By Keith Mulligan


You can call it the “Lame Games.” That’s what they were¿dirt-wise anyway. This year’s event (specifically the dirt jumping contest) was plagued with problems. There were only two major problems, really, but they were big ones. First, since the whole X Games event is a made-for-television affair, ESPN likes to do things the way they think will look best¿not necessarily the way they’ll work best. The dirt jumps on the course were built so that the riders would be jumping into the afternoon sun. Good lighting for TV, but bad for riders because the sun would be in their eyes, and shadows would be on the lips. But worse than that, the jumps headed directly into the wind¿which blows the in same direction every day. This year’s venue was set on a pier that stuck out into the San Francisco Bay. The wind blew hard, and it blew every day. If the jumps had simply faced the other direction, things would have been different. Hoffman Bikes’ Chad Kagy helped build the course and knew right away that the wind would be a problem. He told ESPN, but unfortunately, nothing was done about the situation, and the cameras rolled.
We were at the X Games in San Francisco. You were at home watching it on TV. For either of us to try to put what we witnessed into words would be unfair. So we’ll let the riders do it. They are the ones who lived it.

Nyquist hits a 360 variation. photo by McDonald

THE MONSTER ROLL-IN

The unnatural 20/30-foot-tall wood and scaffolding roll-in towered over the dirt jumps. Looking down its 52° slope from the tall side, the jumps looked like ant hills, it literally made your stomach drop. Everyone who rode down it agreed that it was pretty scary. S&M’s Freddie Chulo wasn’t in the contest, but he was the first to go down it and hit the 28-foot set of doubles at the bottom. Some riders got used to the roll-in first by pulling off the course before the jumps, and others hit them first try. At least half of the riders skidded down it during their runs.

“The first time was crazy¿you didn’t know what to expect. Everyone checked their sprockets to make sure they didn’t hit the top¿that was funny.”¿Fuzzy

“It took me about a good hour-and-a-half to get myself psyched up to do it.”¿Mike Parenti

“It was good, but it was hard judging your speed. Sometimes you’d feather your brakes going down and you’d case the first set, sometimes you’d roll down and overshoot.”¿Jerry Bagley

“It’s neat and all, but when you have to skid halfway down it so you don’t kill yourself and overshoot the jump, it’s pretty much unnecessary.”¿Jay Miron

“When are they going to let us pedal up to the jumps? I could have gone down and done all of my runs without a chain¿that’s not BMX. Anyone of us were capable of pedaling up to jumps that big or else we wouldn’t have been there.”¿Shaun Butler

THE JUMPS

If it weren’t for the gusting winds, the contest probably would have been great¿the jumps were big and there were a decent variety of lines and runs to choose from. Unfortunately they didn’t keep the jumps covered or watered. As a result, they dried out and were falling apart¿but that’s just scratching the surface. The biggest problem lay buried underneath the dirt. Due to the weight limit on the pier, ESPN decided that a good way to save weight would be to put Styrofoam under the jumps. This caused them to feel spongy, bouncy, and soft, and added to their premature decay. It was a bad idea.

“The size was good. If they were built right I think they could have been a really good contest. Every time you went up, the lips were different. The were pieces missing, and there were new ruts. With the landings being crumbled and bumpy¿you couldn’t pump through the rhythm¿it felt like a sponge. The whole flat bottom was rocks and dirt that wasn’t packed or anything.”¿Joey Garcia

“The far right was smushy and slow, it didn’t really flow. Styrofoam in the middle of the jumps really shouldn’t be acceptable.”¿Josh Stricker

Josh Stricker: 270 x-up 360.

BREAKING WIND

By now you know that the wind was a major factor at the X Games. Every sport had to deal with the wind in some way, and there were many complaints from all sides of the venue. The dirt jumpers undeniably had it the worst, however. At gusts of up to 30 mph, it’s amazing the contest even went on. But this was TV, and as the saying goes: “The show must go on.” Thankfully, no one was seriously injured.

“If it was really windy we’d sit there and wait for a minute. Then, people would just snap, say F-it and go.”¿Matt Beringer

“It didn’t affect some people as much as it affected me. It was a mental thing, I guess. It never works out near or on a beach. It’s always against the wind because of the scenery, or the lighting, or whatever they need.”¿Shaun Butler

“It’s really a shame that you assemble twenty guys with that much talent and they’re unable to prove it or show it. It’s lame a guy like Nyquist couldn’t demonstrate his talent ’cause the wind wouldn’t let him.”¿Jay Miron

ARE YOU READY?

A lot was going through the rider’s minds while it was all going down. Some couldn’t believe it was happening. For most, it all was happening too quick.

“They didn’t tell us to go and they didn’t tell us not to go, it was just going on. It was heart breaking to see all the good riders like Fuzzy, Miron, Butler, and Nastazio¿all these consistent riders go for it all and go down. I hated watching it.”¿Mike Parenti

“It was so strange¿all of a sudden we were running it. You didn’t have any time to really think about it¿everything was up for grabs right then and there. I couldn’t believe what we were doing. We were riding when we shouldn’t have been because of money and TV. It’s amazing what money did to it.”¿Fuzzy

STRATEGIES

Some people go into contests with a plan, some don’t. With the size of this contest, the money at stake, the fact that they changed it to a straight-final four-run contest, and with the wind factor, strategies both changed and emerged throughout the day. Most riders had planned on using qualifying as a gauge to see what they were capable of, but they didn’t get that chance. Many jumpers found comfort in the fact that they only had to come up with four good runs, rather than eight.

“I was stoked that they changed it to a four run comp. It made everybody go crazy right off the bat instead of thinking about points.”¿Matt Beringer

“Off the first three lips were the only transfers. I knew it was going to be a left-side contest, so I started concentrating on different lines through the middle. At the X Games everyone is riding good. I figure if everyone’s riding good, you need to do something else. The year before, everyone was hitting the right side¿I concentrated on the left. This year I knew everyone was going to be on the left¿I wanted to hit the middle and do some transfers. When it started, no one was sure if jumping the first set and doing a no-footer on the second was going to be a good run. I didn’t know what to do.”¿Brian Foster

“I thought in a way no qualifying was kind of unfair. In a way you want to go off ’cause it’s the finals, but you want to stay conservative to make top ten and make it into next year’s X Games. It held me back a lot. I know if there was qualifying I would thrown some good stuff for the finals.”¿Mike Parenti

“I saw how high the judges were scoring on jumping the big stuff and doing good tricks, so I decided to come out with a tailwhip. I tried to stick with something I knew and it paid off. I wanted to have a good first jump ’cause it’s hard to come back when you look at the scoreboard and it says you’re in 17th or 18th place.”¿T.J. Lavin

VU-JA DAY?

Last year’s gold medal decision came down to T.J. Lavin’s last run with Brian Foster sitting on top of the points board anxiously waiting to see what would unfold. This year the scenario was switched. T.J. was on top by only two-tenths of a point, while Brian was the last to jump. After Brian crashed (as T.J. did the year before) it was all over. The real irony, however, is that Brian crashed going for a big transfer¿which is how he won last year, while T.J. started off this year with the trick he lost over last year¿a tailwhip.

“My third run I did the big transfer and then a one-footed table. I wanted to do that transfer again with maybe an x-up and then do a 360 on the next jump¿I thought that would be a better run. Now that I think about it, if I had gone down and done a normal run, I’d probably have won. My other two scores were really good, but on my first run I slapped my foot down¿that score would have been easy to clean up. I didn’t want to get second and know that I just took it easy on the last run. I knew I had second wrapped up, I was the last guy to go, I figured it was mine to win. I didn’t get any backside on the roll-in. I wanted to come from the side and get more speed. It was bad. I knew as soon as I hit the roll-in, I took one pedal, and I was like, ‘Oh Jeez…’ I was way off.”¿Brian Foster

“I knew my scores were higher than his, he had to do something good. Me and Foster were doing the math. He told me that we had first and second wrapped up. We had a little conference on what we were going to do. I told him and he told me. I think he’s a pretty good man because he stood up for what he said he was going to do. He tried it. The winds were so bad¿I wouldn’t have bagged on him for backing out. He didn’t, he just went for it. I didn’t back out¿the winds were horrible, and I tried anyway. I could have flipped the first set-to-360 the second¿something that I was pretty sure I could pull, but I decided to go for the tailwhip-360 in the wind. I told Foster I was doing it and he appreciated that, I think. I thought it was pretty cool he went for his. It was kind of weird that it was last year’s scenario reversed¿him waiting for me and I folded. It was me waiting for him this year and he folded¿it was kind of freaky.”¿T.J. Lavin

Brian Foster nails a turndown during practice. photo by Brad McDonald

THE FINAL OUTCOME

Everyone agreed that this contest was crap, but that the final outcome was fair. Things were judged differently at this comp. The joke before it started was that someone was going to win the X Games and $13,000 for doing an X-up. That wasn’t the case, but whoever said it wasn’t too far off. T.J. basically won with tricks he’d normally use in qualifying. And for everyone, just making it through the jumps clean with basic tricks got you a good score.

“It was hard to say if the judging was fair because of Foster and Nyquist putting their feet down on more than one run and still making medals. I think it was fair because you know that normally they would never put their feet dthe finals, but you want to stay conservative to make top ten and make it into next year’s X Games. It held me back a lot. I know if there was qualifying I would thrown some good stuff for the finals.”¿Mike Parenti

“I saw how high the judges were scoring on jumping the big stuff and doing good tricks, so I decided to come out with a tailwhip. I tried to stick with something I knew and it paid off. I wanted to have a good first jump ’cause it’s hard to come back when you look at the scoreboard and it says you’re in 17th or 18th place.”¿T.J. Lavin

VU-JA DAY?

Last year’s gold medal decision came down to T.J. Lavin’s last run with Brian Foster sitting on top of the points board anxiously waiting to see what would unfold. This year the scenario was switched. T.J. was on top by only two-tenths of a point, while Brian was the last to jump. After Brian crashed (as T.J. did the year before) it was all over. The real irony, however, is that Brian crashed going for a big transfer¿which is how he won last year, while T.J. started off this year with the trick he lost over last year¿a tailwhip.

“My third run I did the big transfer and then a one-footed table. I wanted to do that transfer again with maybe an x-up and then do a 360 on the next jump¿I thought that would be a better run. Now that I think about it, if I had gone down and done a normal run, I’d probably have won. My other two scores were really good, but on my first run I slapped my foot down¿that score would have been easy to clean up. I didn’t want to get second and know that I just took it easy on the last run. I knew I had second wrapped up, I was the last guy to go, I figured it was mine to win. I didn’t get any backside on the roll-in. I wanted to come from the side and get more speed. It was bad. I knew as soon as I hit the roll-in, I took one pedal, and I was like, ‘Oh Jeez…’ I was way off.”¿Brian Foster

“I knew my scores were higher than his, he had to do something good. Me and Foster were doing the math. He told me that we had first and second wrapped up. We had a little conference on what we were going to do. I told him and he told me. I think he’s a pretty good man because he stood up for what he said he was going to do. He tried it. The winds were so bad¿I wouldn’t have bagged on him for backing out. He didn’t, he just went for it. I didn’t back out¿the winds were horrible, and I tried anyway. I could have flipped the first set-to-360 the second¿something that I was pretty sure I could pull, but I decided to go for the tailwhip-360 in the wind. I told Foster I was doing it and he appreciated that, I think. I thought it was pretty cool he went for his. It was kind of weird that it was last year’s scenario reversed¿him waiting for me and I folded. It was me waiting for him this year and he folded¿it was kind of freaky.”¿T.J. Lavin

Brian Foster nails a turndown during practice. photo by Brad McDonald

THE FINAL OUTCOME

Everyone agreed that this contest was crap, but that the final outcome was fair. Things were judged differently at this comp. The joke before it started was that someone was going to win the X Games and $13,000 for doing an X-up. That wasn’t the case, but whoever said it wasn’t too far off. T.J. basically won with tricks he’d normally use in qualifying. And for everyone, just making it through the jumps clean with basic tricks got you a good score.

“It was hard to say if the judging was fair because of Foster and Nyquist putting their feet down on more than one run and still making medals. I think it was fair because you know that normally they would never put their feet down on some of the tricks that they did.”¿T.J. Lavin

“It’s hard to judge when somebody does a dead sailor and then the next three or four people do the same. I think the judges were perfect, they did their best.”¿Shaun Butler

“I was into it just from racing in the mud and being used to dealing with different conditions. I was bummed because I thought I could of had some better runs, but I can’t think of one person who doesn’t wish they had better runs. T.J. had three above average runs, but he didn’t light-it-up. Nyquist had two insane runs and two balled-up runs. I think the circumstances might make next year crazy. Everyone’s probably pissed about the way they rode, people are going to come out swinging.”¿Brian Foster

“I was psyched ’cause all of my runs were pretty consistent. I was bummed because I was in third until Nyquist came up¿he took my medal (laughter).”¿Jerry Bagley

“I can’t believe how much money everyone made in two hours and it was the worst contest ever.”¿Fuzzy

TRICKS THAT NEVER HAPPENED

A lot of guys had new tricks up their sleeves for this comp, but never got the chance to show them. Butler had superman seat-grab 360’s, Joey Garcia had tailwhip stuff, T.J. had 360 tailwhips dialed. Unfortunately, almost every rider’s bag of tricks stayed closed.

“Everybody did their homework and was ready to show what they had. I heard Butler had new stuff, I know Nyquist did, I did, Foster¿everybody was ready to come with everything they had¿it was going to be a really good showdown.”¿T.J. Lavin

“When I took a look at the jumps, I wanted to lay down a double-back (flip). I was keeping it kind of quiet, but I wanted to do it. The middle line’s first set¿it was perfect. Big huge kicker, a big roll-in… It was just like the TV show I did¿the same distance and everything. But in that wind, it’s just not worth dying over, you know?”¿Jay Miron

“I had a lot of double-truck stuff, tailwhip stuff. If it were qualifying then finals, I think I would have done it, but I stayed conservative.”¿Mike Parenti

WHAT YOU WATCHED & WHAT YOU DIDN’T

TV didn’t show everything. Van Homan gaped over the rail from the tall side of the roll-in to the shorter side during his last run. Matt Beringer backflipped the 28-foot-set then unsuccessfully attempted a frontflip on the second set on his last run. After the contest, he went for a glory run to try it again and ended up sliding down the second set landing on his face. Freestyle motocross rider Travis Pastrana jumped from one of their berms off the pier and into the Bay. What you watched on TV wasn’t everything that went down, it was only a slice of the action.

“They didn’t even show Bagley¿that’s an outrage. I wanted to puke.”¿Van Homan

“I don’t know why they mixed our sport up with vert Rollerblade triples.”¿Shaun Butler

“The viewers missed a lot of good riding. Every year it’s Brian, Lavin, Nyquist, and Nasty¿all the big dudes. They should give us underdogs a chance. They didn’t see any of our runs. People were actually doing hard tricks during 20 mph winds.”¿Jerry Bagley

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

For some riders, the X Games are a big deal¿they wait all year for it. For others, it’s just another contest and a weird experience. Either way, it’s here to stay.

“The X Games are just another day chillin’ with all of my friends and riding¿that’s all it is.”¿Jerry Bagley

“A lot of the young guys don’t know the amount of exposure that it gets. Some people see me ride once a year and it’s at the X Games¿they don’t even know I race. Most people take it as a normal contest. I don’t. It’s big purse money, it’s on TV, and sponsors are into it.”¿Brian Foster

“I go there for the money. People can diss me, but the money I make at the X Games allows me to make a living off of BMX and ride every day.”¿Jay Miron

Next year’s X Games are set to go down in San Francisco once again, and dirt jumping will undoubtedly be a part of the event. Nobody’s sure if ESPN will have the contest on the pier again, or if they’ll try to find another location within the city, but one thing’s for sure, if theey don’t make some changes and address the wind problems, they’re going to lose some ratings. Hopefully 2000 will be one to tune in to.

1999 X Games
San Francisco, California

Bicycle Stunt Dirt Results

1. T.J. Lavin (Specialized) $13,000
2. Brian Foster (Schwinn) $7,000
3. Ryan Nyquist (Haro) $5,000
4. Jerry Bagley (Mosh) $3,000
5. Mike Parenti (GT) $2,000
6. Chris Duncan (Free Agent) $1,500
7. Matt Beringer (Redline) $1,000
8. Chad Kagy (Hoffman Bikes) $900
9. Joey Garcia (Schwinn) $800
10. Van Homan (Schwinn) $700
on some of the tricks that they did.”¿T.J. Lavin

“It’s hard to judge when somebody does a dead sailor and then the next three or four people do the same. I think the judges were perfect, they did their best.”¿Shaun Butler

“I was into it just from racing in the mud and being used to dealing with different conditions. I was bummed because I thought I could of had some better runs, but I can’t think of one person who doesn’t wish they had better runs. T.J. had three above average runs, but he didn’t light-it-up. Nyquist had two insane runs and two balled-up runs. I think the circumstances might make next year crazy. Everyone’s probably pissed about the way they rode, people are going to come out swinging.”¿Brian Foster

“I was psyched ’cause all of my runs were pretty consistent. I was bummed because I was in third until Nyquist came up¿he took my medal (laughter).”¿Jerry Bagley

“I can’t believe how much money everyone made in two hours and it was the worst contest ever.”¿Fuzzy

TRICKS THAT NEVER HAPPENED

A lot of guys had new tricks up their sleeves for this comp, but never got the chance to show them. Butler had superman seat-grab 360’s, Joey Garcia had tailwhip stuff, T.J. had 360 tailwhips dialed. Unfortunately, almost every rider’s bag of tricks stayed closed.

“Everybody did their homework and was ready to show what they had. I heard Butler had new stuff, I know Nyquist did, I did, Foster¿everybody was ready to come with everything they had¿it was going to be a really good showdown.”¿T.J. Lavin

“When I took a look at the jumps, I wanted to lay down a double-back (flip). I was keeping it kind of quiet, but I wanted to do it. The middle line’s first set¿it was perfect. Big huge kicker, a big roll-in… It was just like the TV show I did¿the same distance and everything. But in that wind, it’s just not worth dying over, you know?”¿Jay Miron

“I had a lot of double-truck stuff, tailwhip stuff. If it were qualifying then finals, I think I would have done it, but I stayed conservative.”¿Mike Parenti

WHAT YOU WATCHED & WHAT YOU DIDN’T

TV didn’t show everything. Van Homan gaped over the rail from the tall side of the roll-in to the shorter side during his last run. Matt Beringer backflipped the 28-foot-set then unsuccessfully attempted a frontflip on the second set on his last run. After the contest, he went for a glory run to try it again and ended up sliding down the second set landing on his face. Freestyle motocross rider Travis Pastrana jumped from one of their berms off the pier and into the Bay. What you watched on TV wasn’t everything that went down, it was only a slice of the action.

“They didn’t even show Bagley¿that’s an outrage. I wanted to puke.”¿Van Homan

“I don’t know why they mixed our sport up with vert Rollerblade triples.”¿Shaun Butler

“The viewers missed a lot of good riding. Every year it’s Brian, Lavin, Nyquist, and Nasty¿all the big dudes. They should give us underdogs a chance. They didn’t see any of our runs. People were actually doing hard tricks during 20 mph winds.”¿Jerry Bagley

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

For some riders, the X Games are a big deal¿they wait all year for it. For others, it’s just another contest and a weird experience. Either way, it’s here to stay.

“The X Games are just another day chillin’ with all of my friends and riding¿that’s all it is.”¿Jerry Bagley

“A lot of the young guys don’t know the amount of exposure that it gets. Some people see me ride once a year and it’s at the X Games¿they don’t even know I race. Most people take it as a normal contest. I don’t. It’s big purse money, it’s on TV, and sponsors are into it.”¿Brian Foster

“I go there for the money. People can diss me, but the money I make at the X Games allows me to make a living off of BMX and ride every day.”¿Jay Miron

Next year’s X Games are set to go down in San Francisco once again, and dirt jumping will undoubtedly be a part of the event. Nobody’s sure if ESPN will have the contest on the pier again, or if they’ll try to find another location within the city, but one thing’s for sure, if they don’t make some changes and address the wind problems, they’re going to lose some ratings. Hopefully 2000 will be one to tune in to.

1999 X Games
San Francisco, California

Bicycle Stunt Dirt Results

1. T.J. Lavin (Specialized) $13,000
2. Brian Foster (Schwinn) $7,000
3. Ryan Nyquist (Haro) $5,000
4. Jerry Bagley (Mosh) $3,000
5. Mike Parenti (GT) $2,000
6. Chris Duncan (Free Agent) $1,500
7. Matt Beringer (Redline) $1,000
8. Chad Kagy (Hoffman Bikes) $900
9. Joey Garcia (Schwinn) $800
10. Van Homan (Schwinn) $700
“¿Brian Foster

“I go there for the money. People can diss me, but the money I make at the X Games allows me to make a living off of BMX and ride every day.”¿Jay Miron

Next year’s X Games are set to go down in San Francisco once again, and dirt jumping will undoubtedly be a part of the event. Nobody’s sure if ESPN will have the contest on the pier again, or if they’ll try to find another location within the city, but one thing’s for sure, if they don’t make some changes and address the wind problems, they’re going to lose some ratings. Hopefully 2000 will be one to tune in to.

1999 X Games
San Francisco, California

Bicycle Stunt Dirt Results

1. T.J. Lavin (Specialized) $13,000
2. Brian Foster (Schwinn) $7,000
3. Ryan Nyquist (Haro) $5,000
4. Jerry Bagley (Mosh) $3,000
5. Mike Parenti (GT) $2,000
6. Chris Duncan (Free Agent) $1,500
7. Matt Beringer (Redline) $1,000
8. Chad Kagy (Hoffman Bikes) $900
9. Joey Garcia (Schwinn) $800
10. Van Homan (Schwinn) $700