Henry, Matechuk earn third consecutive X Games golds in snowbike disciplines | AspenTimes.com

Henry, Matechuk earn third consecutive X Games golds in snowbike disciplines

Shelby Reardon
Steamboat Pilot

history on podium

In 2019, Kolleen Conger was the first and only female to participate in adaptive Snow Bikecross, and she took sixth.

In 2020, she finished third to become the first and only female to podium in the adaptive Snow Bikecross.

For Conger, it isn’t enough to succeed among men on her own. She wants more women to take part in the sport.

“It was important for me to come and give that female presence,” said Conger. “I’ve always raced and I’ve always pushed to get other women in the sport. I’m actually going to be doing a women’s clinic on the snow bikes here in about a month, just to get more women involved. Even if they have to ride my own bike, it doesn’t matter.”

She said even though it’s intimidating to be racing with the men, it’s worth it once you get to that starting line. Conger added she knows plenty of women who could “stomp her” on the course, it’s just a matter of getting them into more competitions.

Ahead of Conger, Mike Shultz defended his title and earned gold, while Kevin Royston improved on his 2019 bronze medal, earning silver. As the two pulled ahead, Conger had to fight off a few other riders to maintain her bronze-medal spot on the track.

“I felt the pressure. I knew if I let it get to me, and I bobbled, it was going to be over,” said Conger. “I tried not to race behind me. That’s something we’ve always had to learn through all the different racing. You don’t race behind you, because when you do, you lose time. … I could hear it, but focus forward.”

Doug Henry is basically the Lebron James of snow biking. He’s been around a long time, and doesn’t seem to know how to lose.

The Connecticut native, who just turned 50, won his third consecutive gold medal at the X Games as he crossed the line Saturday with a massive lead in the para snowbike cross finals.

With decades in the sport and a heavy haul of hardware, Henry has considered retiring a few times. Still, he can’t seem to stay away from the sport. Right now, his goal is to keep competing until he’s 55.

“It’s been a thought probably five times,” said Henry, who is the oldest athlete in this year’s X Games. “I’ve tried, but as long as I’m having fun and still competitive, I’m gonna do it.”

Henry won gold in the para snow bikecross in 2019, and finished first in the adaptive version of the event the year before.

Henry’s only competition was eliminated early as Will Posey took a jump too aggressively and wiped out just as he started lap two. From there, Henry cruised to a 15-second margin of victory. Henry nearly committed a crucial mistake when he didn’t take enough horsepower into a jump, but managed to keep his track on the ground and his bike moving forward.

“The first lap or two, you’re just trying to keep it up and start improving, getting a little bit faster here and there,” he said. “I just looked behind me, I had a little bit of a gap.”

Brandon Dudley finished second, while Leighton Lillie picked up a bronze medal.

The snow bike veteran Henry has been attending X Games since 1999, but says the thrill of attending and performing well hasn’t faded.

“You have no idea how early this is in my head and in my mind. In November, I’m training pretty hard,” Henry said. “It’s pretty much a year-round thing. X Games is top of my list of events I want to win.”

Cody Matechuk ran away with his third straight gold medal in snowbike cross, finishing a whopping 16 seconds ahead of Yanick Boucher.

The whole race, one of his crew members stood near the lap line, gesturing with his arms how great a lead he had. With each lap, his hands got farther and farther apart, to the point he could no longer accurately express how large Matechuk’s advantage was.

“I really don’t like racing and looking backwards, so I rely on my mechanic to give me gap,” Matechuk said. “I could see the gap growing. I just felt like I was in a good rhythm. I was hitting all my marks, I wasn’t pushing.”

He was so far removed from the rest of the race, as the cameras swarmed him at the finish Matechuk asked his crew, “Who got second and third?”

Boucher took second, and Jesse Kirchmeyer picked up bronze. Kirchmeyer finished second last year. Boucher made it to the finals in 2019, but didn’t finish the race.

Matechuk couldn’t avoid drama in his semifinal. At the start of the first semifinal, Hoyer and Josh Hill jumped the gun, having to be moved behind the line and work their way back to the front throughout the race.

That put Matechuk at an advantage, which he held for most of the race, but with a few laps to go, he bailed off his bike when it malfunctioned. He got back on and crossed the line in second to make the finals.

“Sometimes that stuff just finds you, but it wouldn’t be a good story without a little bit of adversity,” Matechuk said. “We broke a ski on that first race, still ended up getting second place. We went back and changed it for the main. It’s X Games. You got to leave it all on the table.”