Red Bull Rampage: Catch-22

Nov 5, 2013
by Mitchell Scott  
 
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RAMPAGE: CATCH-22



Cast against big wave surfing and skateboarding, moto freestyle or big mountain skiing, it's arguable that Rampage takes the cake as one of, if not the, gnarliest sporting events in the action sports world. Alongside backflips over deep desert canyons, and drops into nothingness, viewers watch as mountain bikers either shred or rag doll their way down a cliff riddled, booter laden, singletrack scratched mountain face. You can not watch a lot of sports. But once exposed to its unadulterated extremity, it’s near impossible to not watch the Red Bull Rampage.

Aggy dropping in big time. His build team was up here all night with a rock cutter getting ultimate last minute preps to get his drop absolutely perfect. As he goes here Aggy continues to head straight down the hill.

And while the tightly controlled GoPro and Red Bull edits of action highlights, crash compilations and behind the scenes continue to be released on the interweb, it’s quite obvious that the corresponding exposure for our sport is massive. Unprecedented actually. This and the network NBC show hasn’t even aired. Nothing in mountain biking comes close. So then, enough said? A job well done. All is perfect in the Utah desert?

Well, maybe not.

Crash 2 for Gully was no softer than the first

I had the unique experience of working as the Kona Team manager during this last Rampage, the second I’ve attended (the first I was a journalist for Bike Magazine). Working with Aggy, Antoine Bizet, Paul Bas and our team of builders and mechanics was a lifetime experience. One I’ll not soon forget. As someone who’s written about mountain biking since the late 90s, it afforded me an up close and personal glimpse into what is actually going on during the event. And as the days wore on and the stress mounted to near unbearable proportions, one phrase kept popping into my head: Catch-22.

Now a colloquial term that comes from the famous book by Joseph Heller of the same name, a Catch-22 is a paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape. Basically, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Having seen the event as close as you can get to the eyes of the athletes, I can confidently say that Rampage is riddled with parody.

That is not to say that the people organizing and funding Rampage are out for blood, but as the old adage goes, if it bleeds, it leads—if you watched the intro to the live webcast you saw 80% eating shit, 20% sticking it. It’s also not to say that riders are forced to participate in the event. Quite obviously, they’re not. But let it be known, that if you want to make a name for yourself as a big mountain freerider, if you want the sponsorship dollars that go along with that moniker, then you have to ride at Red Bull Rampage. You have no choice.

It’s also not to say that a lot of the riders participating in the event don't absolutely love it and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. But spend time with them in the days leading up to qualifications and finals and you’ll see just how mentally and physically challenging the Rampage is on athletes, who, save for a couple of slopestyle riders, rarely compete.

2013 RedBull Rampage in Virgin Utah


Risk vs Reward


It should be noted that every possible effort has been made to respond to injury at the Red Bull Rampage. There’s a life flight helicopter on site. There’s a small army of paramedics scattered throughout the course armed with spine boards and defibrillators. On the flip side, every effort has been made to ensure this event is super dangerous. There are no guidelines to building, you can make anything you want. Anything you think you can ride, you can create. This on a mountain face riddled with cliffs and loose dirt, sharp rock and massive kickers into space. Sure, the dirt is soft, but the rock isn’t—and there’s a boatload of it. There is huge exposure everywhere. The first day I was shitting my pants just walking around. But it’s beautiful and photogenic and unique unto mountain biking. And without the propensity for great failure, there cannot be great reward.

Dumped 3 cliff drop at the top one of the gnarliest moves at the 2013 RedBull Rampage in Virgin Utah


Scary vs Rad


After Aggy’s second run, where he came within one stepdown of the run of his life, the Kamloops, BC rider, who’s never experienced huge Rampage success in his career, was obviously upset. He took solace with Brandon Semenuk, who barely stayed on trail after not being able to handle a deep compression after landing a sniper 360 on the upper part of his line. I asked Aggy what they were talking about and all he had to say was, “Basically how scared we were.” And they should be. As talented and brave as these riders are, the line is super thin. Take the technical preciseness of slopestyle riding then slap it on the side of a near vertical mountain face. That’s what these guys are doing. And guess what, even the best crash riding slopestyle.

And crashing here is as real as it gets. And if you can’t quite get that from TV, walk around the venue a bit and you’ll see that death and destruction lurks in every corner. If Brandon’s over the bars fumble after his 360 had happened 10 feet farther down his line, to the lip of his giant canyon gap and a 100 foot cliff, we’d be having a much different conversation right now. Just imagine the rift that would have in the sport. It’s that real.

Zink doing the impossible off the Oakley sender during his first and only run. With his wife at the bottom two days out from giving birth it s been a big week for the Zink family and soon to be


Man vs Mountain


The Oakley Sender was a point of great debate during the event. It was massive this year, with the landing super narrow and steep as shit. In the building and practice days leading up to qualies, it was the elephant in the room. And right from the beginning, we all knew that Zink was going to flip it.

As the event played out, there were a few things to consider. It’s windy out there, and that skull faced drop of doom stood out like a sail. Many of the competitors, like McGarry, Cam McCaul and Norbs chose lines in the adjacent canyon where their jumps were less affected by wind. And while Kyle Strait and Cam Zink’s moves during the finals were nothing short of miraculous, their results proved that if you didn’t hit that sucker from the top, you were hard-pressed to make the top three. Fortunate for those two Oakley riders that one of their sponsors had the rare ability to brand and build a stunt in a Red Bull event. Unprecedented.

The Catch-22 for the other riders? Run the risk of spending tons of hours building your own super complicated, difficult, exposed line from top to bottom (i.e. Aggy, Semenuk, Tyler McCaul), or forgo burl and huge effort in exchange for go for-the-ages big. In fact, if we were to look at the top three finishers, all of them did something spectacular off of a built-up feature. Which is all cool, and huge props to those riders. Zink’s backflip was insane, and if he had a chance to do a second run, you would have seen him incorporate tricks into the top and bottom of his run, then attempting the biggest back flip in the history of the sport…again. But for those not willing to take such a massive risk (the top drop was only attempted a grand total of five times during the whole week), not hitting the big one ended up being to their detriment. On the flip side, if Zink or Strait made even the smallest mistake, it could have been the end of their career.

2013 RedBull Rampage in Virgin Utah


Money vs Fair


It would be interesting to know the total price tag for this event. From the construction of the Oakley Sender to the camera coverage (there were nearly 60 staff on the film and TV production crew alone) to the safety, promotions and organization, it’s got to be well into the millions. Yet one of the big beefs of the athletes was prize money. Sure, if you do well at Rampage you’re guaranteed massive exposure, a real career boost to be sure, and there’s monetary gain associated with that. But for the most part, people don’t remember who came 5th or 6th or 2nd for that matter, and the prize money reflects it. Tyler McCaul will get $1,200 for his absolutely insane 5th place line. Cam Zink $4,500 for his 3rd place finish (he would also win $5,000 for best trick). The total prize money comes in at $55,000. For an event where athletes are risking their lives, with two serious injuries in the finals requiring medi-vac and a rash of broken bones throughout the comp, it doesn’t seem like the risk to reward equation is all there. Especially when Cineflex helicopters are flying dawn till dusk and Red cameras seem a dime a dozen. Catch-22? If you want to play in the big leagues, you have to play by the coach's rules.

Best view in the house.


Commercial Content vs Sport Progression


In the end, no one died. That’s the big sigh of relief I felt. And I know I wasn’t alone. It was a huge bummer that half of the field didn’t get to ride their second run due to a wind closure. For those who did, and risked it all in the name of Rampage fame, including Logan Binggeli, who broke his femur after missing the narrow Sender landing after a massive back flip on his second run, it’s even more sketchy. I heard Andreu Lacondeguy say, after blazing his second run and moving up to 3rd place (momentarily), then hearing word that only first run scores would count, “Holy shit, did I really just risk my life for nothing?”

At the same time, I felt a great weight off of my shoulders. Even though we spent hours upon hours shoveling and chipping in Antoine Bizet’s line off the top and constructing his own backflip kicker after the Sender, and would have to watch it go unridden, at least I knew that none of our guys would be seriously injured. The night before the event I couldn’t sleep. Thinking about his all-or-nothing-crazy-Frenchman attitude sitting out a wind/injury delay had me in a near panic state.

And sure, maybe this is something we need to get over. Motorsports, surfing, skiing and the like have all endured death in competition. Mountain biking never has. One team manager who works for another energy drink company said to me, “That’s when you’ll see the prize money go up, when somebody dies.” Harsh, but perhaps very true. At the Rampage, it was the word no one wanted to say, but everyone couldn’t help thinking. After watching a dude ragdoll off a 50-foot cliff during qualifying, miraculously escaping with just a blown ankle, you viscerally saw how close the “d” word was.

That all being said, the drama is palpable, and it transcends onto the computer screen. It makes for incredible entertainment that extends far beyond the cycling community. The Catch-22? How far can riders keep pushing in the name of the almighty view?

Winning run winning move. I wasn t really planning on doing the suicide on my first run but it just felt right so I threw my arms back for what felt like forever. -Kyle Strait.


Big vs Bigger


Which brings us to the next point of contention. Is this part of the story we want tell in mountain biking? When does the pricetag of progression get too high? And is massive risk a central part of that? Thankfully, no one did die, or suffer a life altering injury. And yes, progression in our sport happened in a serious way. But know this, there will be another Rampage somewhere, someday, and it will have to be gnarlier than this one. That’s crazy. The world is watching and obviously, it wants more: bigger flips, crazier air, wilder crashes. This is the legacy that the Red Bull Rampage has created: amongst great risk comes huge reward. And as athletes and their bikes get better and bolder, they need an outlet that moves that into the mainstream. And finally, through the work of Freeride, Red Bull and H5 Events, the three parties who conceived the event 10 years ago, there are now legions of cinematographers and photographers on the ground and in the sky, armed to tell the story—good and bad—at every angle. Rest assured, the stuff that survives the cutting room floor is the craziest.

An incredible win for Strait once the youngest ever Rampage competitor. No one would deny the brilliance of his run but more than a few athletes observed that the decision not to ride due to wind fell on his turn and in the end ten riders missed a second chance. The flags hung still at the close of play at least at the bottom.


Beginning vs End


Because Red Bull likes to mix things up, and with rumors swirling that this might be the last Rampage at this venue, it’s hard to know what’s next. Fact of the matter is, after Logan Bingelli’s horrific crash, which closed the course for nearly an hour, the winds picked up and a big black cloud encircled the venue. As a spectator, it was an eerie feeling, like Ma Nature herself had had enough. Up next? Zink and Strait, and with the Oakley flags snapping in the wind, organizers decided to call it, negating all of the athletes' second runs. For an event built around climaxes, it was about as anticlimactic as it gets.

It will be most interesting to see what happens next. Even with the injuries and the trepidation of a level of riding and risk unsurpassed in our sport, it’s arguable that this past Rampage might be the most visually impactful event in the history of mountain biking. Kelly McGarry’s GoPro silver winning run hit five million views in the first week it was launched. The world is eating it up.

Damned if you do and damned if you don't. “Defying the odds of getting hurt so bad,” in the words of Cam Zink shortly after landing one of the most impressive moves in all of action sports. But no matter what, even amongst all the parody, all the contradictory elements that make this event so unique, you can not watch Red Bull Rampage. You can’t turn away from athletes who are willing to risk it all in the name of doing what no one has done before them.




Words: Mitchell Scott
Photos: Sterling Lorence, Paris Gore, Nathan Hughes, and Colin Meager


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198 Comments

  • + 110
 This is a fantastic right up and it makes some bold statements, bold statements that need to be taken seriously. At the end if the day it's the athletes choice to ride and we all do it out of love and we all accept the dangers, it's just fact. Is the catch 22 going to stop us, hell no it's not. One life, live it!
  • + 149
 Dick turd has some deep words to say.
  • + 41
 Yossarian sat there, admiring the line he had not helped to build. Of all the lines he had not helped build, this was by far the finest. He was quite proud of having not helped to build it.
  • + 23
 i always wonder if the riders even like being there. as cam zink wrote in one of his write ups, "sometimes its bigger than you". maybe my heros are at rampage risking their lives for the evolution of the sport, but at the end of the day, isnt mountainbiking about more than just pushing the boundaries of what is possible on a bike? do you think any one at rampage really enjoyed the actual riding? being terrified at the beginning, middle, and end of a run is not how i like to ride my bike.
  • + 4
 One comment on the low pay for taking such high risks- That's what every action sport deals with... there are a few exceptions like Skate League for example, but this is a pretty well accepted fact of action sports. You're risking your life for not much, which is why all the top guys have an absurd passion for riding. They're not doing it for the money. Speaking of money, rumor has it that the event racked up over a million dollar tab. if the real number is anywhere near that close, well... good lord.
  • + 9
 Hermit185 @ - Did you watch t-macs run I would say he was having a blast all the way down. So much that he said at the end " I fu*kin live rampage". That's sounds like fun to me.
  • + 33
 “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body. But rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up,totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming .... WOW what a ride.”

-Mark Frost
  • + 5
 It really is the nature of our sport though, you can break a leg on the smallest easiest looking sender done wrong not just rampage streeze hits. Just like you can drown in two inches of water as well as 200m of water the same (ish) principle reflects here. Take the risk if you want the glory, don't take the risk if you don't.
  • + 2
 Didn't CG make some good money out from rampage win?
  • + 14
 Every extreme sport has an event to prove that u are the best! Look at The TT or know as the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. 104 years of racing and in those 104yrs 234 riders and spectators have died. Yet every sport bike racer wants to prove them self against the toughest odds even with the risk of death!
  • + 1
 I was kind of shocked that the prize money was so low. But like scott said above, mountain biking like most other action sports isn't what you'd call a 'spectator sport'. The major sports like baseball, football, basketball, etc are spectator sports in a sense that people pay money to see those guys perform, whether it be in the form of buying a ticket or paying for TV packages. Those guys salaries are primarily paid directly from revenues that people pay to see them perform. All other professional athletes (like mountain bikers) derive their living from advertising and sponsorships. They are paid to represent their sponsors and their products. And that means showing up and riding at the biggest contests like Rampage. So guys are going to show up regardless of the prize money.
  • + 4
 Nice write up, Mitchell. Your timing for this post is perfect. You articulated what we are all thinking about, in different ways of course, but in a format that confirms our strong feelings about this type of bike event. I think Joyride has gotten too risky as well. Somebody is going to die there someday too, in front of an even bigger live crowd than Rampage.
  • + 2
 Karl- Joyride has gotten much safer... have you watched earlier installments of it? Some of the features were insanely gnarly and not as well designed as the ones they've got now. Sure things are bigger but that's because they're built better.
  • + 1
 Sharon Ferguson you just blew my goddamn mind! I'm off to go buy a new pair of snowblades and get on that train with your roomate's mother.
  • - 4
 YOLO
  • + 1
 Really good story and fair angle on all the issues. As a rider coming off multiple injuries (one potentially life threatening) I find the old adage "doing what he loved" to be a hollow remark made by the able-bodied on behalf of the injured to make themselves feel better. Its a Hallmark greeting card slogan, its sentimental. Ask most of the para's and quad's if they think any bit of the injury is worth it, to pursue the sport, and I think you'll find that they sing a different tune. Of course the media and fans aren't paying attention to them any longer.
  • + 1
 To Mitchell, very very good write up. Well worth the read. Huge Thanks.
[Reply]
  • + 47
 These guys are putting their lives on the line for what? To promote a overpriced energy drink? I'd rather see Aggy shred gnarcroft or full Nelson, than do something to jeopardize his life and possibly never ride again. Barely 5 grand for 1st? Fv€Koff redbull !!
  • + 7
 They deserve more, but without Red Bull the event wouldn't exist, and mountain biking just wouldn't be as exciting or progressed as much as it has. They have probably done more for the sport than any outside of the bike industry sponsor. Red Bull is also known for being loyal to it's sponsored athletes, even when they have career-ending injuries. If the athletes don't think it's worth it they don't have to compete, but it is worth it because of the exposure and incentives for more sponsor money they get if they do well.
  • + 4
 Exactly, it is just unfair. Most of these guys don´t do it to get rich, they do it because they love it, but you know who IS getting rich? Red Bull. And they probably deserve it, but im f*cking sure the athletes deserve it to.
  • + 5
 First took home 25K, 2nd 10K, 5,000 for 3rd, Same pay out scale as Joyride.
  • + 8
 A bit of irony though with Aggy...risks his life at rampage only to come home and break his neck. MTB is gnarly for these top pro's no matter what they are doing. Always pushing it.
  • + 5
 The prize money should be way more than it is at joyride IMO
  • + 6
 Same that happens in the Ski Industry.
Industry and sponsors push for progression, push for marketing. It's riders choice, but it the brands publicity who push them to do it.
What happened to Sarah Burke, and most dead skiers is the same. Industry pushes them to do this events and competitions.

Until someone dies, the points of view of people will be more straight to rider skills and less kissing Red Bull ass.

Peace and Safe rides.
As we say in snow... "Better to give up one day, to live for ride more days".
  • + 1
 Okay so maybe my F off redbull comment was harsh I was over caffeinated when I wrote that. Redbull does do awesome things for mountain biking, but they really need to take a second look at rampage and riders safety.
  • - 1
 Its not just the prize money obviously. Kyle won 25,000$ from redbull but made money from sponsors also. Not to mention the fact that his name is in the history books forever.
And i dont agree about the riders safety b.s. They all want to be there. Theyre doing the same thing as most mtb's do. We all realise its a risk to go faster and bigger, they just do it at a completly different level.
  • + 1
 25 grand for 1st
  • + 1
 25 grand is a nice chunk of cash, but those men definitely deserve alot more recognition than they are getting.
They're promoting the sport to guys who already ride?It needs to be televised to grab the attention of a younger generation. Riders like Kyle, Aggy, Cam ( both) Semenuk should have posters, shows ect but its kinda like redbull is holding it back for themselves. Ask 100 kids 13-18 who Kyle Strait is and maybe 5 of them know who he is (by absolutely no means any disrespect Mr. Strait) but ask 100 kids who Rob Dyrdek is and almost all of them will know aswell as mom and dad. He's got loads of money selling DC shoes alone! If shows like life behind bars were on tv kids in Indiana suburbs would be riding Kyle Strait GT furys and Semenuk Treks without a single hill in site! sponsors are no good without buyers and these people doing the marketing are wearing blindfolds!
  • + 1
 Who the hell is rob dyrdek? Lol bad example maybe?
[Reply]
  • + 31
 This piece took the words right out of my mouth (very well written too, keep it up PB!!!). I think the discussion has to happen within each individual whether the radness of stuff like the icon sender is worth it on ANY level, not even taking into account the issue of prize money etc. But then there's the issue of money: athletes in "extreme" sports are largely treated as disposable commodities, and at Rampage it shows blatantly in the prize money. Just because you have a group of athletes who are willing to compete and take life-threatening risks for peanuts does not mean it's necessarily right for Red Bull to ask them to do so. "Can" is not the same as "should". Do Red Bull as a brand and Rampage as an event contribute positively to the mountain biking community? Absolutely. As the article mentioned, this is probably the most exposure mtb has ever gotten. But the welfare lines and hospitals are full of people who have been essentially pimped out for next to nothing in the name of exposure, and that's a universal truth; it's not just in mtb, it's in skiing, skating, surfing, etc (or even writing and music). It can be difficult to tell whether Red Bull, Oakley, and the others are truly patrons of the sport or just pimps who know they can pay next to nothing for top quality, death-defying action. And that's the real problem. If Red Bull and the others cared about the athletes they would offer prize money commensurate with the risk the athletes are taking, but right now it's not even f*cking close.
  • + 18
 [post was too long]
And to those saying that the athletes know the risks and choose to compete, you're absolutely right. But when you throw in sponsors' wants/demands, career pressures, and kodak courage the issue of choice becomes a little less simple. Yes, these athletes know when they start to make a career out of this sport that they may have to risk their lives like they do at Rampage. My point is that at some point enough is enough, and I don't want to see anyone die doing this. I love this sport and I respect the people who make a living in it, but morally I would seriously prefer a sport where you could make it without having to do suicidal shit. BTW, I highly recommend HBO's The Crash Reel, it sheds a little light on the darker side of these kinds of sports.
  • + 7
 bkm303 you have hit the nail on the head. Well said mate.
  • + 6
 Well said. It is not as simple as saying "If the athletes want to, let them". There is a "duty of care" in principle involved here (if you don't know what that is, google it), and is something I for one think is not taken seriously enough in many cases by either event organisers, who keep building "bigger and better" ways in which athletes can attempt to give themselves life changing injuries, or by athletes who may, as you say, be too involved in the circus and make it as simple as "these guys want to go big or go home, so let them".

Take the example of F1; there is a huge industry within F1 that is purely there to improve safety for drivers, teams, spectators, race marshalls; the whole group. The drivers themselves are not scared of turning their back on the sport if they think it is too dangerous, as we have seen this year when they suggested they may not even race given the problems with tyres. It is time maybe for the FMB tour riders to have a union; to get themselves represented and protected against the ever increasing risks they seem to have to be facing as organisers keep upping the stakes.

The problem however, may run too deep. For every rider who says "That is suicidal, I reserve the right to not take part" there may well be (is highly likely to be) and young teenager with neither fear nor the sense to judge if the risks are worth the chance to "hit a big line with the pros". I hope that the day never comes when one of those bright young flames burns too bright for too short a time..... Great article and great comment.
  • + 4
 Considering the history of other sports, like F1, is useful here. While I love watching Rampage I can't help but compare it to boxing 100+ years ago with its bare knuckles and long rounds where you keep fighting till someone stays down. Or more recently UFC in the 1990s. Inevitably the risk will keep increasing until the severe injuries, and deaths, start to pile up. Then the govt regulators step in and force restrictions. I'd much rather see Redbull and other involved parties show some responsibility (and concern for rider's lives) now and self-impose a degree of sanity before it's too late. We all know where this is going, don't we?!
  • + 1
 Thanks for the suggestion on HBO The Crash Reel man its killer so far. Snowboarding and biking are my life, and every year at least one person dies at Big white, last year a local who worked there for a few years died riding with his friend (they got seperated and he couldnt find him) on christmas break. The dangers are there all the time, but its like driving a car. Your not gonna not drive just because people die in car accidents. You need to drive. Hell i'd rather go out doing what i love more than anything rather than die in a hospital bed of old age. The only thing that scares me is becoming paraplegic or a vegetable and the repercussions on my family and friends. I get this same vibe from most mountain bikers, specifically guys like Zink, Cam McCaul, Graham Aggy, CG. Always laughin an smilin. This is what riding is about to me, having a good time. And that's what i take away from rampage, they are there to push themselves and have fun (just look at Zinks run lol).
  • + 1
 Backlash, in the report above, Mitchel says that Semenuk and Aggy were talking after their runs, not about how fun it was but about how scared they were. Lacondeguy hardly said "it was fun" either according to the above. It seems not all the pros had as much "fun" as we all like to think.
  • + 1
 Im not saying they are all there just to have fun. I dont have a word for the feeling you get when you stomp a gnarly trick or even just go big, i wouldnt call it fun. Not all the pros have the same motivation. Watch any video from cam mccaul and tell me he's not having the greatest time of his life, just riding and doing tricks over massive slopestyle jumps. At their core, thats what biking/skiing/boarding/motocross hell any extreme sport or even team sport are about though. Having a good time, chasing the feeling you had the first time you rode a bike, or stomped that 180. Kinda why i dont really like semenuk at competitions, seems like hes just there to win, never even a smile unless hes at the top of the podium. Same with Shaun white. Everyone has a different idea of whats "fun" and this shows through in riding style. Thats why alot XC riders dont do DH/FR and vice versa.
  • + 1
 @backlash it's true that "going out doing what you love" is preferable to living a boring life in some cases, but that's not really what I'm getting at. I'm saying that an event organizer (and the fans) should have a moral responsibility not to ask someone to do something that poses a serious risk to their health/safety/life. Yes, these guys are pros and nobody has been hurt so far, but the margin of error is already pretty close to zero. At some point someone is inevitably going to mess up (human error, a gust of wind, or just bad luck), and the only thing that will make a difference between them living or dying or becoming paralyzed will be the height of the feature. I have a lot of respect for guys like Shaun White, and there's definitely a place in our sports for fierce competitors like him, but they're also the guys that will basically jump/drop/flip/cork as high as it takes for them to win, regardless of if it's safe. The only difference between a Shaun White and a Kevin Pearce is bad luck, and it's not like Pearce's accident was an isolated incident. The fact is if you ask people to go that big, they WILL get seriously hurt or die. So I think we can either let the sport get to the point where someone important dies or we can try to show some responsibility in the first place and reign it in a little, maybe focus on technical riding more than going crazy big.

And to Orientdave's point, I think in some cases we project a sense of fun and naivete ("we're all just in it for the love!") onto these guys when really they're freaked out like Semenuk and Aggy. And these aren't amateurs, these are guys who progressed the sport into what it is today. We know they're not afraid to go big, so when they're scared that should tell us something.
  • + 1
 I understand your point about moral obligation for the safety of these riders. The big bucks are not ending up where they should, in the riders hands (pretty damn sad to think a football player makes an avg of 1.9 mil in the NFL and hockey is an avg of 2.4 mil in the NHL). As far as progression goes, stunts are just going to get bigger, regardless of redbull or oakley. Riders will do this anyway, ie. Danny Way, Dane Searls. And so back to the beginning, its a catch 22. Is the risk worth the reward? for both parties its a fine line (but the rider has the true risk of life or death or being crippled). Reminds me of Robbie Bourdon in NWD9, "I dont want it to end, but one day its going to end. Someday. Thats how action sports work man, theres kids coming up who want your job and will risk their lives to be that guy, take your position. I was that guy 4 years ago."
  • + 2
 Yeah, all the overly-sensitive fear-mongerers are pretending the riders are forced to go big when the reality is they want to go big. Being Rampage champion is becoming the most prestigious title in the sport. They want it.
[Reply]
  • + 19
 The riders know the risks at hand, and no one is forcing them to compete. If it were about the money, then it would no longer be for the love of the sport.
  • + 16
 no ones forcing them to but lets face it, if they dont they arent going to get to the top ..
  • - 4
 We are mountain bikers, we know the risks, nobody forces them to do what they do and if they want out; well, there's always tennis
  • - 2
 True, but it takes risks to get to the top. No one is forcing them to pursue the career of mountain biking. They could just as easily pursue a modest life style but they chose to follow their natural talents and ride bikes. The risk has always been there. Look at all pro sports and the injuries that go hand and hand with them. It's the nature of the game and the game is always progressing. Talent and abilities never regress....

Sorry @YoungPedalwon, Your comment got in before mine did.
  • + 8
 I think you didn't get it.
  • + 11
 They know the risks, and take them, for the love of it and thrill, but I think we all agree the prize purse is not enough?

It's hard to believe how much doofuses like Rooney earn in relation!
  • + 15
 The point of the article is questioning if the risk is too much though. Yes, there is always a risk of injury in this and any sport, but at Rampage the risk of serious or fatal accidents is far higher than any other event in mtb'ing. I watched Rampage and it was great, but I was scared for the riders throughout. There is a real possibility of someone dying and nobody wants that. So how can we manage the risk without diluting the event?

And whilst I somewhat agree with the 'they do it because they love it' argument it would be naive to think there isn't pressure on them to compete when they may be unhappy to do so, and if it was you who had worked damn hard to get to a point where you were making a living out of riding, would you be so quick as to potentially end your career for a few thousand dollars? What about those who rely on you to bring in money, etc. I can say I would be thinking long and hard about it.
  • + 13
 Imagine getting to the point in your career where the only way forward is risking your life. It is not easy to give up a career. Can you see Aggy quitting to start an exciting career managing a grocery store?
It is clear he'd rather jump off a cliff.
  • + 0
 There is serious risk with this event, but all the riders know these risks. You could compare it to F1 which in Senna's era, they all knew the risks involved and some paid the price. Maybe the event should be moved to a different part of the world. This gives the opportunity for fresh lines and possibly takes away some of the risk because the riders don't need to try and find something new every year. I know some people are the Utah faithful, but maybe a fresh backdrop would make make it more interesting for the viewers worldwide and give an opportunity for more people to go and see it up close
  • + 19
 Of course they're not forced to do it, but there must be enormous pressure to compete, especially from sponsors. You wouldn't want to be 'the one who didn't compete'. This article is one of the best I've seen in a long time, and I'm sure with Mitchell Scott's first hand experience, he knows a great deal more about it that the rest of us who watch it online! Rampage is amazing to watch, no doubt, but not many people seem to realize what happens if you were to crash at those speeds on those rocks. There's plenty a naive folk commenting in a 'YOLO' fashion. Which is just internet idiocy. Stand at the top of the Oakley Icon Sender and say it, you might change your mind. Anyone who's ever lost a loved one will know that, yes, life is far too short, but there's a line between enjoying life while you have it, and risking what you have to a foolish level.
  • + 9
 @Rich-Downhill28 spot on. And you know what, out of all the riders at Rampage one of the ones I respect the most is Kirill Benderoni, who was smart enough to walk away when he had misgivings about the sender. But on the other hand.... are we ever gonna hear from that dude again? Doubt it.

@Hslingsby I think you make a great point about moving the event somewhere other than Virgin. If all the lines had to be built from scratch again I don't think we'd see as many insane man-made features, and quite honestly that's the type of comp I would personally rather be watching. The more Rampage becomes a daredevil/slopestyle competition, the less interested I am (I'm not saying that it is, but I greatly prefer the natural freeride aspect of it).
  • + 2
 The same can be said about any professional sport: football, hockey, rugby, etc. The potential for injury, death, and negative long term health consequences in the form of degenerative brain injuries is always possible (and seemingly becoming more frequent). Sports keep getting faster, harder hitting, increasingly dangerous but that is the evolution of sport. If someone chooses to go out there and start throwing triple backflips in competition then competitors need to one up him in order to win, You wouldnt tell someone "sorry what your doing is too dangerous for other competitors and you need to stop". There is risk in every aspect of daily life and on the action sports side of things that risk is much more profound but the level of risk is set by the riders themselves through the progression of the sport.

Seeing someone go down with a serious injury is terrible and no one wants to see that but these type of things are consequences associated with calculated risk and if an individual wishes to consent to that risk then who are we to tell them no, your being too dangerous?
  • - 3
 Rampage should never be moved or notified, is actually a relatively safe activity compared to motorsports. It is safer statistically to compete in Rampage than to attend an auto race as a spectator, and attending a soccer game as a spectator
is even more dangerous. 204 race car drivers in the US have died since 1990, and over 80 spectators died in one crash alone in 1955 at Lemans:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMoh5hZAaZk&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Granted that comparatively not alot of people have competed at Rampage, but the riders are all very experienced and have the skills and experience that match the terrain. They could put up some safety nets in some crucial areas maybe, but beyond that nothing needs to change at Rampage. It is the most spectacular sporting event in the world and should stay that way.

Loved the line about shitting his pants the first day looking at the lines. Also there have been deaths at DH races, which the article implies hasn't happened. Blacomb had one in 93 when they had a DH race there, and Dave Watson died during practice.
  • - 1
 Oops, the article doesn't imply nobody has died in DH. But I think you could make a good argument that DH racing is more dangerous than Rampage considering that many of the competitors who are hauling ass and hitting big jumps in DH dont have alot of experience.
  • - 6
 Yea, it's true, most mainstream sports are more dangerous than rampage. Hockey, rugby, football, and baseball to an extent. Trying to hit a 100mph fastball is no joke. Nor is standing 60'6" from a dude trying to hit your 100mph fastball
  • + 1
 @Protour - Dave Watson is most definitely still alive, dude!
  • + 2
 I've heard that many people die at golf courses. So that makes golf one of the most deadliest sports ever!
  • + 6
 Protour I think you need to beef up your understanding of the word "statistically." There is no way in a One Direction concert (Hell) it is "statistically" more dangerous to attend a race as a spectator. I didn't even bother doing the math because I don't care that much and I'd have to wear a helmet at the dinner table if I was silly enough to think there was a chance. "Statistically" refers to transforming the data for a point of comparison. When you factor in the relatively small number of rampage riders with the frequency of injury contrasted with the massive number of spectators and relatively small, compared to the sample size, number of injuries to racing fans and their foam beer straw hats it's a ludicrous proposition. Sure there have been more deaths, when the sample size is in the billions you get more outliers. At the end of the day "statistically" you can't compare the two and if you could, I'd wager my weakest child that Rampage would come out as riskier.
  • + 3
 I think saying that the riders know the risk is a bit of a cop out. Of course they know they risk, but they also make their living riding bikes, and there is alot of pressure on them. Its not that easy to just say nope, too dangerous and walk away. Its clear that these guys, in all sports, will always push the limits and take whatever risks that we as the public, and the industry continue to reward. Fans worship and companies sponsor the guys who go the biggest. Until that changes, this is how its going to be.

And that's the real point here that I think some people are missing. That's the real question being addressed in this article. How far to we push the limit? How big can we make the venues we provide for these guys to ride? And what will it take to enact any change? As much as it sucks to say, the author of this article was probably right, in that it would take someone dying for anyone to seriously consider a change. And its not just mountain bikes. There's the same debates about halfpipe and jump size in skiing and snowboarding, mega ramps in BMX and skateboarding etc.
  • + 2
 Yeah I remember Earthquake Jake, he was a local, many of my friends rode with him. Rock to the chest. When he died the whole community felt it. Such a shame, he was an amazing rider and a super nice guy.
  • + 1
 I remember the first time I saw him, it was at a norba national and he was warming up on a trainer, I was sort of in awe. What a legendary racer, I remember hearing he died attempting to gap a rock garden or something like that.

It is a fact that nobody has died at Rampage so I can make the accurate claim that it is safer than alot of other activities, including DH racing, though I'm pretty sure golf is only dangerous because of mother nature and old guys with hardened arteries overdoing it. Hell, nobody has ever even been paralyzed at Rampage or put into serious critical condition like we see on a somewhat regular basis from nearly ever form of bicycle competition. The reason is because the riders at Rampage for the most part are very experienced, study their lines carefully, and respect the terrain. That is why so few even went for the high line on the sender.

Besides, this is a once a year special event, not a series where they are doing it every couple weeks. Many of the stunts we see regularly in freeride videos have drops and jumps comparable to Rampage, and people have been seriously injured in them, so people will push the limits of risk regardless of Rampage. I don't hear anyone suggesting they tone down the risks in freeride videos, so why single out Rampage? The fact that they canceled the second runs due to wind shows the riders safety is a high priority, and they have repeatedly taken precautions at Rampage to make it safer, such as limiting spectator access and giving the canyon gap a safer trajectory.

All of this fear-mongering is purely subjective and when put in the context of the many risky activities humans engage in the risk is worth the reward. Think of all the soldiers who have died and are still dying in completely useless wars in the middle east. But because we are being entertained by guys going huge on bicycles we should feel guilty and want to restrict it? Crazy world with odd priorities.
  • + 2
 You can't really compare raw statistics on injuries from Rampage to other sports or bike competitions because Rampage hasn't happened often and the number of guys riding is limited. Rampage has only been held how many times? 6? Compared to how many DH races in world over the same time period? How many road races? How many BMX comps? So the numbers of chances for serious injury or death at Rampage is very few in comparison. If they ran Rampage 7-8 times a year like major DH races the number of serious injuries and perhaps even death would be huge.
  • + 1
 Still, i'd rather die on wheels than of a heart attack. Every time my 61 yearold dad brings it up i point out the 12 pack of coke in his garage.
  • + 1
 Yeah, no shit, when looked at in the bigger context of long-term impacts Rampage is a blip on the screen. I could easily and accurately make the claim our everyday modern lifestyles are just as dangerous as Rampage since if we continue our current trajectory planet earth will be unlivable because of runaway global warming and millions of future generations will die due to the results of the wasteful and reckless things humans are doing to the planet now. So who is killing who? I think the oil companies are just a wee bit more dangerous for us than energy drink companies. Rampage has nothing on runway global warming, but we aren't willing to look into the future and change anything we are doing now, are we? Out of sight, out of mind...it's alot easier to focus on the risks of a small isolated bike competition. We humans are clearly on a non-stop suicidal rat race, so events like Rampage actually are sort of a sports microcosm for the way we live our lives.
  • + 2
 "It's a f*cked up world and big oil is evil, so why bother worrying about people's safety." - Protour

That doesn't strike you as apples and oranges at all? Obviously some people do care about the environment, but it doesn't get fixed because it's a much more pervasive and complicated problem. Rampage is a small event with an easy fix: don't make stuff MORE dangerous. Saying that Rampage is a "suicidal rat race" just like the rest of the world is one thing. Saying we're okay with it is another thing entirely.
  • + 1
 "Global warming is too complicated of a problem to fix, so until then we need to focus on the safety of one bicycle competition in Utah where nobody has ever been seriously injured" -bkm303

All I'm saying is that everyone on here complaining about the safety has completely whacked out priorities when you consider the big picture.

When somebody dies or is even paralyzed at Rampage then you might have a leg to stand on...until then it is speculation and fear-mongering.

I suggested safety nets in crucial areas, so I do have concerns about the safety. Another thing that would help immensely is giving the riders more than a few days to scout the course and prepare lines, it all seems a bit rushed and I wonder if all that hiking wears them out, maybe they could have a rest day.
  • + 1
 The word hypocracy best describes these safety concerns when viewed iin the context of the our impact on the planet and the immense amount of future damage that it will cause to most of the species on this planet. You are concerned about a few mountain bikers getting killed when your lifestyle of traveling the planet looking for better places to ride, doing hundreds of shuttle runs, and burning oil as if it's harmless will eventually cause most of the humans on this planet to die-off along with most of the natural life on the planet. Yeah we're really responsible people here....and we pretend it's normal because everyone is doing it. Eventually the guilt will come once the planet really starts to break down but by then it will be far too late for action and we will dwell in the most miserable condition humans have ever faced in our final countdown. Maybe then some apocalyptic freerider will finally attempt a straight 100 foot Bender-style drop instead of putting a gun to his temple and ending it that way because of the miserable unending heat from runaway global warming. Yes, Rampage is risky. But if the risk of something else you are a part of is infinitely more consequential in the long run at least be honest with yourself and realize that a couple mountain bikers falling off a cliff and dying really isn't that important in the big picture. Raise the Oakley Sender even higher! ...but maybe make the landing a little wider too.
  • + 2
 Yeah f*ck mountain bikers with all their chairlifts and plane tickets and shuttle runs. The world would be so much better off if we all just lined up and rode off the oakley sender in shopping carts like the gas-guzzling materialistic whores we are.

You're constructing a false dichotomy. Your statements presuppose that you can EITHER be concerned about athlete safety OR the planet, when in reality there's no "hypocrisy" in caring about both, one, or neither; they're completely unrelated. You aren't overly concerned about the safety of Rampage, which is a legitimate position to hold, but trying to tie that to global warming is complete horseshit. They have nothing at all to do with one another. From your last post I'd assume you were against Rampage altogether, considering it probably takes thousands of gallons of gas to bring all the equipment, choppers, athletes, and spectators out there to watch this meaningless activity.... by your standards, in the "big picture" you must have "whacked out priorities" to care about riding bikes at all. Either that or you're simply making the case that the injury/death of an individual simply doesn't matter, which is a position that I (and pretty much everyone on earth) fundamentally disagree with.
  • + 2
 @Protour. Just so I can understand your logic. You are basically saying, since the planet is going to eventually be destroyed anyways, why bother worrying about the safety of anyone. Is this a correct interpretation?
  • + 1
 That was a great first paragraph, and you do have a valid point about Rampage consuming alot of carbon...but it is a bicycle event and I am of the opinion that bicycles are one of mankind's few good inventions and it is healthy to promote the sport to increase interest in bicycle use. I started out as a freerider but it led me to becoming a bicycle commuter. It isn't presenting a false dichotomy to say that humans distract themselves with relatively trivial concerns while they are committing suicide by ignoring the big one, it is simply calling Nero out for fiddling with Rampage safety concerns while Rome burns and everyone and everything dies.
  • + 2
 GrimsleyII, I want Rampage to be a safe event and I think I've proved that by suggesting more ideas on here to make it safer than everyone else combined. Another one would be to not have so many takeoffs from the oakley sender so that all the landings could be wider. Next year maybe just a 60' and a 40' with wider landings. This is a good article for bringing up the concerns but the author and
most of the comments don't offer solutions like I did, just complaining that there is too much pressure on the athletes to assuage their own fears they experienced from psychological projection while watching it for free on the internet. "Someones gonna die!!!" And if you did make the jumps smaller twice
as many people would complain the next year about it not being big enough.

I guess I just find the concerns to be ironic. Sort of like how today the American FDA is banning trans-fats because too many inactive Americans who drive huge SUV's are dying of obesity. Meanwhile possibly the biggest
storm ever, super-charged by global warming, is getting ready to annihilate the Philippines where people have nowhere to go for safety. 300 miles wide and 200mph winds... Lets focus on the doughnuts instead? To top it off we have the not surprising announcement that greenhouse gasses are at an all time high at the same time global warming denialism is still quite prevalent. Oh the irony,.someone should wear a speedo swimsuit at Rampage next year..
  • + 1
 Over 10,000 dead in the Philippines in last couple days from another huge global warming storm. This is the new normal, except that it's not normal and it will only get much worse. Lets distract ourselves with a debate over the value of elbow pads while riding.
  • + 1
 Once again.... those two things are completely unrelated. You know it's possible to care about more than one thing at a time, right?

And even if you did have a point, wringing your hands about global warming does nothing to help the people in the Philippines. It's just useless worrying that doesn't help anyone solve anything.
  • + 1
 It is possible to care about more than one thing, I can agree with you there while also acknowledging it is productive to call out the hypocrisy of people pretending to be responsible while dwelling on trivial concerns. Talking about global warming raises raises awareness. The outlook doesn't look good but I still have some hope.
[Reply]
  • + 12
 The whole time I was watching the broadcast, I was super nervous that someone would die or injure themselves horribly. During Zink's run, knowing he was going to try to flip it, it was almost unbearable for me. The chance of someone dying actually makes me not want to watch it. I guess there's no way they could make it tamer now, but why not keep the venue exactly the same and maybe next year more riders would actually finish and Zink and Strait would throw some more tricks in their runs instead of just going for the big one. And yeah, the prize money is a joke.
  • + 5
 Prizing money for riding in general is a joke.

We constantly see road riding commercials but I have never once seen a downhill race advertised, even when we held the worlds here and the wc races, they don't bother to advertise it at all. I might be bias but road riding takes far less skill than rampage or downhill. Its mostly fitness and tactics. Don't get me wrong they still put in just as much effort and time training, but the range of skills it takes is much more narrow and less interesting. I think most people would rather watch downhill or rampage than a road race.....maybe its just me. :p

finish 70th in the golf masters, earn 17grand.....get first in a dh race lucky to earn 5k.....
Unfortunately skill has nothing to do with money these days, its the fat cats who sit in chairs with there million who sponsor events. Unless we sell out and go corporate we wont ever get the big bucks as riders.
  • + 0
 As redbull helps the sport grow it will pay better.
[Reply]
  • + 10
 Thanks for this article Mitchell, I wrestle with these paradoxes myself, here are a couple opinions:

There is a strong connection between spectator and athlete that goes both ways. They’re in cahoots whether they know it or not. Understanding the effects of this is important, and that’s hard to do because it requires some serious introspection, something many spectators and athletes don’t have the tools for. I didn't until well in to my pro career.

A big factor that contributes to how a spectator behaves and how an athlete performs is projection. Two of many examples of what I mean by this are:
If you don’t own your attraction to risk, you’ll project it out for all the pros to ‘real’ize. (Shadow)
Similarly if you don’t own your potential for awesomeness, you’ll project it on the pros to ‘real’ize it. (Golden Shadow)

When audience numbers rise, this has a powerful affect on the direction of our sport. There are now millions of non-athlete spectators who never take any physical risks projecting it out, and who aren’t nearly as awesome as us mountain bikers (wink ;-) projecting their awesomeness out, and this has huge control over the choices everyone involved in events like this make, including, and perhaps most potently the athletes; and until athletes become aware of this dynamic they are largely at the mercy of the masses, indeed a catch 22. As a Integral Master Coach™ (conscious plug), I work with athletes on issues like this, and I warn them that choosing to work with me to better understand these forces in a healthy way may either help them to optimize their performance or inspire them to quit-another catch 22!

Many folks who enjoy the cultural purity of our sport of mountain biking may have an allergic reaction to the way events like the Rampage have evolved. They don’t need to see such death defying stunts because they own their fair share of risk taking tendencies and awesomeness.
  • + 2
 Thanks for sharing the wise words, Ryan. Good stuff.
  • + 3
 I'd be interested in a PB article on this.
  • + 3
 Oh, well, things crumble to an end Hell, we all die in the end Die in the end Once it was fun to worry About who was in control Could look into the future But now it don't seem right Passion is filling the air Profits are better than life And things are harder to bear
  • + 3
 Great thoughts Ryan. There is also an interesting balance between excitement and planning capacity in that as arousal increases in individuals, their access to key planning resources in their brains tend to decrease. This is relevant in that social energy excites. Complicate this with the fact that some of our brains key planning areas don't fully mature till about the age of 26 and the fact that anxiety also decreases planning capacity. By planning I am referring to the creative capacity to organize decisions based on coherent and realistic expectations of potential outcomes. Essentially, being able to imagine what may happen following our actions. The crash videos section on this website is ripe with examples of "and how did you actually imagine that would end other than into that tree?" These faculties decrease in teenage years and risk taking skyrockets, some suggest an evolutionary advantage to younger brains being more open to experience in order to learn. So to suggest athletes understand the risk may be true but also may be complicated when viewed in a more holistic sense. I know from my own riding that when nervous, when fuelled by social energy, and when I was younger, I made decisions that I would not have made in the absence of these features; some to my advantage but many precursors to autographed casts or walks of shame. I don't want a sport free of risk. The risk is a big part of why I ride... that sense of flow when you have a balance of challenge and capacity... but I would like a sport where the unnecessary risk is reduced where possible.
  • + 0
 I've no idea what you're on about Ryan. WTF is a golden shadow?
  • + 1
 Haha, fatlarr, an article could be a good idea to expand and clarify my thoughts
psyickphuk: 'shadow' is created when someone consistently denies their anger (or any other emotion) to a point where it becomes disowned; they are then unknowingly projecting their anger. I am not angry, you're angry. A 'golden shadow' is created when someone consistently denies their potential, for instance, when they say I am not talented, I am not talented, they end up disowning their talent and projecting it outward: 'I am not talented, but you're talented'. Of course the other person may be angry, but to the person with a shadow of anger the anger another person is expressing is basically twice as bad, it's their anger plus your disowned anger. There are various practices one can engage in to discover and re-own these shadow aspects of their being. So yes, spectators often have huge golden shadows: yes the pros are talented, but because the spectators have consistently denied and not acted on their own potential, they project it out on the athlete.
  • + 1
 And snl, really great points, as I look back on my riding, I can certainly relate! I remember some disorienting situations in my young riding career where the decision making abilities I did have seemed not to be available. I have an article coming out on pb soon about injuries, it seems that injuries may help to increase the rate of development of these faculties you speak of, at least in some people! I do agree though that when a young athlete has to contend with natural maturity of their brain, along with peer pressure, praise, anxiety, and perhaps a paycheque, the bigger perspective just isn't available to help inform a decision.
  • + 3
 FWIW this is a great conversation that should be talked about as mountain bike technology continues to advance and skill levels improve resulting in bigger and higher risk lines. Ryan said, "I work with athletes on issues like this, and I warn them that choosing to work with me to better understand these forces in a healthy way may either help them to optimize their performance or inspire them to quit-another catch 22!" is a great statement that can be interpreted in many positive ways. I hope some will interpret your statement on a more day to day time horizon to mean that walking around a drop or leaving it for another day is completely okay and should be respected. I have lost friends to rivers and feel strongly that walking around drops when not feeling 99% has allowed many of my friends, including world record holders, to boat another day. In the end, as individual riders we are ultimately responsible for our motivations and decisions to ride each line.
  • + 1
 Ryan, I'm particularly interested in understanding how many athletes you've talked out of going pro until they're mentally ready. I know there are a few folks on the sidelines that could be competitive but they don't have the confidence. Conversely, there are also folks that think they 'could have been' competitive (Uncle Rico Syndrome) if they only had been given a chance. Last would be the one I'm interested in hearing about; the ones with the skills and the (over) confidence who are willing to enter the catch-22 scenarios in order to 'make all of their wildest dreams come true'... You don't have to name names, but who is out there throwing caution to the wind, and who is out there doing it right?

Example of who's doing it right: Cedric, TheClaw, EC..
Example of who's doing it crazy: Guys who break their femur in a major comp...
  • + 2
 Thanks Benyaks, and fatlarry, what comes to mind in response to your thoughts is that humans are complicated, there's always more going on than meets the eye. Who knows what an athletes life history has been and why they do the things they do. By objectively observing them we can only know so much, and nowhere near enough to make any conclusions about whether they're doing it right or not. So in a coaching relationship I wouldn't try to talk a rider in to doing or not doing something, but I would ask them a variety of questions that might enable them to talk themselves in to either doing something or not. Often athletes have a felt sense about something, but until they have an opportunity to put it in to words with another human being that sense won't have a chance to be acted upon. For instance an Olympian I worked with felt through his whole being that he wanted to retire, but it wasn't until he put this felt sense in to words that he was actually able to admit to himself that retirement was the right thing to do and thus take the actions and make the announcements necessary. Hope some of that makes sense and answers your question Larry.
  • + 2
 @RyanLeech, I know it's been said, but I just wanted to second the guy who said you should write an article. I'd love to hear more about this and your experiences coaching. @benyaks too. Great discussion!
[Reply]
  • + 8
 Great read. And he is right. In a world where x cons can get paid millions upon millions of dollars and get treated like heroes for throwing balls around only to turrn around and form a class action suit and successfully sue a league that supports and protects their actions for nothing more than concussions, how is it these guys get to split up a mere $55000 to risk their lives? And on top of it why is it when i see any montage of a "traditional" sport its all goals, touch downs and home runs. But i watch any action sport montage its all bails and shit eating. Its only to impress the people who dont ride or get our sport. The people who will never do it anyway, the people that arent going to miss anybody if they are fatally injured. I understand the publicity is good but at what cost , is it worth impressing an audience that will never understand or participate in these "extreme" worlds?
  • + 0
 Exactly! Suing for getting concussions??? I know that head injuries are a big deal (Junior Seau comes to mind), and I'm not minimizing how bad they really are. Its the expectation of the sport. Who on earth would play professional football without the expectation of severe injury!?
[Reply]
  • + 7
 I totally agree with what you guys are saying about it being the athletes choice to tackle Rampage and like us, all of these riders do it out of a passion and a love for the sport and not for the money. However, that doesn't detract from the fact that the purses and prize money these skilled and brave guys receive is peanuts comparative to what they are actually doing. They are risking everything and a global corporation like Red Bull should be recognising this and upping the prize money for these lads. Don't forget, this is a contest that is INVITE ONLY so it is fact that only the best riders in the world can compete. It's not as if any "sunday afternoon trail warrior" like most of us on here can turn up and have a crack at it. Surely the prize money should reflect this? Additionally, Big Mountain is one of the purest and most marketable disciplines in the sport of mountain biking - it is perfect for TV coverage as whole zones and the lines within them can be covered by cameras and as viewers we get to see everything that the riders are putting down (not like in the World Cups where most of the track is not broadcast). I'm not having a moan at Red Bull as without the coverage they do provide then none of us would get to see most of these events anyway, I'm just saying that compared to the risks they are taking, the prize money they earn from it is not enough.
  • + 2
 You raise a valid point and I agree with a lot of your statement. But the fault i see here is the key phrase "PRIZE money"... I don't believe the riders are there for any prize money. That is a secondary asset to the overall glory of winning said event. Although years ago, comparatively, prize money was significantly less. I do praise Red Bull for broadcasting such an event, and putting forth the efforts that they do to make it viewer friendly. But many of these riders are already Red Bull athletes who have paychecks coming from Red Bull, backed by their skills to ride a bike. Even if they are not backed by Red Bull, they have their own sponsors who are supporting them. And when someone wins a huge event like this, the publicity will give them plenty of recognition. When this happens either they will have better contract options open, or their current sponsors will have to step their offer up to keep their client. The WC podium racers are not receiving any prize money, that is all handled in contracts. Why should FMB events be any different? Contracts are handled behind closed doors, and only the riders know the benefits they may be receiving later on for the gnarly stunts they try today. Prize money is for the moment, the real reward comes later... (I think?)

Just my thought against yours, thanks!
  • + 2
 Hey Nitty,

I see what you're saying and you are right about these guys all having their own sponsors etc and thus maybe prize money is not at the top of their priority list, however as I said I think the level of risk at Rampage should be reflected in the reward and although it is part of the FMB tour, personally I think Rampage functions as a standalone event in that it is totally different to anything else in the calendar. I think we're both right though and I don't disagree with you, I guess like most guys on here I just get a bit pissed off that riders with such skill and bravery are awarded comparatively little compared to athletes in more mainstream sports like Football who do little for what they get. I'm not saying that riders should earn the same as these guys as the level of exposure and money made from merchandising etc isnt comparable but I would just like to see them get a bit more. On the other hand, I could be wishing for the wrong thing as if there's more money involved then the money men will want more control of what happens and we may see some dumbing down of the sport to cater for the everyman (for example less tech tracks in WC's).

Who knows? I guess its just a Catch-22 situation Smile
  • + 4
 Considering you couldn't buy the bikes these guys ruin with the prize money I'd say it is a big risk financially too. If you land s big contract after rampage that's cool, but there is no promise of that.
  • + 2
 I agree with cridavies here. Whilst the 'Prize Money' may not be the main benefit of doing well in Rampage, shouldn't it reflect the risk they are taking within the event? I'm not upto date with how the health system works in the US at the moment, but if I remember correctly, the cost of broken bones, trips to hospitals etc can rack up way into the thousands of $. So if the riders are willing to put their health on the line by taking these risks, I think the prize money should at least cover the potential cost of injury in most cases.

Lets not forget how popular Rampage is nowadays, with the winning runs getting millions of views on Youtube within a day. With an audience that is constantly growing and is so big already, surely there should be some provision of funding for adequate prize money?
  • + 3
 I say we adopt a crowd funding system for Rampage. All of us on here would probably contribute a few pounds or dollars and then the judging is based on the peoples vote like we had this year. It would finally put an end to any "Norbs/McGarry got robbed" scenarios.
  • + 3
 Don't forget that there's always some level of cash that will make every man go blind. If the prizes were extremely high, riders would put much more pressure on winning the event and could loose fun from doing it, not talking about their life. It has happened to music, TV, roadies, so you can't deny that it would touch MTB world too at some point. Untill the prizes aren't that big, we can at least assume that riders are doing it for pure joy and inner aims. Giving more money would push our sport to the level of gladiators fighting for life and death and is this what we want?
  • + 1
 Thanks for the response Cridavies!

I do agree with you that the Prize money certainly does not reflect the risks exhibited by the riders. And I hear ya on your statement on the frustrations of our idol athletes making significantly less than other big sport athletes (Football, basketball, baseball), especially when they are risking so much more. Of course you are right on their marketing incomes being much greater in other disciplines, but certainly there must be more money to offer. I suppose I am more the less worried about the negative connotations that can get mixed up with the rewards of money. It certainly is an interesting topic to debate, I'd love to see what the riders input on the subject.

@benplatt, The US's healthcare is more confusing then a 10000 block rubics cube! But I'd imagine that all healthcare expenses are being covered by the riders sponsors (Pending they aren't riding as a privateer). You're right though on the publicity that rampage is receiving. I've got a lot of friends who don't know what DH racing is, yet they are now sending me videos of rampage asking "Is this what you do?". There must be a fair amount of money floating around the event now a days!
  • + 1
 If you look up the "kustom airstrike" it's an Invite only surfing competition that only 5 people got invited to. It's a diffrent format to rampage obviously but bassicly in 2012 it was 5 surfers , best air / trick wins , 50,000 USD prize money personally handed to the winner by Tony hawk... And that's sponsored by a shoe company. I think redbull can do a little better than a 55k split if you ask me.
  • + 1
 In 2008 Red Bull paid Robbie Maddison 2 million dollars to do a 96ft jump and drop in Las Vegas.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iwiVwA221Q

Although I agree Maddison is amazingly brave and skilled, I defy anyone to tell me the risk here is greater than say Zink backflipping the sender and getting just $5000 in return.
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  • + 6
 Really reminds me of the Isle of Man TT, the riders risking everything for ultimate glory, not prize money. These riders know the risks and yet they still go huge, their passion is incredibly motivating!
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  • + 4
 Let's face it. Red Bull forces to ride harder and more on the edge. Everything RB gets into becomes more and more extreme. And the riders? If they are sponsored/have contracts, etc they simply must attend. It's their job. It is all about the money, no doubt about that. Having said that, seeing Zink's pregnant girlfriend was heart braking. This is not OK.
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  • + 4
 Attending Rampage as a photog was a pinnacle of experience. Grand expressions of freedom & human life. I cannot speak to the riders' internal processes, yet from where I stood, the drama that is Rampage created inspiring allegories for the true nature of living. Thank you, athletes.

Great article with some provocative questions. No easy answers.
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  • + 4
 Take out the Oakley sender.

Does the article carry the same weight? I don't think so. Rampage was originally a big mountain event. That is no longer the case, it's a media circus for promoting "mountain biking", which is funny, because about .0001 percent of mountain bikers ride terrain similar to Rampage.

And don't get me wrong, I'm a rabid fan, love to watch everything to do about it. However, I am one of the few who (beforehand) questioned the idea the sender to begin with, and was pretty much chastised for even suggesting it was "too much".

Many of the riders would be doing this with or without the contest. Zink did a "backcountry" backflip off like what, a 40 or 50ft cliff last year? Progression is a natural element of action sports, it was drives it.

"Mountain Biking" would do itself a favor, and look back at the heydays of the 90's, and be careful not repeat the same mistakes. It looks like it's approaching that same level again.

Money - not risk, is the factor here.
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  • + 3
 I agree with most of this write up. RedBull is riding a wave and it has been incredible successful, but it is getting to be too much. The freak show wow factor is over running the talent. I just watched the film Arrival and was impressed that an action sports film not sponsored by the big bull could be this good. We can recognize great riding and talent, but in order to get the big bux RB needs to get the layman too and to do this they must risk lives. I watched some of rampage while it was streaming and thought yeah the trix are good, but man that’s just stupid. The author pointed out that the athletes are not forced to participate. Neither are the viewers.
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  • + 3
 I have commented on the incredibly bad risk/reward ratio many times before, and got neg propped into oblivion. I don't think any of the riders actually enjoy this event, but they NEED to compete to establish their presence. The first rampage I watched three or four years ago left me sick to my stomach. Last year's wasn't as bad (more riders completed, fewer bikes broken in half) but this is not needed.
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  • + 3
 At the end of the day its the riders who are pushing the sport. They build a massive sender and zink decides he wants a kicker to flip it. The riders are picking the crazy lines and pushing themselves to do tricks. While the commercial draw and competition is no doubt a big draw and motivation to many riders, these riders are more about pushing themselves and progressing the sport, not for us but for them, they want to better themselves, they want to do what others can't. I'm sure the fame and stardom is great but id bet the biggest satisfaction these guys get are in themselves for nailing a run, for hitting something insane that no one else does. You cannot implement rules on how you can build to a freeride competition, freeride is exactly that, been free to ride what you can and these guys are the best measure of safety for themselves after all they are experienced and they are the ones risking it. Rampage highlights this sport but the riders make it, id bet even if we didn't have rampage these riders would still be finding bigger and crazier stunts to pull off on their own. After all we ride for the love and we ride for us and no one else.
  • + 1
 Riding for the love of it is one thing. Doing crap that terrifies tge best riders in the world and risks the lives of guys who have babies on the way is another. If it was for the love of it then these guys would have already built it on previous trips for pleasure.
  • + 1
 Just look at the old videos like NWD 6 Eric these guys were always pushing bigger. This event is a choice if they choose to ride and the lines they pick is thier choice. If one rider can do it than they all will want to do it too. I'd like to see less build stuff though and just keep it terrain only.
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  • + 3
 Change # 1: I think that it is high time that Red Bull paid "appearance money" to the athletes. Maybe something along the line of $1000 per rider. This, in all reality would probably not even cover their travel expenses, (let alone bike parts), unless they utilized some of the abundant free camping on the vast amount of public land in the Southern Utah area, but would at least keep them from having to lay out so much of their own monies to get there. $1000 apiece for 30 riders would not be that much in the grand scheme of things, when you look at the overall cost of hauling in all of that lumber and construction equipment, paying a crew to build the stunts and disassemble them afterwards, the cost of the film crews, with their gazillion dollar cameras, the still photographers that work directly for Red Bull, the helicopters for filming and Life Flight, the numerous medical, crowd control and security personnel, the logistics personnel, the Red Bull girls handing out free samples, the team of judges, the course marshals, Brad, the announcer, the feed station for the riders and crew, the portapotties, all of the fencing, flags and Red Bull banners and various other signage, all of the shuttle vehicles, trucks, quads, motorcycles, chainsaws and the fuel to run them, and the expense of getting all of those people and things to such a remote location, and also the cost of the house that the H5 crew rents for the duration of the event.
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  • + 5
 Nothing is worth dying for. Would rather watch them ride another day than risk it all on such massive and insane hits. There is a difference between crazy and stupid.
  • + 5
 actually, there are many things in life that are worth dying for.

it all depends how/when/who raised you and what you value.

the pursuit of passions is one of em.

i'd say the peeps that shred rampage are passionate about their pursuit.
  • + 1
 GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH!
  • + 1
 pick your team.
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  • + 2
 Worth it? Ask the riders. They're the only ones qualified to make the call.

I wonder if mountain biking has taken so long to move forward because there's too many pussy c*nts like the author of this article always questioning shit like this rather than just f*ckin' sending it. You can fall 5 feet & die if you land the wrong way. You've got 360 flips, 400' jumps & 100' vertical drops on 250 lb. MXs & 30' airs out of quarters on BMX & you're panties are all bent & bunched over some 30-50 footers in the sand on 8-10" travel bouncy bikes @ Rampage? Go home.

Yeah it's gnarly, but by comparison to the MX world, sorry bud, the truth is that still, no one does it bigger or better than they do & considering the tools that BMXers are using, they stomp the shit out of us too & I'm sad to say it. Rampage is not that gnarly. It's an evolutionary process like any other. We're getting there.

The only valuable thing I read here was that Zink & Strait are sponsored by Oakley. Something to think about. Thanks for that.
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  • + 2
 Personally and i hate to admit it it but it does seem like the risks vastly outweigh the rewards in this instance. How ever, i think noone has really touched this yet but the most risky elements of this contest were the wooden features, mainly the oakley icon sender, as i think the canyon gap was way less dangerous then the drop, personally. I thought it looked cool but it also looked sketch as f*ck and you saw evidence of how it was too gnarly because it only got hit 5 times (in its biggest form) during the week. what was created as a visual piece that would aid in getting great video and still footage turned into an obstacle too scary for the baddest guys in the sport to want to hit. This overall seems like a fail for redbull since the feature did not even achieve it's intended goal fully. Sure zink and strait made the most of it and that was awesome but there were 20 some other riders who didnt use it. Personally i think the wood features are a cool addition to the contest and partly for the reason that they do provide an increased visual element but they were overdone and not as well thought out this time. just that skinny landing for the oakley senders biggest drop was terrifying, all cock eyed and about 8 feet wide if that, not to mention the wind factor, etc. it took four years at this location for things to get this out of hand and thats progression but just watch the "where the trail ends" video and you'll see fresh locations and bad ass riding but i think way less risk. A new location and maybe a limit on the wooden structures may help mitigate this risk as well as increase viewership, i dont know.
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  • + 4
 The situation at rampage is worthy of this write-up. However the literary analogy is wrong. There is no catch-22 scenario described anywhere in the article.
  • + 0
 Are we in for lesson English professor? Everybody knows what he's talking about.
  • + 1
 Yeah, we know what he is talking about. But it is despite the analogy not because of it. The article could just as correctly have been titled "Red Bull Rampage: Everything Bagel". We would all still know what he's talking about.
  • + 1
 Have RB Rampage and people will be seriously injured. Don't have the event, big mountain style riding does not progress. With the popular meaning of the phrase, and how it's used today. How is this not a catch 22?
  • + 1
 It simply isn't. You could read the book or trust me that it isn't. Wikipedia is also informative. ;-)

(Hint: Rampage doesn't involve being trapped by paradox within a bureaucracy. Catch-22 doesn't refer to merely not liking a causal relationship.)
  • + 1
 I know what you are talking about. That's why I called you a English professor Smile . Enough people use the phrase catch 22 incorrectly that should give it a new "modern definition". Just like when people use words like ironic. We know what they mean, even though they may be using the word wrong. Some dictionary definitions have already been updated to include the novel meaning and the popular meaning of "catch 22". Point being we know what the author means by saying catch 22 & not "everything bagel".
  • + 1
 So what's the popular meaning? Just a situation that someone doesn't like? No thanks. I like the ability to describe something as a true catch-22. Wink

Oh screw it, I'm gonna start calling everything an everything bagel.

And don't even get me started on how people use the word "ignorant". The author's use of catch-22 is ignorant, the real definition of ignorant, not the ignorant one.
  • + 1
 1. Many words have more than one meaning. www.thefreedictionary.com/Catch-22 is just one of many dictionary's that will give you definitions of catch 22 that match up perfectly with this article and a few that don't.
2. For some definitions that don't. I'd have to go out on a limb & make a opinionated case to say you might not understand the passion involved with this sport. Rampage has to happen for the love and progression. If it doesn't the whole world might as well be over. It is a unavoidable circumstance if you ask me. (die hard comment, I know). So the "powers that are" have to plan the event & the riders have to ride. Everybody's stuck.
3. I think a major reason why so many definitions are being updated is because English is now a global language. It has to be dumbed down so the world can communicate more effectively. The downside of all this is that lots of intrinsic English knowledge & literature is not being used/modified/lost. So I understand your peeve.
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  • + 2
 Great articleSmile In my experience (about 20 years deep in snowboarding and now in my 13th year on a Dh bike) almost every big mtn Event i have ever heard of has always been very low cash purses because organizers know that only the elite of the sport will show to push the progression. Sure there's a ton of stress already trying to rank at an event like this. It weeds out alot of guys that would just show for the money and not really be about the event. Plus building your own lines is not for everyone. Theres a lotta pros that ride amazing but cant build worth a shit. I know that for fact after dealing with pro snowboarders for years. Dangling a huge carrot will just invite athletes to take un natural risk. More money, more problems no joke. Dh racing is insane already if you are in the pro or world cup upper ranking. Tracks are getting faster and jumps getting bigger every year. Sure there's no cliffs and canyons to fall in but plenty of trees and rocks not to mention the speeds nowadays and even 10 years ago are easily enough to kill racers should the crash bad enough. Slopestyle is nuts now as well. One bad landing, bones break and riders careers come to an ubrupt hault. Sure if u hail from a big air back ground on mtns with snow then transferring it to bikes comes mentally a bit eaiser then to others without that experience. Bmx and moto guys also step in and adapt quickly. The risk in my mind are pretty equal in extreme sports but rampage really takes takes the cake! The day will come when some sponsors throws up a huge purse like snowboarding and skiing has in the past but it only happens once in a while. Hate to say it but when Mtn biking burst its bubble and the thrill is gone we will all be lucky if events will be as eventful as they are now. Big ups to all u guys pushing the sport i wish i was 20 years old again cause id be all over this ride! lol. Live fast and die oldSmile
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  • + 2
 These guys are the pioneers of the sport. It is still very young and growing fast. In the beginning football players were paid much less than what they deserved but look at them now, it's at least better than it used to be. The pioneers of any sport were never compensated appropriately, but they could be laying the groundwork for a future where the athletes can make real money.
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  • + 6
 Great article! It was a pleasure to read this. Props to the writer!! tup
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  • + 2
 The writer almost did it, but it's like no one is really saying it: one day or another, someone is going to die riding at Rampage. I have a massive admiration for the riders, but i can't stand the way Red Bull is leading this event. They are always asking for more, Rampage is a moutain bike comp, but they were trying to transorm it into an epic story with climaxs and cliffhangers. The shot with Cam Zink's pregnant Gf watching him flip the oakley drop was terrible.
In my opinion Red bull isn't allowed to use those kind of things to make money. All the people watching MacGarrys run on youtube don't give a shit about him or his skills, they just want action and will forget about what they saw just after clicking on another video.

Red bull is turning passionated and talented guys into flesh. Shame on them Frown
(sorry for my bad english)
  • + 1
 Your english isn't bad, but you are being overly sensitive about Red Bull exploiting the athletes. They are simply trying to make an entertaining show, and showing the emotions of fear and anxiety is a regular part of just many successful entertainment productions. Why would you be offended by them showing his wife when she wanted to be there?

As for your last ridiculous assertion, the reason these guys are doing these stunts is because it is their passion.
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  • + 5
 No, I do not think it's worth it. That is why I am here and they are there.
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  • + 2
 Look at the end of the day no sport need to have a death to acheive anything, Its a simple answer..............A chance worth taking is an acheivement made, We as rider do stuff that challenges the aspect of what is possible but the rampage guys and girls make it clear that the seriously extreme is possible with dedication, Also oneof the best reads ive got ma teeth into for a looooooooong time on pinkbike Smile well done. Smile
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  • + 4
 Great read man! This article reflects a lot of thoughts that went through my head when I was there for the first time this year.
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  • + 1
 Its upsetting for me to see athletes that play basketball, baseball, football etc. get payed the money they do just to run catch, hit and so on. I mean, is millions upon millions of dollars really nessecary or justifiable to play a sport like that. Plus the fact that half of these sports players are self indulgent conceded people. I have been in the Military for 8 years and done numerous tours in Afghanistan and around the world and I personally dont think I get paid that well. But dont get me wrong...... my medical, dental and schooling is all paid for, for which I am very grateful. I am an avid freerider/downhill rider and when I see the money that these guys get paid to risk their lives in the name of progression it blows my mind. I have much respect for these guys and always look forward to seeing what it takes to progress a sport that I absolutley love. Keep at it guys!!! I commend you for every risk you take and every time you hop on that bike in the name of progression and love of the sport.
  • + 3
 What's less justifiable is models get paid millions for been born beautiful. Work that out lol
  • + 1
 @slidways I hear you there!!! And half of the models these days need to eat a burger or three. Getting paid to walk a walkway and stare into a camera...........ridiculous!!
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  • + 1
 As far as prize money and stuff, i feel action sports athletes are not as sophisticated about these things as other sports have been. while motor racing has also always been a realm of great risk and financial expenditure with a fairly low payout, they have innovated in how drivers get paid. Just at local stock car races, drivers get an appearance fee just for showing up, in addition to prize money for finishing in the top ten. In the old days of drag racing they would have match races and track owners would pay drivers to come compete against other popular drivers for an "appearance fee" and a lot of guys made good money off of this for a number of years. I think action sports athletes may need to start treating themselves more as commodities and they might be able to push for more lucrative prize money by making their appearance more valuable.
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  • + 1
 Lastly, i would hate to see "rampage" turned into a series because i feel that it really hurts the event when it's not exclusive, like with the x games, making it a 4 stop series really hurt it in my opinion, it was so much less exciting knowing that if you missed it you could just tune in again in another month. I do feel like a series of these freeride rampage style contests with this same idea would really be a cool idea. i just dont think it should be called "rampage", or maybe it could be the Rampage world series or something but it should still have one, huge premier contest where the points and money is way bigger then the others. I guess kind of like now how it's a diamond event on the fmb tour which i personally think is really cool throwing it in there with all the slopestyle and dirt jumping contests.....just stuff to think on.
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  • + 3
 I love how the riders compete for the chance to be respected as rampage winner instead of for the,money, really brings out the passion in this amazing sport!
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  • + 1
 Change #4: Find a new venue. One of the main reasons that Red Bull cited for stopping using the original venue that I had found for them, after using it 4 years in a row, from 2001 to 2004, was that most of the available options for lines had been used, and that the entire mountain was covered with trails, and therefore there was less of a "freeride" feel to the whole event, and more of a "developed trails" feel. The current venue has likewise been used four times now, (2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013) and I would venture to say that it now has a far more "developed" feel to it than the original venue ever had. There are tons more ridges, with similar terrain throughout that area, including other options on State School Trust Land, such as the current venue, BLM land, such as the venue that I found for them, or private land, owned by Allen Lee. Rather than trying to breathe fresh life into the current venue, by building bigger and bigger (and therefore more and more dangerous) stunts, it is time to find a third site in the Zion area, to give the riders some fresh lines, and bring back a more natural feel.
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  • + 1
 I would venture to guess that Todd Barber alone, and perhaps a few of the other key members of the event production crew, make more money individually from their parts in putting the Rampage together, than what the winner takes home after laying it all on the line! And while the notoriety of winning, of placing well, or even competing in the Rampage may perhaps contribute to them being able to negotiate a slightly higher salary or bonus from their sponsors at some point in the future, I do not believe the current situation is even close to fair!!! In fact, I think it is just another shitty example of the World-wide fiasco of corporate greed and corruption that has resulted in CEOs receiving record salaries and bonuses, while the workers of the World get an ever decreasing share, even though they do the vast majority of the work. Which means that it is time for a CHANGE! Or more likely, a few changes.
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  • + 1
 While I love seeing the riders do amazing, death defying tricks, and while the addition of the ramps since moving the event from the venue that I had discovered to the current location has certainly added to the amplitude of the jumps and contributed to an increase in both the number and intricacy of the tricks that we have witnessed over the years, I believe that they have also moved the event a significant distance from it's roots as the World's first and foremost true big mountain freeride contest, to something that is only one third "freeride" is now one third "slopestyle" and one third "circus sideshow". In morphing from the Rampage to the Ramp Age, the event has gained a humongous pair of balls, and quite a bit of spectacle, but lost an equal amount of its soul. And as Mitchell Scott and many of the previous commenters have lamented, perhaps the saddest part of this transition has been the fact that as the popularity, publicity, audience and corporate profits have grown in direct proportion to the size of the additional stunts, the prize money for winning the event has probably not even kept up with inflation, and yet the risk to riders of life, limb and health have perhaps increased faster than anything else associated with the event.
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  • + 1
 Change #2: Better prize money. Since this is the World's premier freeride event and the most coveted single event to win in the entire sport of mountain biking, it should pay accordingly. I'm not sure if the $55,000 in total prize money mentioned in the article includes the $5000 supplied by the Utah Sports Commission as the prize for "Best Trick" or not, but if Cam Zink got only $4500 from Red Bull for third, after backflipping off of a 40 foot high tower, that is just not enough. I'm thinking at a MINIMUM, $20,000 for 1st, $17,500 for 2nd, $15,000 for 3rd, $12,500 for 4th, $10,000 for 5th, $7500 for 6th, $5000 for 7th, $4000 for 8th, $3000 for 9th, $2000 for 10th, and an extra $1000 for any rider that completes at least one run in the finals. If there were 24 riders in the finals,, and all of them completed one run, that would be another $14,000 in prize money, for a total of $110,500 paid out in prize money by Red Bull plus the $30,000 in appearance money, would be a grand total of $140,500 paid to the riders by Red Bull, not including the $5000 Best Trick Prize money paid out by the Utah Sports Commission.
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  • + 1
 Change #3: Charge spectators more. I'm not sure how much Red Bull charged for spectators to attend, as my ticket was comped by Todd Barber, as a "thank you" for all of the work I did in the beginning to help get this thing up and running, but I think I heard it was $20 per head; and that all of the available tickets (wristbands) were sold out quickly. The economic laws of supply and demand say that if something sells out quickly, year after year, that the price could be raised. I think that the tickets should cost at least $50 apiece, maybe even $100 per head, which in the grand scheme of things, for someone travelling here and getting a $150 dollar per night hotel and spending $20 to $30 per night for dinner at the local tourist priced restaurants is really not that much. Just look at what people spend to go watch a relatively boring baseball or football game, and you will see that 3 or 4 days of Rampage for only $100 is a ridiculously underpriced bargain. The difference between what they charged this and previous years, and the new, higher price of admission, could easily make up the difference in prize money if Red Bull couldn't find the extra $60,000 to fund the increased prize payout themselves.
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  • + 1
 OR, if Red Bull could cover the additional prize money from other resources; as people left, they could be asked how they wanted the $80 dollar "award" portion of their ticket distributed to the riders. (In addition to the prize money). While many of the spectators might just ask that their discretionary award money be split between the top 3 or top 5 riders or equally between all of the riders; some would surely ask that their share go to the rider with the most spectacular crash, or the rider with the worst injury, or a rider who broke his bike, or a rider who they thought got robbed by the judges, or a rider who is a privateer, competing on a 13 year old bike, (Wil White), or whatever other criteria they felt deserved to be recognized. This could give spectators more "skin in the game" and more of a say in the way they believe things should turn out, as well as give the riders a bit more of a reward for all of their hard work and the risks they take.
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  • + 2
 I LOVE Rampage but I don't want people to do it just for the sake of entertaining me (I'll watch movies for your Monday for that). I don't like to see anyone crash and would be far happier to watch everyone stick everything.
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  • + 1
 i do agree that the prize $ for the athletes is piss poor, but i find the reasoning behind it is that the sport has very little income, if you look at any other sport outside of action sports you'll notice the insane amounts of $ they make off of ticket sales for every event. so the only real solution to the prize money is to start charging all the spectators to go to the events, but then you'll see less people showing up at the events to watch which again i think is why they haven't done it yet, they want the large fan base before they start charging the spectators to see it live
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  • + 1
 Real change will happen when the riders get organized with their own 'union' and make demands on event organizers regarding issues like lifetime medical compensation, appearance fees, better prize money, etc...the fact that Red Bull makes gazillions of dollars off the backs of these young men for very little investment in their lives and safety is disturbing.
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  • + 1
 This part of the sport is for the young and the young always have passion. If we are lucky enough to find it for ourselves may we all have the balls to pursue it. I Imagine it is what allows and brings riders like an established star like Semenuk and a privateer like Will White to the event. I hope the sport is able to take care of these riders as it continues to progress and evolve. I've never seen a price on passion.
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  • + 1
 It is important for consumers and participants to question the allocation of resources and the compensation package in these events. Going forward the boards of these organizations need to establish a new level of corporate social responsibility and directors should start balancing stakeholder demands with shareholder interests. In 2011 the UFC established a health plan for its fighters, and in surfing ZoSea the parent company that acquired the ASP they will be offering a pension plan to its athletes going forward. However, there has been little change in most postmodern sports (mountain biking, skateboarding, snowboarding, etc.) and there will be minimal change unless more athletes obtain executive and director level positions or the consumers create some financial pressures through their consumption patterns.

A great doc on the NFL
www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/league-of-denial
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  • + 1
 I see a few comments of people having a go at RedBull. Can I ask why? If it wasnt for them we wouldnt have events like this and we wouldnt have coverage of the world cups. They give riders so many opportunities which no one else could. I just took part in the RedBull foxhunt which was outstanding and again wouldnt have happened without RedBull. Ok the prize money is not great but these guys arent doing it for the money. They can get that through other events. It is an invite only event. Plus half of them are Red Bull athletes anyway so there getting paid for being there.

I respect companies like Red Bull who help to bring sports like ours to the eyes of everyone and without them mountain biking would be much duller. They help push the limits of whats possible and give the riders the events they want.
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  • + 1
 If I win the lottery I'm going to offer a $1m win, one rider takes all with some even like a mash-up between Rampage and Bearclaw Invitational. Chances of winning the lottery are about 56 million to one or something crazy, but if it happens, watch this space!!! Smile
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  • + 1
 www.bikeforums.net/archive/index.php/t-27456.html

A link to a death during a DH practice back in 2003.... Just to say that it is a very dangerous sport and that deaths have occurred. It's not something to be taken lightly whatsoever. Shit happens, especially around crazy cliffs like the Rampage has. People should feel like its worth it.
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  • + 1
 If it was really that much of a "catch 22", Cam Zink would have won. He took the biggest risk and had the most drama in his run. It should be a clear "catch 22" so every rider will have a fair chance at understanding what it will take to win. We got the wrong type of judging criteria pretending the event is something it's not. It causes to many "robbed" comments for the rest of the year. Rampage should just be about the "WOW factor" = progression.
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  • + 1
 I think action sports should take a cue from Monster Jam. Competitors get an appearance fee, that fee is based on their popularity, and how good a show they put on. The winner gets a rad trophy, and their "stock rises" so to speak, they can now get a larger appearance fee. Same goes for riders who don't win, but always put on a good show, they attract an audience, so they get a little more cash to show up and put on a show. If you pocket the money and put on a lackluster performance, you don't get invited back. Unlike racing where you have a clock that tells you who's the best, freeride is completely subjective. Who cares if the judges didn't like a guy's run, if fans did, then that run is worth just as much to a sponsor as a winning run. Then all they have to do is figure out how to make MTB commercially viable so they can afford to start paying riders like NBA players.
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  • + 4
 Dude, Mitch you didn't include the word YOLO once. This makes the article IRRELEVANT. I thought you were a writer....
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  • + 1
 Good read but to me a little too much. Redbull is putting on an awesome event for amazing talented riders who want to push to the boundaries of their ability. Of Course they're Scared they are doing insane things and would be stupid not to, but When the dust has settled, I bet they feel stoked about what they did or tried to do. And sure Sponsors push riders, but not to do backflips of huge senders or Canyons that's the riders quieting their inner demons. sure someone could die and I would feel devastated but you can die Crossing a road. This is not XC riding this is the extreme end of cycling. If yon don't like it there are plenty of tamer events to suit your needs. I hope they keep sending it. Most people don't know what's possible till someone shows them. Rampage riders are here to show us.
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  • + 1
 After reading all comments still amazed of how people feel their are civilized and NOT calling this "Gladiatorism". Those days not all the gladiators would die the way history tellers told us, it was the same concept and still is but people same as those before us think we are more human and civilized.
It's all gibberish and "RedBull Shit". But hey that is capitalism, they do anything to get more money. People die in mines or unfair working places for a peny not even for 1500$ dollars and don't get as famous.
Anyways Thanks to all the riders who do it for its love, progress, the money and the fun of it. It's Gladiatorism wether you like it or not hence the name :"Rampage".
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  • + 0
 Welcome to the RAMP Age; the Age of Ramps!

Having been the person who discovered the original Rampage site in 1998, while doing location scouting for Thor Wixom's extreme mountain bike video, "Down", and having been intimately involved with the set-up, planning, permitting and rider selection of the first year's Rampage in 2001, having attended every Rampage, and having known many of the riders, even prior to their involvement in the Rampage; I feel uniquely qualified to comment on this thread.

First off, a HUGE "THANK YOU!!!" to Redbull USA, Todd Barber (Formerly of Global Event Management, and currently the Grand Poobah of H5 Productions), the staff at the Bureau of Land Management's Dixie Resource Management Area, the land managers from the State of Utah, all of the staff and volunteers who have helped to make this event a huge success, and most of all, to ALL OF THE RIDERS, who are the main reason to even have the event, and who risk it all, in the name of "progression" "evolution" "entertainment" and "glory"!!!
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  • + 1
 Well said Mitch - is it worth it?? These athletes may really ask themselves when they are 40 with body issues and no more sponsorship. Back to the days of the coliseum - "blood leads"!
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  • + 1
 Ryan Leech has written about this previously on this site. Search it out. The good thing is MTB can be what you want it to be(provided you have enough of a will). To quote a flick... "Are you not amused?"
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  • + 0
 I was out riding motocross the morning of this event and was having a real hard time focusing, just kept having this feeling that zink was going to die flipping the sender, to be honest iam glad that he never got a chance to do his second run. Rampage is sick but I think its time to move it to a new spot and kinda start it all over again
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  • + 0
 Red Bull is doing risk assessment. Somebody dies, they will pull the plug. Rampage is just waiting for it to happen. This is an gentlemens/womens-sport. Pricemoney is right. They could go higher, faster and further if they do it off a cliff over water.
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  • + 1
 Great write up Mitchell!

Did you mean to write parody twice instead of paradox?

I'm content with what the riders are doing now... No need to die for it otherwise might as well call it Gladiator....
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  • + 3
 At the IOM TT death is accepted evry year. Still riders come back and compete.
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 if someone asked me to flip that for 10 grand id be laughing!! would i hell!
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  • + 0
 Okay, so the prize money isn't huge at the event, but realistically - I'm pretty sure it's not the purse that is the main source of the rider's income. If you consider what Semenuk makes in a year - you'll realize what a small proportion the prize money is. The real money comes from their other sponsors - which is often driven by event results - ie. get a first at Rampage - Red Bull/Kona/Troy Lee gives you a bonus - or a better contract next year; which in turn drives up the price of our products... so careful what you wish for.
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  • + 1
 Fact correction- Death in Mountain Biking competition happened at Big Bear/Snow Summit Norba National in 2002. It was a Japanese Pro DH woman who broke her neck on one of the finish line jumps.
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 Agree, the money is pathetic for the riders - they provide the line choice and are the stars. Its scary how much they are not getting for the risk they are taking...
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  • + 2
 The rewards of Rampage is the self satisfaction that a pinned run provides rather than the money.....but the money helps
  • + 0
 Oh really? thanks man, I had no idea you have ridden and experienced rampage. Makes such a difference to hear the opinion of a pro who has done this stuff first hand!
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  • + 1
 Redbull and the bike manufacturers makes a ton of money from these athletes. We need agents in our sport to represent these atheletes and get the dues they rightly deserve.
  • + 1
 I totally agree with your comment. They need more exposure. Commercials, tv shows and so on. A guy like Steve Smith should be a household name in Canada. WC champ and 1 story on the 6 o clock news.Gully should have his own sit com. Cam McCaul reality show. McGarry, hair products.
  • + 1
 agreed...RB makes an absolute killing off this stuff. I hope they do right by the riders. and the hair comment haaaah...youve been listening to hairband music ever since this event, now put some bass back in your voice!
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  • + 1
 Such a shame so many riders crashed and the wind took most of the second runs away. What we saw was only the tip of the iceberg!
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  • + 2
 Perhaps this debate could be somewhat blunted if the trend of not wearing protective gear would wear off.
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 Lacondeguy's quote is spot on. I can't imagine riding his line, which was one of my favorites of the day, and walking away with almost nothing. Kinda mind blowing.
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 If there is a Rampage, there will be riders.
  • + 2
 Yeah, all these over-sensitive guys have got emotionally worked up over this article and feel like the riders need to be protected from this big evil energy drink company that is exploiting them and forcing them to try to kill themselves to try to win when the reality is that the riders for the most part love Rampage and without it there would be a void in the sport.
  • + 1
 I miss "Tech Tuesdays"
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  • + 2
 Kelly Mc the sickest run ever !
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  • + 1
 Why do we ride mountain bike?Cause it's Rampage or something else.No,it's mountain biking itself.
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 I just want to add that this is one of the better pieces of writing that I have seen on this site, actual ideas are good.
  • + 1
 The author provides no ideas to make the it safer, just paranoia and fear-mongering.
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  • + 1
 ...and to think pro skateboarders get paid about ten times as much as these guys.
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 In the immortal words of Bartleby, the Scrivener, I would prefer not to.
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 Comment V.S. Comment!
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 So much respect for all those riders
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 A really good article. More of those.
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 This article addressed some impotrant issues
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  • + 0
 GO Big or GO Home! we all say it, they just live it!
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 Wreckers or Checkers.
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  • + 1
 I love seeing pre-PODs
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  • + 0
 As they say....Yolo!
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