"It never rains in Dubai in April." So was the confident statement given to me as I stood, in the February rain on our event site at JBR beach in Dubai. It was perplexing then to stand in the rain at the start of our April X-Fighters week where the astonished locals proclaimed, "At least it never rains two days in a row over here."
After five days of assorted rain that week, I sat outside a Lebanese restaurant on JBR beach (our "staff catering") some four hours before the X-Fighters event was due to kick-off and felt that slight tinge of concern. Not only were we facing the chance of rain again, but the wind had just blown my menu off the table and down the street. It seemed the one place that we were not going to have to be concerned about weather was going to turn into a weather nightmare.
2011 Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour: Dubai
The wind finally settled, but the rain did come that night, a couple of times. We could see the drops illuminated in the bright event lights and as Andre Villa headed out for his final run, we had to question him on whether he thought it was rideable or not. Villa finished, the event ended and twenty minutes later the skies opened up and rain thundered off the tent covering the athlete lounge.
Sometimes these events are about dodging bullets. Mostly we dodge weather bullets, but on Thursday evening we dodged a bullet in the form of a horrendous crash by Jackson Strong. Jacko over-jumped the dirt take-off and landed in the flats. To his credit, he did pull a gnarly seat grab flip in the middle of the jump, but the consequence was never going to be good. The medical response went according to plan and within minutes he was flown out in a medical chopper, conscious, with all limbs moving.
The riding was surprising in Dubai. Coming off a long winter without serious competition, the guys were all ready to show their cards. Nate Adams was by far the favorite going into the event because he was just so comfortable on the new four stroke Honda. He used the power to full effect in training and, though he qualified only in third because of some experimental lines on the course, Adams took the time to question the judges and prepare his best for the Friday night challenge.
Andre Villa also looked like he was bringing all of the strength of 2010 into the start of this season. His smooth, flowing style, huge tricks and almost perfect execution catapulted him to the top of the qualifying ranks and put him in an enviable position for the Friday night head to head competition. He took down a hard charging Bilko Williams in the semis and, once Nate was knocked out by Dany Torres trick list and a couple of his own mistakes, it looked like Villa was once again on the way to the first win of the season.
I think we have a tendency to underestimate Dany Torres. I'm not sure why, because the guy has always won at least one X-Fighters event for the last couple of years. In Dubai, Dany was fit and focused and ready to take on all comers. His style is not as effortlessly sexy as Villa's, but his tricks are some of the biggest in the book and he brought new tricks to Dubai like the well executed nine o'clock flip. Combine that with the huge turndown whips and the double grab flip and you have a serious competition on your hands, any night of the week.
In the end Villa fell victim, like Adams before him, to his own mistakes. A scenario that made the judges job much easier. Not to take anything away from Torres, who was flawless, but just to tease a bit for the showdown in Brazil where Villa and Adams will be more focused than ever on shooting for the win.