Buyten takes to air for X Games gold
The rules for Moto X Step Up are simple. Riders take their 250cc Moto X bikes at a steeply pitched, 18-foot-high wall of dirt, wait for the gate to drop, pin the throttle, and hold on with the highest rider winning.
The rules are simple and the execution is accomplished by just a few. The rider who was the most accomplished on Friday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles was 23-year-old Matt Buyten of Carson City, who cleared 32 feet to win the gold medal at his first X Games.
“I just went as hard as I could and tried to land nice and straight,” Buyten, formerly of South Lake Tahoe, told EXPN.com. “That’s what works for me.”
Thirty-year-old Tommy Clowers came into the event as the three-time defending champion. Friday’s event began with 14 riders. Each rider was given two chances to clear the bar. They began with the bar at 24 feet. Those who cleared it moved to the next round. Those who missed twice were eliminated.
The bar moved quickly from 24 to 26 to 28 feet, with nine riders left. The first name rider to fall was Brian Deegan, the 2002 silver medalist. He stacked hard at 28 feet, flipping over the handlebars and punching a slight ding in his custom Jesse James West Coast Chopper designed bike. He took one more go at the wall of dirt but missed, then took a seat on the sideline with an ice pack on his neck to watch the final riders.
The bar was raised three feet to 31 feet, and six more riders were eliminated, including one of the favorites, Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg. Also bumped was 18-year-old Myles Richmond, the youngest rider in the event. Clowers, Matt Buyten and Ronny Renner remained, and the bar was raised six inches.
By now, the dirt at the start chute, about 20 feet from the bottom edge of the kicker, had been packed hard. The dirt at the take-off point was slick and the rear wheels of the bikes were slipping when the riders pinned the throttle. Riders took a few extra seconds at the start to make sure their rear tire had bite before taking off. Clowers even cleared a new take-off point next to the original start ramp.
Of the three remaining riders, the first to fall was Renner, who missed at 31-6.
Clowers cleared 31-6, but knocked the bar loose with his front wheel on his second jump at 32 feet.
Buyten may have been riding in his first X Games, but the riders certainly know who he is because he qualified for the X Games by winning the WFA Step Up championship.
“This is my first year, so I’m just here to have fun,” Buyten told EXPN.com.
He was quick to emphasize that he hadn’t expected to win and was stoked just to be at the X Games.
“I came here with the expectation of maybe getting some kind of medal.”
Buyten also talked about the pain he knew he would have to go through as the bar kept going higher.
“When I was going up the lip to over 31 feet, I was thinking about how bad my b—- were going to be hurting when I came down,” he told EXPN.com.
On Saturday, three Carson Country riders competed in the Moto X freestyle, with Minden’s Dustin Miller turning in the best performance, placing seventh in the finals with a score of 88.00. Fernley’s Drake McElroy, last year’s bronze medalist, placed eighth with an 87.00.
Miller qualified fifth for the finals with an 88.67 while McElroy qualified seventh with an 87.67. Buyten ended up 10th after scoring 86.33 in the preliminaries.
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