Vince Byron bests BMX legend Jamie Bestwick for X Games vert gold
MINNEAPOLIS — With history on the line, Jamie Bestwick said he wasn't feeling the pressure.
But neither was Vince Byron, the only person to best Bestwick in an X Games BMX vert competition in a decade.
Showing a mastery of 540 combo tricks, Byron recorded two scores over 90 points to once again win X Games gold in the Fruit of the Loom Vert contest Thursday, July 13, outside U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Hundreds of fans crowded the stadium plaza to watch eight of the top BMX riders in the world compete for the first medals awarded at X Games Minneapolis 2017. They were treated to strong runs early and often, with half the riders earning scores of 80 or higher in the first round.
"First one, I would say is always the more difficult one because you're dropping in the first time in the contest and you're trying to get something on the board," said Byron, from Brisbane, Australia. "I was so happy to pull that one all in one piece, and smooth, but I knew I could improve it a bit on the second run."
Byron, the 2015 BMX vert champion, said he didn't feel his second run improved on his earlier performance, but the pair of flawless 540 flares to bookend a solid string of tricks was enough for gold and 93.00 points, edging out Bestwick's 92.66.
"Vince rode great today," Bestwick said. "I kind of knew what he was going to do, as I've seen him in practice all week long. It was a great run."
The bar was set high early by Chilean Coco Zurita, who put together a run featuring a flare tailwhip followed with a double tailwhip to score 88.00, good for bronze.
Bestwick, 46 years old and nagged by lingering injuries, could not find his usual rhythm in either run.
"With the back issues I've got, and my leg, I was just never warm on the ramp," he said. "In the middle of the ramp, when I was hitting the wall, I was like 'OK, what am I doing now?' Normally, it's just instinctive. But (somehow) I got silver."
The British legend may have left gold on the table, as a near spill derailed an otherwise brilliant second run, which was good for only 91.00 points.
"I got away with murder on the ramp," Bestwick said. "In an alley oop 540 whip and then hitting my back peg on the ramp, and riding away... I started laughing on the ramp, and I could hear everybody else laughing too. I was like 'It's over, it's done, get out of here.'
"I finished out the run, but there were a lot of dead airs. That's riding at the highest level, though, you can't skip a beat."
The experience that kept Bestwick from face planting after catching his peg is what makes him so dangerous, Byron said.
"Jamie is for sure the one you want to beat," he said. "He knows what he's doing, and he's very good at it. You can never underestimate him."
Bestwick will leave his 21st X Games with his 18th medal. He remains tied with BMX icon Dave Mirra with 14 gold medals, and one shy of summer and winter X Games legend Shaun White.
"It was never any pressure on me to break the record," Bestwick said. "It's a dream come true to sit in the same medal position as Dave Mirra.
"And there's always next year."