The sun sets on downtown Los Angeles. Fans, hoarse from cheering and glowing with too much sun, stream from the Staples Center, and L.A. Live. The Jersey barriers are being removed, returning Figueroa Street to a northbound thoroughfare when just a few hours ago it was a hotly contested stretch of the RallyCross course. That transformation was just one first in a four-day stretch of them that prove X Games 17 to be historic.
The Games began Thursday, but the fuse that sparked this action sports explosion was lit months ago with the announcement of the four-day "Pastranathon." Travis Pastrana's attempt to wrap the end of his competitive freestyle career into the beginning of his NASCAR career (never mind the 4,000-mile round-trip commute to Indianapolis right in the middle of the weekend) appeared to be doused before it really started after he shattered his leg and ankle attempting a rodeo 720 in Moto X Best Trick. The air seemed to follow Pastrana out of the Staples Center as he was stretchered to an ambulance, partially overshadowing Jackson Strong, who won the event by becoming the first competitor to successfully land a frontflip in competition.
"I feel bad for the fans who watched and thought it was no closer than two years ago," Pastrana said afterward, referring to his 2009 crash attempting the same trick. "To choke that badly on the first one and be zero-for-three in pressure situations, which I pride myself in, it's heartbreaking."
By Friday, Pastrana's Nationwide start was canceled and attention turned to another X Games staple. Jamie Bestwick, who has competed in X Games BMX Vert every year since 1996, sought the sport's first five-peat. The 40-year-old has frequently been without peer, but not this year. Thursday night's BMX Big Air champion, Steve McCann, laid a gauntlet by landing a no-handed 900, which hasn't been seen at X since Mat Hoffman did it in 2002. Bestwick stepped up to the challenge, relegating McCann to second place and earning his ninth gold medal.