Red Bull X-Fighters Rome preview

After the London stop of Red Bull X-Fighters, the overall tour title was a four-way race. Forty-five points out of first, Robbie Maddison had an outside chance and was riding well enough to be considered. Only 20 points separated Levi Sherwood in third and Andre Villa in first, with last year's champion Nate Adams standing between them. But they say bad things come in threes, and recently that's been more than true for several of the competitors considered to be in the hunt for the sixth and final stop of this year's tour.

Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour Standings

The Spot

Villa leads the points going into the last round in Rome.

First to fall victim to circumstance was New Zealand's Sherwood. At ASA's annual event in Pomona, Calif., Sherwood was looking in dominant form when he jumped into the first part of a tight double-double section. In this kind of two-jump set, the landing becomes the take-off approach for the second dirt hit. The rider usually lands and then powers up the next take off, losing none of the momentum from the first jump. In Sherwood's case he landed and somehow his left foot hit the shifter, dropping the bike into neutral. The young Kiwi twisted the throttle, the bike gave out a mournful wail but created no forward momentum. Sherwood's speed and trajectory propelled him into the back of the next landing, breaking his femur and shattering his chances of this year's X-Fighters Tour crown. Given that he'd won two of the last three stops, Sherwood was the odds-on favorite coming into Rome.

Just two weeks later, full FMX competition returned to the Dew Tour in Salt Lake City after a two-year hiatus. Once again there was a double-double and once again a promising performer fell afoul of it. Rob Adelberg had achieved a fifth place finish at X Games in LA and was impressing just about everybody during practice at X-Fighters in London when he crashed and took a bang to the head. This crash caused him to sit out the actual competition in London and he was aching for a chance to show his mettle in Rome. But when Adelberg took to the air on the second jump of the Dew double, he found himself just like Sherwood: in neutral and heading for the back of the landing. He wrecked his lower leg, ankle and wrist, among a shopping list of injuries.

It is strange for two top performers to go down in quick succession, but it wasn't the injuries as much as the cause that was so weird. Not long after Adelberg had his crash, Ronnie Faisst -- a seasoned veteran from anyone's perspective -- had the same problem, but was lucky enough to walk away from his dive into the back of the Dew Tour landing.

With Adelberg and Sherwood out of the Rome event, it was even more disappointing to get the news from Maddison that he, too, was going to be pulling out of Rome. Seems that what Maddison thought was an injured wrist (after big crashes at both X Games and X-Fighters in London) turned out to be a broken hand. Maddison rode his own Red Bull X-Ray event in Australia and then realized that his hand was getting worse. Doctors finally gave him the correct diagnosis and now he can focus on the imminent birth of his son, Kruz Maddison, instead of wandering around the world, hucking his dirt bike.

So the four-way title race in Rome has dwindled to a two-way race between Adams -- the cool, calculated killer, who has been more than surprised at his lack of hardware this year -- and Villa. Long considered a dark horse, 2010 has been a breakout year for the Norwegians, with a win at the first X-Fighters stop in Mexico and a second at the second stop in Egypt followed by consecutive thirds. But Villa faltered in London, finishing ninth. If he's feeling any sort of pressure, a veteran champion like Adams will eat him for breakfast.

To mix things up a little bit, replacements for the injured riders are France's Brice Izzo and 2009 FIM World Champion, Remi Bizouard. Then Czech rider and probable 2010 World Champion, Libor Podmol is back, hoping for a rematch against Villa, who some claimed was lucky to beat Podmol in Egypt. Rounding out the 12-man roster is X-Fighters rookie Josh Sheehan of Australia. It will be interesting to see if he can step up as confidently as his countrymen Clinton Moore, Adelberg and Jackson Strong have in the past year.

It all goes down Saturday night, October 2 in front of a sold-out Italian crowd. Will Adams repeat, or will Villa keep the top spot he has occupied since Mexico? My money's on the guy riding the Yamaha ...