If you're like 2.5 million other viewers, on Tuesday you tuned in to watch the final episode of the MTV series "The Hills." In that final episode, two-time defending X Games Super X champion Josh Hansen appeared due to his relationship with Stephanie Pratt, one of the stars of the wildly popular reality TV show. The two met after the final season of the show had started production, and their relationship became significant enough that Hansen figured prominently at the end.
Hansen's story is well known among supercross fans. The 26-year-old from Colorado was a rising star with several national amateur titles before going pro at 17. He accrued six regional supercross podiums between 2004 and 2005 before he lost his focus. Between a hard-partying lifestyle and a revolving door of sponsors, Hansen was on his way to being written off by the racing community as another story of lost potential.
But the past year has seen Hansen do more than just raise his profile through reality TV. He was tapped by one of the godfathers of the supercross industry, Pro Circuit's Mitch Payton, before last summer's X Games to ride a Pro Circuit Kawasaki -- a decision that paid dividends for both parties.
In April, Hansen returned to the supercross podium at Salt Lake City, winning the 250cc Lites and re-establishing himself as a threat well beyond the one-off arena of X Games. As he gears up for his shot at an X Games three-peat, it's tough not to root for Hansen. And now, thanks to "The Hills," that's exactly what millions of casual X Games fans who don't know a two-stroke from a four-stroke will be doing.
"A lot of people follow that show," he said when we asked him what it was like to be a part of "The Hills." "It's kind of crazy because I've never followed the show. I didn't know people were so pumped and hyped on it. However, I just want to be Josh the Dirt Bike Guy."
ESPN.com: Josh, how did you wind up meeting Stephanie Pratt and becoming a part of "The Hills" TV show?
Josh Hansen: Dingo [Luke "The Dingo" Trembath, star of the TV show "The Adventures of Danny & The Dingo"]. Dingo introduced me to her and got us set up right before the Vegas supercross. So I did my thing out in Vegas and came back and went on a date with her and then started hanging out with her.
Did you know who she was or anything?
Well, I kind of knew about "The Hills," like the show. Dingo explained it to me. But I didn't know her personally or anything, so it was just kind of like whatever. I just kind of went into it like, "Whatever happens, happens." She ended up being cool, and I've been hanging out with her and she's been fun. And then it just carried on and MTV got a hold of me. I wasn't really interested at first, but I did a few shows. At the ending of the show, Stephanie and I talked, and it was just a good closing to the show for her and her finding, I guess, love. It was a good ending for both of us.
Well, I kind of knew about "The Hills." ... But I didn't know her [Stephanie Pratt] personally or anything, so it was just kind of like whatever. I just kind of went into like, "Whatever happens, happens."
-- Josh Hansen
I went over to Pro Circuit to see Mitch Payton at the time all of this started. He had just heard that you had been spending time in Hollywood and wasn't too into the concept of you being around that scene and hanging out with "Hollywood people."
Yeah, I think Mitch was pissed, but it wasn't like I was just up there partying every night and not doing [anything], you know? Yeah, I went up there and was doing the show and was hanging out with Stephanie, and then I would come back. I was riding and doing my stuff. After he saw that, he was fine. He just wanted to make sure I was on top of my stuff. That's what I was doing and that's what I'm doing now.
As far as the show, did they write you into it or just kind of drop in on what you and Stephanie were doing?
I don't know. ... They didn't really have to write in anything. It was all natural, you know? It was what we were working with and it just fit so good for the show. It made Stephanie happy, and I was good. I figured if it was time to go ahead and do the show, it was probably better to do it toward the ending -- like the last two final episodes -- because then it was done forever.
The show ran for six years, and you ended up being a big part of the final episode. Leading up to it, Mitch started following the show and knew the storylines and everything. I kind of sensed he was into the whole thing and you riding at the test track as the curtain came down on the show.
I think everybody just thought the worst about the whole thing right off the bat. Like, "Oh, Hansen is done racing" or "Hansen is already screwing up and going back to the old Hansen." It wasn't really like that. I think everybody was looking at it from the outside looking on in. I'm a racer, and I feel like I'm a good racer and I feel like I have the personality to do some stuff outside the sport. Nobody else really does it. I'm not going to just stick in my own little world of racing. It comes natural to me. This is what I do. This is how I want to be. People either support it or they don't. This is the way I want to live my life.
OK, on to racing. Your 2010 AMA Supercross Lites West Region season started out a little bit rough, and there were quite a few ups and downs. However, toward the end, you closed really hard. Can you tell me about your season?
Basically, those last three years of racing kind of screwed me up mentally. I was really down in the dumps with myself, and to be able to get the opportunity to race with Mitch was awesome. But at the same time there was a lot of pressure. I go from zero to trying to be hero. It's rough. It was almost like trying to learn how to walk all over again. It took me a little bit. I kind of was missing some pieces of the puzzle right at the beginning of the year. I had the speed, but I kept making these mistakes and crashing. It's hard to be at the very bottom of the sport and then try to be the hero. There are not very many who can pull that off. I get hounded on by the press by everything.
I was a straight-up idiot before. It almost puts me to tears to think about all the opportunities I've had and let go. ... All I can do is just go forward from here.
-- Josh Hansen
I ended up just keeping my head down. I listened to Mitch and I kept trying to build every single weekend. Also, a lot of people didn't know I was hurt. I hurt my ribs at Phoenix. When the break [between Anaheim III and Seattle] came, I used that time to heal up and I busted my ass and I was getting ready for the last couple. I truly was ready for the last races. Maybe it was a little late or whatever, but I learned a lot about myself. I think it's going to be a good thing going into next season. I'm going to know what works for me and what doesn't.
How did it feel to win an AMA Supercross again?
It was rad. It was where I felt like I should be. It was good. Not to sound cocky, but it's where I feel I should be. It was definitely a good feeling. It felt like home. It's where I need to be.
Mitch seems pretty damn pleased with your overall performance thus far in 2010.
Obviously I feel like he likes me, just for giving me the opportunity. Nobody in our sport was going to give me the opportunity, and this guy -- one of the gnarliest guys in the sport -- hangs his neck out for me. It was rad. I was pumped to be able to get the opportunity. I feel like I've turned over a new leaf now and respect what I have in front of me, and I don't want to screw that up. And I'm definitely not letting all this Hollywood stuff get in front of my racing. Racing is my first priority. This is what makes me get anything.
I've been pretty close to you and your racing for a year now, and you seem to have gotten around the bend.
I've cut a lot of people out of my life, and I feel like I have a little bit tighter group. I don't know ... I want to do good racing. This is what I'm meant to do. I'm not going to let this blow out of my fingers. I've definitely changed. I feel like I'm way more humble now and I'm just really happy to be able to have the lifestyle that I have. I was a straight-up idiot before. It almost puts me to tears to think about all the opportunities I've had and let go. I want to take advantage of this and just build it. All I can do is just go forward from here.
At X Games 16, James Stewart and a strong roster of riders will be competing. How do you feel about the race?
I'm looking at it as, "Dude, this is my time to shine." I want to win it again. I'm hungry to win. I'm not thinking, "Will I have a ride after this race?" I've won gold, and I have one vision and that's to win. That's all I want to do. That's what I'm working toward. I don't want to get second and I don't want to get third.
Can you beat James Stewart? He certainly has not been racing, so we're all left to wonder how sharp he is.
I'd like to say I can. That's what I've been working toward. You definitely can't count out anybody in our sport. I'm just going to do what I can do and I think I'm going to have a very good shot at it.
Last question: Do you have anything going yet for 2011?
Some people have spoken with me. I just want to know that I want to be on a winning team and that I'm in a position to win a championship.