By Andrew Mitchell
If anyone had reason to walk away from Red Bull Elevation, it was California’s Ryan Nyquist.
The 28-year-old BMX legend crashed hard in the qualifiers on Saturday, possibly breaking his wrist — he put off getting x-rays until after the finals on Sunday because he knew he couldn’t compete in a cast. Then, in a training run on Sunday, he broke an axel on his bike. Not having a spare bike to use, he was forced to borrow one. It was the same general size and set-up as his bike, but when you’re flying 15-feet in the air over a hard landing, little differences can be significant.
But Nyquist, who has won every notable BMX dirt jumping contest at least once — including the first Red Bull Elevation in 2005 — has never been one to take the easy way out of anything. He made five unbelievable runs in the finals, alternating between first and second place, before clinching the overall high score over Australia’s Corey Bohan by just 0.1 points. Only the top three of five runs would count.
“I really, really wanted to win it this year, and I wasn’t going to let my wrist and my bike stop me from trying,” said Nyquist. “Yesterday part of me was going ‘please rain, please rain’, and I’d be off the hook.
“I’ve been in a lot of competitions in my career, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in one this close. Every round the stakes went up a lot, the other guys were just amazing. I’m lucky that I managed to finish second in the qualifier, so I could see what everyone else was doing and try to push it a little more. Bohan really pushed me, I mean, point-one — it doesn’t get any closer than that.”
Every rider brought something unique to Red Bull Elevation this year. Nyquist put together long strings of opposite-spinning 360s, and a huge 720. Bohan had a twisting 360 with a backflip, backflips with no-foot and no hand variations, and the biggest superman of the day. T.J. Ellis had a set with a backflip, to frontflip to backflip and was the only rider to backflip over the step-down. Mike Clark landed a double backflip on the top set, then tried to build on it with a front flip over a smaller hip jump in the S-turn section above the step-down. James Foster landed a triple tailwhip, the same move that he invented in the 2005 Red Bull Elevation. Brian Foster had a tailwhip 360, tabletop 360, and can-can 360.
On his last run, Nyquist landed three 360s up top, a 720, a backflip, a 360 over the step-down, and another backflip over the huge gap jump in the village. That was good enough for a score of 92.1 from the judges, pulling Nyquist ahead of Bohan’s third run score of 92.0. Bohan had the last word, but couldn’t top Nyquist’s best run.