High-flying motorcycles

Riders head to Moffat County Fairgrounds

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The first time Toby Whittington saw a freestyle motorcycle event, he was hooked.

"Every hair on the back of my neck stood up," Whittington said. "I was addicted to the sport at that very moment, and I hadn't even tried it yet."

But the lifelong motocross racer would have to wait -- at least until he got out of his family room. Whittington was watching the freestyle event on television.

That was three years ago, and these days it's the 26-year-old rider's goal to bring that same feeling of excitement to everyone who watches him soar off a kicker into space on his 2004 Honda CR250.

He is part of the five-rider team that will perform in Craig on Friday when the Mountain Sports Center presents the Warrior Freestyle at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.

For the price of admission, spectators can witness the top regional riders speeding off a 12-foot ramp that will launch them 50 feet into the air. For Whittington, it's just enough air time to defy the laws of gravity and treat fans to the latest freestyle tricks before landing.

"I love the feeling of floating," Whittington said. "If I do everything right, the bike and my body feel like they are weightless. I can do all kinds of things that you would think were impossible."

Heelclickers and can-cans should be standard fair that night, along with a host of other challenging mid-air stunts.

Whittington said the riders at the Warrior Freestyle plan to do most of the tricks that have been featured at the X-Games with the exception of the backflip. But it's coming.

"Most of the guys who are doing backflips right now have $10,000 foam pits -- not the same dirt landing we have," Whittington said.

But the rider and his teammates have been using alternate methods such as water and snow to hone the trick. He is hoping to land the trick on dirt -- soon.

Still, the lack of a training facility hasn't slowed the rider who first raced a motorcycle at the age of four in Montrose. Three years ago he gave up racing and begin competing and performing in shows. He still works full time in the winter and part time in the summer.

But thanks to promoters like Henry Billett, who has held several snowmobiling events in Steamboat Springs in the winter, Whittington has been able to limit his work off the ramps.

Billett plans to hold eight freestyle motorcycle events this summer across Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, and if he can stay healthy, Whittington plans to be a part of all of them.

The first of those shows will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Craig on Friday.

The shows last roughly two hours.

Admission is $8 if purchased in advance at Mountain Sports Center and $12 at the gate. A special family pack will be offered for $30 but will be limited to a four-person family.

--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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