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Josh Sheehan doubleflips to the pole position while Tom Pagès struggles

The qualification of the Red Bull X-Fighters qualification in Madrid was the first benchmark of who might come out on top at the 15th edition of the most prestigious FMX competition in the world. The 2014 Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour champion Josh Sheehan impressed the five judges the most with his run the most, leading an all australasianAustralasian top four, with reigning champion Clinton Moore in second position ahead of 2012 champion Levi Sherwood and past event winner Rob Adelberg. Tom Pagès had the potential to crack this dominance, but a little mistake caused him to crash and stop his run. In 2016, the riders only get one qualification run, so Pagès had no chance to better boost his qualification score in a second run, which will not make his attempt of winning four times in a row in the „home of FMX“ any easier.

Josh Sheehan of Australia performs during the qualifying of the Red Bull X-Fighters at the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid, Spain on June 23, 2016.
Josh Sheehan of Australia performs during the qualifying of the Red Bull X-Fighters at the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid, Spain on June 23, 2016.

After the dust has settled, Josh Sheehan is sitting in the first position for the main competition. His perfect double backflip was just the icing on the cake of an incredible run full of trick highlights. Starting with a 30- meters Lazyboy Flip off the biggest jump of the course, he continued to impress with tricks like the Doublegrab Backflip, Indy Flair off the quarterpipe, Heelclicker 360 and a textbook Ruler Flip, providing awarding him a score of 90 points. “This trick is always really scary,” said Sheehan of the breathtaking double back flip, which he tried in the event last year but crash-landed and ended up fifth. His courage was duly rewarded by the judges. “I’m glad I got that down in qQualifying before the event tomorrow.”

But Sheehan can notcan’t relax since the reigning champion Clinton Moore is only sitting 0.1 points behind him. Moore followed his strategy of last year by controlling difficult tricks. A breathtaking Volt off the big jump started the run, followed by a big variety with tricks like the Ruler Flip, Turndown Whip, Flair, his signature body varial Bundy, Nacnac 360 and a huge Shaolin Flip. “I’m very happy because I did everything that I wanted to do,” said Moore. “I had a few little mistakes in there but can straighten them out for tomorrow. Right now I’m pretty happy.”

Levi Sherwood amazed with his trademark super-extensions and creativity. A huge Doublegrab Flip ignited a firework of tricks including a stylish and technical Topside Nacnac Turndown Whip, Rodova Flip, Flair, Indy Ruler Flip and Turntable. In between these tricks, he found some time to relax by sitting on his frontfender during probably the biggest Shaolin backflip the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas has seen yet.

Rob Adelberg is known for big extensions and perfect style, and he did not disappoint. Big flip combos as the Cliffhanger Flip off the 30 meter ramp, mixed with body varials like the Cali Roll and stylish „old school“ tricks like the Onehanded Hartattack as well as being the only rider to use the transfer flip quarterpipe let him sit in 4th position.

David Rinaldo is rounding out the top five. The frenchmanFrenchman convinced the judges with tricks like his own Supercan Backflip and Switchblade to Seatgrab, stunning trick combos as Holygrab to Rocksolid to Nohand Landing, two body varials – the Volt and Cali Roll – and more well executed highlights.

Dany Torres of Spain performs during the qualifying of the Red Bull X-Fighters at the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid, Spain on June 23, 2016.
Dany Torres of Spain performs during the qualifying of the Red Bull X-Fighters at the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid, Spain on June 23, 2016.

Reigning FMX world champion Maikel Melero sits in sixth position after he delivered a creative mix of tricks like Surfer Takeoff to Tsunami, Nacnac Flair, Oxecutioner to Rock Solid, the Cali Roll and a huge Helicopter Flip.

Adam Jones proved that you never should count out an „old dog“. The sole americanAmerican rider is showing a strong form with his unique mix of perfectly executed top level backflip combos as well as his technical signature tricks like Turndown to Flintstone or Rigor Mortis.

Local hero Dany Torres might have placed further ahead than eighth place if he would not have had a Dead Sailor in his run after his engine bogged. He did the smart thing by deciding to let safety go first, but impressed by finally fighting down his „demon“ in the form of the Flair, which he finally landed in Las Ventas. A massive Oxecutioner Flip, technical combos like McMetz to Cliffhanger and style-tricks as the Flatliner carry the potential for a better score.

Taka Higashino can easily claim the same. He shut his competitors off by starting his run with a big Rock Solid Backflip off the biggest gap in the arena, followed by other perfectly extended flip combos and a Flair until he came back late to the footpegs from a Cliffhanger flip, sending him into spanishSpanish dirt. Without this crash, he would have been one of the top contenders.

Tom Robinson and Sebastian Westberg, the two „Novilleros“, made clear that both of them deserve their spot in the rider rooster. Robinson impressed his fellow competitors with a massive Helicopter Backflip as his first ever jump during a run of Red Bull X-Fighters. Westberg got plenty of respect for a big Ruler Flip and getting up and going again after he cased a Heelclicker Flip after a misshift.

In between Robinson in tenth 10th and Westberg in twelfth 12th position is sitting Tom Pagès. The winner of the past three events in Madrid overcame a crash during practice by opening his run with a Tsunami, then stomping the Bikeflip and Special Flip like a champ, but caught the seat of his lightweight bike with a foot while trying to get back onto the machine during the Volt. He somehow managed to get back onto the bike, but crashed during at the landing. He immediately got back up onto his feet and walked out of the arena to get checked by the medical crew, but his goal of winning a record setting fourth time in a row did not get any easier.

The new contest format will see three groups of four riders competing against each other in 50- second runs, in which all riders of a group must include the same same mandatory „Roulette Trick“. The top two ranked riders of each group will advance to the semifinalssemi-finals. In the semifinalssemi-finals, the riders go against each other in three head-to-head pairs in a 75- second run. The winner of each duel will advance to the final, which will give the three top riders another 75 seconds to fight for the order on the podium.

Madrid Qualifying results: 1. Josh Sheehan (AUS), 2. Clinton Moore (AUS), Levi Sherwood (NZL), 5. Rob Adelberg (AUS), 5. David Rinaldo (FRA), 6. Maikel Melero (ESP), 7. Adam Jones (USA), 8. Dany Torres (ESP), 9. Taka Higashino (JPN), 10. Tom Robinson (AUS), 11. Tom Pagèes (FRA) 12. Sebastian Westberg (FIN).

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