Pastrana Trying a New Challenge

"I'll never be completely retired," said Travis Pastrana, "but I'm not going around to do all the events." (Streeter Lecka - Getty Images)
By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

DAVIDSONVILLE -- Travis Pastrana regularly opens his home and backyard playground to friends who need a place to practice motocross, BMX or skateboarding, or simply need somewhere to crash for this week's Dew Tour stop in Baltimore. They get free room and board, but there is one little catch.

"No matter what we're doing, we have to drop it and get in on whatever competition Travis decides to come up with," said motocrosser Ronnie Renner, who was building his dirt bike in one of Pastrana's garages on Monday when such a request was made.

In his jersey-adorned basement filled with workout equipment, Pastrana and his father, Robert, pitted Renner against Jolene Van Vugt, the first female rider to back flip from ramp to dirt, in a test to see who could complete 500 meters on a rowing machine fastest.

Although he wasn't the focus of the competition, Pastrana jumped in and recorded the best time on the rower, which sits a few feet away from the dirt bike he used in 2006 to claim his seventh X Games motocross gold medal and establish himself as the first rider to land a double back flip.

But the 23-year-old Pastrana, who thrives on as many forms of antagonism as he can find, won't compete in the Dew Tour's Panasonic Open this week even though it's only about 30 miles away. He's participating in only two freestyle motocross (FMX) events this year, and only at the request of one of his main sponsors, Red Bull.

The wonder boy of motocross says he's retired.

"I'll never be completely retired, but I'm not going around to do all the events," he said. "I ride every day for fun. When you're a kid and you ride with your friends, all you want to do is get to the top and the point where you can be the best and ride in front of the crowd. And when you get to the crowd, all you want to do is get back to your friends.

"It's funny how things go full circle."

FMX and its thrill-seeking innovations always were secondary to Pastrana's motocross racing career, but his ability to stun the action sports world with improbable flips on his 220-pound dirt bike is what makes him answer questions on why he no longer competes in the sport that made him a household name.

"I could go out there now and probably get third to fifth, and that's good, but I've lost four events in my entire life in freestyle," he said.

Performing in front of hometown fans, he added, ups his whatever-it-takes-to-win attitude, but paired with insufficient preparation, it would result in a loss or an injury, the latter of which would get him fired as a rally car driver for Subaru Rally Team USA.

"The problem is he can probably push the limit, but there comes a time when everybody expects that out of you every time and you don't want to do it," Renner said of his host this week. "It sucks to let people down, and in reality the millions of people that he's impressed and wowed and dazzled will probably backfire on him just as quick if he didn't do what they wanted."

Freestyle motocrossers exist in a pressure-cooker environment, where to get cheers and wins they're expected to invent bigger, flashier and more death-defying tricks. But as Pastrana says, the two primary goals of any action sport athlete are to do what the public considers impossible and crazy.

"To be able to stay on top you have to be willing to continually risk . . . you have to be willing to make the sacrifice to be the best," Pastrana said. "I'm at the point where I have something else, and I'm willing to make the sacrifice to be the best [at rally car racing, his newest endeavor] by not doing motocross."

Pastrana is engrossed in his new venture of rally car racing. He spends his time skirting around trees in a souped-up Subaru Impreza WRX STI instead of preparing for FMX events. And he isn't about to compete in anything, especially FMX, half-heartedly. After repeated knee and shoulder injuries ended his motocross racing career and with all his goals in FMX accomplished, the fresh challenge provided by rally car racing has enticed Pastrana.

He won the inaugural rally event at X Games 12 last summer and is tied for third place after four races in this year's Rally America National Championship Series, but he's far from perfect.

"I feel that I've accomplished every goal I've had in" FMX, he said. "For me to go out and to push myself that hard every day for something that I feel I don't have anything left to win -- there's a lot left for me to do, but I want to try something that's a new challenge."

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