The Gravity Games made its return to Cleveland September 10-14, and the BMX portion was incredible.This was my first trip ever to Gravity, and below is a roundup of the action.

Dirt

I screwed up when I booked my plane ticket for this contest, which meant I showed up just as dirt qualifying was ending, but early enough to shoot the finals. The course looked incredible, with multiple lines and a cool bowl/berm. All of this combined presented a lot of options, and the trail riders loved it.

Simon Tabron, invert.  credit: Mark Losey

By the time the finals started, I learned that two of the big wigs—Cory Nastazio and T.J. Lavin—had both missed out on qualifying due to crashes in the prelims. There was still plenty of talent in the finals, though, and here are some of the guys I thought stood out.

Ryan Guettler—The Australian invasion is continuing, and Guettler is helping to lead the charge. I thought Ryan was mainly a park dog—not quite. He kills it all.

Stephen Murray—When it comes to contests, Stephen has one of the coolest mentalities in the sport: Either kick ass or go down trying—no playing it safe. During Stephen’s last run he crashed a 360-lookdown flip over the first set, but he instantly went back to the top of the roll-in to give it another go. This time he stuck a perfect 360-flip and wasn’t finished. Everyone knows Stephen has the double-flip in the bag, and it looked like he wanted to do a double over the last set, but he got balled up going into the berm and never made it to the last jump. Stephen just laughed it off, though—the guy rules.

Ryan Nyquist, one-hand X-up flip.  credit: Mark Losey

Reuel Erickson—Everyone was stoked that Reuel was in the finals, and he was not holding back. Decades mid-pack, a perfect superman-decade over the last set, and a double-flip attempt had the crowd—and the rest of the riders—going nuts.

Steve McCann—Once again, Stevie proved he is a force to be reckoned with. He’s got big tricks like crazy (flip-whips, 720s, etc.), and he is not afraid to let them fly.

Mike Aitken/Brian Foster—Mikey and B.F. were the two guys doing the most transfer action, and you could tell they were both raised on dirt. Mikey ended up crashing and possibly separating his shoulder, but he was too punk rock to use the sling the medics gave him.

Jamie Bestwick, man-sized no-footed can-can.  credit: Mark Losey

Chris Doyle—Personally, I think Doyle’s nickname should be Peregrine since the guy is a super pro. He makes things look so easy, but maybe that has something to do with the fact that he does all of his tricks about five times every time he rides the trails.

Ryan Nyquist—While Doyle and McCann both rode well, the contest was all about Nyquist. His last run included a 720 over the first set, suicide-360 over the second, and a double-barspin flip over the last. And did I mention that Ryan already had the win on lockdown before his last run? The guy will not stop.

Vert

Two things surprised me about the vert contest at the Gravity Games. First, Simon Tabron is now brakeless. Simon said that earlier in the week, Zack Shaw had broken his arm when his brake lever got caught in his pocket during a lookdown, and that prompted Simon to remove his brakes altogether. Even without the brakes, Simon still delivered his verarsenal, including all of his spinning tricks, including a perfect 900 to end his last run.

Ryan Guettler, tailwhip during the dirt finals.  credit: Mark Losey

The second surprise was the fact that Jamie Bestwick wasn’t in the top three. Jamie won the qualifying rounds by a mile, and he was doing the highest airs of the contest by far. In the finals, a couple of falls held him back, yet he still pulled off a tailwhip-flair carving over the channel.

I fully expected Dave Mirra to be on a vert mission after getting second at the X Games, and he killed it this time around. Dave has double-whips so dialed that he throws them at will (during qualifying he did one after simply manualing the previous wall). His five-whips seem to be just as dialed, along with his opposite one-footed X-up flairs. After his time was up Dave tried a tailwhip-flair carving over the channel (instead of going straight up and down like at the X Games), and he just missed it, but he still had the title.

Park

The Gravity Games park courses have always looked massive on TV, and this year I finally got visual proof. The course was huge with a lot to offer from box jump warrior tricks to tech stuff if you wanted it. Park practice was held regularly all weekend long, and by the time of the finals, the riders had the course dialed. The one miserable thing to come out of the park practice resulted when Chad Kagy over-cleared the box on a double-flip and crashed hard. A trip to the hospital revealed that he had fractured his fifth and sixth vertebrate, taking him out of the contest, and out of commission for a while. Get well soon, Chad.

Qualifying for park was pretty straightforward, except for Mirra. While going for a wallride over a gap, something went wrong which resulted in Dave slamming from about seven feet straight onto his hip. He still qualified for the finals in ninth, but his hip was so jacked that he wanted to pull out of the contest and let Colin Mackay ride instead (Colin just missed qualifying by getting 11th). The rules wouldn’t allow it, though, so Dave decided to ride after all.

Dave Mirra, opposite one-footed X-up flair.  credit: Mark Losey

The park finals were the last event of the weekend. The stands were packed, but the only problem was that a storm was blowing in quick. The contest started early, and if every rider only completed one run before it started to rain, the first round scores would be the only scores that mattered (usually it’s two runs with only the best run counting).

There were about a million highlights in the finals, so here’s a quick list. Guettler killed it again—double-whip transfers and so much more. Fellow Aussie McCann was on a mission and started his run with a perfect 720-lookback over the box. Dave Osato was beat up from qualifying, but he still rode well, almost pulling the tailwhip-to-nosepick he pulled in qualifying. Mike Laird had ridden strong in qualifying, and he started his first run in the finals with a double-whip over the box, but wound up crashing. Mike decided to write off run number one and try to kill it in round two. Gary Young and Brian Foster sprinted around the course with lines and transfers everywhere, and Alistair Whitton produced a big tailwhip over a gap, doing a disaster on the eight-foot sub wall.

Then there was Mirra and Nyquist. Since Dave had qualified in ninth he was the second rider to ride in the finals. Everyone knew he was in pain from his crash, but adrenaline must have taken over because he went crazy. Double-whip over the box, perfect wallride-to-flair on the first attempt, and a lot more. Mirra’s first run score had him in first place, and it looked like it would be up to Nyquist to stop him from winning.

Nyquist started his run with a truckdriver over the box backward, a 540-truckdriver on a quarterpipe, and then went straight into a 720 over the box. This looked like the only run that could beat Mirra, but while Ryan was doing a wallride he cased the landing, which wrecked his speed. It looked like Ryan was planning to jump the sub rail next, but his speed was gone, so he tried an impromptu 360-tailtap that ended up with him on the flat-bottom of the mini. He got up and tried to get things going again, but his back wheel was screwed up. This left Nyquist in second place after round one, and Ryan was looking forward to his second run to make up for it.

Steve McCann, 720-lookback. Not a bad way to start a run.  credit: Mark Losey

Click here to watch it.

A few riders got to take their second run in the finals, but then the rain kicked in. Since everyone had gotten one run completed, only the first round scores were counted, and Mirra’s first run had won the contest. Mirra went from not planning to ride to “accidentally” winning, while Ryan was left staring at the course in disbelief. Up until that moment, Ryan had won every contest he had entered in 2003. Second place is nothing to balk at, but I bet he spent a few nights wondering what could have happened if he got a chance to take his second run.

Gravity Games vs. X Games

I’ve been to eight X Games and this was my first time at Gravity, but here’s how I see the two—if you care. The X Games are a mega-professional TV show; it’s a giant event and everyone and everything runs with an almost sterile professionalism. The Gravity Games is also a huge contest with big money up for grabs, but it feels way more laid back, for the riders, the fans, and the guys with cameras trying to shoot photos. The crowd at the X Games this year was great, but it almost seemed like an audience watching a TV show that only got worked up when cameras were pointed at them. The crowd in Cleveland was off the hook all weekend long. Sure there was the lure of a few bikes being given away, but the crowd was genuinely into it and screamed their support nonstop. It was pretty impressive. They even stayed around to watch Brian Foster ride in the rain after the contest ended. I wouldn’t say the Gravity Games are better than the X Games, just different. They’re both doing a lot of good for the sport, and you can’t knock them for that.

Gravity Games Results

Dirt

1. Ryan Nyquist
2. Chris Doyle
3. Steve McCann
4. Reuel Erickson
5. Todd Walkowiak
6. Ryan Guettler
7. Corey Bohan
8. Mike Aitken
9. Brian Foster
10. Stephen Murray

Vert

1. Dave Mirra
2. Kevin Robinson
3. Simon Tabron
4. Chad Kagy
5. Jimmy Walker
6. Jamie Bestwick
7. Dennis McCoy
8. John Parker
9. Koji Kraft
10. Jay Eggleston

Park

1. Dave Mirra
2. Ryan Nyquist
3. Steve McCann
4. Ryan Guettler
5. Josh Harrington
6. Gary Young
7. Dave Osato
8. Alistair Whitton
9. Brian Foster
10. Mike Laird
renaline must have taken over because he went crazy. Double-whip over the box, perfect wallride-to-flair on the first attempt, and a lot more. Mirra’s first run score had him in first place, and it looked like it would be up to Nyquist to stop him from winning.

Nyquist started his run with a truckdriver over the box backward, a 540-truckdriver on a quarterpipe, and then went straight into a 720 over the box. This looked like the only run that could beat Mirra, but while Ryan was doing a wallride he cased the landing, which wrecked his speed. It looked like Ryan was planning to jump the sub rail next, but his speed was gone, so he tried an impromptu 360-tailtap that ended up with him on the flat-bottom of the mini. He got up and tried to get things going again, but his back wheel was screwed up. This left Nyquist in second place after round one, and Ryan was looking forward to his second run to make up for it.

Steve McCann, 720-lookback. Not a bad way to start a run.  credit: Mark Losey

Click here to watch it.

A few riders got to take their second run in the finals, but then the rain kicked in. Since everyone had gotten one run completed, only the first round scores were counted, and Mirra’s first run had won the contest. Mirra went from not planning to ride to “accidentally” winning, while Ryan was left staring at the course in disbelief. Up until that moment, Ryan had won every contest he had entered in 2003. Second place is nothing to balk at, but I bet he spent a few nights wondering what could have happened if he got a chance to take his second run.

Gravity Games vs. X Games

I’ve been to eight X Games and this was my first time at Gravity, but here’s how I see the two—if you care. The X Games are a mega-professional TV show; it’s a giant event and everyone and everything runs with an almost sterile professionalism. The Gravity Games is also a huge contest with big money up for grabs, but it feels way more laid back, for the riders, the fans, and the guys with cameras trying to shoot photos. The crowd at the X Games this year was great, but it almost seemed like an audience watching a TV show that only got worked up when cameras were pointed at them. The crowd in Cleveland was off the hook all weekend long. Sure there was the lure of a few bikes being given away, but the crowd was genuinely into it and screamed their support nonstop. It was pretty impressive. They even stayed around to watch Brian Foster ride in the rain after the contest ended. I wouldn’t say the Gravity Games are better than the X Games, just different. They’re both doing a lot of good for the sport, and you can’t knock them for that.

Gravity Games Results

Dirt

1. Ryan Nyquist
2. Chris Doyle
3. Steve McCann
4. Reuel Erickson
5. Todd Walkowiak
6. Ryan Guettler
7. Corey Bohan
8. Mike Aitken
9. Brian Foster
10. Stephen Murray

Vert

1. Dave Mirra
2. Kevin Robinson
3. Simon Tabron
4. Chad Kagy
5. Jimmy Walker
6. Jamie Bestwick
7. Dennis McCoy
8. John Parker
9. Koji Kraft
10. Jay Eggleston

Park

1. Dave Mirra
2. Ryan Nyquist
3. Steve McCann
4. Ryan Guettler
5. Josh Harrington
6. Gary Young
7. Dave Osato
8. Alistair Whitton
9. Brian Foster
10. Mike Laird