Irvine, Calif. (August 1, 2011) -- Monster Energy Kawasaki's EnduroCross team arrived at X Games 17 in in Los Angeles, Calif. prepared for battle. The kick-off to the 2011 EnduroCross season couldn't have been better, with thousands of fans filling the Staples Center and a live broadcast on ESPN. Millions of viewers tuned in to watch the exciting race unfold on the challenging new course. Following the Saturday night Moto X Speed and Style Final, the track builders worked all night preparing the course which featured a myriad of unique obstacles including a treacherous drop-in ramp, a water-hazard, and a giant hill covered with rocks and logs, which racers dubbed the Matterhorn.
Justin Soule' powered around the course with explosive energy and finished on the podium in third place, capturing a bronze medal. Destry Abbott also battled hard throughout the night to finish sixth overall after winning an exciting LCQ. Although a rough start in his heat race left Taylor Robert near the back of the pack coming around the first turn, he put on an impressive charge to finish second. In the main event Robert finished ninth overall.
World Class Performance
Soule' came to the X Games confident and well-prepared for Round 1 of the EnduroCross season. In his first heat he grabbed the holeshot and rode smooth until the checkered flag, grabbing second place and advancing to the main event. After the gate dropped in the main, Soule' hit the dirt and found himself in sixth position with 12 laps to go, amongst a field of world-class competitors. With skillful precision, Soule' powered past the competition on the difficult course. He continued gaining ground until the last lap and finished in third, capturing X Games bronze from the inaugural event.
"This whole X Games experience was out of this world," said Soule'. "Although I was shooting for gold, I'm really happy I medaled. It was such a great start to the EnduroCross season. I'm so happy I got on the box and was able to represent my sponsors world-wide, in front of millions. The best moment of the entire night was the last lap of the main event. I was in third, but got hung up and Joaquin Lundgren got around me. In the last couple turns I got back around him for third and the crowd went crazy. The start was hands-down the most difficult part of the course, it was so out of control and sketchy. The drop from the gate was difficult enough, but with 10 guys and their egos pushing for the front, charging down that steep ramp off the gate was scary. My KX(tm)250F ran like a dream. Our team, and my mechanic Steve Smith, have put in a lot of time getting my KX250F dialed-in for this event and it couldn't have run better. It was such an amazing night."
Roar of the Crowd
Over the past couple decades, Abbott has almost seen it all in his extensive career as a professional racer. However, the X Games proved to be one of the most unique and exciting experiences of his racing career. In his first heat, Abbott was cleaned out from behind heading down the start ramp by other riders who had lost traction and slid underneath his bike. The resulting pile-up at the bottom of the ramp left Abbott in the back of the pack and fighting to make up ground. He advanced to the LCQ where he grabbed the holeshot and put in a solid ride to take the win and qualify for the main event. In the main event, Abbott rode smooth and consistent around the course and worked his way through the field to finish in sixth place.
"The X Games was so great, I've never felt like such a superstar before," said Abbott. "The promoters really take good care of the athletes, so just being a competitor there is a really big deal. It was awesome to be part of that whole experience. I've never had millions of people watching me race, it was off the hook. I think the exposure will make a huge impact for the sport of EnduroCross. Now that people know what it's all about, and it's a lot of fun to watch, I think more fans will be filling the stands at future EnduroCross events. The LCQ was the highlight of my night. Ricky (Dietrich) and I were battling almost the entire race. In the last couple laps he got around me in the water, but I got him back in the rocks. It was so cool to hear the roar of the crowd and know that thousands of people were cheering for me. My goal was to make the main, and I knew it was going to be a tough task, but I made it. I'm happy with how I did in the main. I thought I was going to finish fifth, but made a mistake on the last lap which left me in sixth. Overall I had a lot fun and am happy I left the X Games healthy because I have to get on an airplane in a few hours to fly to Finland for the International Six-Days Enduro (ISDE)."
Even though Robert got tangled in a mess of riders off the start, he picked up his KX250F and kept charging. He continued to make his way through the field, pushing past competitor after competitor, until he was right behind the leader. Robert nearly passed the leader for the win a couple times, but eventually ran out of time and finished in second. In the main, Robert got a decent start, but got hung up a couple times throughout the race and finished in ninth place.
"Being at the X Games was pretty awesome," said Robert. "It was so cool being one of the athletes, and chilling in the lounge with other athletes that I looked up to when I was younger. Racing the EnduroCross was such a cool experience. The fan's cheering actually helped me because I always knew when someone went down. In my first heat race my bike actually got kicked out from underneath me when other racers slid into me off the start ramp. My KX250F got flipped upside down, but didn't stall, so I picked it right up and started putting some solid laps. I went from ninth to second, caught the leader, and kept trying to get around him. I could hear the crowd cheer every time I tried to make a pass and I was really feeding off the energy. I ended up running out of laps and finished in second. In the main I got a decent start, but just made some mistakes and had a tough time relaxing. That was my first EnduroCross main event and I finished in ninth place, so it didn't go exactly how I wanted, but I'm happy I made the main. My KX250F really ran great, we've spent the last few months really getting the bike exactly how I wanted. The suspension was perfect and the tires hooked up good even on the wet stuff. I can't wait to do this again next year."
From a spectator point of view, the first event of the EnduroCross season couldn't have gone better. With tens of thousands of screaming fans in attendance, and millions of viewers world-wide, the world finally got a taste of this exciting sport. By the end of the event, promoters touted the fact that the EnduroCross event had received the most traffic, in person and on television, than any other event at the X Games. With the enormous amount of exposure generated from this inaugural X Games event, and the overwhelmingly positive response from the fans, the EnduroCross community is expecting big things for the future of EnduroCross.
When the Monster Energy Kawasaki team arrived at the X Games, they knew the field would be stacked, and making the main event would be a challenge. After the heat races and LCQ wrapped up, all three Monster Energy Kawasaki riders had earned a spot in the main event aboard their KX250Fs.
Back to the Grind
In two weeks, Soule' and Robert head to Round 2 of the EnduroCross series in Everett, Wash. Abbott is currently on his way to Finland to compete in the 2011 ISDE. With Round 1 of the EnduroCross series in the books, the Monster Energy Kawasaki team is focused and more determined than ever to capture the 2011 EnduroCross championship.
X Games 17
Staples Center - Los Angeles, Calif.
July 31, 2011
Men's EnduroCross Results
1. Taddy Blazusiak, KTM
2. Mike Brown, KTM
3. JUSTIN SOULE', MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI
6. DESTRY ABBOTT, MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI
9. TAYLOR ROBERT, MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI