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X-Cellent X-Perience: Windom's Travis Muller competes at X Games

Travis Muller, a native of Windom, soars through the air during last weekend's 2014 X Games SnoCross race in Aspen, Colo. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)1 / 2
Travis Muller gets ready for the competition at the X Games. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)2 / 2

WINDOM — Travis Muller grew up watching the X Games.

Someday, he wanted to do more than just watch. He wanted to compete.

Last week, he did just — as a participant in the SnoCross snowmobile race in Aspen, Colo. against some of the world’s best competitors.

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A 2012 graduate of Windom Area High School, Muller was in Colorado prior to the X Games but only for testing purposes.

“We were testing out in Grand Lake, Colo., for the X Games. I ride for Warnert Racing, a Ski-Doo team,” Muller said.

“I have a teammate, Johan Lidman — he’s from Sweden. He was an invited athlete for the X Games; I wasn’t originally. But I went with the team out there, and we were testing. I was just riding my sled that I normally race for practice. I was out there testing for about a week.”

Once he got to the X Games, his role became more than just teammate. He became an alternate.

“We go to X Games and then I get the news that I’ll be an alternate for the race, because they always have two alternates just in case somebody gets hurt in practice the day before or gets sick,” he said.

The day before the race, Muller was informed he would be competing.

“Saturday morning, it was the first practice and I found out I was going to race for sure,” he said. “That was pretty exciting news. It was a little bit unexpected, but I felt like I was ready to do it. The team threw a sled together at the last minute for me to ride because it’s a different sled than what I race on the normal series. Then Sunday was the race.”

Muller was in the first heat. 

“It was a lot of fun and definitely a new experience for me,” Muller said. “It’s a little bit different than our normal race schedule and how the day unfolded. 

“We had practice in the morning on Sunday along with Saturday, too,” he continued. “Sunday after practice, the racing started at 2:45. There were two heat races, and each heat race had 12 guys in it. I was lined up against all the big pros that I’m not normally lined up against. That was a lot of fun.” 

Muller took seventh out of 12 racers with a time of 6 minutes, 35.56 seconds.

“I got off to an OK start and passed a couple guys,” he said. “They took five people straight to the final, so it was a bummer I missed going to the final. 

“From there, we went to the last chance qualifier (LCQ). We had no time to rest. I went back to the trailer, got a different pair of goggles and was there for maybe three minutes. Then I had to turn around and go back out and race the LCQ.” 

Equipment difficulties prevented Muller from moving into the finals.

“I went and right away on the first lap we started to have sled problems,” Muller said. “It wasn’t running correctly, and I decided to keep going. Hopefully, the problem would go away.

“I went and on the second lap, the problem continued. I had to make a decision to stop because it was unsafe to ride. It was too bad, but it takes a lot of teamwork to make it happen. A lot of it is the rider, and a lot of it is the sled. You have to have a good combination of both. It was too bad — we just had a little malfunction, and I had to pull off on the LCQ.”

Despite not making the finals, Muller — who was one of the youngest competitors at the X Games at 20 years old — said it was a learning experience.

“I learned a lot for the upcoming years, like how to prepare for it and what it’s like and everything like that,” Muller said. “I definitely had a lot of fun. The track was a lot of fun; it was a really big track. All the TV cameras around were pretty cool and a different experience.

“I was kind of lucky in that I just got into it this year. I didn’t have as much time to prepare as I would have liked. Overall, it turned out really good, and I was happy with it.”

Muller was also able to race against some of the top racers in the world, including Travis Hibbert.|

“(Hibbert) got his seventh in a row this year, so that was cool for him, but he was in the same heat as me,” Muller said. “So was Levi LaVallee, so the TV cameras were right in front of their sleds and it was pretty funny to see all that and how they do it at the X Games. 

“The race schedule really goes around the cameras for ESPN. Sometimes you’ll have to wait five or 10 minutes when you were expecting to go right away. It was a lot of fun, but definitely I was nervous for sure — there’s no doubt about it. But I think pretty much everybody is there. It’s just part of it. I think next year I won’t be quite as nervous.”

While Muller can check one goal off his list, there is more yet to accomplish.

“It was a goal for sure and it still is to get a medal and a gold someday,” he said. “That would be the ultimate goal. I believe it’s possible and I can do it.”

Muller has been on snowmobiles since about the time he learned to walk.

“I’ve always been riding snowmobiles since I was like 2 or 3 years old,” he said. “When I was little I remember getting a z120 for Christmas, and me and dad decided to go to a race. I think the first one was in Mankato. I was probably 5 or 6 years old then, and ever since then I’ve been racing and loved it all.”

As part of the Warnert Team, Muller has been doing snocross for years. He travels throughout the country competing. 

“If people know what snocross is, it’s exactly like motocross, but on snow,” he said. “We take 600cc modified snowmobiles and take them around the track. Our heat race was eight laps, which was about eight minutes or so. There are bumps and jumps and corners.”

He won the sport championship in 2010 before moving up to the Pro Lite Class a year later. His next move will be to the Pro Open Class. 

“I’d like to up to Pro Open as soon as possible,” he said. “My goal for the rest of the season is we have a race here in Deadwood (S.D.), and I just want to win races from here on out. I’m not too high up on the points because I missed the first race, but I just want to win races and I know I can do it. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and the races to come here.”

In the summer, Muller races motocross. It was at practice earlier this year where an accident left him with a broken collarbone. 

“That put me out for the first race, which was Thanksgiving weekend,” he said. “The next race was in Michigan the weekend after, and I ended up riding two days during that week. I tried to race to get some points, and I ended up making both finals. I think I got top 10 in both, but not as well as I would have liked. So that kind of put a slow start on the season.”

But it won’t be the last the nation hears of Muller. 

“I’m one of the ones coming up through the ranks, I guess,” Muller said. “I definitely look up to Tucker Hibbert a lot. He’s the best there is. I try to learn a little bit from what he’s doing and how he does things. It’s cool to be racing him, for sure. I don’t get to race him every weekend, but hopefully soon.”

To keep up with Muller, follow him on Facebook (Travis Muller 436) or Twitter and Instagram (@tmuller436).

Daily Globe Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.

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