Clinton Moore, Josh Sheehan and Levi Sherwood have come to the world's most important freestyle motocross event in the Spanish capital with new tricks and determination to win over the crowd and claim the title. With four-time winner Thomas Pages of France sidelined with a shoulder injury, the trio of former Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour winners all agree this year's battle in Madrid could be closer and more intense than ever before.
"The tricks are getting bigger and bigger every year," said Sherwood of New Zealand, who won in Madrid in 2012 en route to the overall World Tour title that year. Madrid is widely considered to be the competitive and challenging event in the sport. "For sure it's more competitive now. It seems like it's getting tougher and tougher here every year."
Sherwood, who was also second in 2015 and fourth in 2016 in Madrid, plans to make life difficult for his Australian rivals, Moore and Sheehan, with a lighter and improved bike along with a spectacular new double backflip in his arsenal that will likely delight the enthusiastic big crowd in the hothouse atmosphere of the Las Ventas bullring in Madrid.
"I'm bummed that Tom's not riding," he said. "Everyone wants to beat him. It sucks for him to get knocked out. We'll just have to look forward to beating him next year."
Pages was forever pushing the envelope for new tricks and stunned the crowd last year with spectacular front flip flair jumps off a special mechanical jump -- and the mechanical jumps that help riders go even bigger have been added to two of the ramps this year.
The mechanical ramps enable the riders get more rotation and do tricks they might not ordinarily be able to do yet they are still somewhat controversial among the top riders. Sherwood and Sheehan are not planning to use the mechanical jumps. "But in the sport in general they're great because you can get more rotation and you can really customize things," said Sheehan.
Moore, narrowly beaten by Pages in Madrid last year and was third in 2015, said the field will likely be even closer than in past years without Pages and believes there won't be much separating the winner from the losers.
"We've got the best athletes in the world here competing and everyone is going to be really tight at the same high level," said Moore, who beat Pages for the championship in 2015 and will bring a new Alley-Oop trick to the Las Ventas arena. "It's going to be a tighter bunch and a tighter decision."
Sheehan, who was third last year in Madrid and won the 2014 title, is also brimming with optimism that he can win the prestigious Madrid event for the first time. It's one of the few major titles he hasn't won and hopes to change that on Friday.
"Everyone's riding really good," said Sheehan. "It's definitely going to be tough. I try not to expect too much. I just want to do my best. Obviously, I'd love to win. I'll try to do a perfect run. The biggest thing I've never won is here, it's the only big thing I haven't got yet."
Watch Red Bull X-Fighters Spain LIVE!
Tickets: Red Bull Tickets
Broadcast: We will stream the entire competition LIVE on redbullxfighters.com and on Red Bull TV. Red Bull TV is available on connected TVs, gaming consoles, mobile devices and more. For a full list of supported devices visit redbull.tv/apps
Start Times: 10:00pm Local (CET)
July 07: Europe: 10:00pm (CET) | Canada: 01:00pm (PST) | Mexico: 03:00pm (CST) | Brasil: 05:00pm (BRT)
July 08: Japan: 05:00am (JST) | Australia: 06:00am (AEST) | New Zealand: 08.00am (NZST)
Video on Demand: The entire competition will be available as a VoD right after the event on redbullxfighters.com and Red Bull TV.
TV: For TV stations around the globe please check your local listings.