Editor's note: Tes Sewell is the sport director for Red Bull X-Fighters.
Istanbul literally lies at the crossroads of Asia and Europe -- a melting pot of vibrant cultures. It is to this cosmopolitan city of more than 13 million people that the Red Bull X-Fighters world tour has brought round three of a hotly contested season. Rounds one and two saw two different winners in Levi Sherwood and Todd Potter and with both former winners healthy and ready for battle it will be a heated contest on Turkish soil.
The real story of this round, however, is that the competition nearly didn't happen at all. A last-minute revocation of the permit for the ancient Yedikule Castle location caused the team to scramble in relocating the entire event to a second location a little less than one mile away.
What this really meant is that course builder Jesse Olson and his team only had three days to remove the dirt from the old location, move it to the new location, then design and construct an entirely new course. The move has been going on 24 hours a day since the announcement was made.
A bleary-eyed Olson described the challenge: "It's organized chaos, but hey -- the second time's a charm right?"
In Glen Helen the Frenchman Tom Pages really put the cat amongst the pigeons with his non-flipping, energy-filled run, but here in Turkey there are no massive transfer step-ups and -- perhaps worse for Pages -- no opportunity so far to build the quarterpipe lip that he had requested. His varial will be a crowd pleaser for sure, but will it be enough to give him another great result without going upside down?
Potter slayed the competition in the big hills of California, but this course has all ramp take-offs and that means his biggest competition is going to be the guy a mere five points behind him in the championship -- Levi Sherwood. Sherwood usually eats these kinds of courses for breakfast and can demonstrate his enviable flow and wild extensions with consistency. He is healthy and focused and seems more than keen to get on track and prove his claim to the tour's top spot.
With the new course set up, the question is: Can 2011 champion Dany Torres come back to the fore and get his first win of the season? Torres has been recovering from surgery on a broken foot since Dubai in April and was really challenged by the large natural terrain style course in Glen Helen.
Then we have the potential spoilers who always exist at an X-Fighters event: Blake 'Bilko' Williams is back from his tour Down Under and needs a good result to propel him into this month's X Games competition. The FMX journeyman Javier Villegas has been quietly working away over the past events and sits in a comfortable third place in the world rankings. He is a proven threat on the ramps and has the maturity and focus to eye the greater prize. He just missed the podium in Glen Helen, but he's perhaps the dark horse beat for a win on a hot Turkish evening.
Rob Adelberg has also made the long trek from Australia after a warrior effort in the Glen Helen event. Adelberg crashed attempting a flip up the big step up, spent part of the day in hospital and then returned to the competition with a new gap in his teeth, caused by a broken jaw. Adelberg is -- and has been -- a serious contender for the past couple of years. If he can stay rubber-side-down for the whole competition, he might also finally get that sought-after top spot.
Of course it would not be an X-Fighters without a little new blood to mix things up. At this event watch out for these two guys: Wes Agee and Jeremy Rouanet.
California's Agee gets another chance after his podium run at the last round where only a mechanical problem stopped him from truly challenging Pages in the semifinals. Can he do as well on a ramp course?
Rouanet is the real new kid at X-Fighters. "Jey" as his friends call him is well known in Europe, but has so far not been given the break-out chance that X-Fighters often proves to be. Saturday could be a glorious day for him.
At 8:30 p.m. Saturday [assuming you are local in Istanbul], the answers will start to roll out. The new event site is going to be free to the public and this could mean epic crowd sizes similar to the 100,000 crazed Brazilian fans in Brasilia last year. The local team is making plans to secure the course because the fans here "really like to be a part of the action." Let's hope this crazy sport scares them enough to keep their distance.