X Games 13: Go Big or Go Home

The only way to get the gold in Big Air is to go bigger.

If the mega ramp were a living entity it would be a bloodthirsty giant alien, looking to daze, intimidate and squash anyone who came near it. Lucky for us, it's just a big ramp--a big ramp that can daze, intimidate and squash anyone who comes near it.

The roll-in on this beast stands 80 feet above the ground. The smallest jump on the ramp is 50 feet from take off to landing. The biggest gap is 70 feet. The quarterpipe that sits behind the landing is 27 feet tall. Big is scary, and so is fast. Riders are hitting speeds upwards of 40 miles per hour on this monster.

The mega ramp is producing a new breed of superheroes--the kind that are willing to chart new territory. But the mega ramp is no longer a novelty. It's been on the competitive BMX radar since last year's X Games, and precedence and records have been set. The only way to get the gold in Big Air is to break them.

If you could experience the mega ramp in all its glory, from roll-in to quarterpipe, it would make for one hell of an amusement park ride. I could tell you it's a beautiful flight of majesty, but if you were ever to see someone come flopping down the backside at warp speed you would never again believe anything I said. To get to the drop-in point on the mega ramp you need to take an elevator. The soothing ride up is accompanied by elevator music and backed up by the hollow thumping in your chest. Excitement pours out of your skin as you exit at the eighth floor onto the roll-in. The ground below is carpeted with waving fans, inaudible encouragement and the occasional howl.

The 40-foot-wide platform doesn't look so big up here, but the space in front of you is endless. You tell yourself, don't think. Just roll in. Don't think. A long downhill runway stretches out in front of you. Don't pedal. Hold on. Tight. Remember to breathe. Don't pump the 10-foot take-off or it's sure to send you catapulting over the bars and into a nosedive. Just hold on and keep 'er level. Guys that have been riding the mega ramp for a while will tell you that a straight jump is more awkward than a variation. Perhaps there's too much time in the air for a dead sailor to grab hold.

Oddly, Chad Kagy can make all this work. He says the quarterpipe is more intimidating than the gap. A warning from Chad before you go: "If you crash and your skin hits the ramp, it melts off your body." Over the 50-foot gap, Kagy can drag his brakes and still hit 12 feet on the quarter. Coming out of the 70-foot gap he'll easily clear 20 feet.

"The first time I rode the mega ramp was difficult. I was a guinea pig on two wheels," says Kagy. He was in Mexico with experienced mega ramp skaters Danny Way and Bob Burnquist. Chad watched their runs to judge his own speed and was able to go from timid launches to flip whips in a couple days. Since then he has an X Games Big Air medal under his belt, and has ridden similar mega contraptions at Woodward and at Travis Pastrana's house.

With a full year of experience, Chad is looking like a top contender for this year's X Games. In fact, his good friend, and last year's champion, Kevin Robinson looks to be Kagy's biggest competition. These two fellas have the right combination of jumping skills, vertical talent and experience to make the best use of the mega ramp. Key to this competition are two elements--a jump and a quarter. Kagy has made passing comments about double flip whipping the gap and triple whipping the quarter. But when asked about his plans for this year's Big Air contest he'll say, "I plan to land on my wheels, and I plan to stand on the podium. Sometimes my plans don't go as planned."

Check out EXPN.com for coverage of the 2007 X Games 13.

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