Call it the home-dirt advantage. Call it favorable judging in front of a wildly supportive crowd filled with family and friends.
Or call it a reminder that it's not always the biggest air or the most backflips and tailwhips that automatically wins.
Salt Lake's Mike Aitken, who didn't go upside down a single time, rode out of the BMX Dirt course with first place and the biggest payday of his life Friday.
"I'm a little confused to tell you the truth," Aitken said when trying to make sense of how he beat out some of the
most famous and experienced riders in the sport. "I just went out there and did what I normally do."
What Aitken, 25, did was throw as many combo tricks into 360-spins as he could. His first-round score of 90.83 was nice, his second-round score of 91.83 was unexpected and left him in the lead after two runs.
But after a few other cyclists completed their third runs with increasing scores, Aitken one of the most unassuming and self-proclaimed non-competitive cyclists out there was put in a position where he had to let it loose.
He did just that and completed a series of spinning, twisting and stylish rotations over the course. The judges awarded him a 92.33, and his overall score of 92.08 gave him a $15,000 first prize check plus a $3,000 bonus.
"I've been waiting for this day for a long time," course designer and fellow BMX legend Tim "Fuzzy" Hall said. "This proves you don't have to ride in a foam pit and treat BMX like gymnastics to win a contest."
Yet, most other competitors were busting out backflips, front flips and double-backflip combos with triple tailwhips thrown in for good measure.
The win was a perfect cap to a day of action, thrilling packed venues inside and around EnergySolutions Arena.
And after throwing everything he had in his bag of tricks at the halfpipe inside EnergySolutions Arena, Jamie Bestwick lay down, clutching his lower back and grimacing in pain.
"When you ride a vert ramp, it's all about the lower back," Bestwick said after taking first place in a tie-breaker over Chad Kagy. "You put so much pressure on your back to keep your speed and hit the tricks. So when it's hurt, you maybe sit back more and end up using your legs more. Now my legs are killing me and my back it's trashed."
Bestwick entered his second run trailing Kagy, who scored an impressive 93.00, and needed to have one of the best rides of his life to take the win and increase his points lead in the AST Dew Tour standings.
The last competitor to go, Bestwick started out going for big air right off the bat. With a load of speed, Bestwick dropped into the pipe and uncorked tailwhip after tailwhip and 720 spins in rapid-fire sequence.
But as soon as he finished, he couldn't get up off the floor without being tended to by event medical staff. His score of 93.00 was not announced until the trophy presentation. Because his first run (92.00) was higher than Kagy's second run (89.17) Bestwick was awarded first place.
"It feels cool to expand my lead," Bestwick said. "But I'm a bit disappointed in myself. I didn't ride the way I normally do ... That second run was everything I could do under the circumstances."
Over on the BMX Supercross course, Olympic silver medalist Mike Day laid down a scorching first run during the time trial portion of the event. Essentially a qualifying race against the clock to determine the best starting positions out of the gate in today's elimination rounds, the time trial saw only one athlete at a time take to the dirt.Day had a time of 25.375 and held an advantage of nearly a quarter second over Kyle Bennett. Bronze medalist Donny Robinson had the sixth fastest time, 25.751.
On tap today
Freestyle motocross final: 11:30 a.m.
BMX Park prelims: 2 p.m.
BMX Supercross final: 4:30 p.m.Skate Park final: 7:30 p.m.