X marks the spot
Montrose's Rhoten thrilled to be competing in X Games
To make it to the X Games it takes dedication, skill, years of practice and close to a full throttle of craziness.
To say Montrose’s Eric Rhoten is a little revved up and stoked to compete in X Games Los Angeles is a massive understatement.
“It’s really cool,” Rhoten said.
Actually it’s cool x2. This is Rhoten’s second straight trip to X Games L.A.
The 28-year-old Kansas native who has lived in Montrose for the past 15 years will compete in the men’s Enduro X event that takes place Sunday.
“Last year was really overwhelming,” he said. “It was just a mind-blower.”
He said he was treated like a superstar — an X Games superstar. TV interviews, free stuff, hospitality rooms — Eric Rhoten from little old Montrose is an X Games superstar.
“It really makes me feel good. I enjoy being from a small town. I’m just not a big-city kind of guy,” he said.
But the X Games is a different world. Competitors from all around the globe with financial backing and access to practice courses and travel budgets come to the Games to strut their extreme talents.
“I’m just happy to be going and appreciate the opportunity,” Rhoten said humbly. “It takes a lot of money to do this, and my family and friends help me out, and I work a full-time job.”
That full-time job is working for Kevin Anderson at Grand Mesa Motorsports in Delta.
Even though Rhoten is happy and humbled by the opportunity, this was no gift getting to the X Games. He earned it by placing 12th in the endurocross points standings.
The event will have 30 of the top enduro riders in the world competing, and the X Games event is unique. Riders will have to negotiate obstacles as they race one another around the Staples Center course. Rocks, logs, mud pits, gigantic truck tires and other challenging obstacles make it fun for competitors and spectators alike.
“The harder the better, I like the more technical stuff,” Rhoten said.
Last year, Rhoten said a rocky dirt hill was a brutal obstacle.
“When it got wet, it was like an ice hill,” he said.
For Rhoten, who has been cranking the throttle for more than 20 years, riding and racing motorcycles is a family affair. His dad and uncle were professional racers, and Rhoten’s two younger brothers, Bryan and Casey, race.
Rhoten says there definitely is a sibling rivalry between the three. But who’s the best?
“I try to be,” he said with an equal tone of humility and confidence.
Rhoten’s nickname, “Spike,” came from Anderson years ago. A combination of having spiked hair and a reference to the movie “Gremlins” was where the nickname was born. Rhoten said Anderson identified him as the lead “Gremlin” of the three Rhoten brothers, and that creature had a stripe on its head. Rhoten doesn’t mind the nickname at all.
“I actually prefer it,” he said.
Qualifying for the X Games is still difficult to comprehend for Rhoten. Competing against the best in the world is mind-blowing, he admits.
“I know all these guys from videos and stuff like that,” he said. “I get to race against my idols.
“It’s like if I was a singer, it would be like singing with Beyoncé or another superstar,” he said with a laugh.
Rhoten understands the mountainous challenge facing him, and he has a modest goal for the competition.
“Honestly, I’d love to qualify for the main event (top 12),” he said.
His strategy is simple.
“It sounds silly, but just don’t make mistakes. Get a good start and don’t make any mistakes,” he said.
There are plenty of places to pass on the course, and most materialize when a racer makes a mistake, he said.
On Sunday, Eric Rhoten from Montrose will compete against the best.
“It’s going to be insane,” he said.
When the event arrives, Rhoten will be one the 30 best Enduro X riders in the world.
That’s pretty cool.