THE NRL grand final won't be the only showpiece finale taking place in Sydney in coming weeks, with Red Bull X-Fighters making its way from Munich to Sydney Harbour on October 6 for the international decider.
On the back of the penultimate round in Germany, where a sell-out stadium witnessed arguably the best freestyle motocross display on record, the Cockatoo Island event is shaping as the most innovative and exciting X-Fighters showcase since the competition’s debut in 2001.
New Zealander, Levi Sherwood, looked set to have the series in the bag before Munich only for Frenchman Tom Pages to put on a clinic that left even reigning champion Dany Torres speechless. Pages could well go down as the man responsible for leading aerial motocross into a new era, the French rider completely neglecting the now standard and almost pedestrian backflip in favour of body acrobatics and a 540 flatspin - think spinning top - to take victory from Spain’s Torres in spectacular fashion.
Since the double backflip and backflip variants were introduced and conquered, FMX has been desperate for the next evolution to appease hard-to-impress fans. Pages delivered that and the judges’ votes in Munich only served to ring home the fact that the backflip era is all but over.
Torres’ back-flip heavy routine was all class but for Pages to become the first man since 2009 to win an event without the move, all competitors are now in a race against the clock to bring a new routine to the fore. That means Sydney will now play host to what is shaping as a revolution for freestyle motocross, with acrobatics so complex there's cause for a petition to be put forward for FMX to replace artistic gymnastics at the Olympics.
Making matters more exciting is the fact that Pages is now tied for No.1 spot with Sherwood heading into the Cockatoo Island showdown and anything less than a top-four finish from the pair could see Torres cause a major upset and claim back-to-back titles.
Sherwood has won two of the first four events, making him the most dominant rider on tour. But the Kiwi will need to pull out something special to match Pages and Torres.
But like any good drama, an unexpected twist is only just around the corner and that role is set to be occupied by Australian rider Josh Sheehan, who looks certain to make his first appearance since taking out the 2011 Sydney finale. Sheehan suffered a neck injury in pre-season practice and was expected to be fit in time for Spain. But complications with the delicate injury have seen him sit-out the entire season. He travelled to Los Angeles in June to see a spinal injury specialist and now, with the October 6 round approaching, has been given the all-clear to make his return.
Sheehan accounted for both Sherwood and Torres at Cockatoo Island last year to become the first winner at the Sydney round and will be determined to make his one and only appearance count. By all reports, he's been training the house down and won't be there simply to make up the numbers.
Tickets are selling fast and available at ticketek.com.au/xfighters