When the dust settled after the Red Bull X-Fighters rocked Mexico City on Friday night in front of a sold out crowd of 40,000, Levi Sherwood stood alone on top once again.
Sherwood's victory was significant as much for his win as it was for who didn't win - Thomas Pages. The judges scored the defending 2013 season champ lower based on repeated tricks and his less than smooth flow around the tight course. The Frenchman headed into Friday night determined to get redemption.
In Friday's quarterfinals Pages was matched up against Adam Jones. Jones landed his near-trademark trick called a Rigormortis - a vertical Dead Body off the front of the bike, marking a solid run, leaving it up to Pages to answer and earn his place in the semifinals. This was not to be Pages' night however. He missed his Volt varial and then washed out on his own trademark trick, the Superman Flare. Jones advanced easily and Pages left in heartbreak.
In the semis, Jones was matched up against Josh Sheehan and Spain's Dany Torres faced off against Sherwood. Jones' night ended prematurely when he had trouble with the setting on his steering stabilizer before taking the first jump, and he lost the semifinal to Sheehan.
"If I set it too tight the bars don't turn at all" he said. Though he got the bars set perfectly to execute the massive double grab flip, he was already a bit unnerved and after missing a flip trick at the start of the run and then washing out on the wooden run-out ramp after the step-down jump.
"I was just trying to get it around, didn't make it far enough and then suddenly I was in neutral," Jones said.
Torres and Sherwood gave the crowd a real start-to-finish battle in the second semifinal. Torres came back from a disappointing qualifier and really stepped up his game, but Sherwood was just too smooth and too concise to allow Torres to beat him. In the end, the results were very close: Three judges to two scored in Sherwood's favor, and he advanced.
This set up a Jones vs. Sherwood final that was a repeat of their 2011 X-Fighters battle. That year, Sheehan dispatched Sherwood with his massive arsenal of tricks. which included the double backflip. Here, in the high-altitude air of Mexico City, there was no chance of Sheehan pulling the double, but he had brought the Flare and landed it successfully in every run.
The finals started off well for him, but under-rotating the Flare caused him to miss the line and cost him valuable time. The rest of the run for Sheehan was solid, but when Levi Sherwood is on his game, any mistake from another rider will be amplified, as was the case here. The judges awarded the 3-2 victory to Sherwood in another nail-biter.
Sherwood won his first contest here in Mexico City way back in 2009 as an unknown 17 year old. Tonight he tasted victory again with form that reminded everyone of the 'old' Levi.
"I just feel like my 17-year-old self again and that scares me a little, because I never know what's going to happen," Sherwood said.
Based on what we all saw in Mexico City, we have a good idea of what might happen in Sherwood's next outing at X-Fighters in Osaka, Japan in May.