WINTER X GAMES: Hibbert's drive for five
For the past three weeks, Tucker Hibbert has been testing his snowmobile at his friend's private track in the Rocky Mountains near Aspen, Colo. Testing and practicing have dominated Hibbert's daily routine as the former Goodridge, Minn., resident...
For the past three weeks, Tucker Hibbert has been testing his snowmobile at his friend's private track in the Rocky Mountains near Aspen, Colo.
Testing and practicing have dominated Hibbert's daily routine as the former Goodridge, Minn., resident prepares to make a run at a five-peat in snocross Sunday -- the final day of the ESPN Winter X Games in Aspen.
Hibbert clearly is the face of snocross in the United States and will be favored to win his fifth straight gold medal in the Winter X Games snocross competition.
Hibbert's drive for five, however, won't be easy.
"The pressure gets to be a little more each year," Hibbert said. "You just have to focus on being prepared. With racing, there are so many variables that come into play. You have to try and minimize the mistakes."
Hibbert has made few mistakes in his previous four X Games finals. The mistakes have been at a minimum because of his preparation.
After winning a national ISOC race at Salt Lake City last month, Hibbert has practiced and trained at his friend's private track. The track is at the same altitude as Aspen. Since elevation robs a snowmobile engine of power, testing is critical to achieve the right setup, Hibbert said.
The Winter X games is the premier event for snocross, which features high-performance snowmobiles racing on artificially-made tracks consisting of tight turns, banked corners, steep jumps and obstacles.
Hibbert estimates he and his race team have spent the past four months preparing for the X Games.
"The win in Salt Lake City really helps coming into the games," Hibbert said. "It definitely boosts the confidence."
Hibbert, who now lives in Pelican Rapids, Minn., made his first appearance at the Winter X Games as a 15-year-old semi-pro. He went on to become the youngest gold medalist in snocross. He has accumulated nine medals in addition to 61 national snocross wins.
The Winter X Games also is a driving force in snocross exposure.
"It's definitely the highlight of the season," Hibbert said. "We put the most effort into this race. It's a neat deal. The live TV and the outreach the Games have expose snocross and snowmobiling to so many people. It's a cool opportunity to get more fans."
Hibbert said a rider can't rely too much on the past to keep winning. Conditions change each year at the Winter X Games.
"The overall design of the track is different each year," Hibbert said. It's different and more exciting every year. They find new ways to make the jumps more fun. And the track is better each year for passing.
"They do a good job of making sure the racing is good."
There is one constant, however, in snocross.
"The most important part of the race is the start," Hibbert said. "If you get out front early, it makes it easier."
The X Games field will consist of approximately 25 riders. Wisconsin's Ross Martin, last year's runner-up, again is expected to push Hibbert for the gold.
After the snocross season wraps up, Hibbert will turn his attention to motocross.
With the demands of national snocross and motocross competition, Hibbert is on the road constantly.
"I haven't been home for more than seven days since November," Hibbert said.
Nelson reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1268; (800) 477-6572, ext. 268; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .