Czech rider Libor Podmol closed the gap behind French rider Remi Bizouard in the chase for the 2012 FIM Freestyle MX World Championship title on Saturday with a win at the Anatolia Stepanova stadium in Togliatti, Russia, topping the podium at the seventh round of the international series ahead of Bizouard and French rider Brice Izzo.
"The track was just super big and awesome, so it was big fun for me to ride here -- especially after the frustration of last night's weather -- and to come out on top," Podmol told ESPN.com. An additional round of the FIM series scheduled for Friday night was canceled after the course was pummeled by heavy rains 30 minutes before the scheduled competition. "I'm trying my best, the same as Remi, but he's like a machine -- every run is perfect -- so I really have to bring it every time."
Both riders are previous FIM Freestyle MX world champions, Podmol in 2010 and Bizouard in 2008 and 2009, and each have now won three of the seven rounds to date in the 2012 series.
The results from Saturday's round in Russia leave Bizouard slightly ahead in the overall points tally with 132 total points to Podmol's 122; Izzo now trails behind with 102. Chilean rider Javier Villegas, the defending 2011 FIM champ, has missed the past three rounds of competition because of scheduling conflicts in his rookie year with the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour.
The outdoor course at Anatolia Stepanova for Saturday's event was billed as the largest course in the 11-year history of the Night of the Jumps World Tour.
"It was cool to have a bigger course this time, because I feel like I can use the track a little more and be on top," Podmol said. "I did a clean run, used all the course and hit all the dirt lips, and I'm really happy tonight. I'm going to compete in every event for the whole season and fight for the title."
The FIM series, run in conjunction with the International Freestyle Motocross Federation (IFMXF) Night of the Jumps World Tour, will take a brief summer hiatus and pick up again Sept. 15-16 with the Grand Prix of China in Guangzhou [formerly known as Canton], marking the first time an IFMXF/FIM Freestyle MX event has been held in that country. In May the IFMXF and Chinese promoter Ye Jianhua announced a multi-year contract to bring the Night of the Jumps World Tour and FIM Freestyle MX World Championship events to the country.
"I have no idea what to expect in China," Podmol said after his win in Russia on Saturday. "I've heard the arena is sick and the venue there is really big, so I hope we're going to have a great course and be able to put on a great show for the FMX fans there."
Other remaining rounds in the Night of the Jumps World Tour after China include stops in Barcelona, Spain; Prague, Czech Republic; Cologne, Germany; Riga, Latvia; and Gdansk, Poland, before the series' conclusion Dec. 15 in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Final results from Togliatti, Russia:
1. Libor Podmol (CZE) 443
2. Remi Bizouard (FRA) 436
3. Brice Izzo (FRA) 430
4. Jose Miralles (ESP) 395
5. David Rinaldo (FRA) 373
6. Lukas Weis (GER) 358