Thursday, January 3, 2008

Late from Las Vegas

When we started the blog from Vegas I was really excited and had very high expectations of keeping you all up-to-date as the weekend went on. But really, it was New Year's Eve, and like my long list of resolutions, this fell to the side when I realized how many Red Bull and vodkas I had consumed in the Red Bull Energy Center. I could have done laps around that field on Monday night, but Tuesday morning sure was a different story! (But it sure was worth it.)

So anyway, I apologize for the delay in my reporting. But I have to tell you guys about the rest of our trip. Bill (my husband) and I went to the Strip for awhile on Monday afternoon just to check it out, and I couldn't believe how crowded it was already. I was thankful that we were going to be off the strip at the Rio and that we had very important plans for the evening!

We headed out back to pick up our VIP credentials and fill out the waivers for our media passes. In line there we saw Ben and Eric Bostrom and I started to get a little nervous about my duties as a reporter for the evening. I don't know why I get so shy and worked up about stuff, it's totally ridiculous.

We stepped into hospitality line to get our wristbands and the staff was passing out scarves and gloves! Red Bull really does think of everything. I don't know if they mentioned on TV how freaking cold it was there, but it was seriously like 30 degrees. Long underwear was not one of the things on my list to bring to Las Vegas. I actually did feel bad for the girls who dressed up for New Year's Eve instead of for a football game, because it was freezing. (And I'm from Pittsburgh, so imagine if they were from California?)

Anyway, so we get in and check in at the bar (what did you expect me to say?) and go over to the stage where Angles and Airwaves had just started to play. Bryan and Susan were already big fans so they were stoked. I had never heard of them before, but they put on a good show.

Then they introduced Mix Master Mike. I'm a pretty big Beastie Boys fan, but never got to see them in concert so I was really excited to see him. He mixed up some pretty sweet beats but after about ten minutes a marching band started that was the end of Mix Master Mike. Yep, one of the greatest DJs got put on hold for the marching band! The band was a pretty cool addition to the show, though, with the whole football theme and all. They even had Red Bull cheerleaders running Maddison 300+ jerseys!

Check out Mix Master Mike's dressing room. I think his tour bus must have been at Pep Boy's.

We went inside to warm up for a bit and check out the Energy Center and ended up upstairs where there was a DJ spinning. He reminded me of Davey Castillo for some reason. Maybe it was just the jacket.

The Energy Center was the place to be!

I got to see my old friend Andy Donahue from Ogio and snagged a quick photo of him and some other VIPs. Left to right: FMXer Tommy Clowers, Aaron Chapman from Ogio, Pro Wakeboarder Cathy Williams, Donahue, and FMXer Jeff Tilton.

We headed back outside to catch a good spot for the upcoming jump, and we ended up right on the 30 yard line. Here's Bill, Bryan and Susan trying to stay warm and prepare themselves to see some pretty cool stuff. I think they are a little blurry because I was shivering, not because I was bouncing off the ground. But at that point I can't say for sure.

Next thing I know there are people talking of skydivers, and you can see these little red glowing things in the sky. Those dudes are sick! Watching them land one after another was so freaking awesome. I know you probably can't see it in this photo, but there are little red blobs floating up above us here.

I also got to meet trials master Geoff Aaron and his wife Kerry, and they let me take their photo. I am kind of embarrassed because I know I was blubbering about how much I enjoyed his show at Loretta Lynn's, but I did. Oh well.

Everyone was kind of looking around at each other waiting for something to happen. People in the stands starting chanting, Jump, Jump, Jump!

And then Robbie came flying from the parking lot of the Rio and ... He totally killed it! The place went absolutely insane. It was one of those "no way!" moments and everyone was jumping and cheering and it was such a cool feeling. Then he said he was going to do it again and the place went really crazy! Can you see him on the TV with his hand in the air? And how stoked is the chick with the tongue ring?

I was nervous enough the first time, but to see him start to come towards us the second time and then turn around, we were all just like, what is going on? But then he came back and cleared it for the second time. Unbelievable! Not only did he break the world record, but he did it twice!

We hung out at the Energy Center for awhile after the jump, all huddled around one of the heat lamps, and then headed back to the Rio to thaw out. We ended up watching the fireworks on the strip from Bryan and Susan's room. We're Rosie fans now, because we're convinced that Trump threw off the whole fireworks display by not shooting them from his casino. But it was a great show, and neat to watch them coming off of different buildings at the same time. It was a cool end to a really amazing night.

We spent all day Tuesday (when I should've been blogging) nursing off hangovers and watching college football. We made an attempt to win back the money we'd lost, but my roulette numbers were unlucky that night. We were in bed early and for once I didn't get on a plane leaving Las Vegas with a hangover.

I might have lost some money on the tables but my luck was definitely good. I got to take a trip to Las Vegas with my husband, my closest friend from work and his very cool wife, meet some new friends (thanks for everything, Jordan!) and watch a record breaking motorcycle jump. Not bad for a work gig.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The New Record: 322' 7.5"

You probably know by now that Maddo killed the record last night -- twice. As I mentioned before, the wind made conditions less than ideal, but Robbie was committed. (More on that later.) Shortly after the new year had been rung in on the East Coast, he came roaring toward the ramp, through a 12 mph headwind, and thrilled everyone in attendance by beating the old record by 45 feet. At 322 feet 7 1/2 inches, Robbie Maddison has jumped a motorcycle farther than anybody, ever. And he made it look easy.

As the cameras and microphones surged toward him, an ecstatic Maddison made a move that nobody -- himself included -- saw coming.

"I'm going to do it again!" he shouted spontaneously, and the crowd went nuts. The wind had died down a little, he was feeling good, and 322, while easily breaking the record, was a bit of a letdown to Robbie after nailing 350 the day before in practice. He wanted to give it another go.

"I told [my finacee] Amy, 'I'm going to do it again,' and she was like, 'No, you're not!' I said, 'Yes, I am!' " And Robbie lived up to that promise, hopping back on his Service Honda CR500 and heading back out to his launch pad. Little did he know the most excruciating moment of a day full of them was about to occur. As fans watched his initial approach on the big screen, which shows him screaming through a parking garage in his quest for speed, Maddison slowed down after a few seconds, turned around, and headed back to the starting point. I thought maybe he'd lost a little traction and wanted to start again, but in truth he was just waiting for the end of a commercial break.

"Man, that was the worst minute of my day!" he told me later in the evening. "When I got back, I was like, I'm ready to go, my tires are hot, the wind is down, I'm ready to go again. But they were like, We're on commercial break, you need to wait a minute." So Robbie did a little false start, kept his tires as sticky as possible, and then when he finally got the green light, he tore off again for what he hoped would be a bigger jump.

But the wind had kicked back up again. He was barely able to break 90 on his approach to the ramp, and after he hit it, he was blown to the left. Fans gasped as they saw the front of Robbie's bike lift in midair, but he easily adjusted and made a great, if off-center, landing. It wasn't enough to better his own record, but it was definitely enough to get the fans on their feet howling in delight.

After the fanfare died down, a handful of journalists got a chance to sit down with Robbie for a few minutes over a glass of celebration bubbly while Amy, finally able to relax, hugged friends in the background. As the questions poured in, so did the kudos. The Godfather himself, Mike Metzger, greeted him with a diving hug and, in reaction to the encore, jokingly muttered "Showoff!" A text message of congratulations came in from Broc Glover. Everyone was stoked. In Robbie's words, he was "Over the moon!"

But when I got to talk to him one on one, I could tell he was at least somewhat unsatisfied. After all, he'd had two days in a row with cold but otherwise perfect conditions, and then when the big day came, Mother Nature slowed him down. He may have beat the old record by 45 feet, but world-class athletes set their own goals and limits, and he wanted more. He wasn't exactly bummed about the record mark, but he was already talking about his next attempt. On March 29 he'll go head-to-head-to-head in a three-way showdown with Seth Enslow and Ryan Capes in Australia's Crusty Demon's Night of World Records.

Speaking of the wind, I asked him if there was ever a point in the day where he considered calling off the jump, or if he even felt like that was an option, given the money and publicity that had supported the event. Imagine how much pressure that must have put on him!

"My agent told me that if I didn't want to jump, that if I thought it was just too windy and unsafe, that I could call it off," he said. "But then he asked, 'So if it's really windy, what will you do?' And I said, 'I'll jump. I'm committed.' As cheesy as it might sound, I feel like a higher power was watching over me. There was no way I wasn't going to do the jump."

After a tense few days, Robbie was finally able to let his hair down and enjoy Las Vegas with friends. And there were some big-name friends in attendance. Throughout the night I saw Nicky Hayden, the Bostrom brothers, GP legend Mick Doohan, FMXers Jeff Tilton, Tommy Clowers, Metz and Ronnie Faisst, distance jumpers Seth Enslow and Trigger Gumm, skateboard/snowboard phenom Shaun White, U.S. trials god Geoff Aaron, Olympic gold medalist Amanda Beard, skateboard legend Danny Way, a bunch of people from the Evel Knievel camp, and I even heard Ernesto Fonseca was in the house. There was so much star power here that I thought I was in the Knothole Club at Anaheim 1.

So that's that. Robbie did it, and I'm so happy for him. Julie has some photos from last night, and there's a bunch of stuff I didn't talk about -- the Red Bull skydivers were insane -- so I'm sure we'll do another post later today with more odds and ends from this killer event.

Oh, one last thing. I asked Robbie what if felt like to be the best in the world at something, and he modestly responded, "Well, I'm not going to say I'm the best in the world."

So I will. Until somebody proves otherwise, Maddo is the undisputed king of distance jumping. He's the best in the world.

Photos: Christian Pondella - Red Bull Photo Files