Motocross back flip courtesy of South Shore designers |

Motocross back flip courtesy of South Shore designers

Darin Olde, Tribune staff writer

Not only did the bar go a little higher in freestyle motocross competition, but it went inverted, too.

Travis Pastrana and Mike Metzger executed the first back flips on a motocross motorcycle during the Gravity Games earlier this month in Cleveland, Ohio.

The two riders had executed the maneuver in practice, but never before in competition, and never before on a course built and designed by residents of South Shore.

CarolAnne and Rob Giustina, who own and operate On Course Events, designed and built the motocross course at the Gravity Games with their staff. While they hoped the motocross legends would make the back flip, they didn’t know if the dirt course would give the riders the conditions and comfort they needed to complete the maneuver.

“It’s much more difficult to do it on the dirt than the ramp,” said CarolAnne last week.

The ramp never changes, but “the lip and landing of a dirt course change with every rider,” CarolAnne said.

That didn’t deter either Pastrana or Metzger from doing the flip in competition.

Pastrana won the freestyle event Aug. 1, thrilling the crowd of nearly 10,000 at the North Coast Harbor doing back flips, then doing so letting go of the handlebars briefly, and then again taking his feet off the pegs.

South Shore residents John Marshall, Aaron Olsen, Ty Martinez and Scott Bradfield were also in Cleveland with On Course Events to see it happen.

“It was just incredible. The crowd went crazy. Everybody was ready for it. It was the talk around Cleveland,” said Marshall, 31, from South Lake Tahoe. “I don’t think (spectators) were ready for the size of the back flip he was pulling.”

Rob, who used two bulldozers, two loaders, and two smaller tractors to build the course, said he specifically designed the the 60-foot jump so that it would propel the riders higher as opposed to farther.

“You can have a jump than sends you distance or a jump that sends you up,” Rob said.

This jump was built for air.

“They were going up to like 70 feet in distance track to track, which is bigger than they expected … but the landing was really long and big, so it was easy to hit,” he said.

The minimum distance to clear was 45 feet.

“The back flip still scares me every time I do it,” Pastrana said in an interview with the Gravity Games just prior to winning the freestyle event. “It’s just a matter of commitment, and not overcommitting.”

Pastrana said the danger of the trick is compounded in that “you’re almost guaranteed” to crash in your first attempt.

He learned the trick with two other riders by going to a jump they knew well and felt comfortable with.

“We took it to a safer jump, a safer environment. If anything wasn’t right 100 percent we didn’t do it,” he said.

This was On Course Events’ fourth year building the track at the Gravity Games, and 10th year in the field overall.

The Gravity Games will air starting Oct. 6 from 1:30- 3 p.m. on NBC and continue airing through Nov. 16.

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