Drake McElroy

The crunch of qualifying

Words: JAZZ KUSCHKE
Photo above: Predrag Vuckovic / Red Bull Content Pool

As strange as it sounds, the qualification run at a Red Bull X-Fighters event is almost as hectic the main event for the riders, judges and everyone else involved. Here’s why.

Drake McElroy makes no secret of the fact that judging the qualifying run at X-Fighters is the least favourite part of his job. As rider liaison, chief track tester and judge, the FMX legend (known to his fans as DMC) is an integral part of the success of a Red Bull X-Fighters event, but qualifying isn’t what gets him up in the morning.

“Qualifying takes the most out of me,” says the 34-year-old Nevada native. “My brain definitely has to work the most in the judge box when we’re doing the qualifying.”

Drake McElroy

Drake Mc Elroy of America adjusts the handle on his bike for the first stop of the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour at the stadium Plaza Monumentale de toros in Mexico City in 2014

© Predrag Vuckovic / Red Bull Content Pool

The reason? In qualifying you have all 12 riders going against each other in two 90-second runs. “So you’re watching 24 back-to-back freestyle runs and you’re trying to really fairly sort the finish,” he explains. 

The placings from one to twelve are what count. Each rider does get a score, but the seeding from qualifying dictates the start list on event day, as well as the pairings for the head-to-head matches.

Drake McElroy

Drake Mcelroy at the riders area during the third stage of the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour in Madrid 2014

© Daniel Grund / Red Bull Content Pool

“It’s also one of the bigger stresses on the riders too,” says Drake. “If, for whatever reason, the event doesn’t happen, the standings the riders take out of qualifying are the scores that count toward the Tour and the payout and points for the next round. It’s kind of the heaviest day.” 

Not only does qualifying dictate the seeding list for event day, riders also learn something about their runs – what worked, what didn’t, what move they can use against who. It is really the first time that they see who is bringing what to the table.

Read more on the Red Bull X-Fighters here, or visit one of the events on the tour!

Drake McElroy

© Daniel Grund / Red Bull Content Pool

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