Czech rider Libor Podmol and French rider Remi Bizouard fired the opening shots in the 2012 FIM Freestyle MX World Championship this weekend in Turin, Italy, for rounds one and two of the series, which is part of the International Freestyle Motocross Federation (IFMXF) Night of the Jumps World Tour and is sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme.
Podmol, the 2010 FIM champ, came out on top in Friday's contest after beating out Bizouard, Spanish rider Maikel Melero, Australian rider Clinton Moore, and French riders Brice Izzo and David Rinaldo in the six-man final at Turin's Palasport Olimpico. Chilean rider Javier Villegas, the 2011 FIM champ, was knocked unconscious during the 12-man qualification round and left the arena in an ambulance, missing Friday's finals and Saturday's competition. "I'm out of the hospital, no serious damage, but since I forgot some part of what happened yesterday I won't be riding today," Villegas reported on Saturday, before the start of the second round of the FIM series. "Big bummer."
Bizouard, the 2008 and 2009 FIM champ, beat out Melero and Podmol to top the podium in Saturday's competition with the help of a new 360 he didn't have in his runs last year, when he fell just short of Villegas in the overall points race and finished in second place. He crashed the 360 on Friday but landed it clean for the first trick of his run on Saturday, going on to land a cliffhanger, holy grab to rock solid combo, backflip cliffhanger, holy grad sideshow combo, indy flip, backflip shaolin, tsunami flip, and flatliner in his run and a Hart attack backflip on his final double-up trick.
He says he hopes to go even bigger with the new trick at the next two rounds of the 2012 FIM Freestyle MX World Championship, March 16-17 in Berlin, Germany. "It was not as big as I expected," Bizouard said of his 360, after winning Saturday's competition. "I'm struggling in this place about this trick. I hope I can be in Berlin and it's also going to be a good weekend over there. We had fun here."
Melero finished in third place on Friday and second place on Saturday, landing a huge double grab backflip for his final trick, and briefly sat in the hot seat before Bizouard bumped him down a step on the podium. "I'm happy today," Melero said. "It's my first time second placing in Night of the Jumps. I want more time at home to train before next time in Berlin because I want to fight to be on the podium again."
Bizouard's two podium finishes this weekend put him in the lead for the 2012 FIM Freestyle MX World Championship with 38 total points, just ahead of Podmol (36), and Melero (34). Villegas, now in 12th place overall with 9 points, will have some catching up to do but could still be a contender to defend his championship title thanks to the IFMXF's "drop result" rule, new to the competition this year.
"The 2012 Season is going to be a very long one, with a new tour stop in China and some other new locations on the map," explains IFMXF spokesman Oliver Franke. "Therefore the FIM and the NIGHT of the JUMPs decided to have one drop result -- which will give the whole series more dynamic. Injured riders could skip an event and must not risk health while riding."
In light of Villegas' crash, Podmol -- who spent much of the 2011 season out with injuries of his own -- said he's happy just to be safe, with no crashes. "It's always cool to be on a podium," Podmol said, after Saturday's competition. "Yesterday was better, today was cool. I'm happy with trophies."
The IFMXF events have been helping to grow the sport of freestyle motocross internationally for more than a decade, and have helped launch the careers of new riders. Local riders at each stop get wildcard slots to compete in the qualification rounds, and the Turin brought out Italian riders Ivan Zucconi, Vanni Oddera, and IFMXF regular Massimo Bianconcini. On Saturday, Bianconcini set a new world record in the high jump competition, pushing the previous record of 11.00 meters to 11.10 meters.