French rider David Rinaldo opened both the 2013 UEM Freestyle MX European Championship series and the International Freestyle Motocross Federation's 2013 Night of the Jumps World Tour with a win on Friday in Linz, Austria, beating out German rider Hannes Ackermann and French rider Brice Izzo for the top spot in the first round of the Union Européenne de Motocyclisme-sanctioned series.
Rinaldo, the top qualifier heading into Friday's finals, landed two different double grab backflip combinations to seal the deal at the main event, bumping Czech rider Libor Podmol off the podium into fourth place. The 23-year-old rider from Narbonne, France, was best known as a European show rider until last year, when he made his debut on the Red Bull X-Fighters contest series and finished third overall on the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme-sanctioned 2012 FIM Freestyle MX World Championships (a longer series that is also part of the Night of the Jumps World Tour).
Ackermann, a close friend and training partner of Rinaldo's, finished just behind him on Friday to claim his first podium position in a major contest.
"I am more than happy," Ackermann said in an interview after the competition. "I had a perfect run and could do all my tricks. Everything worked out so well. Linz is the perfect playground for me. Last year I reached my first Night of the Jumps final here. Now I reached my first ever Night of the Jumps podium. This second place means so much to me."
Rémi Bizouard -- the French rider who dominated both the UEM series and the longer FIM Freestyle MX European Championship series in 2012 -- did not compete in Friday's finals due to illness. Bizouard was reportedly battling a bout of the flu and posted a photo on his Facebook account before the contest showing an intravenous drip in his left arm with the note, "No contest tonight. Sorry Linz." Look for him to be back in action when the 2013 FIM series opens on March 2 in Kaunas, Lithuania.
1. David Rinaldo (FRA) 348 points
2. Hannes Ackermann (GER) 372 points
3. Brice Izzo (FRA) 363 points
4. Libor Podmol (CZE) 360 points
5. Jose Miralles (ESP) 354 points
6. Petr Pilat (CZE) 342 points
2013 UEM Freestyle MX European Championship overall rankings to date:
1. David Rinaldo (FRA) 20 points
2. Hannes Ackermann (GER) 18 points
3. Brice Izzo (FRA) 16 points
4. Libor Podmol (CZE) 14 points
5. Jose Miralles (ESP) 12 points
6. Petr Pilat (CZE) 10 points
7. Martin Koren (CZE) 9 points
8. Massimo Bianconcini (ITA) 8 points
9. Maxime Gregoire (FRA) 7 points
10. Thomas Wirnsberger (AUT) 6 points