Spain Red Bull X Fighters

Andre Villa cliff hanger flip.jpg

Photos by Paul "Stretch" Maloney Story by Stretch & Brooke
More photos can be found here
Knowing I would be abroad during the 2008 XFighters series, I was a regular in internet cafes across Europe- religiously checking the XFighters websites for ticket release dates and other info. It was one of those opportunities that no FMX follower would want to miss. Although wanting to go to all of the European events, the budget of a backpacker meant I had to decide on one. The two day event in Spain was the hands down choice and, finally, I got the news that tickets were up for grabs. Plane flights and accommodation were instantly booked, the only problem-the XFighters tickets were being sold through a Spanish outlet and, well- ‘no hablo espanol’- I dont speak Spanish!! Thanks to some clever ‘Google’ translating, I negotiated my way through the purchase and scored great seats for both days.

Knowing I was definitely going to be at the Spain event, I set about trying to make it just that little bit sweeter- a media pass. I figured my chances of getting one was close to zero, but no harm in trying. A few dozen emails and several phone calls later and I received a reply from the Redbull media team welcoming me to the event and assuring me a pass would be waiting for me once I arrived in Madrid! Needless to say, I was fairly excited about this upcoming opportunity.

The Spain event was held in the bullfighting ring ‘Plaza de Torres’, and as you’ve probably seen on TV, the riders enter the arena through the gates normally used by the matadors and bulls during a bullfight. The set up was largely the same as previous years , with all ramps leading toward the central down ramp, the ‘funbox’, and one of the newer editions- the quarter pipe set up off to one side. A stage for live bands on top of the quarter completed the set up. With tiered seating for about 30 000 people- the pits, riders area and media rooms are all located beneath this seating. With my media pass I was lucky enough to have access to all areas, except out onto the arena floor, which is reserved for Redbull’s own media team.

Thursday the 17th of July was the qualifying event, as well as having the best trick competition. Practice sessions ran most of the day and with the arena closed off to the public, I was able to move around freely to take plenty of photographs. If the practice sessions were anything to go by, we were in for an awesome display of FMX over the next two nights. In between practice, I was able to mingle with some of the riders. Robbie Madison was there sporting his new Yamaha YZ250, Jeremy ‘Twitch’ Stenberg was out due to injury, as well as Italian rider Alvaro dal Farra- bringing in Fredrick Johannsen and Thomas Pages brother Charlie Pages. I had to pinch myself a few times- here I was in Madrid chatting to some of the world’s best FMX riders- while taking advantage of the catering and free Red Bulls provided in the Media Lounge.

With around 23000 spectators seated on scorching hot concrete around the arena, Thursday night’s competition began. During Frederick Johannsen’s run, he had the crowd confused as he kept approaching the Quarter Pipe, then pulling away from it. No one was expecting was what to come. Out of nowhere, Johannsen tore up the lip and attempted a Flair/540 - never before done in FMX. While he didn’t quite land it, he gave it an awesome shot and had the crowd on their feet in appreciation. The cheers were almost deafening during Danny Torres’ runs, and the home crowd advantage obviously paid off when he took the best trick competition as well as qualifying third for Friday night’s main event. Maddo had an impressive night, qualifying forth and finishing third in best trick, despite having one uncharacteristic dead sailor in his run and still carrying a knee injury that had prevented him from any serious training for weeks prior to the event. Overall Thursday nights’s competition produced some awesome performances from the riders, with Andre villa qualifying second and Mat Rebeauld qualifying in first position, as well as taking out second spot in the best trick competition.

Friday was the main event, the final. Again, practice sessions ran for most of the day and I took the opportunity to take as many pictures as humanly possible, to catch up with Maddo and down some more redbulls. The night’s event started with an awesome opening show- complete with matadors being pursued by the riders playing the part of the bulls, live Spanish band music, horses and team RedBull Citroen WRC driver Dani Sordo taking his car for a spin around the arena. The Spanish crowd were in full celebration mode and rather just cheering or clapping, many decided to bring their chainsaws along to help raise the noise levels. So whenever the brass band started up with a tune, those in the crowd with chainsaws would fire them up and join in. Trust the Spanish to be able to play a chainsaw in tune!

With the opening event finished, it was time to get down to business. Over the first days practice and qualifying, the riders that stood out for me were both Charlie Pages and brother Thomas with huge extension on their tricks right side up and upside down. This standard of tricks continued into Friday night’s competition. Also, the seemingly unbeatable Mat Rebeaud was pulling perfect Shaolin flips on a variety of jumps. Mat was always going the one to beat. Several times, I had to put my camera down and have a break from shooting photographs so I could really appreciate the show going on in front of me. Charlie Pages took a hard fall on a 360 and had to be stretchered off unconscious, all the while with his brother Thomas next to him. Fredrick Johannsen attempted another Flair/540 - landing it this time and getting another huge response from the crowd.

With competition winding down to the final four, Maddo was left to face off with Rebeaud with Andre Villa facing off against Jeremy Lusk. Maddo was always going to have a tough time getting past Rebeaud, but after a flawless run, I thought Rob would have taken it out. But in true Swiss style, Rebeaud came out and stamped his authority on the competition- extending his tricks just that bit more and also having a few more technical tricks in his run. Maddo would have to settle for third place. Andre Villa took out Jeremy Lusk to enter the final round and battle it out with Rebeaud for the win. With Villa being on his ‘A’ game the past two days, I thought it would be a hard fought battle for the win. Unfortunately on a no-hander lander early in Villa’s run, he misjudged the quarter pipe ramp and placed his bike in the gap between the ramp and the down ramp. With the bike firmly stuck there, Villa’s night was over, handing the win to Rebeaud who still came out firing with all his tricks. With scoring over, all of the riders joined in for a choreographed jumping session which had the crowd going again. Finally the presentations began with Maddo taking third, Andre Villa second and Mat Rebeauld winning the event and enjoying a victory lap around the arena on a group of matador’s shoulders.

After the final results of the event in Madrid, and with Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg being out of this round, Maddo has closed the gap and is now sitting only a couple of points behind Twitch who is in second place for the series . The next round of competition being held is in Wurpurtal, Germany on August 16th , lets hope Maddo has a good round and can take second place from Twitch.

Overall, the Spain Redbull Xfighters event was an awesome display of some of the world’s best FMX talent. The atmosphere that the Spanish people give the event is fever hot and comparable to a festival, and all the while there was no hint of agro or trouble- despite the vast amounts of warm Spanish beer that the crowds were getting into! Madrid itself is a warm, colourful and welcoming city that is perfectly suited for the event. It’s an experience that I recommend to anyone and everyone and something that I’m so excited to have been a part of. Finally id just like to say ‘muchas gracias’ to Redbull , Pete Maddison , Goba ,and Caro for pointing me in the right direction when trying to get my hands on a media pass. Having the pass has meant that I have many photographs to share with all FMX fans .Thanks to my girlfriend Brooke for helping make this all happen for me, Finally one huge thank you to Robbie Maddison for his donation to help us out at Narrogin Revheads. Adios!!
Paul ‘Stretch’ Maloney
More photos can be found here
Pic Above: Andre Villa- Jackhammer Flip. Pic Below Maddo- CanCan Underflip

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