Standing at the base of the Red Bull Rampage site and seeing all the lines etched by the builders in the massive cliffs, you can’t help but feel like you’ve walked on to the set of an Indiana Jones movie. Dozens of bodies dwarfed by the sheer size of the canyon busily moved around the site as though they are working hard to uncover ancient treasure or build the eighth wonder of the world. After a week of hard work and long days, some were putting the final touches on their lines, while others were rebuilding sections from scratch.
Antoine Bizet’s crew were some of the not-so-lucky ones who were busy with a rebuild. After dedicating their first four days of digging to building a landing for a huge new step-up, the whole landing slid on Saturday. “But the guys are working so hard on it,” said Antoine today. “I still have no idea if we are going to be able to use the step-down or not, but we are 100% committed to making it happen.”
Coming back from an injury, Antoine is going against the grain this year and sticking with most of his 2016 line. “I know it’s not the trend really, it’s cooler to have a new one for sure, but that’s how it is.” This puts extra pressure on the team to make this drop work as it is one of the few new sections he will hit – “the goal is to ride [my line] way better and faster and bigger than last year.” Towards the end of the day his team had made exceptional gains with some help from those who would have been Remy Metailler’s builders. “We didn’t know the final decision until yesterday so we have been digging his line in hopes that he would make it,” says Katie Holden “but there are other riders who use his take-offs and landings so it’s okay. Now our team is just trying to help out other teams that are having issues.”
Connor Macfarlane ran into an issue today when he crashed on his drop, but he’s still way ahead of where he was last year. In 2016, he left Rampage battered and bruised after refusing to give up. His impressively positive attitude earned him the Kelly McGarry Spirit Award. This year he’s made some changes in his run in hopes to avoid the dramatic crashes and injuries this time around. “I drop off the ridge a little earlier and got rid of that big step-down because – well it worked and it didn’t work, but it didn’t help me sleep, so I got rid of that. [Today] I just pure and simple went too slow – and I guess last year I went way too far, which is hard to get out of your mind, so I didn’t go too far and I went that little bit short.” But Connor’s still feeling confident, “everything, apart from the drop that I crashed on today, is mint and I can session it and I was having fun, it was sweet.”
Darren Berrecloth gave Connor some advice, “[he] just came up to me and was chatting about it – everyone’s like [that here] if they can help you out, they’re all for that, especially Bearclaw because he’s been here however many years and he knows what he’s doing.” Darren told him to build a “little skipper” before his drop to help him judge his speed. “Just so I can be ‘oh, I went a little bit far on the skipper before it, so I must be going a bit too fast.’” Connor took the afternoon off his bike, but will be back up sessioning tomorrow.
As with other years today, the first day of practice, held many highs and lows – like watching Cam Zink straight line his chute from the top or watching Kyle Strait crash on his canyon gap (he is okay). Red Bull Rampage continues to be the forum in which these incredible athletes can continue to grow the sport, not just through new and creative lines and tricks, but also through contributing to the growth and development of new riders along the way.
/ @natedh9 / @TimZim