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CLOWERS STEPS UP HIS GAME AT HDC.

Byline: Vincent Bonsignore Staff Writer

CARSON - An airplane flew over Home Depot Center during the X Games on Friday and left a smoke signal across the blue sky high above the stadium.

It read: Step Up.

Down below, the Moto X Step Up competition was taking place, featuring five high-flying motorcycle riders attempting to jump over a horizontal bar held up between two vertical bars. Picture the high jump competition in track and field, only these guys were making jumps riding custom-built motorcycles.

Considering the heights that were being cleared, it almost seemed like they could reach up and touch the message left behind by the airplane.

The way these X Games keep pushing the envelope, it's likely only a matter of time before that becomes reality. For now, they'll have to settle for 32 feet, the height Tommy Clowers cleared to win the gold medal Friday.

Clowers, a 32-year old from Ramona, won his fourth Step Up gold medal and first since 2002. He did it by sailing high over the 32-foot height on his first attempt in what had become a two-man competition between Clowers and Matt Buyten.

The other three riders, including defending Step Up champ Jeremy McGrath, were eliminated in the second round after failing to clear 31 feet.

Buyten missed on both tries at 32, his back tire banging the bar each time.

For Clowers, it a was great ending to a day that didn't start so wonderfully. He never felt comfortable during practice.

``I started feeling better the more I did it, and, thankfully, my (bike) ran great, and it got me over the bar,'' Clowers said. ``I'm just stoked.''

Buyten, from Carson City, Nev., was competing after tweaking a nearly mended dislocated shoulder, an injury that's plagued him over the years because of the hard landings associated with jumping so high.

Buyten didn't blame the injury on his inability to clear 32 feet.

``Actually, the shoulder held up fine, I really have to thank my doctors for keeping me strong,'' Buyten said. ``No excuses. I lost. Hopefully, I'll come back next year and do better.''

Clowers used a unique technique to help him clear the tall heights, keeping his body slightly over his perfectly straight bike as he cleared the bar, then throwing his handle bars forward at the last second to give him added momentum.

The technique helped him clear 31 and 32 feet on his first attempts, making him the only rider to do so. He missed on his first attempt at 31-6, when his back wheel barely clipped the bar, then cleared it easily on his second try.

Prior to his gold-medal jump, Clowers focused on hitting the lift exactly where he wanted rather than concentrating on the bar.

``As soon as I got to the top, I pulled and jerked and pushed and did everything I could to get over the bar,'' Clowers said.

Brian Deegan didn't make the podium Friday, but he deserved a medal for bravery, although some might question his sanity. The Temecula native lost a kidney three months ago after a violent crash while filming a television show for MTV, yet there he was, risking further injury.

The setback kept him out of Thursday's Moto X Best Trick event, but the lure of competition was too strong to skip Friday's event. After clearing the initial height of 28 feet, he was unable to get over 31 feet, nipping the bar with his front tire on his first attempt and the back tire on his final try.

Vincent Bonsignore, (818) 713-3612

vincent.bonsignore(at)dailynews.com
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 6, 2005
Words:600
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