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.