The venue was pretty insane. Big posters of each rider covered the walls and the stands surrounded the blue COB battleground. There was space for around 800 people but the ticket sales were such a success and together with the crew and Red Bull invited people, the capacity of the venue was maxed out.
At 7pm the riders were introduced and the crowd got into it straight away. Japan has a big flatland scene and it looked like the scene was in Tokyo for the COB. Group one had Alex Jumelin (France), York Uno (Japan) and Jesse Puente (USA). 2 out of the three riders would make it to the next round. If you did not make it, you were out. Although everyone rode good in the first group it was decided that it was game over for home rider York Uno. In group 2 Mike S. (Germany) didn’t make it against a forceful Raphael Chiquet (France) and a spinning Matt Wilhelm. Keelan Philips (England) had some problems with the pressure and couldn’t quite stick his flowing tricks. The riders that made it through in group 3 were Hiroya Morizaki (Japan) and Wolfgang Sauter (Germany) who started off strong. Halfway through the groups we had a tough one with Martti Kuoppa (Finland) battling with Terry Adams (USA) and Kotaro Tanaka (Japan). Kotaro couldn’t use his home advantage and got dropped. Group 5 saw Frank Lukas (Germany) lose against Viki Gomez (Spain) and Michael Sommer (Austria). Lowcash had feared the group from the beginning and touched a few too many times to make it through to the next round. The decision to choose the drop out of the last group was a tough one for the judges. All rode well so it was a matter of style and taste that would decide who could “go to the showers”. Yoshihiro Nishikawa (Japan) made it through but it was a very close call between Travis Collier (Canada) and Ryoji Yamamoto (Japan) who touched a few times. The judges gave advantage to Ryoji so Travis could watch the rest of the night from the riders area in the stands.
It was decided that each rider could do 4 combo’s. If they touched down within the first 5 seconds they could try the combo again. With two Japanese speaking MC’s it was hard for the non-Japanese speaking riders to understand if they were given an extra go or not. Some riders just took it, where others played by the rules and got off the grippy course to make room for the next rider up.
Round two saw Wolfgang Sauter and Taka get dropped with an unanimous decision by the judges. It was very close in the other two groups but Matt Wilhelm didn’t make it through and neither did Red Bull rider Yamamoto.
The contest turned into a head to head battle for the ¼ finals. It was Sommer against Jumelin, Kuoppa against Gomez, Hiro against Raphael and Adams against Jesse. It was getting crazy at this point. The crowd got into it and got louder and louder. It was an experience just being there an it shows that when everything is done right, flatland can be spectacular and very entertaining. Riders were taking the comp seriously at this point but who can blame them when there is some good prize money on the line at the end of the comp. Making it through to the semi final would mean that you made top 4 which in this field was a big accomplishment.
Some riders started repeating tricks, some had enough in the bag to show new ones. Some rolled the dice and took risks where others played it safe hoping it would be enough to make it through. Sommer (Felt) got eliminated by Jumelin (KHE). Gomez defeated fellow KGB rider Kuoppa. Raphael (KGB) couldn’t spin enough stubble ducks to make it through against Hiro (Ares) and 37 year old Jesse Puente (KHE) was sent back to the “West Coast” by Terry Adams (Ares).
4 guys left at this point. The losers of this round would battle between third and fourth place and the winners of the semi final round would battle for the win. Alex Jumelin ended up battling with Terry Adams for 3rd place after being beaten by Viki. It was a close call for third but Terry’s risk of going for the hard stuff and pulling some of it was what it took for him to get third place in Tokyo. He was super stoked on it and Alex was happy too. Basically being in Japan was a victory for every rider. Being part of the COB is an accomplishment so even if there are “losers” after every round, there are no losers at all.
Viki Gomez and Hiro fought it out for first place. “Tryer Gomez” needed a few tries to pull his tricks and took it as a true street thug where Hiro had problems pulling his amazing whips and spins in his combos in the final round. The crowd got behind the two and after 4 hours they still didn’t have enough. It got pretty wild and loud when the winner was announced and the confetti dropped from the ceiling. Viki Gomez won but Hiro received the hugs and was thrown in the air by his friends for his awesome performance.
The Red Bull COB was a celebration of Flatland BMX. Telling from the party there was a whole lot to celebrate. An all-nighter for most.
1. Viki Gomez
2. Hiroya Morizaki
3. Terry Adams
4. Alex Jumelin