MADRID -- On Friday night, Red Bull X-Fighters Madrid began with a single torero climbing the landing hill, igniting a firework and letting it climb into the night sky to a massive explosion. The fireworks didn't stop for another two hours. Some are saying this Las Ventas bullring's event might have been the best FMX showcase ever, with almost every conceivable kind of FMX trick on display within the minuscule, circular Spanish track.
France's Tom Pagés would be the eventual winner after shaking off a couple of rough outings at the start of the season, including his surprise withdrawal from the Osaka, Japan, event just one month before. Pagés again peppered his run with new-school tricks such as varials and the quarterpipe flair, but what really added the cap to an energetic run was a trick that had been in the dusty pages of FMX lore for more than years: the bike flip.
While the eyes and the adoration were deservedly on the Frenchman, what should not be forgotten are the stellar -- and almost unfathomably good -- performances of the other 11 riders in the competition, especially Australia's Clinton Moore.
Moore has had a colorful relationship with the Madrid event and has never done better than a ride in the first round of competition, though he's always being lauded for his unique bag of tricks. Friday was different for Moore.
"I finally made it to the second round," said Moore, who was ready with a heady 75-second run that would have been a giant-killer in any other circumstance. It started with a 'Bundy' (Moore's version of Kyle Loza's electric doom varial), followed by a 360 nac nac, a one-handed seat grab to rock solid (over a 100-foot gap), a volt body varial, a ruler fip and a heel clicker to Superman flip combination. All were executed with power and style.
It is often said you should never bring a knife to a gunfight, but imagine if you brought out the guns only to find out the other guys were driving tanks. That was the situation Moore found himself facing in the second round.
"I went up against my Aussie buddy Josh Sheehan, and he had the double (backflip), he had the flair, he had big tricks," Moore said. "He was on point and dialing it."
Indeed the double flip would help Sheehan to a second-place finish on the night, just behind Pagés, so Moore didn't feel too disappointed after his quarterfinal loss to Sheehan. Moore also managed to get a bonus from his trip to Europe -- both Pagés and Sheehan gave him some input on a trick he decided not to pull in his run, the Flare.
"Coming here, we had a test track, and it was a Wednesday and [I] decided to do [a flair] there because I felt like I just needed to get one out of the way," he said. "I did it, everything was fine, everything came around."
The hard landing that comes with the trick and the lack of practice prevented him from trying it in competition, but he'll take what he learned with Sheehan and Pagés with him to the next X-Fighters.
"[Sheehan] and [Pagés] gave me some great advice about how I am doing the flairs, and why it's causing me to have that effect of the hard landing," he said. "When I go home, I am taking one week off ... Two weeks from now, I will be back in the foam pit with the advice that Josh and Tom gave me."
After getting further in Madrid than at any event in the past, Moore is comfortable with where the sport is progressing -- from bigger, longer jumps to more technical, vertical kickers -- and his role in it.
"Tonight was the night [Pagés] has been hoping and dreaming about for quite some time," Moore said. "The evolution of the sport happened tonight ... Tom doing the bike flip off the quarter[pipe], I think that's the greatest thing ever to be done ... I think that's where the sport needs to go."
Moore now waits for his chance to show his developing skills at the next round of X-Fighters in Munich next month. This time, Moore hopes to show up with the flair and the knowledge that his skills belong beyond the first round of competition.
Perhaps the tips he got from Pagés and Sheehan will help Moore claim a podium of his own.