French rider Thomas Pagès secured his first Red Bull X-Fighters championship title Friday with a win at the iconic Las Ventas bullfighting ring in Madrid, Spain. The Madrid stop stands as the final event of the 2013 series after the stop scheduled for Sept. 7 in Pretoria, South Africa was canceled.
"Due to situations beyond the control of the organizing team the execution of a world-class sportive competition can no longer be guaranteed," X-Fighters announced in a statement this week explaining the change.
Pagès, who won the 2013 X-Fighters opener in Mexico City in March and took second in Glen Helen, Calif., in May, came into Madrid with the overall series lead, well ahead of Dany Torres, Rob Adelberg, and Levi Sherwood. Adelberg was eliminated by Taka Higashino in head-to-head competition in the quarterfinals while Torres, the crowd favorite, lost out out to fellow Spaniard Maikel Melero. Pagès got a bye, advancing straight to semifinals after Josh Sheehan qualified with enough points to advance to the quarterfinals but was unable to continue after a crash in his second qualifying run.
"Unfortunately, my friend Josh crashed badly and broke his collarbone and injured his ankle, so I'm not part of the first run and will go straight to semifinal and have enough points to win the series," Pagès explained after realizing his overall points lead was unassailable even before semifinals.
"Obviously I want to compete here and [dominate] the biggest event in the world, and I still have a lot of stress because even if I won the championship my tricks are going to be the same tonight and I have so much stress about it," he said.
Those tricks included the hugely technical maneuvers that have become his signature, like the volt body varial, special flip and 540 flair, helping him advance past Javier Villegas in the semifinals and dispatch Higashino in finals.
"That's more than a dream, it's something amazing because we started this season without Eigo Sato, and we've been all trying hard and working hard to honor him every day," Pagès said, referring to his fallen friend. The Japanese rider died after a crash in February while training for this year's X-Fighters tour near his home in Iwaki City, Japan. Pagès has competed all season in a jersey that pays tribute to Sato, and he and Higashino waved a Japanese flag together after the final scores were announced.
After mostly avoiding backflip tricks in recent years, Pagès' winning run in Madrid included a ruler flip combo as well as a 540 flair, no-hand Superman, volt body varial, special flip, and a new tsunami 540 flair variation, before closing with a flatliner Indian air -- enough to beat Higashino in all five of the judging categories: variety, execution, style, use of course and energy. Afterward, Pagès hinted that he's just getting started.
"The good thing is I was focusing on the championship this year so I was not bringing every trick tonight, so next year will be a lot more fun," he said.
Higashino, the defending X Games Los Angeles 2012 gold medalist, will get a rematch next month; he and Pagès will be Moto X Freestyle podium favorites.
Red Bull X-Fighters results: Madrid, Spain, July 19, 2013
|1||Thomas Pagès (FRA)|
|2||Taka Higashino (JPN)|
|3||Javier Villegas (CHL)|
|4||Maikel Melero (ESP)|
|5||Dany Torres (ESP)|
|6||Levi Sherwood (NZL)|
|7||Rob Adelberg (AUS)|
|8||Josh Sheehan (NZL)|
|9||David Rinaldo (FRA)|
|10||Clinton Moore (AUS)|
|11||Adam Jones (USA)|
|12||Todd Potter (USA)|
Red Bull X-Fighters final 2013 standings
|1||Thomas Pagès (FRA)||360|
|2||Dany Torres (ESP)||260|
|3||Taka Higashino (JPN)||245|
|4||Rob Adelberg (AUS)||240|
|5||Levi Sherwood (NZL)||225|
|6||Javier Villegas (CHL)||150|
|7||David Rinaldo (FRA)||125|
|8||Adam Jones (USA)||120|
|9||Maikel Melero (ESP)||115|
|10||Josh Sheehan (AUS)||115|