Three days ago we arrived on site immediately following a rainstorm. The infrastructure team was still building most of what would become the Red Bull Rampage existence and the only people there aside from the athletes and builders were crew, a handful of sponsors setting up, and even fewer media. The canyon was so quiet that the only consistent sound was the tapping of shovels. There would be an occasional cheer or yell when a large rock was dislodged, and you could hear Andreu's distinct voice hollering to his builders punctuating the quiet. For the riders, this was the busiest the site had been since they arrived to build nearly two weeks ago. Each day since has brought another layer of people, sounds, vehicles, and chaos. After ten days of digging and shaping from sun-up to sundown alongside their build teams, when the riders are finally ready to start testing their lines and putting wheels in the dirt, there is constant music being blasted over speakers, bodies walking across their lines, helicopters hovering overhead, and a million requests for their time. Last week it was just them against the desert. Today, it was them against everything. This is simply the nature of the event.
Adding to the anxiety that comes with exhaustion, deadlines, and pressure today, was wind. With only a few sections practiced for most riders late into the evening last night, they were all clearly impatient to get up in the canyon early this morning. Unfortunately, by 2 pm the wind had come up and it didn't subside before the site closed for the night. Riders with sections that were a little more sheltered were able to test out speeds, but there weren't many bigger tricks being tested.
Darren Berrecloth is attending the event for the first time without competing (or attending but being out of the event due to injury). "It's super weird," he says. "I've been out on the sidelines, but always with the impression that I'm going to be back next year and I'm super hungry to get after it but to be here and not riding, I definitely have a ton of FOMO out there. It's definitely a lot less stressful obviously, and a lot less work but at the end of the day, this is my favorite type of riding and I love it. It's definitely hard to sit on the sidelines, but I'm stoked to be here and root my boys on."
While he notes that this course is a little smaller than past canyons, he still really likes it. "It's forced a lot of the athletes to team up but at the same time, it's also got a lot of different options for riders to come up with a really sick line. Previous courses you would have one evident winning line, and you'd have dudes with a bit of a dick-swinging contest - 'get off my line' - because in all essence, it was the winning line. But here, there are multiple winning lines. It's very evenly played throughout the field, so they are able to source out the winning things and also share some of the things in between." The stress of the day among the riders was evident for Darren as well; "Some guys have had a lighter workload and some guys like Jordie and Semenuk, they're still chomping at the bit, they're not finished. It's Thursday, and the contest is tomorrow. It's pretty heavy."
"It's pretty crazy compared to previous years," said shredder and Red Bull Rampage hopeful, Reece Wallace. "Just looking at it, there's a lot less obvious exposure, but this venue is a lot steeper and just more straight down than any of the other ones I've seen. There are a lot more lines because not everything funnels together on a ridge, but it's also kind of hard to see everything because it's such a big venue." Reece arrived here on Tuesday and has taken note of the amount of labor it has taken to turn this canyon into a rideable venue. "I can't believe how much work these guys have done. These landings are like building houses, there are like a thousand sandbags - well that's a bit much - but the landings are all 70 - 80 feet tall and it's just incredible what these guys have been able to do in just seven or eight days." He had a hard time picking out just one of the features to be most excited to see tomorrow, but "if I had to pick out one thing," he says, "there's a really big step-down up top. They were taking run-ins to it yesterday and I still don't think anyone has hit it. Whether or not anyone hits it, we will see tomorrow, but it's really gnarly."
"It's definitely a lot different, way gnarlier, and more exposed than last year. There's not really any rest spots, you just got straight down the whole way," says Jackson Goldstone who was up at the start gate getting some perspective on the course. "I'm stoked for finals." Practice was cut off at 7 pm tonight and digging at 7:30. Riders will be out practicing at sunrise tomorrow, just hours before they begin finals - and the culmination of all their hard work and skill is put on display.