Two years in and Red Bull Hardline has quickly become known as the toughest downhill mountain bike race in the world. The course, designed and built by Dan Atherton, is set to test even the most progressive of riders, with giant slab rolls, tight wood sections and huge gap jumps.
Over the last couple of years, the event has attracted some of the world’s best and bravest riders, and a glimpse of this year’s preliminary list doesn’t disappoint. With more riders signed up than ever before, the mix of athletes looks set to make an exciting race that anyone could win.
Discover more about each of the riders set to take to the start line below.
Gee Atherton Being brother to course creator Dan Atherton, it’s no surprise to see Gee at the top of the rider list. Gee’s been plagued with bad luck over the last two years. With punctures in both previous races, he’ll be desperate to show everyone what he’s capable of on the course this year.
Dan Atherton Last year Dan Atherton was a victim of his own creation, breaking his shoulder during a spectacular crash before the competition had even started. Being the course designer does come with certain advantages, so it will be interesting to watch Dan show the rest of the field how it should be done.
Adam Brayton Adam Brayton was one of the few riders who actually made it to the start line of last year’s final. Although he didn’t make it on to the podium, he’s got the guts and experience on the course that will no doubt play to his advantage.
Craig Evans Craig’s mountain biking career got kick-started by fellow downhill legend Steve Peat, after impressing him with his racing attitude and determination. Despite not making a podium spot in last year’s race, Craig made sure that he was having fun, finishing his Hardline run with a huge whip.
Bernard Kerr Bernard Kerr is the jack-of-all-trades of mountain biking, as he's more than competent in downhill, freeriding and dirt jumping. Last year Bernard took third place, so it'll be interesting to see what he comes back with this year. His gutsy performance at Red Bull Rampage shows he’s happy to go at pretty much anything.
Ruaridh Cunningham The 2007 Junior World Champion will be looking for a repeat performance of last year’s race, where he managed to put down a solid run and take the top podium spot. Watch Ruaridh’s winning run here. Mark Wallace The Canadian rider travelled further than any other rider last year to compete at Hardline. Unfortunately, though, things didn’t quite work to plan and a crash in practice ruled Mark out of the race.
Brage Vestavik Fresh-faced Brage Vestavik is the biggest thing to come out of Scandinavia’s downhill scene in a long while. Although the 17-year-old mightn't have established himself on the World Cup circuit just yet, Brage has tonnes of talent and will be looking to prove himself on the course.
George Brannigan New Zealander George is known for his rowdy riding and competitive spirit – a combination that seems to be working well for him in 2016, as he’s currently sitting in 11th place in the World Cup rankings.
Eddie Masters The Kiwi rider grew up riding with brother Wyn and Sam Blenkinsop. Eddie’s known for being a bit of a joker, but he’s living proof that you can still have fun and be fast.
Rupert Chapman Rupert is looking strong for 2016, having already climbed to the top of the podium at the New Zealand National Championships back in March, beating fellow New Zealander and Hardline competitor Eddie Masters.
Matt Walker Matt Walker put in the hard years as a privateer on the World Cup circuit before getting recruited into the newly launched CUBE Global squad earlier this year. From City Downhill, to Crankworx and the Downhill World Cup, the 25-year-old has many talents when it comes to life on two wheels and has already impressed in 2016 with his victory at Crankworx Rotorua.
Brook Macdonald New Zealander Brook Macdonald stormed onto the downhill scene after taking the gold medal back in 2009 at the Junior World Championships. This year has seen Brook start a new racing chapter with a switch from Trek World Racing to GT Bicycles.
Mick Hannah Australian rider Mick Hannah started his life on two wheels with a BMX, winning three national BMX titles before turning his hand to mountain biking. Being one of the oldest riders in the field, Mick’s experience and mix of disciplines under his belt will no doubt work in his favour.
Joe Smith Welsh downhill rider Joe Smith is no stranger to this challenging course, having participated in the last two editions of Red Bull Hardline. He’s steadily making his way up the podium, taking fourth in 2014 and second in 2015, so it'll interesting to see where he ends up this year.
Taylor Vernon Taylor was robbed of his Hardline experience in 2015 after injuring his ankle in practice. At just 20 years old, he's one of the youngest riders tackling the course, but being team-mates with Gee and Rachel Atherton should stand him in pretty good stead.
Mike Jones Welsh downhill rider Mike Jones prepared to compete at Hardline in 2014, but an injured hand meant that he had to withdraw from the finals. At 21, Mike is still relatively new to the Elite MTB scene, but made a name for himself straightaway when he came second in his first ever National Champs.
Graeme Mudd Australian rider Graeme Mudd has never participated in Hardline, but he’s been racing for 16 years, so has plenty of experience. He's also a talented BMX rider and became world number three in BMX at just 14 years of age, a skill that will likely translate well on the Hardline course.
Laurie Greenland At just 19 years of age Laurie Greenland is one of the youngest competitors at Hardline this year. 2016 was Laurie’s first year in the Elite category, but don’t underestimate his ability. Not only did he finish in the top 20 in this year’s UCI World Cup, he also came second in the 2016 World Champs in Val di Sole.
Alexandre Fayolle Alexandre Fayolle is known for being a speed junkie with a fearless and wild riding style – apparently a result of his dad giving him his first motorbike at the age of four. Although the 20-year-old is new to the Hardline course, the French rider has shown a lot of promise this season, taking his first podium spot at the World Cup in Vallnord.
Alex Bond Alex started to make a name for himself back in 2011, when he put in a solid season on the World Cup circuit as a privateer. Despite a couple of years plagued with injury, he has a gutsy riding style that will stand him in good stead for Hardline.