Rampage 2013 seems to have people asking a few more questions than years past. Once again the event blew minds and solidified itself as our sport's true amphitheater of “Ah”. But this year, amidst the hype and athletic achievements there was an undeniable notion of consequence. Keep in mind this is an opinion, just my opinion. Before we get rolling, the aim here is constructive. You can take these points however you like, but from my seat, I’m just putting a few thoughts on a page.
Rampage has a long standing history as the pinnacle of our sport, and it has served that position admirably. Over the years the event has played host to moments that define mountain biking, and this year was no different. It’s also our gateway to the mass market. On occasion throughout the year we are given the key that unlocks television screens across the globe. But even in this realm of production Rampage stands alone. For two hours viewers take a raw, unfiltered step into the framework of freeride mountain biking.
I thought about throwing in some wordy paragraph defending our livelihoods as professionals, not the handful of lunatics… but threw that in the bin so we can get to the point. Rampage needs to see some changes.
From my perspective, this past event had a different feel to it. It lacked fun. This year I actually looked around and questioned why we were all there. Risk was outweighing reward ten-fold. The seed of the issue was a shortened event window. In previous years you could show up to the venue and start building a week in advance. Timelines weren’t an issue. But in 2013 build time and practice were packed into a four day period. Four days to transform an exposed face into a line, and with limited time and energy, try to piece together a practice session before putting a run together for the judges and public. Athletes are putting themselves in uncomfortable and compromising situations because they haven’t had enough time to work through what they’ve built. In the start gate for finals guys were dropping into sections they hadn’t even had a chance to ride. Given that careers, livelihoods, and in all honesty, lives are on the line, this is unacceptable. The word “unacceptable” probably sounds a little ridiculous, but it’s fitting.
|Athletes are putting themselves in uncomfortable and compromising situations because they haven't had enough time to work through what they've built. In the start gate for finals guys were dropping into sections they hadn't even had a chance to ride. Given that careers, livelihoods, and in all honesty, lives are on the line, this is unacceptable.|
We all want to see the best show. Event organizers and viewers tune in to see the best, and athletes want to give their best. But without ample prep time our “Best” is shadowed by the “I’ll see how it goes” factor. There needs to be more time allocated to build and practice. Not just the addition of a day, but days. Allow athletes the opportunity to get comfortable and confident with their lines. Will we be pushing it? Of course. But with much fewer question marks. A confident and (somewhat) comfortable field will result in a higher quality and safer event. Rampage has reached the point of motocross in terms of physical exposure. The size of the features and aggressive nature of the lines carry heavy repercussions. Any way we can make the event safer I’ll support it. Without a doubt there needs to be a change to the pre-showtime schedule. In an ideal world I would even say the event should adopt a 3 day weather window for finals like a surf competition, to ensure the best window for a complete contest. Bottom-line… fewer question marks, more fun.
While we’re on the topic of having a good-time. Every athlete approaches Rampage in their own way. Some are out there with only the top step of the podium in mind, others are looking to risk everything to solidify their place in two wheeled history, regardless we’re all there on our own agendas looking to break personal barriers for no one other than ourselves. My attitude towards Rampage is simple. I want to show people my perspective of mountain biking. Big, Fast, and Flowing… Fluidity. If it makes a viewer think, “That looks fun,” than I’m a happy guy. Am I going out there to push myself? Absolutely. But I am also out there for personal entertainment. I love mountain biking and I love Rampage. It is my outlet to show people what riding is, fun. If my run scores well than great, if not, I’m not too worried about it, as long as I do justice to riding the line as I see it in my head. Is this the wrong competitive approach? Maybe. Do I care? Not really. Riding looks its best when an athlete is excited about what their riding and that’s my aim at each Rampage.
A few blunt and to-the-point thoughts: We’re not in it for the money, but there needs to be more of it. While everyone is profiting off the exploits of the contest, the athletes are taking home the smallest piece of the monetary pie. If this was a small contest there would be no question of rewards, but Rampage is not a small event. It is one of a few contests that actually has the ability to generate proper compensation for the athletes. For a little perspective, if an athlete were to attend Rampage without the support of personal sponsors, everyone placing out of the top 5 would be out of pocket. The number of riders falling into the red climbs even higher up the podium once you factor in the expenses of your much needed build crew. Personally I think the event organizers and sponsors should team up to book out the entire Zion River Resort which lies a few hundred yards from the venue's entrance, have all the athletes, diggers, media staying at the same location. Bring a tent, bring an RV, whatever, but have everyone at the same spot, have BBQ’s, take care of the athletes and their teams.
I am not a competition athlete, in fact Rampage is the only contest I do all year, but when it comes to prize money something is off. The payouts should be higher and extend down the results sheet. Bump up the incentive. The fact that there was a $17,500 difference between first and second place doesn’t exactly sit well. The average cameraman takes home more than the athlete coming in 5th. I understand that there are huge amounts of energy and budget involved to make Rampage happen and distribute it to households worldwide, and I respect and appreciate those behind the scenes. But I also understand that in the grand Rampage picture the athletes are at the bottom of the barrel. Granted, this won’t change until us athletes actually make an effort to shift things.
Rampage is essential. It’s the truest definition of our sport. I love the concept of the competition, but in my mind it could use a few tweaks… and no wood. www.mike-hopkins.com