Tom Pages has claimed the 2013 Red Bull X-Fighters championship in Madrid, Spain, winning the final round of the year to take the title by 100 points from Dany Torres.
The Frenchman won out in the night’s final against Japanese rider Taka Higashino, who had pipped Pages to the win at last month’s Osaka round.
The stakes of tonight’s event had been raised earlier in the day when it was announced that the would-have-been series climax in the South African capital of Pretoria had been cancelled, meaning that the title would be decided in Madrid’s iconic Las Ventas bullring.
Pages’ route to his championship was made easier yesterday after Australian rider Josh Sheehan, who Pages was slated to run against in the quarter-finals, crashed in qualifying, breaking his collar bone.
Pages therefore progressed automatically to the semi-final, where he saw off Chilean rider Javier Villegas, who had taken the win from 2012 Red Bull X-Fighters champion Levi Sherwood in his quarter-final.
Meanwhile Higashino triumphed over Rob Adelberg in his quarter-final before besting local hero Maikel Melero – who himself had beat fellow Spaniard Dany Torres in the quarters – to go through to the final.
Both Pages and Higashino came out all guns blazing in front of the capacity crowd of 23,000 for their climactic head-to-head.
Higashino was the first to run, and duly pulled out his signature Rock Solid Flip, where the Japanese rider lets go of the bike while pulling a backflip, to the delight of the Spanish crowd.
Pages knew he had his work cut out, and given that he’d ridden with an uncharacteristic tenseness in his semi-final match-up with Villegas, the result was by no means certain.
Pages began his run by nailing a Cliffhanger Backflip before heading over to the quaterpipe and executing a perfect Flair. A Holy Man followed before the crowd was treated to Pages’ two party pieces…
First came the Volt, where the Frenchman hops off the bike mid-air and performs a 360 next to it before remounting. Then came the near-mythic Special Flip, where Pages leaves the bike mid-air and pulls a backflip, before pulling himself onto the seat and landing. Both were nailed with perfection, with the arena shaking to the crowd’s cheers. The run was rounded off with a Flair Tsunami and a 9 o’clock Indie.
With the judges marking on Variety, Execution, Style, use of the course and Energy, Pages won out in every category to take the win and the 2013 title.
“This is the craziest feeling I’ve ever had,” said an exuberant Pages afterwards. “This is probably the best event I’ve ever done in my life. It’s incredible.
“I believed one day I could [win the title] and it’s happened. I don’t know if it can happen again, but at least it happened once in my life.”
Pages certainly celebrated his win in style – or a lack of it. After Dany Torres had encouraged the Frenchman to shave his head if he won the title, Pages appeared at the press conference with just a few wisps of hair left on his head.
“Maybe it’s the stress – my hair is falling out,” the newly-crowned Red Bull X-Fighters champion joked.
Villegas claimed the last of the podium spots behind Pages and Higashino, while Dany Torres claimed the Swatch Best Move prize for his impressively-monikered Paris Hilton Flip.
Head to the Red Bull X-Fighters website for more news, videos and results from the series.
Click here for the final championship standings.