Getting the dirt from Tarah Geiger
Lakers fans, don't be alarmed when you see X Games 17 crews dumping a few tons of dirt and telephone poles by the truckload onto the floor of the Staples Center this week -- the Moto X events are a leave-no-trace operation. Save for a few renegade specs and the scattering scent of exhaust fumes, all evidence of the action will vanish by Monday morning, but not before seven motorcycle events brap through the corridors and into the arena racetrack.
Four years ago, Tarah Geiger took home the inaugural Moto X women's racing gold medal. This year, the 25-year-old Floridian will vie for that title once again, in addition to competing for a podium spot in the debut event of Enduro X.
While she was training this week in Corona, Calif., espnW caught up with Geiger to help set the stage for what's in store this weekend.
espnW: What do you do in these last days leading up to X Games 17?
Tarah Geiger: This week I'm in Corona, just doing a couple days of SuperCross practice, some Enduro training Wednesday, and then Friday morning I'll check into the Staples Center. I'm just excited to get there.
espnW: Everybody talks about the men's moto culture in that hotbed of the Corona and Lake Elsinore area, with so many of the guys living so close to each other. Is there any kind of that camaraderie on the women's side of the sport?
TG: Well, living in Florida, I don't really see the girls I race against a whole lot. Getting ready for X Games, I've been riding with Ashley [Fiolek] at the Honda track. I know the Kawi girls have been riding together at their track. Day to day we don't really hang out with the people we compete against. But -- of course we're competitive at X Games and we all want to win -- at the same time, we're all so thankful for the opportunity to be there, and we want the sport to get better, so the X Games feels different than the competition at the nationals where it's all out for ourselves. At the X Games, there is a lot more helping each other out and more of that camaraderie.
espnW: You've been riding for years. Have you seen a difference in recognition of your sport since women were invited to the X Games four years ago?
TG: Oh yeah, it's so great to be in the X Games. It's something everybody knows about and can understand. To someone in the general population, you might tell them that you race motorcycles and then they usually they come back with, "Oh, do you do the X Games?" That's what translates to people, that's what comes to their head. For me, to be able to say, "Yes, I do, and I've won a gold medal," is awesome. I love to see their reaction. That is something that lasts forever.
espnW: OK, talk to us about Enduro X. It's the first year we'll see this -- what do we need to know? How is it different from straight moto racing?
TG: The difference is the obstacles. We're on a closed course and there is a lot of stuff in our way. Enduro is supposed to simulate riding in the hills and what you might come across. So basically there are a lot of logs and rocks and you're racing around, doing multiple laps, and whoever gets to the checkered flag first, wins.
espnW: And the men and women will compete on the same course, right?
TG: Yup. We can all ride motorcycles, so we shouldn't get any special treatment. I think it's great.
espnW: There's a lot of jockeying around in Enduro, as riders are knocking into each other. Plus, you take a lot more spills when trying to clear boulders on a dirt bike. How tough is it every time you have to pull your bike and yourself back up on the course?
TG: It takes a lot of strength. It's not just riding a bike, it's getting your bike over things that bikes aren't really made to get over. So sometimes you'll get stuck on a log or something, and have to lift the bike up over it. Or if you fall on the rocks, you have to pull it out and get back up again. You have to be able to handle the bike and position it in a way that you can get out, or you'll just be stuck there for the entire race. Enduro takes a lot of strength to pick up that bike and maneuver it around on that kind of course.
espnW: Tell us a little about your training regimen.
TG: I usually train on the bike four days a week, and then do strength training in the gym three days a week. Somewhere in between that I'll get on my road bicycle to do cardio and hill stuff. I mix it up to stay fit. I have a stand-up Jet Ski I ride in the lake when it gets hot out -- that's good cross training. It's really all about keeping your strength and endurance up.
espnW: What's your favorite event, Moto X Racing or Enduro X ... or is that like picking a favorite child?
TG: I really enjoy both Moto and Enduro for different reasons. We're going to get a nice big ramp on the Moto course this year that we didn't have last year, so I'm really excited about that. I've raced Enduro one time so far, and I took to it pretty good. It was so much fun. It's going to be a good race. It's so tight and fast. There's going to be some banging around. Everybody has a shot to win. The whole race is probably going to be less than five minutes, so anything can happen.
espnW: Is there more pressure on you now that you have a few X medals to your name?
TG: Yeah, I mean, either I win it or I don't. I definitely don't want to finish out of medal contention. That would really make me mad. I know my best is a gold, but I'll be super upset if I don't medal at all. With Enduro, maybe there is a little less pressure, just because you don't know what to expect, so you can't have that anxiety about what's to come. With the Moto event, you know who is going to get a good start and who you're going to have to race against, and it's the anticipation of what's to come that brews the pressure for me.
espnW: Finally, how does it feel to have so much cash riding on your career in this contest?
TG: It's a big payday for us. I don't have another job. This is my job. We don't make much money in the way of bonuses and prize winnings during the year. I have my salary I'm on through sponsors, but X Games money is a big deal. It's not something I can put too much pressure on myself about, though. I want to win because I want to win. We'll see what happens.
Women's Moto X Racing airs live Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN 2. Men's and Women's Enduro X debuts on Sunday at 9:15 p.m. on ESPN2. See the complete TV listings here and find a complete list of Enduro X competitors here.
Mary Buckheit is a freelance writer based in San Diego. She can be reached at MaryBuckheit@hotmail.com.