There's a storm brewing in the desert of Utah, USA for the 12th installment of arguably the most challenging thing ever invented to do on a push bike; Red Bull Rampage.
As if battling the desert's harsh conditions isn't quite enough, riders have a limited time to build their line out of the raw, red dirt, only to then face the ultimate mental challenge of doing something that the majority of people on this planet would shy away from. Hurtling down the jagged canyon edges formed over the last 150 million years, launching, styling, and staying in one piece is what makes Red Bull Rampage so thrilling to watch.
The risks for the riders are high and we've witnessed a fair few serious injuries happen right before our eyes. But the reward? To be crowned the champion of Red Bull Rampage is a rare honor, and if you're really, really good, you might earn that crown more than once in your lifetime.
With riders and their build teams already out in the desert in the same zone they used last time, there's not long to go until we see who takes the champion's crown this year. Until then, here's a brief run through of all the things you need to know before the action really starts in a few days' time.
Darren Berrecloth // CAN
Logan Binggeli // USA
Antoine Bizet // FRA
Reed Boggs // USA
Pierre Edouard Ferry // FRA
Thomas Genon // BEL
Ryan Howard // USA
Andreu Lacondeguy // ESP
Conor Macfarlane // NZL
Tyler McCaul // USA
Ethan Nell // USA
Brett Rheeder // CAN
Brandon Semenuk // CAN
Kurt Sorge // CAN
Bas van Steenbergen // CAN
Tom van Steenbergen // CAN
Carson Storch // USA
Kyle Strait // USA
Vincent Tupin // FRA
Cameron Zink // USA
*All riders are correct at the time of writing.
Out of everyone competing this week, only five riders have won before, and in that group of champions, only three have managed to win Red Bull Rampage twice. No one has yet claimed a third Rampage crown... could this year be the year? Over to Semenuk, Sorge, and Strait...
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Last year we saw a blizzard of talent rain down on the red dirt in Utah. We saw some Rampage firsts, and some pretty hard crashes. As ever, the wind played a part throughout the finals, as well as injuries from the previous days putting riders out of contention.
Early on in the finals, the freeride gods had already dealt blows to Aggy, Zink, Norbs, Macfarlane, and Rheeder – to name but a few – in their first runs. With the likes of Bizet doing a double backflip early on, the competition was clearly on for both the top step and serious progression. In the second round, we saw even more courage and determination from the riders, including Storch's beautiful table-360.
With the wind picking up as the clock ticked on, riders began either dropping in or dropping out; sometimes the risk in exposed conditions isn't worth the reward. However, with Bizet and Semenuk waiting for the wind to settle, it was Bizet who took to his line with the top step of the podium in his sights.
Bizet had to beat Semenuk's first run score; however, the wind meant he wasn't able to do another double backflip, opting for a suicide no-hander instead. It wasn't enough for the Frenchman, and with Semenuk's first run score unbeaten, the Canadian was crowned the 2016 Red Bull Rampage champion. Semenuk also won the viewer's choice award, and the persistent Kiwi – Conor Macfarlane – won the Kelly McGarry Spirit Award.
1st // Brandon SEMENUK (CAN)
2nd // Brett RHEEDER (CAN)
3rd // Conor MACFARLANE (NZL)
Close to Virgin, you'll find Zion National Park. The place is full of activities upon activities, upon activities. From to hiking, to canyoning, to camping under the stars, the park has it all.
Be warned, however, among the cute-looking deer, dormice, porcupines, tortoises, and foxes, a world of venomous spiders, rattlesnakes, scorpions and other bugs are hidden in the shadows. Outside the national park, you'll find mountain biking, horseback riding, ATV-ing and river-rafting, to name but a few things to keep you occupied.
If you are lucky enough to have your bike with you then there are plenty of trails in the area.Virgin mountain biking trails
Lacondeguy muscles his way through
Having won Rampage the year before, Lacondeguy was in the running for a back-to-back victory in 2015. His brutal style over the biggest of features made the crowd and the fans at home wow with amazement at his ability to stay on his bike, even after landing a multitude of tricks at a consistently high speed. His moto-approach to his run was jaw-droppingly wild, but it just wasn't enough to take the first placed spot. That went to Kurt Sorge.
Cam McCaul called Cam Zink's incredible 360 off the Oakley drop in 2010 "One of the biggest accomplishments in two-wheeled action sports". He wasn't wrong. At the time, it was edge-of-the-seat kinda stuff and still looks incredible to this day. Zink's efforts were made all the sweeter as this incredible run gave him the top step on the podium.
The kindest and gentlest of giants, Kelly McGarry won the internet a few years back at Rampage when he decided to backflip the 72ft canyon gap. Coupled with him humming one of his favourite tunes and calling out to people trackside, McGarry's run was a pure joy to watch. Most of us remember where we were when McGarry did his incredible run, and I'm sure that like me, the majority of those people were screaming with a mixture of joy and relief at the TV screen, watching him safely land his jump across the canyon. #McGazzaForever
Claudio being humbled
With what he described as his "personal challenge of the year", coupled with jet-lag and no sleep, saw us hide behind our hands as our favorite World Cup track preview guinea pig, Claudio, somehow managed to survive getting down the slope without injury. We know Claudio is fast and capable, but watching his POV run, we can really appreciate how incredibly talented each and every one of the Red Bull Rampage riders is because they make it look so much easier than it really is.
Nicholi Rogatkin's rise in the world of freeride took him to Utah in 2015 where we saw him begin to create an incredible run. However, it was abruptly halted midway down the hill during a practice run, after he crashed hard. The GoPro footage is painful and jaw-dropping to watch, not least because the young American didn't seem too worried once the tumbling ended. He brushed the dust off, wiped a bit of blood off his face, and rode on, completing his run.
It feels quite strange looking back at the setup of the very first Red Bull Rampage. The early days were raw and nothing like the scale it is today, with broadcast trucks streaming near-live feeds around the globe, hundreds of fans and helicopters filming helicopters. Back in the day, it was a more basic affair, but riders were still finding their limits and still going beyond them. It only seemed right that the Godfather of Freeride won that day. Wade Simmons, we salute you.
Rampage isn't just for the freeriders. Early on in the life of the competition, we used to see a lot more professional downhillers joining in. Making it look easy by crafting their way down the steep slopes, downhillers like Gee Atherton are now amongst only a handful of riders to have successfully crossed over to the freeride world at this level. With his smooth, buttery style, Atherton made his 2010 Rampage run look like a walk in the park. These days, without huge tricks to throw down, we're unlikely to see another downhiller take the win at Rampage again.
Pinkbike will be providing you with coverage of the build-up, practice, and finals action from our hardworking team of photographers in Virgin, Utah throughout the week, including Facebook and Instagram content. Brett Tippie will also be reporting from the scene, so stay tuned for more Tippie-induced laughs as riders prepare to do battle for the 2017 crown.
Cam McCaul and Aaron Chase will be hosting 'Red Bull Rampage – This Is Live' on Thursday (26th October) evening local time/PDT via the Red Bull Bike Facebook channel, bringing us highlights of the action from the final practice session of the week.
The finals will be broadcast via Red Bull TV on Friday, 27th October at the following times:
• 09:00 // Friday // Vancouver, Canada // PDT
• 10:00 // Friday // Salt Lake City, Utah USA // MDT (local)
• 12:00 // Friday // Washington DC, USA // EDT
• 17:00 // Friday // London, UK // BST
• 18:00 // Friday // Berlin, Germany // CEST
• 03:00 // Saturday // Sydney, Australia // AEDT
• 05:00 // Saturday // Auckland, New Zealand // NZDT
* Schedule subject to change.
/ @natedh9 / @davetrumpore