as twelve FMX drivers from six countries went head to head during the season opener of the world’s oldest and most important sporting freestyle motocross series in the Tips Arena Linz, battling to secure the first points in the European Freestyle MX Championship.
The eight seeded riders – Podmol (CZE) Brice Izzo (FRA), Maikel Melero (SP), Remi Bizouard (FRA), Petr Pilat (CZE), Bianconcini (ITA), Luc Ackermann (GER) and Joel Brown (AUS) – were joined by four riders who actually ought to have gone through pre-qualification. However, since local Austrian rider Thomas Wirnsberger crashed in practice and retired, those riders who had not pre-qualified – Maxime Gregoire (FRA), Fred Wasner (FRA), Leonardo Fini (ITA) and Martin Koren (CZE) – automatically went through to join the field of starters.
The kicker ramp turned out to be a ‘killer ramp’ for some riders in this first competition of the year. To begin with, Martin Koren crashed after his first trick, and then Luc Ackermann also over-rotated his Nac Flip on the short ramp and crashed out. Neither of them was injured, luckily, but it meant they had to forget the final. It was all over too for Fred Wasner after a dead sailor in his run after the preliminary round.
Joel Brown, making his European debut, had a really good run that would almost have been enough to reach the finals but was outclassed by veteran rider Bianconcini after performing weaker Double-up tricks. Remi Bizouard, Brice Izzo, Libor Podmol, Peter Pilat and Maikel Melero also went through to the final along with the Italian.
Maxim Gregoire and Bianconcini gave the audience no time to relax, as they went at it hammer and tongs in the Rockwell Watch Best Whip. Ultimately, though, the Frenchman showed the best whips and deserved to win. His victory only served to spur Massimo on even more in Maxxis Highest Air, or so it seemed. The serial winner was up against Melero and Lukas Weis. Melero mastered every hurdle but then failed at 7.70 meters and almost came down next to the hill. The Italian successfully jumped this height, adding another step-up victory to his tally.
Massimo’s battle continued immediately afterwards in the final. He displayed his best tricks to clinch sixth place. Three-time world champion Remi Bizouard went all-out to improve, performing his Ruler Flip, Cliffhanger Flip and Hart Attack Flip and appeared to have the judges on his side. They rewarded Remi with third place, which put Red Bull rider Petr Pilat very much on the back foot. The Czech rider produced the best run of his NIGHT of the JUMPS career with many new combos but came away empty-handed in fourth place.
And then Podmol, who had some minor issues on his qualifying run, pulled off a perfect final show. With an incredible Cliffhanger Backflip to No Hand Landing, the Czech rider impressed the judges so much that not even Maikel Melero’s Surfer to Tsunami and Double Seat Grab Flip were enough to dislodge Podmol from the hot seat.
This victory at the season opener bumped Podmol up into lead position in the Freestyle MX European Championship, but that could quickly change tomorrow when the next European Championship points will be awarded at the second NIGHT of the JUMPS event in Linz.