Ask anyone in the sport and they tell you that freestyle motocross at the X Games has been lackluster in recent years. To be honest, the X Games as a whole have been lackluster in recent years. ESPN put events in Brazil, Germany, and Spain as an attempt to grow their marquee action sports event, until exuberant costs and other unforeseen factors made the admirable venture a massive flop. Many thought the move from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas, would bring a new life to the aging event and while attendance at the Circuit of the Americas and in the city’s center over the last few years has been solid, ESPN recently announced they are getting out of their contract with the venue one year early, due largely to the oppressive heat of the summer months in Texas.
So, onto some positives regarding the 2016 event. In Thursday’s announcement, organizers stated that a number of freestyle motocross events will return, including traditional scored freestyle motocross runs and the popular Best Trick contest. In total, there are six motorcycle events slated for the 2016 X Games: Best Trick, Best Whip, Harley-Davidson Flat-Track Racing (second year), Freestyle, QuarterPipe, and Step-Up.
Missing from the event list is EnduroCross, which has been a part of the event in recent years and is owned by our parent company, The Enthusiast Network.
Seeing Best Trick on the schedule is a bit of a surprise, due to the risks involved with the format and ESPN’s history of giving unproven riders a chance to perform tricks in a pressure-filled situation. In fact, we remember hearing that riders in the lineup had never successful landed their intended moves before the contest, and oftentimes the results were disastrous.
Freestyle motocross and the X Games grew at a tremendous rate in the early 2000s, with ESPN even hosting a motocross-only event in San Diego. It lasted one year. When FMX in the X Games seemed to slow, many riders made choreographed shows, such as Nitro Circus, their focus.
ESPN has made a number of attempts at keeping the star athletes in the spotlight, long after careers in their respective sports had concluded, notably with the inclusion of rally car racing. By putting athletes in cars with roll cages, they were able to still advertise household names like Travis Pastrana, Bucky Lasek, and the late Dave Mirra. Rally has since been removed from the event.
The 2016 X Games takes place June 2-5 in Austin, Texas. The first full list of invited athletes will be announced in the coming weeks.