Chris Ratcliff files from the StatesCity Plaza, Boston MA. USA.
Following on from the success of last year's event, Red Bull returned to Boston for the Bike Battle, and traveling over to join the show were UK riders Eddie Tongue, Martin Hawyes and UK Bike Battle winner Chris Akrigg.
Last year's event was similar to the UK event we featured a few issues ago, but this year the Americans took the event a few steps further. First the trials element was reduced and replaced with more street obstacles and dirt jumps. The riders too were selected from freeride, downhill and trials.
This wasn't a simple trials competition now, it was discipline against discipline. As if that wasn't enough, the format was changed to more of a battle, as riders competed two at a time on the course, with judges choosing the best of the two riders to proceed to the next round. This lead to the finalists competing in five, two minute rounds, as well as a one minute seeding run. Suffice to say, a long day for all.
From the first moments of practise it became obvious what the focus of the event was, as the dirt jumpers started going really big on the dirt jumps, while the trials guys were struggling to hook up a continuous run due to the lack of trials obstacles. All the photographers and video guys were lined up next to the jumps too, this was obviously their focus.
After a couple of hours practice, the first seeding runs got underway. Straight away a few contenders became clear. Despite being quite loose and sketchy as they rode, riders like Kyle Ebbett, Seth Lolli, Kyle Strait and Shaums March were really letting it all hang out, clocking up big moves like backflips and tyre kisses, even in the first round!
The guys looking nailed though were people like Jim Severt, Kurt Voreis and Timo Pritzel. Timo especially was looking like an early leader, going big and fast while still using plenty of the course. This was backed up in his first proper run with not only a backflip transfer from the spine, but also a huge backflip over the step up, clearing 20ft and landing to concrete.
The trials riders had varying fortunes with some - Jeff Lenosky and Lance Trappe - bringing freestyle bikes, and others like the UK riders going for pure trials rigs. Jeff was really the first rider out to combine all the elements of freeriding, dirt jumping and trials together to form a complete run, and his progression through the competition reflected this.
While some of the trials riders felt disheartened by the course, Martin Hawyes really found the spirit of the event to get a good flow together before a front puncture forced him out the seeding run early and up against finalist Aaron Chase in the first round. Hawyes put up a good fight, and came across some innovative lines, but ultimately couldn't beat Chase, so was out.
Special mention should go to Jim DeChamp (main pic). The Trek rider appeared for his first round run sporting a full face MX lid. A sure sign a rider is about to go big, and he certainly did. A huge backflip turndown showed his intent, but he got the big step up very, very wrong. Carrying a huge amount of speed in, he mistimed the ramp and was thrown about 30ft through the air landing on his back. As he lay motionless, a hush decended on the whole crowd. Paramedics arrived, one carrying a stretcher, but Jim was able to get up and, slowly, walk away. A simply huge moment.
Down to the final four. Shaums March lined up against Aaron Chase (photo 1), with Kurt Voreis (photo3)against Timo Pritzel. March and Chase were both very similar. Sticking to the freeriding elements and dirt jumps. Chase laying down the marker with some big 360s over the jumps, followed by a 180 to fakie over the step up. March however was laying in trick after trick and moving over the whole course so his huge no hander over the step up. Chase won a close call, but only after much deliberation. Timo Pritzel was lining up to be favourite for the overall win. The huge backflips and his incredible magnitude of tricks were easing him through previous rounds, but he came unstuck as he had one of many mechanical problems - in this case a flat - meaning the big can-can over the jump wasn't enough to get him through. Voreis went through, and Pritzel was lining up for the run off for third and fourth.
After five hours of competition in the heat of Boston had seriously taken their toll. March and Pritzel dropped in together from the start ramp to compete for third place, with Shaums leading the backflips. Timo was very tired and the big tricks promised didn't materialize. Third for Shaums March and a disappointing fourth for Timo Pritzel. The final was now the only thing on everyone's mind. Aaron Chase and Kurt Voreis dropped in together, even touching hands briefly in midair as a sign of the respect between them. The first minute of their run even looked choreographed and the riders ran side by side duplicating tricks. Even when they went their separate ways it was close. Big jumps, pedal grinds and big wall rides were on the menu for both riders. Chase's flips and flow against Voreis's big, fast style. In the end Aaron's run won the day, and he goes home with a cheque for $2500 as well as a stylish trophy for the mantelpiece.
See the full results, along with photos and video at http://www.redbullbikebattle.com