold for once." Moto X announcer Cameron Steele, on the broadcast piped into the HDC.

•"I went from thinking I wasn't going to be able to ride a couple days ago to a total U-turn this week. Thinking rationally, I was like, "What are the odds of me being able to hold on?" My whole hand is bruised black and blue. I can't believe it happened, and I was able to ride as comfortably as I was." Adams, on riding with a pinned-up left index finger.