​Every year, X-Games reaches out to the BMX media for insight on which riders we feel should be invited to the event. While it’s not entirely clear how much of a role our votes actually play in the rider-selection process, I’ve always appreciated their willingness to dig into our heads. To shake things up in 2016, I figured I’d go public with my top picks. Before we get into it, I want to make two things clear -

- I like X-Games. I like X-Games a lot. At times, I feel the event gets a lot of unwarranted hate from the BMX realm. Though I don’t particularly love attending corporate events and find the concept of hosting anything in summer in Austin to be completely insane, the fact that they have and continue to expose BMX to the masses is a great thing. Also, I’ve got a soft spot for anyone that hands many of my close friends tens of thousands of dollars year-after-year…

- I find X-Games’ rider-selection process to be flawed. As I previously mentioned, I sincerely do appreciate that they reach out to the media for our thoughts, but the fact that there is no formal way to qualify in leaves a lot of confusion. Every year, multiple pro riders reach out to me for my thoughts on how they could get a spot in the event. Every year, I don’t have an answer. I know they have a solid crew of knowledgable guys giving the final sign-off on the invited rider list, but I would like to see at least a few spots reserved for riders to earn their way into the event.


Let’s get into it…


BIG AIR

While there isn’t exactly an army of riders regularly shredding the big ramp, there are enough of them out there to make for a badass event. The Nitro Circus guys do amazing things on their version of the MegaRamp, but they have a much steeper lip and lack a gigantic quarterpipe immediately after the landing, which played a big role in my selection process. Honestly, if you’re man enough to take part in this event, you should get a spot…


PREQUALIFIED - Colton Satterfield, Morgan Wade, Mykel Larrin


1. Zack Warden

Zack was born to ride this event. He takes it seriously, has creative tricks, and can handle a giant quarter. He temporarily moved to Southern California to take his MegaRamp skills to the next level and I think we’re going to see great things from him at this year’s X-Games. Based on his mindset and commitment, expect to see him in first or in last.


2. James Foster

James can ride everything. He’s probably done 100 triple backflips in the past year. Combine that with the fact that he’s getting more-and-more comfortable on the big quarter and you’ve gotta give the dude a spot.


3. Mat Hoffman

Mat aired 30 feet in 2015. If he wants it, give him a spot. Enough said.



PARK

Word on the street is a traditional park course is returning to X-Games for 2016 - it will no longer be a concrete bowl. Obviously, this played a major role in the riders I selected. With so many amazing park riders in the world, this could go any number of ways and still end with an incredible event.


PREQUALIFIED - Daniel Sandoval, Dennis Enarson, Scotty Cranmer


1. Logan Martin

If you saw Logan ride at all this past year, you’re aware that he’s arguably the best park contest rider in the world. He won The Kitchen stop of Recon Tour, he won the FISE overall title, he invented new tricks, he perfected old tricks, and he showed absolutely no signs of slowing down. Logan has never ridden an X-Games and it would be a travesty if that didn’t change in 2016.


2. Nick Bruce

To me, Nick embodies everything that a professional BMX rider should be. He works hard, rides hard, and makes it a point to compete in as many contests as he possibly can - regardless of how broke it makes him. He had the best year of his career in 2015 and, in my opinion, earned his X-Games spot. Also, remember when he did that flair windshield wiper?


3. Colton Walker

The young gun from the midwest made a huge impression on the contest world in 2015. He won Recon Tour’s overall title and introduced the BMX world to a few brand new combos. At only 18-years-of-age, Colton is wise and skilled far beyond his years. Colton recently moved a whole lot closer to his favorite skatepark, so even more progression is imminent.


DIRT

Remember when there wasn’t dirt in X-Games for a few years? That sucked. Well, it’s here, it’s going strong, and - assuming the wind cooperates - it’s going to be amazing in 2016.


PREQUALIFIED - Kyle Baldock, Hucker, Chris Doyle


1. Ben Wallace

Ben won the first-ever Vital BMX Game of BIKE: Dirt event in 2015. Also, he finished the year ranked in 3rd at jumping contests according to Comps Rank. He always delivers, he always kills it, and - for some additional motivation - it’ll be his first X-Games as a father.


2. Anthony Napolitan

A lot of people were sleeping on Anthony for a few years. I think Anthony might have even been sleeping on Anthony. Well, he’s back, he’s working his ass off, and he’s killing it. It’s not rare to see him stomp a flip double whip on a gnarly jump any random weekday in Huntington Beach. His style is on point, he’s got the big tricks, and he’s hungry for a spot in the event.


3. TJ Ellis

I love watching TJ ride. He’s so damn dialed. He can do pretty much any combination he wants in flips and 360s in a way that I’ve never seen any other rider do. He recently battled through a few injuries, but all signs point to him being back on it. Backflip can cans.


STREET

There wasn’t an X-Games street event in 2015. It was tragic. Thankfully, the it's back for 2016. I’m taking a bit of a different approach here. No athletes are prequalified. Obviously, my top three choices are Garrett Reynolds, Chad Kerley, and Dennis Enarson (in that order). I could get into that, but considering their track records, it’s gotta be pretty obvious. Instead, I’m going to talk abut my 4th, 5th, and 6th choices. Get it?


PREQUALIFIED - None


4. Devon Smillie

He’s got insane linking skills. He’s got amazing style. He’s progressed BMX in so many ways in the last few years. It’s time to give the dude his X-Games debut. Stop sleeping on Devon. He is the real deal.


5. Matt Ray

Unless you spent 2015 in a desolate cave with no phone service, you know damn well that Matt Ray should be in this contest. He’s released amazing video after amazing video and has the perfect style to kick ass in contests like X-Games.


6. Broc Raiford

Broc won Vital BMX Game of BIKE: Street and had the banger section in Volume’s recent full-length video. Check out any footage of him riding the street courses at Simple Session or old Texas Toast events and it’ll be clear that he belongs here. He’s dialed, he’s powerful, and he’s consistent. He has definitely put in the work and earned his spot.


VERT

It makes me incredibly sad that I have a hard nominating ten guys for the X-Games vert contest (due to a lack of riders). The guys that ride it do so incredibly well and it always makes for a great event, but there isn’t a whole lot of new blood out there. For now, let’s just sit back and enjoy the Bestwick show (or perhaps round two of the Byron show!?).


PREQUALIFIED - Vince Byron, Jamie Bestwick, Simon Tabron


1. Zack Warden

Even though we haven’t seen Zack on a vert ramp too much in recent years, there’s no denying the fact that he was one of the last guys to bring something new to the table. To the best of my knowledge, he’s still the only guy to pull windshield wipers and bikeflips in vert contests. As previously noted in this article, Zack is living in California until X-Games and I know he’s been spending some time on the vert ramp…


2. Chad Kagy

Chad’s a badass and a veteran. He always brings it, he’s got some hot moves, and he’s not afraid to do a frontflip flair. If he’s healthy, he’s gotta be in there.


3. Coco Zurita

I could watch Coco do toboggans on a vert ramp all day long. It might not win him a gold medal, but it would certainly win over my heart. Coco is consistent and makes vert riding look really, really good.



Well, that about does it. What do you think? Tell us in the comments below. Good luck to all of the riders currently campaigning for invitations. Mark your calendars, buy $1,000 worth of sunscreen, and start planning your scorching trip to Austin!


Note: While X-Games has reached out for nominations, no event is 100% confirmed until they send out an official announcement. This clearly seems to be the way they’re leaning, but there’s always the possibility of change.

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