Today was the last full day of practice for Red Bull Rampage athletes and the pressure was on to perfect lines and find the flow before the forecasted wind came up.
This morning saw Connor Macfarlane withdraw from the competition after crashing on his drop yesterday. After his experience here last year, no one can blame him for making the right call and putting his health and wellbeing first.
Antoine Bizet’s team also changed their focus and have etched a new line in the section where he had hoped to have his monster step-down. Again, after coming back from an injury, and facing the bad luck his build team has had with that specific landing – making this late in the game change is the right one for him.
Working closely with their build crews today, riders sessioned their lines in sections and tweaked features – changing lips, adjusting landings, and chipping away at the final pieces of awkward rock outcroppings in their way. Bas van Steenbergen hit his gap, which sits just before his big drop, multiple times before picking up a shovel with his crew and making some substantial changes.
Reed Boggs gave the spectators a taste of what he has in store when he dropped into his line from the top, riding along the rider’s left ridge, throwing down some big drops and smooth tricks connected with some strong technical sections. Everyone was captivated when he hit his canyon jump, but he, unfortunately, crashed quite spectacularly on the landing. He was up right away – and after seeking some medical attention plans to compete tomorrow.
While the athletes and their crews battled the rising winds, Red Bull introduced their VIP Experience attendees to the venue and toured them to the top; allowing each of them to stand on the start platform. The dizzying sight from there was awe inspiring to say the least. For some, it was their first time here, while others had been previous years as general admission guests – but for everyone, their perspective and understanding of what these athletes do was changed. “It was amazing to be able to walk the runs you see on TV,” said Kristen who had been onsite last year. She described standing on the platform – “[it was] insanity.”
The wind refused to die down, whipping dust clouds into the air off the exposed ridges of the canyon. By late afternoon most of the riders had given up on practising and left the site – the parking lot was empty and the hill nearly deserted. There was only one rider stubborn enough to wait it out. Carson Storch was the only athlete left in the canyon at dusk and all eyes were on him as he sessioned his drop from the road. “This year I built my ultimate line,” said Carson standing in the dark near the finish corral tonight “– I’m not saying it’s a winning line, but I’m just going to go have fun on it and see what happens.”
/ @natedh9 / @TimZim