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The Breakdown: X Games Step Up Preview

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To be honest, I never thought the day would come when Step Up would be the event I’d be most excited about leading up to X Games. But damn, the last few years have featured some of the most epic battles the sport has ever seen. Not only is the discipline itself INSANE, but it also has an appeal by being the only event for freestyle riders that isn’t dictated by a judges panel. If you don’t have throttle control, your balls, and the perfect bike set up…you my as well stay at home on your couch!

No worries in 2014 though…this Friday’s Step Up line up is full of big balls and throttle control. All six riders with the exception Massimo Bianconcini have a X Games Step Up medal, but the Italian rider is no slouch. Bianconcini is coming of a Step Up up win at last weekend’s Freestyle of Nations where he defeated Libor Podmol and Matt Buyten.

Always a threat, Ronnie Renner will be in Texas shooting for his fifth Step Up gold medal. After winning in Barcelona and Los Angeles last year, it would be hard to bet against the Red Bull rider. Ronnie Renner has made a career out of riding Step Up and has one of the cleanest styles in the sport. The only question for Renner heading into Texas is how will riding outdoors effect him, last year Renner had the indoor set ups dialled but seemed to fight his bike set up outdoors a bit.

With that being said, a rider who seemed to thrive on an outdoor set up was Bryce Hudson when the FMF backed rider took gold at his X Games debut last year in Brazil. While most of the riders who tried a” finessed whip” style struggled with traction on the jump’s face…Hudson’s hit it straight on with a fist full of throttle worked perfect. If moisture comes up as the venue cools off later in the evening…look for Hudson’s style to hold up well against a whip style rider like Renner.

Then there is Josh Hansen…this guy can ride any dirt, in any condition. It seems no matter what event Hansen rides, he always finds away to be in the fight for medals. After an extremely success season last year that included 4 X Games medal, I look at the longtime Monster Energy rider as a guy who can come in a win the whole thing. The only questions are how he feels in his new Kawasakis and of course what Josh Hansen will show up? If a determined, focused Hansen shows up, it is going to be a long night for everyone else.

As one of the most decorated freestyle motocross riders in X Games history, Matt Buyten has three golds, four silvers, and four bronze medals. All of which have been won in Step Up competition…Buyten is another one of those “grip it and rip it” guys. The Metal Mulisha rider always comes out swinging and with a full on Step Up landing built at Larry Linkogle’s compound earlier in the spring to train on, Matt has been practicing a ton and is coming to Austin more prepared than ever before.

Last but certainly not least…Libor Podmol is the only rider I have ever seen seat bounce the lip of a Step Up take off. Although he looks way out of control at times, Podmol is comfortable doing it and proved so in 2013 with a win in Munich. From what I understand, Podmol has a really fast bike and has been keeping up on his Step Up skills over in Europe all year long.

There will be no guarantees when the boys fire up their bikes on Friday night, but I can confidently predict a good showdown one way or another when Step Up airs lives starting at 5pm PST on ESPN.
(Photo: ESPN)