By ELWOOD K. SHELTON
Daily Press writer
Bobby Hankins won't wear Winter X-Games' gold this year, but he's looking to earn a podium spot next year.
Hankins, who is a veteran of the 1998 Winter X-Games in Crested Butte, is spending the waning months of winter and spring trying to qualify for the 2003 games in Aspen. In '98 Hankins was one of an international field of 32 invited to compete in snowcross.
Until recently, Hankins hadn't planned to race in the games, due to time and money constraints. Recently, the 34-year-old has been too busy working to make Craig's new dealer of winter sports accessories (Action Motorsports) stay afloat. Not to mention the X-Games being on the opposite side of the country as of late.
But the third change of venue for the games has prompted a renewed interest in competition for Hankins.
"With the business, I just didn't have enough time to practice for snowcross," he said. "And the games moved the competition to Vermont, which made it too expensive to travel to."
In less than two weeks the mountains around Aspen will reverberate with the sound of unadulterated horsepower. The sounds of snowmobiles in head to head combat.
January 17 through the 20 marks the return of the X-Games to Colorado, after a hiatus from the bi-centennial state. The Winter X-Games was originally held at Crested Butte, but moved to Mount Snow, Vt.
The return to Hankins's backyard has prompted him to work to qualify once again for the competition, this time in a different event.
Hankins competed in snowcross at the last games, a tight course race filled with bumps and jumps. This time Hankins is fighting for a spot in the hillcross.
Hillcross is similar to snowcross, pitting snowmobilers in a head to head race. Unlike snowcross, hillcross involves an uphill battle.
The switch was made by Hankins to suit his regular snowmobile trips. He said with the riding he does now hillcross was a logical step.
"Most of the riding I do around here is hill climbing," he said. "At all the areas I ride the terrain gets pretty bumpy and torn up, so, it's like I'm practicing when I'm riding on the weekends."
The local X-Game hopeful will ride at three qualification races in April. Two in Glenwood Springs April 13 and 14, and one in Nederland April 20 through 21.
When Hankins hits the road for qualification he will do so with his own entourage. The small army will ensure that one man is able to race, and even perhaps win.
"We'll take anybody that will help out," Hankins said. "From people to sponsors me to anybody who will turn a wrench."