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

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