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On the morning of 28 Feb 1971, famed motorcycle daredevil Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel arrives at California's Ontario Motor Speedway to prepare for his latest stunt of jumping his bike over nineteen automobiles. Nervous, Evel remembers his childhood in Butte, Montana, which he calls a "mean place to grow up": When he is twelve years old, Evel is taken to his first daredevil show by his grandmother and is both horrified and fascinated when two men die during the performance. As an adult, the egotistical Evel is well-known for his daring, charisma and temper. One night, Evel assembles a group of onlookers as he breaks into a sporting goods store and then convinces the responding police officer that he is in pursuit of the criminal. With the unwitting aid of the policeman, Evel breaks open the safe and shares the spoils with the waiting crowd. Back at the speedway, Evel, who is walking with a cane, inspects the jumping ramps with his devoted friend Pete. Complaining about the reliability of the ramps, Evel reminisces about when he first began performing and built his ramps himself: One day, Evel goes to a run-down rodeo featuring faded cowboy star Charlie Kresson to ask the owner, Turquoise Smith, for a job. The genial Charlie is impressed by the cocky youngster, as is Turquoise, who accepts Evel's assurance that he can jump two pickup trucks placed end to end. On the day of Evel's first show, a huge crowd assembles, for which Charlie humbly thanks Evel, telling him how hard it is to draw an audience as one gets older. As Evel paces outside the ring, Charlie enters on a bucking steer and when he is thrown off, he dies from a heart attack. Although he is upset by Charlie's death, Evel greets his new fans and assures them that he is not one of the current crop of rebellious motorcyclists who are giving the sport a bad name. Evel then successfully jumps the two pickup trucks, and when he notices that the crowd reacts most strongly when it appears that he might fail, he realizes that showmanship, as much as skill, will ensure a lasting career. Still brooding about Charlie's death, Evel's thoughts return to the present, and he upbraids his wife Linda for commenting on his nervousness. Yelling that he cannot disappoint 150,000 fans, Evel notes that it does not matter how she feels, as she is only a participant while he is the potential "splatteree." Linda decides to summon Doc Kincaid, Evel's longtime doctor, to look at his aching thigh, which bears a large, open wound from an unhealed break. Evel then recalls his rising career and the increasingly difficult stunts he performs for larger crowds. When Doc arrives at Evel and Linda's speedway suite, he pours alcohol on Evel's wound, dresses it and tells him he will see him in the hospital after the show. Evel yells after him that he will see him instead at the Grand Canyon, as his cherished dream is to jump the wide gorge. Still irritated, Evel turns on Linda, ordering her to increase his security detail so that he has as many bodyguards as does Elvis Presley, whom he both idolizes and resents for his popularity. Furiously demanding his clothes, Evel then remembers his world-famous jump at Caesar's Palace: Emerging from his trailer in his immaculate, trademark white leathers, which he has modeled on Elvis' jumpsuits, Evel greets his fans, especially a pretty blonde who takes his picture. Evel's attempt to jump Caesar's outdoor fountain fails, however, and results in a devastating crash. While he is being carried to an ambulance, Evel is amazed that he is alive and that the blonde is photographing him even more avidly than before. In the hospital, Doc operates on Evel, who has broken all four limbs, as well as his back and pelvis. Despite his injuries, Evel is outraged when Doc tells him that he will never walk again, and to prove him wrong, has Pete take him outside, where he stubbornly rides his motorcycle around the parking lot before crashing against the curb. At the speedway suite, Evel chuckles to himself about how much both Doc and Linda worry about him, and remembers how he met Linda: As a high school student in Butte, Evel spots Linda Hanson and attempts to impress her by performing a wheelie in front of her. Knocked to the ground, Linda is angered by Evel's carelessness. Evel taunts her until she accepts a ride on his bike, however, and soon she is enjoying racing along the streets. Their fun comes to an end when a police car begins to chase them, and after dropping off Linda, Evel attempts to outrun the police. He ends up breaking his arm in a quarry and spending a night in jail. Undaunted in his pursuit of Linda, Evel follows her one winter day to the lake where she is skating. After tricking her into riding with him in his car, Evel makes love to her, although later, when she informs him that she is leaving for college, he feigns indifference. He breaks down, however, telling her that he may visit her. Evel then recalls how he blew up a room in city hall to raid the safe, only to discover that he dynamited the bathroom. Undeterred, Evel gets more dynamite, distracts the police and blows up the correct room, which he then robs. At the speedway, Evel and Linda laugh over the memory as they leave the suite and prepare for an interview with a local television newsman. When the journalist asks Evel if it is true that he once kidnapped Linda, Evel recounts the story: Missing Linda, Evel rides to her college in Missoula and, when the house mother of Linda's dormitory refuses him entry, bursts through the doors on his motorcyle and rides up the stairs to Linda's room. Linda joins Evel and they ride off together, although the next day, when she calls her father, she learns that the state police are on alert because of her alleged kidnapping. Telling her father that she has already married Evel, Linda is disappointed by his tearful reaction. The couple has not actually married yet, but Evel convinces Linda that if they do wed, he will make her famous and proud of him. Telling him that she will always take care of him, Linda agrees to marry him. With Linda's words echoing in his head, Evel's thoughts return to the present and he enters the speedway. With the roaring crowd watching, Evel easily jumps the nineteen cars. Linda and Pete are thrilled, and Pete leads a delegation of friends who lift Evel onto their shoulders. Evel waves to his adoring fans and soon after, races on his bike to his next challenge: the Grand Canyon.