Photo Epic: The Greatest Show on Earth - Red Bull Rampage Retrospective

Oct 9, 2021
by Nathan Hughes  

Mention the word 'greatest' and there's an acute risk of exaggeration. No need to worry when it comes to Red Bull Rampage. It IS the greatest. That's factual. Alright let's add a conditional; 'for mountain bike fans'. For mountain bike fans no spectacle is superior. How could you beat the coming to life of hand-cut creative visions down a mountainside by a collection of the maddest, baddest freeriders on the planet? The dust, the light, the ridgelines, the massive airtime, the terrifying chutes. It is literal heroism on a bicycle. Careers and entire lives are made in the best case or dreams and bones crushed mercilessly if fate takes another turn. Rider names are called out under thundering helicopter blades and the show begins.

I personally have visited Red Bull Rampage six times. It is incredible. Yes there are issues; the environmental concerns, rider safety, the judging, the direction it should take... the list of determining questions surrounding the event seems unshakeable. It's not perfect, few things ever are, but coming into its 20th anniversary let's hope for the best on all those fronts and enjoy what will inevitably be the most staggering event yet. For any photographer, Rampage is the wettest of photographer dreams, ironically playing out in the driest of environments. That doesn't mean it's easy to get the gold, quite the opposite.

The first day makes your head spin with the sheer exposure of the lines and an overloaded camera bag certainly doesn't help cling to the skinny goat tracks cut by the builders. That's not to mention the hard FOMO as you see the action kicking off on two opposing ridgelines at once after an afternoon waiting on the wind. As you settle into things you realise you really can't cover it all and you sacrifice, stick with what you think will be most epic and then desperately hope for a bit of a session or at least a first hit before the sun dips.

As I'm going to miss out this year with the European travel ban to the US, I wanted to highlight those unparalleled Utah desert feelings with some shots going back to my first Rampage in 2013. It's not a definitive list of best moments (I wasn't even there for half of the years), or best riders (sorry for all the legends not included) and in no way 'best photos'. At Rampage you can guarantee 9 times out of 10 there was another photographer five steps to the right or left, on the ridge above or the ridge below getting that elusive perfect angle. This event brings out the top camera men and women across all action sports and everyone's going after the same MTB spoils in the setting sun. Whatever the case, I'm grateful for my experiences in the desert watching this madness unfold and for what I was able to turn to megapixels before the long and bumpy road back to Hurricane to cough up some sand, drink icey horchatas with the Pinkbike crew and edit 'till 3 am. Long live Rampage.

The 2013 Oakley sender. A jump so big I genuinely could not imagine how it would look for someone to ride off it. So far down, yet the landing was still blind because it was so far out. Cam Zink, who could hardly walk due to a haematoma, was directing a carpenter where to bolt on some extra kick, ready for the most outrageous Rampage manoeuvre of all time. Still is.

Enviable water pressure for groundskeeper Zink.

When the World expected another spin Cam Zink surprises everyone with flat-drop flip off the biggest sender on his line.
After a few years of enormous 360 drops Zink surprised everyone with a new-age flat drop flip in 2017.

The struggle in silhouettes.
The struggle in silhouettes. The building phase seems underrated for its make or break potential of a Rampage campaign. Probably because no one sees this phase go down on the broadcast, but it is so tough. Imagine the stress of having to create even a vaguely feasible, semi-safe way down the hill from scratch, under the baking sun, with just two trusted builders... within the time frame. Let alone a win-worthy work of art.

Brendan s new canyon gap is a thing of beauty. Still a jump that most would probably rather not ride.
More canyon gaps than you can shake an old withered desert stick at. Brendan Fairclough must be close by.

There s nothing about Rampage that isn t scary... At least fellas aren t poisonous like the rattlers
There's not much about Rampage that isn't scary... At least these fellas aren't poisonous like the rattlers.

The Dawg rampaging through his wild west movie set.
Brendan doesn t do stress even when it s time to jump of a boulder the size of the Bellagio.

Fairclough doesn't do stress, even when it's time to jump off a boulder the size of the Bellagio. Too bad he won't make it this time with his injured leg. Still, the downhill 'freeracer' influence he has advocated these past years hopefully has its positive impact on the judging.

Antoine Bizet Rampage 2016
Antoine Bizet stops just in time on another take-off, mid-line. One hit always leads to another and the margin for error is small. Every jump has to be ridden just right or the next one will surely bite back.

Lions wolves and Nells... just a few of the dangerous creatures found on the Rampage mountainside.
It wouldn t be Rampage without huge senders on every ridgeline. Ethan Nell brings the style.

Sequences are so Rampage. Lip to landing, there's usually enough time to fill most of a memory card. Carson Storch crushes the 360 drop that ended his contest hopes the following year in 2019.


Kurt Sorge surveys the kingdom that would be his by sundown.
Kurt Sorge surveys the kingdom that would be his by sundown. Three times a charm for Sorge in 2017, the first rider to secure a Rampage three-peat.

Graham Agassiz Rampage 2016

The most gut-wrenching moment of the day no question was Aggy s horrendous spill after getting blown off-line attempting to spin his cliff-drop. Sending healing vibes from all at PB
One of at least two gut-wrenching moments of Rampage 2016. Aggy's horrendous spill after getting blown off-line attempting to spin his last cliff-drop. Awful to watch and unfortunately the same year as Paul Basagoita's terrible accident. Risk versus reward and rider safety was at the forefront of the discussion and the uncomfortable concern over-performing these death-defying acts for fame and fortune will always be there.

Well no one expected that from Van Steenbergen even if he is a wildman. Best trick for TVS.

Tom Van Steengbergen celebrates Rampage 2016.
While some suffer the worst, others get away with another mind-blowing first attempt. Tom Van Steenbergen celebrates the first attempt of his double drop at Rampage 2016. He's been more than a wild man ever since.

Rampage returns to the scene of 2016 crimes against gravity.

Flat drop flips for the win... Brandon Semenuk continues to show the world the true potential of mountainbiking.

B-Sem slaying his rock tapper and roosting into the next section.
Brandon Semenuk continues to show the world the true potential of mountain biking. Taking his third win at the 2019 event with arguably the closest thing to Rampage perfection we've seen so far. All the 'A's; Amplitude, attitude, accuracy... from arch to arch.

A full Fox podium of Rheeder Lacondeguy and Nell doing the business here at the 13th Rampage.
Victory is sweet for Brett Rheeder, taking his inaugural win in 2018 alongside Lacondeguy and Nell. Who will do it this time on the 20th anniversary? How will their run look? Imagine if that run could have been unleashed back in 2001. Perhaps the winner will channel a bit of 2041 into their run.


Light, dust and a ridgeline; the triple combo for your average photographer at Red Bull Rampage. R-Dog doubles your points.

They call him The Claw ... Why Because he s a freakin bad-ass.
Freeride legend, Darren Berrecloth, fires himself off the infamous Green Goblin drop, down towards the great wall of sandbags. Interesting that riders will return to the '16/17 site this year. Who knows in what ways it will change the game.



Unfortuntalely the wind had other ideas and most of the biggest features stayed unridden until the last 30 minutes of the extended practice session.
The tension is palpable the morning of finals at the big meeting with Todd Barber. It's windy every single year. The chopper is overhead and the broadcast is rolling. Everyone is nervous as hell. Some are beaten up from the crashes pioneering the gargantuan jumps and drops. Some didn't even get to practice everything once, but all are exhausted from back to back days under the desert sun with the bikes and shovels. The only consolation is that they have just the one line to worry about; their own. Actually that is no consolation at all to most of these guys.

Tyler McCaul Superman Rampage 2016
The biggest FMX-inspired tricks still have their place in the show and thank god for that. Style never dies as they say. Tyler McCaul stretches out a majestic indian air.

The long and winding and bumpy commute to the venue.

T-Mac finally sends his monumental step-down, landing perfectly in the last practice session of 2015. He must have tried the run-in 15 times. Shit's got to be right and the veterans of this battleground know exactly how to get the job done.

But there s still so much to do.... and in case you haven t noticed tomorrow is finals.
Sorge waiting on the wind to test one of the biggest sends on his line, with only minutes of daylight remaining the night before finals. Classic Rampage.

Goodnight from the desert.
Sunset and time to find the quickest way back to base.

Moonlight Rampage 2016
Every day the riding goes to the absolute end of the light. Any rider would be crazy not to take all the opportunities to practice when the wind is down. As the darkness creeps in, overpowering eyeballs, it's reluctantly time to find the quickest way back to base, be it Zion, Hurricane or St George... Polaris or pick-up, choose your racer.

Gold for Brandon Semenuk.
Rampage is the greatest and I don't think 2021 will prove me wrong.

Author Info:
nathanhughes avatar

Member since Jul 19, 2007
313 articles

  • 22 0
 Photos always look massive. Even more than video.
  • 12 0
 Enduro bearings should sponsor these heroic riders, now with their balls being 8x the size of what’s considered normal
  • 10 2
 There's only one thing I hate about Rampage... the tarantula photo, there's always a tarantula photo
  • 3 0
 The least thing u should worry about
  • 3 0
 ethan is gonna slay this year….got 2 shortcases and 6 pre rolls ridin’ on him getting on the podium again. damn it. lets get this lit!
  • 1 0
 Thanks for this Ryan...absolutely beautiful work. Been to two Rampages and your words are the truth....absolutely nothing like this magical event
  • 2 0
 Something about the Tyler McCaul stepdown photo reminds me of Iwo Jima.
  • 1 0
 "Lip to landing, there's usually enough time to fill most of a memory card" - here should be "buffer of the camera"
  • 2 0
 hELLaH good time reading the words and savoring those photos. thanks a lot
  • 2 0
 Love these photo epics, thanks PB
  • 2 0
 Im so excited!! Year 20! Ill have my 10th year hat on!
  • 1 0
 Don't you just hate progression...
  • 1 0
 Wish I was there maybe next year with the mutt Society ●
  • 1 0
 This year is going to be INSANE.
  • 4 0
  • 2 1
 I’m sure they put a booster seat in the ATV for lacondeguy
  • 1 0
 Aggy and P Bass's crashes were not in the same year or even same zone
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