Todd Potter was the master of the 60-foot high step up that scared half of the field away from the biggest hill jump ever included in a Red Bull X-Fighters course to beat Frenchman Thomas Pagès in a thrilling duel of fearless aerial specialists under the blazing heat of Southern California. American Wes Agee also thrived on the hill-filled California-style track, getting a superb third place in his first-ever competition and winning the Swatch Best Move.
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Potter, Pagès and Agee dazzled the afternoon crowd of 15,000 with their breathtaking flips and back flips up what all the riders agreed was the most intimidating step-up jump ever. Many of the favorites, including defending champion Dany Torres of Spain and 2012 championship leader Levi Sherwood of New Zealand, opted to skip the awe-inspiring step-up and paid a heavy price for that with the judges, getting knocked out in early rounds against the bolder riders who were not afraid to tackle the beast. It was a risky leap more than 60 feet up to the top of a cliff – and anyone falling mere inches short of the landing on the rim could end up tumbling straight back down the steep hill.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Potter, who clearly had the crowd on his side throughout the three knock-out rounds with his flashy riding style and charismatic flirtations with the spectators. Potter said the courage paid off for the winners in Glen Helen and challenged his rivals to learn how to jump on big step-ups if they want to win on tracks like Glen Helen: “I think they need to suck it up and do it, that’s the bottom line. You can’t just circle and hit a ramp and come back and hit another ramp. This takes you out of your element and puts you into the real world of FMX and its roots.”
Pagès had thrilled the crowd with body varial moves in the quarter-finals and semi-finals but made a mistake on the jump in the final and had to abort it. “I was getting tired and just missed it,” he said. Torres ended up back in eighth place and Sherwood was seventh after the two pre-event favorites bowed out in early rounds without attempting the step-up. Potter now leads the tour with 135 points ahead of Sherwood (120), who won the opening round in Dubai (UAE). Chile’s Javier Villegas, riding with a separated shoulder, just missed the podium with fourth place and is in third overall with 120 points heading into the third 2012 stop in Istanbul, Turkey on June 16. The tour continues in Madrid on July 20, Munich on Aug. 11 and Sydney, Australia on Oct. 6.
Results Glen Helen: 1. Todd Potter (USA), 2. Thomas Pagès (FRA), 3. Wes Agee (USA), 4. Javier Villegas (CHL), 5. Eigo Sato (JAP), 6. Rob Adelberg (AUS), 7. Levi Sherwood (NZL), 8. Dany Torres (ESP), 9. Maikel Melero (ESP), 10. Nick Dunne (USA), 11. Martin Koren (CZE).
Images Garth Milan/Red Bull Content Pool