"The new site is sick," said Andreu Lacondeguy as he dug on his lower section, "it's less exposed. We can actually ride our bikes without fearing for our lives. We can build gnarlier stuff and go faster and bigger because we don't have those deadly cliffs on our sides. And there's a lot more room for everybody, I like a new venue for sure." The venue this year has more ridges and ledges than in past years, creating more dynamic options for the athletes. "I wanted to have a line that was actually a line [this year] instead of a few features that I link together. I was looking more to just build a full flow line with some gnarly stuff at the top and jumps at the bottom and I think we are close to finishing."
Jordie Lunn's approach to designing his line was to look for features that best related to his style of riding. "The new site is big and steep," said Jordie as he hiked back up to the top of his line. "We tried to find things that appealed to me and we went from there. We are off on our own more or less for most of the line, who knows if that will be a good thing when it comes down to score but you've kind of got to look at it and see what's good for you and go with it. We saw a couple good drops and step-downs out the top and then right out of the gate we kind of took a tricky route through the rock and bushes and kind of built more of a flow trail through that. We got a good jump in there as well, right up top, we wanted to have some sort of jump near the top and we were able to find it, so we went with it."
The rain over the previous two days seems to have helped the dirt overall but the loss of time to build and ride was felt by all the athletes. "Yesterday was tough, some heavy storms made the site inaccessible for most of the day. Eventually, we got out there, and the dirt was great, but we lost a day of practice and most of a dig day," explained Jordie.
Near the bottom of his line, Jordie is teaming up with Bas van Steenbergen for a couple of features. Casey Brown is on Bas' build team. "There are a lot of people teaming up this year just because it's the first year and everyone has to build an entire top to bottom line and we want to make it as safe as possible." For the first time this year, the riders and build teams had a day to walk the site without beginning to dig. This has been a really popular change. "We've been scoping lines and it's all coming together, we've only got one more landing to build and a bit of a ledge but we should be on time in getting it done. It's a new site so we did a lot of scoping, there as a full scope day, which was awesome, they've never really done that before, it was usually just everyone rush up and claim whatever they can and fight over whatever they want to hit. This time It was really nice, we had a whole day to hike around."
Due to it being a new location, there is plenty of trial and error to be had. "We looked at one thing we wanted to build, it was a big canyon gap and the landing ended up being way to involved to build. We would have had to remove way too much rock and there's just not enough time on a first-year build, so we scrapped that. We spent almost a whole day on the landing but found out it was going to take way too long so we quit doing it."
This is Casey's first year building at Rampage but her first time attending was ten years ago. "I was seventeen and it totally inspired me and changed the way I think about mountain biking, so it's always been a huge inspiration to me," Casey announced earlier this month that she's retiring from racing the Enduro World Series to focus on freeriding. "I've looked at downhill and EWS as stepping stones towards being able to ride what I want to ride and be a bit more creative on my bike because sometimes you have to make a name for yourself in the industry before you can do what you really want to do." As for competing at Rampage one day, Casey said that she doesn't know if it will ever happen but "it's definitely cool to have a goal in life. If I never get into Rampage it's fine, all I really want to do is be good enough to ride top to bottom on one of these sites and send it as hard as the guys do. It could be a pipe dream, I don't know." For next year, Casey plans to focus on Crankworx, content creation, and "adventures like this."
Casey isn't the only one with a new mindset. Graham Agassiz is back after taking a hiatus from Rampage last year. "For me, Rampage has been a big part of my season every year, and you get burned out. It's a mental game, it's gnarly. You look around and you're scared for your buddies and you end up scaring yourself quite a bit too, so I needed the break. It was a really big decision for me to even come down this year but it kind of felt weird not being here so it's good to be back."
Aggy only recently got the go-ahead to start riding again after breaking his scapula during the Whip-Off at Crankworx and that has had an impact on his line choice here. "There's a couple of things that just stood out right away, a couple of really big senders and just kind of classic as-gnarly-as-we-can-find kind of style. But I had to reel myself back, I only got the green light a week before coming here to do push-ups and ride my bike again. I'm trying to be smart, it's hard, I want to be riding the big line, but I found a couple options that are super fun. That's the main goal for me this year, to find something that's fun. And just have a different mindset going into it. So far, it's been good. Everyone is teaming up and it's all coming together."
As the sun started to go down last night, a few riders began to session sections of their lines allowing those watching to start to understand the complexity of this canyon. "You can go through canyons and up and over ridges, you couldn't do that before," Adam Billinghurst pointed out, he's here building for Kyle Strait this year. As we watched builders roped in, dangling from the cliff bands to dislodge stubborn rocks, he said "it's steep the whole way down. In the past, it kind of fanned out at the bottom but [this year] it's steep the whole way."