One Piece at a Time - Red Bull Rampage 2017

Oct 30, 2017
by Danielle Baker  
Tom Van Steenbergen spent the entire day shovel in hand alongside builder Fest s Damon Iwanaga to complete his already feature-heavy creative line.

Red Bull Rampage has changed over the years, sometimes as a result of the evolution of freeride and sometimes as a correction to a failure of the previous year. They no longer have commentators who call people 'Norby,' nor excessive riders and builders fighting over lines, nor - whether you agree with them or not - judges who have never participated in the sport, let alone Rampage itself. The event continues to morph, and along with it the building does too - it has come full circle through years of the Oakley Sender and other prebuilt wooden features, and back to riders and their crews creating their own top to bottom lines.

Kurt Sorge surveys the kingdom that would be his by sundown.

Kurt s winning run was fast powerful and included technical moves like this flipped tuck no-hander.

Remy Metailler s unfortunate trouble at the US border crossing left digger Eduardo Arruda a man without a country. Not dissuaded Eduardo pitched in and threw dirt with as many crews as he could help.
Red Bull Rampage 2017

Bas Van Steenbergen s dig crew was out in full effect today building a perfectly scultped brand new jump in just a couple hours.

“We used to build features and [the riders] would link it up in between the features, but now they want to build the whole thing," says experienced Rampage builder, Mike Fucci. The pre-build crew in recent years has adjusted their role to accommodate these changes and now, rather than spending the month previous readying the site with prefab features, they focus on what Mike refers to as "plumbing the desert." With nearly 600 feet of hose - "and smart riders bring their own so they can tee it off and bring it places," tanks, giant water buffalos, and water jugs spread strategically across the massive mountainside, there is almost nowhere in the entire venue can't be reached with water. In previous years it's been necessary to carry the water up the mountain and this newfound access has been groundbreaking for the build teams.

Red Bull Rampage 2017

Red Bull Rampage 2017
2017 Red Bull Rampage

Red Bull Rampage 2017

Follow these stones to freedom.
Tom Van Steenbergen getting ahead practicing for alotment ownership in old age.

The sculpture garden from above.

The amount of work that is put into these build efforts by the riders and - this year - their two-person build teams, is staggering. Most riders expressed that with this being the second year in the same canyon, they were finally able to put the finishing touches on lines they'd started to build in 2016. "We pretty much stuck with a very similar line to last year, stuff we didn’t get to have time to finish off or make as good or as big as we wanted last year, we got to do this year," said winner, Kurt Sorge. This sentiment is a clear indication of the sheer volume of physical labor that is needed to transform a site like this into the end product that you see on TV.

Cam Zink greasing his gargantuan step down to the road.

Sorge s victory kicker... precision with a good helping of inversion required.
Waterboy Matt McDuff.

R-Dog taking a tinkle to mark his territory on a line he has largely borrowed from PEF last year.

2017 Red Bull Rampage
2017 Red Bull Rampage

Massive fresh-built features to ride the night before finals... no pressure.

Sunset before finals the perfect time to build a special lip for a certain arial manoeuvre....

While the work that takes place here may seem like a basic means to an end, there is something beautiful and artistic about how the landscape is transformed. The craftsmanship, design, and scale of what is created is a feat in and of itself. But it isn't permanent. After Finals, Mike and the rest of his team began to naturalize the canyon. They will tear out all the lips and hack up the landings. Sandbags will be removed (once the event moves on) and a combination of wind, rain, and vegetation will begin to obliterate the weeks of labor that has gone into making Red Bull Rampage possible. Just one canyon over you can already see that the desert is quickly reclaiming the venue from two years ago – and if they don’t return to this canyon next year, the same will happen here. And at that point, the lines – that have carefully crafted and agonized over – will disappear.

Sandbags and sunsets.


  • 93 0
 Impressed to read they are taking out the sandbags and other non-natural materials. Good stewardship of the environment. Thanks!
  • 15 0
 Besides the environmental aspect of the issue, I think that there are also some legal issues involved in the process of tearing down the lines... Liability on injury that might take place by using the lines after the event is finished...
  • 4 4
 @hellequine: I'm interested in hearing more about this. The lines have always been left up after the event (aside from the wooden features), and I haven't heard of any legal/liability issues from any of these sites from randos exploring out there.... maybe the owner of the land is making them do it as a precautionary move and to discourage trespassing? Either way, good move
  • 21 6
 "Sandbags will be removed and a combination of wind, rain, and vegetation will begin to obliterate the weeks of labor that has gone into making Red Bull Rampage possible. Just one canyon over you can already see that the desert is quickly reclaiming the venue from two years ago – and if they don’t return to this canyon next year, the same will happen here. And at that point, the lines – that have carefully crafted and agonized over – will disappear."

The lines may become unrideable because of their work, but in the desert it takes decades for trails to be reclaimed by nature. It's not like the PNW when things are constantly changed by water and vegetation. I'm not saying it's wrong to have rampage on these mountains, but saying that they'll quickly return back to a natural state is disingenuous. Those mountains will never be the same again. I love Rampage, in part for how it uses this unique terrain, but at the same time I've always been a bit torn by the permenant alternation of such rare landscape. I guess as long as most of Southern Utah is protected by National Parks, it's all good. I never thought I'd say this either, but I'd like to see them shift back towards more natural lines. This was an amazing Rampage and all the lines are so big, burly, exposed, and fast. Not taking away from their riding at all. But most of it was so well groomed and smooth.
  • 4 1
 @BiNARYBiKE: I was kind of wondering about this. When you go to Moab, you get all kinds of lectures about staying on the trail, not venturing off, and staying out of the cryptobiotic soil, because you will do irrevocable harm to the land/ecosystem/whatever. And then here you have these guys digging all kinds of lines and adding to the trail -- is it not bad to do that here? Or is much of the talk around Moab overly hyped?

I'm not saying they shouldn't do it, either. I don't know enough about the geology/ecology place to pass judgment.
  • 4 0
 @scott-townes: In Colorado, in both skiing and biking, there is legal precedent (I'd have to dig deep to find the actual court cases) about leaving features. It has happened on Loveland Pass when a professional ski shoot left a large booter that gapped the road. Some teenagers found it, hit it, someone was injured, someone was sued, the main sponsor was deemed negligent, etc. I used to work for Copper Mountain and anytime a feature was built for closed to the public events, or even something with their name on it on private property where the public never had access, the hits were torn down afterwards for the same reason. All resorts do this to my knowledge. I'm sure there's anecdotal exceptions out there, but regardless of whether or not they've left lines in previous years, it is a huge liability and risk financially for Redbull and the other sponsors to leave landings/lips up after the event, even if the people that get injured are trespassing. That's just the America we live in today, a man who was injured while burgling a home, sued the homeowner for negligence and won. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • 4 8
flag WAKIdesigns (Oct 30, 2017 at 10:56) (Below Threshold)
 @zeerob: about burglars, same happened in Poland. and I bet happens all over the world. A dude was breaking into the house and the owner woke up, as he was running he pierced his belly on on one of the he spikes placed along the top of the fence. Since the incident it is very hard to get permission for any sort of sharp objects to be placed on any form of fencing. It's insane. However in Poland the juridical system is not a sport and law firms do not hold their clients responsible to sue others. I bet Italy and Spain are not far off though

About environmental impact, that's just pure bollocks. Wooden features made of ply wood is one thing, sand bags is another. Removing those bags costed more energy and emitted more crap into the atmosphere than what would happen if they left it there. Also, it's a fricking desert...
  • 2 1

I think it is BLM land (owned by the US government), therefore It belongs to every american citizen
  • 1 0
 @telemarc67: My first comment, should have clarified, is National Forest... Doesn't change the liability or knowingly leaving a purposed feature unsupervised. It doesn't matter if it's public or private property.
  • 2 1
 @BiNARYBiKE: I feel the same way. Don't get me wrong, I love rampage, but there's always a part of my that doesn't like how much they're changing the mountains. Especially when you see the clips of massive lily pads and boulders being chipped away from the unique cliffsides and falling into the canyons below. If this were just random people going up there and teraforming everything, they would be seen as disgusting people who are destroying nature, but when it's in the name of competition, nobody blinks an eye. I don't want rampage to go away, but seeing the building be done in a less destructive way would be great to see.
  • 1 1
 @TheR: Preface: I Love Rampage. That being said, the venues will never truly be the same. It takes centuries, if not millennia, for the cryptobiotic soil to grow in the first place. The spectator traffic alone is enough to desecrate that area for multiple life-times. Once the crypto is dead, there is nothing to keep the desert together, and the dirt ends up in the atmosphere (sometimes noticeable at my house in Northern Utah) At the same time, however, the people of Grand and San Juan Counties have never been known for taking care of their own desert, so maybe it's better to cut crazy trails than dig for oil...

Let's just say this: I will never stop going to rampage, but I would never treat my home-state desert like that at any other event. Selfishness? probably, but I'm ok with that.
  • 4 9
flag WAKIdesigns (Oct 30, 2017 at 14:13) (Below Threshold)
 @labiker9: destroying nature by building Rampage site? With all due respect, don't be smallest. And why would you care about random people? Those who call Polar Bears majestic creatures, hate on hunters, or tell you to watch Cowspiracy? Or this sort of hikers who think that the fact they go to the mountains to leave a turd, eat a sandwich and take few photos make them environmentalists and better sort of humans? Bunch of entitled, judgmental a*sholes who know everything about "how to behave in nature", I don't care what they think, I hope they fall down a ravine or get eaten by a majestic creature, preferably a pack of wolves, they say that they tear you apart alive, starting from an a*shole.

Now, for a bit of perspective:
  • 4 6
 @Krawlinz: this sort of talking is exactly what makes ecology less and less popular. Digging of Rampage site worsened your air in Utah? Really? Where is that compared to what leaves exhaust pipes of cars wherever it is that you live. Microparticles from diesel motors, tyres, brake pads. Don't you drive a car burning stuff that was in the ground for millions of years?
  • 2 6
flag otto99 (Oct 30, 2017 at 15:34) (Below Threshold)
 @labiker9: just STFU
  • 1 0
 @telemarc67: Nah, that's all private land out there. Either way, zeerob's explanation makes complete sense. It simply opens up everyone involved to lawsuits which is unnecessary.
  • 3 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Read his comment again, and take it all in...he's talking about the unique cryptobiotic soil which defines the area, once broken down, quickly erodes in the wind. Nothing more nothing less, at leas that what I deduce from it. But whatever
  • 1 0
 @scott-townes: Unfortunately I do not have anything concrete to present...Just talks here and there but to my understanding, it could be a reasonable cause as well...
  • 2 3
 @ukr77: I am waiting for a group of people who will demand US government to apologize for leaving stuff on the surface of the moon. How about leave the unique landscape of Mars alone?!

“Treat desert with respect” my God... people are getting tired of this leftie/greenie bullcrap, that’s why they vote for a*sholes and support idiots. So sensitive...
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: And desert topsoil is thinner and rarer? Wildlife has a hard enough time surviving and is extra sensitive to stress compared to non desert areas? Desert ecosystems are less understood and their genetic knowledge is invaluable in a warming climate?
Is that what you meant or are you still searching for knowledge in the sky you ride under and not the earth you ride on?
  • 2 3
 @choppertank3e: "invaluable for warming climate": big word, no trousers. I could not give much value to an area that does not produce oxygen and cannot be used for food production and shortage of water makes it a rather hard place to live without inefficient and unnecessary expenditure of natural resources (yaaaaay for Las Vegas). One can romanticize anything and I can respect that. However I won't bring much rational value to it. I watched a huge portion of forests I grew up next to being clear cut, all childhood memories changed into a devastated landscape that just starts to regrow. I can understand the sentiment. But still... it's a desert. It doesn't care about you and it will kill you in 3 days at best if not in 24 hours. It's like watching ice sheets melt and worry about the fate of Polar bears, come on...
  • 1 0
 @BiNARYBiKE: I’ve never been a fan of the way some of these guys chip away at the mountain. Adding to the mountain is one thing, as kickers, landings, sandbags etc can all be torn down. But chipping away at the faces and removing huge pieces of rock has always made me cringe a little.
  • 5 1
 @WAKIdesigns: “Bunch of entitled, judgmental a*sholes who know everything“

Sound like just about every comment you make here.
  • 2 3
 @sino428: yea, but I don’t clip parts of sentences like you just dis and I’m not judgmental about anyone else than judgmental people. Me out
  • 6 1
 @WAKIdesigns: " I’m not judgmental about anyone else than judgmental people" (I did it again)

This could be the most ridiculous comment I have ever seen. You head is so far up your own ass I don't know how you can even see your screen to type.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: If you can’t value the desert, then stay out! That simple. Shut up, get a life, and stay the f*ck out of my home state!
  • 1 1
 @Krawlinz: Yo so scary
  • 15 1
 Did they really pull out all the sandbags last year? If so, who rebuilt the Goblin/Noblin drop?!
  • 11 0
  • 3 0
 I think these guys had something to do with it.
  • 6 0
 It was still up after last year. Id say they are coming out cause there will be a new venue next year. Check Reed Bogg's IG, they were riding the goblin this summer.
  • 1 0
 I think it means they remove them when they move to a new venue, not if they plan to go back there next year.
  • 6 0
 The sculpted mountain reminds me of the elaborate wood work that used the grace the mountains of the North Shore. To me they are sculptures showing the creativity of man kind. I cant say the same for a shopping mall or a housing development ..... or an oil drilling operation.
  • 1 0
 it's truly beautiful to me
  • 8 1
 Cam Zink Rampage
  • 4 2
 Such a sick show from everyone involved. Must be impossible being a judge for an event. Every line is gnarly, every trick is steezy. Hope the judges dont get too much shit. Seen a few riders complaining on instagram etc, not everyone can be 1st!
  • 3 0
 I would love to know who came up with all the titles for the posts over the course of this Rampage the guys at pinkbike are having a laugh to see how many johnny cash songs they can name.
  • 3 1
 This year all I can compare it to is like a street skate competition in that the winning run had the tech aspect to it but not the big "oooh" appealing visual tricks that Zink had. So... it is what it is...
  • 2 0
 15 years later Canadian Bacon line is still rideable. They may remove structures, lips and landings but the impact is visible (not to mention these new areas continue to be ridden long after the event) many years.
  • 2 0
 If they're taking all the sandbags out I hope they're using a new venue next year. Otherwise I'd like to see them leave it so Antoine & his crew can finish the massive sandbag drop landing
  • 3 2
 Dude wtf go back and watch both of Ethan Nells runs. He bumps up 20 point by adding a flat spin and a pretty gnar suicide but lands crappy on his last jump. How did he get boosted 20 points. Tom Van Steenbergen does a caveman (a first in Rampage) and keeps the rest of his run the same and only gets 0.33 points added to his previous score. something is fishy here.
  • 4 0
 Agreed but there has only been one other person to trick into a double drop ever (that I've seen). Claw in NWD 10. That move was incredibly risky, but a flatspin on a long and low jump on the highest ridge. Its about where you do the tricks. If you do tricks at the bottom in the dirt jump arena, you better be throwing huge ones.

Unfortunately for Tom he dabbed a foot on the ridge and I think that really cost him. I also wonder if they hurt tom from not starting in the start hut?
  • 1 1
 @SnowshoeRider4Life: He had a foot dab but Ethan nearly crashed on his last jump.
  • 1 0
 @SpinningAddiction: Agreed. I wonder because he rode it out without dabbing if they didn't knock him or maybe they couldn't see it from the judges area?
  • 3 1
 Must be pretty hard to find the motivation to pull the lines apart having spent 2 weeks putting them together and, most probably, fecking knackered!
  • 9 9
 It's not a slopestyle event by any means, and people that hit only groomed features lost points but...that mountain side was a little too smooth. Watch the best runs from a few years ago and they still put their tires in raw terrain. Yes it's huge, yes it's dangerous, yes it's what the riders and judges have agreed upon, but no, not all the changes over the years have been good. Prebuilt wood isn't that much different from built up dirt except in permanence either. There is too much slopestyle in rampage and not enough Hardline.
  • 3 0
 Hardline is amazing. Sucks they had to cut the top part out this year
  • 2 2
 Man I love rampage, but between the obvious environmental damage it causes, and the drama that seems to spring up year after year. Think this might be my last year tuning in, almost seems any more it causes more issues for MTB. Just seems like the stakes are too high with compensation not even being close to what it should be for what athletes are risking, and this disparity obviously drives the drama.
  • 7 6
 What about those car-sized boulders I can't remember who hoiked out? Are they getting put in their rightful place?
  • 1 0
 10th photo ... 11 meters to landing point

: )
  • 4 2
 Not a fan of those composite images
  • 1 0
  • 6 0
 Just so you know, I shot them in-camera. There was no photoshop. That being said, you can't please everyone. Thanks for looking at them anyway.
  • 2 0
 Damn! Epic photos for sure, Nathan Hughes is killing it!
  • 2 1
 Why don’t they use explosives
  • 1 4
 Days leading up to the "event" I read through the bike checks and shovel tech reviews, this and that... Expected something pretty amazing. Honestly, from as almost outsider's perspective, it was a dirty version of interbike. The riders deserved more.

Part of me wants to compare this to the early X-games, more glam than substance. While most went rode for the paycheck, anyone watching who was diehard about representing BMX came away feeling like it represented a complete different "sport.".

Kudos to all that "competed.". Here's to hoping for more rider-owned/operated contests.
  • 1 0
 That pic of Matt McDuff is great
  • 1 0
 Piece by piece
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