Local snowmobiler preparing for X-Games

On the wall of Bobby Hankins' office is a fluorescent reminder of the snowmobile racers successful past. The bright racing vest with a black "32" and "Hankins" on the back is from the racers' first trip to the Winter Xtreme Games in '98. At the end of January, Hankins will return to the X-Games and he hopes to bring home more than just a vest.

"(The vest) reminds me of how much I liked the X-games and I just can't get it out of my head," he said. "But as far as snowcross is concerned, I'm glad I've moved on."

Hankins will return to the X-Games in Aspen from Jan. 30-Feb. 2 to compete in hillcross, an event that was introduced at the games two years ago.

"Hillcross isn't as physically abusive as snowcross," he said. "When I went and watched the snowcross competition in Steamboat last weekend, I was glad that I was done with it, I'm just not excited by it anymore."

In layman's terms, hillcross is a sprint and snowcross is a distance race. The former is a race up a hill with jumps and moguls and generally lasts about 45 seconds to a minute. In the latter, racers compete on a lap course and a typical race is 20 laps.

Hankins, 35, said that he expected the older racers to do well in the more physical-friendly competition.

"There will be at least five guys in their mid-thirties or older," he said.

"The announcers will have a hay day with that and probably call it the 'geriatric X-games.'"

The racer said his years of experience should an advantage.

"I'm more patient and I use my head out there," he said. "You have to be smart in these races and find the best line."

While Hankins will have the experience of years, he won't have the experience of racing going into the X-games. The races at Aspen will be his first while the other racers will have already raced in several competitions.

"I chose not to go out there every weekend because I might get hurt before the big event and it also keeps me fresh and focused," he said. "A lot of those guys coming in will have raced but they will have also

driven 7,000 miles.

"Chris Burandt from Steamboat hurt himself last weekend and might miss the games because of it. I'm more of a big race guy and I like the races that give more exposure."

If Burandt doesn't compete it will cut the number of Colorado racers by one third. Despite the popularity of sleds in Colorado only four riders have competed in the X-games.

"It's hard for guys to compete because of the expense and time it takes," Hankins said.

"I'm probably the only one that will be there who also has a 50-hour-a-week job."

Hankins gives credit for the opportunity to ride to his team and the community.

"The guys at the store and the community has been very supportive of me," Hankins said. "I will probably have the biggest crowd at the games."

The staff at Action Sports, where Hankins works, has helped him build his new sled that he'll ride in the X-games. The custom built machine was put together piece by piece in the Actions Sports shop.

Other riders who compete and help Hankins on the Action Sports team are Dean Reed, Chad Zimmerman, Delf Martinez, Brandon Lyster, Phil Vallen and Chris Brown.

As Hankins watched from his office as the snow came down on Tuesday he reflected on the chance to take out his new sled for the first time as well as his chances at the race.

"This snow is great timing so we can take it out this weekend and get it ready," he said. "Last year in qualifying I beat the silver medallist in last year's X-Games, so I think I can earn a spot on the podium if I ride well."

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com

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