r By Deborah Goodman
Springville resident, Travis Whitlock, has taken the gold medal at the X Games in Aspen, Colorado. The January event, which hosted athletes from all over the world, was invitation only. It pulled in a total of 45,000 spectators and was televised around the world.
Not only did Whitlock make history for being the first ever gold medalist in this brand new event—the Harley Davidson Snow Hill Climb—he also made history for being the oldest competitor there.
“In the beginning [of my career], I was setting records for being the youngest and all of the sudden, I am the oldest. Times flies when you’re having fun,” Whitlock said.
Although he’s been competing in bike racing for 38 years, this was the first time Whitlock, age 48, has ever competed in the X games, as it was the first time the Games have included hillclimbing.
Whitlock’s mental game made all of the difference: “Knowing I was the oldest competitor there had no bearing on my mind at all. I knew I could beat these kids that were more than half my age. I was pretty focused and positive throughout the event.”
Another important factor was his family. Whitlock’s wife, Lexie, as well as a daughter, siblings and friends were there to cheer him on and he says he couldn’t have done it without their help.
The hill the competitors raced on was the super half pipe that the snowboarders use. It had an incline of 20 degrees—much lower than the hills they compete on in the summer, which average a 70-88 degree incline. The length of the hill was around 600 feet of packed snow flanked by pure ice.
Whitlock rode a KTM 1190 Super Duke V Twin custom built Hill Climb bike. Since none of the riders had ever competed in snow or ice before, a normal tire wouldn’t do. He had already built a paddle with bolts and studs in it, but the night before he left for the games, he built a studded street tire in which he embedded over 200 two-inch ice studs.