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French rider Thomas Pagès proved that it's still possible to win a major freestyle motocross competition circa 2012 without a single backflip variation, breaking out special flips and volt body varials and unveiling a new flatspin 540 flair on his way to winning the Red Bull X-Fighters event on Saturday at the Olympic Stadium in Munich, Germany.
"I brought everything I had," Pagès said on Saturday, after far surpassing his more modest goal of merely finishing in the top six to guarantee his berth at the final event on October 6 at Cockatoo Island in Sydney, Australia.
The win was Pagès' first on the X-Fighters world tour, and marked the first time in X-Fighters history that a rider has come out on top without getting his bike inverted during his run. The secret? Packing his run full of highly technical and risky Best Trick contest-worthy maneuvers none of his competitors are even attempting.
"I had so many hot tricks to do tonight and felt the crowd pushing me on. This was the scariest event I've ever done," said Pagès.
Pagès came into Munich in fourth place overall in the 2012 X-Fighters series, behind New Zealand's Levi Sherwood, Chilean rider Javier Villegas, and American rider Todd Potter. After qualifying in fourth place on Friday he ousted Sherwood in head-to-head quarterfinals on Saturday, beat Japanese rider Eigo Sato (the top rider in Friday's qualifier) in semi-finals, and edged out Spanish rider Dany Torres -- the defending 2011 X-Fighters champ -- in finals. Pagès also picked up Best Trick honors for his flair, a BMX-inspired flatpspin 540 rarely seen in FMX competition.
The conclusion of the 2012 X-Fighters series couldn't be more dramatic: Pagès is now tied with Sherwood for the overall lead with 235 points each as the series heads into its final stop, well ahead of Torres (185), Villegas (175), Potter (145), and Australian rider Rob Adelberg (145), meaning Sydney's event is shaping up to be a showdown between Sherwood's backflip combos and variations and Pagès' technically-challenging varials and 540s.
"I told myself when I came here I wanted to ride safe and be comfortable," Sherwood said after finishing fifth in Friday's qualifiers. "I felt a little sketchy on a few of my jumps and didn't want to go out there and use up all my luck." Sherwood has been recovering from recent injuries and admitted he was far from the top of his game this weekend; a win in Munich would have all but guaranteed him the 2012 overall championship title.