French rider Thomas Pagès dominated the Red Bull X-Fighters event Friday night in Mexico City, beating out Spanish rider Dany Torres in the head-to-head finals to win the first event of the six-stop 2013 world tour.
"It was really hard because every rider was pretty good," Pagès said in a podium interview after the competition, before humbly paying respect to Torres. "Dany, I think he's the best rider in the world."
Pagès dedicated the win to his friend and longtime competitor Eigo Sato, wearing Sato's jersey throughout the competition. The Japanese rider died in Japan last week after a crash during training for the X-Fighters tour.
Pagès and Torres held a Japanese flag together in Sato's memory as they awaited their scores after the final round, and riders at the event were all promoting a donation site set up to help assist Sato's wife and two children.
"I had Japan with me so it was easy to do it," Pagès said, reflecting on his win.
Channeling his memories of the fallen rider seemed to have worked. Pagès appeared unstoppable Friday, trouncing Australian riders Truman Carroll [an X-Fighters rookie] in the quarterfinals and Rob Adelberg in semifinals before dispatching Torres -- the 2011 X-Fighters champion -- in the final.
He managed it all without throwing a single backflip in any of his runs, although Pagès is credited as the first rider to land double-grab flip variations and one of the first to land front flips, he has not landed a backflip variation in competition or attempted front flips to dirt since 2009. He has said he is mostly steering clear of inverted tricks, citing his own injuries and several high-profile crashes and fatalities, a decision likely enforced by Sato's death; Sato reportedly crashed after under-rotating a backflip.
Pagès, it turns out, may not need to get his bike upside-down to hold his own. His runs on Friday included innovative tricks such as a special flip body varial, a flatspin 360 one-hander, a no-hand Superman, a volt body varial with a fist pump thrown in for good measure, a flatspin 540 one-hander off the quarterpipe, and massive turndown whips to the delight of the 38,000 fans packed into the Plaza de Toros Monumento, an iconic bullfighting ring. Pagès also picked up Swatch Best Move honors for the special flip.
Pagès finished second overall on the X-Fighter tour in 2012, behind Levi Sherwood of New Zealand.
"I don't know if it's my year, but I will keep practicing and try to bring new tricks again," Pagès said after Friday's finals, indicating that he's just getting started with his reinvention of freestyle motocross.
The 2013 X-Fighters tour continues April 12 with a return to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Other stops on the 2013 tour include events at Glen Helen in San Bernardino, Calif. (May 11); Osaka, Japan (June 1); Madrid, Spain (July 19), and Pretoria, South Africa (Sept. 7).
Red Bull X-Fighters results: Mexico City, March 8, 2013
|1||Tom Pagés (FRA)|
|2||Dany Torres (ESP)|
|3||Levi Sherwood (NZL)|
|4||Rob Adelberg (AUS)|
|5||Josh Sheehan (AUS)|
|6||Maikel Melero (ESP)|
|7||Todd Potter (USA)|
|8||Truman Carroll (AUS)|
|9||Erick Ruiz (MEX)|
|10||Martin Koren (CZE)|
|11||Alex Cervantes (MEX)|