Red Bull X-Fighters battle through rain, mud and crashes in Battersea

Saturday’s freestyle motocross event was performed to a sell-out crowd, despite a waterlogged arena and tour leader André Villa crashing into the crowd during a practice run.

In a moment that was afterwards put down to “rider error”, Villa became separated from his bike near the crest of a jump.

While the machine was stopped by the safety barriers, the rider flew into the first row of the crowd, landing on a group of spectators. There were no serious injuries reported.

The competition had already been delayed by two hours, as heavy rains throughout the day had left the arena damp and lacking the traction needed for stunt riding.

Though Villa’s crash raised serious questions as to the condition of the ground, safety officials closed the offending jump and decided to continue with the event.

Despite the unsettling start, the 30,000 fans gathered at the base of Battersea power station were treated to a breath-taking display of stunts and flips as the London skies cleared overhead.

The competition took the form of a knock-out tournament, with five judges assigned to evaluate each rider’s 1m 30s performance on the basis of: “Variety”, “Challenge and Execution”, “Style”, “Use of Course” and “Show and Spectator Reaction”.

With one judge assigned to each category, the riders had to win the favour of three of the five to go through to the next round.

The overall winner was 19-year-old crowd favourite Levi Sherwood from New Zealand.

The young rider fought off a stylish performance from the previous winner of the London round, American Nate Adams, with the decision coming down to the final judge: “Show and Spectator Reaction”.

Adams’ assured performance, accompanied by the sounds of heavy-beat hip-hop, featured an array of tricks, including the handless landing of a flip.

However, it wasn’t enough to see off acrobatic efforts of the young Sherwood, who drew rapturous applause as he stunted to the sound of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel.

Though slightly subdued in the final round, Sherwood had already cemented his pedigree in the eyes of the crowd and judges by completing a staggering “super twisted-out kiss of death backflip” in the semi-final.

The result leaves Sherwood, Adams and Villa all lying within 20 points of one another, setting up an intriguing finale to the 2010 season.

The final stage will be held on 2 October in the Stadio Flaminio, Rome.

Villa's crash

  • Click here for Red Bull’s highlights of the stunts

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Dan Aspel

By Dan Aspel