Cam Zink - Sometimes It's Bigger Than You

Oct 8, 2013 at 12:19
by Cameron Zink  
I could barely crack the Allen wrench to take my pedals off. Handlebars, axles, derailleur; they all hurt to loosen and disassemble. Reaching down to zip up my bike bag was the last of the painful process. I couldn't stop thinking how ridiculous it seemed to be traveling across the world to compete when my shoulder hurt nearly too much to pack my bike...

Rising to the occasion has always been something I have striven for. Watching someone like Ryan Dungey keep getting faster when everyone thought he had peaked and others had surpassed him. Stewart seemed too fast, then he caught up. Villopoto seems too fast for anyone, but Dungey keeps elevating every week and continuing to up his pace.

The examples laid out in other sports are my biggest motivation. Much like Pastrana or the many before me who have competed against doctors' orders, I had to dig deep.

It was scheduled to rain all week. Of course it was; it was Germany. As much as I hate to admit it, there was a little something in the back of my mind that was happy about it. I couldn't shut it up. If it rained I didn't have to ride. In this situation, when all you can think about is the pain, wanting to ride becomes having to ride. The toughest of times are when your mind is wandering and not actually doing. Focusing on nothing at all is better than the negative and we must always put ourselves in a position to do the best we can, to rise to the occasion despite the adversity because after it is all said and done you will never be satisfied unless you gave it your all. I was standing in my garage; not on top of the roll in ready to entertain a sold out crowd and 130 countries live on TV. I have to put my mind at bay and put myself where I needed to be - where I wanted to be deep down. Because everything is always better when you are sitting on your bike about to drop.

Come on Zader” I yell for my dog to come out of the hot, sweat inducing garage and back inside with me. I am quickly reminded of how righteous the trip I am about to take is. My living room is filled with boxes of freshly printed “Zink” Troy Lee Jerseys, boxes of Osiris shoes, fresh Oakley goggles and shades. I am going to the freaking X Games!

I had been riding my heart out for months. I hate “training” and foam pits, but I was forcing myself to take regular trips to Woodward Tahoe to learn everything I could. I was riding everything possible, every day. Sometimes from 9 am till 9pm. With new tricks and dialing in old ones, I was feeling better on my bike than I have in my whole life and confident to win. A month prior, I had surgery and suffered a leg problem just before Bergline. Even though I wasn't at 100%, I was able to make finals and secure my spot for X Games. My leg cleared up a few weeks after Bergline and I had my eye on the prize. It was riding every day, with the course preview to map out what I needed to work on.

I took one last trip to Aptos to ride with the McCauls at their pool jump in which they now have a boner log into. I learned fronties off it, dialled em' in and my mission was accomplished. The next day, the McCauls, Dusty Wygle and I went to ride a sand step up. I did everything I wanted to do and was ready to go home. The rest of the boys were still riding so I went back for another jump or two. I went for a holy grab, not an easy trick, but one I haven't messed up on in a while. In mid air my bars turned, but it wasn't all that alarming as I flew directly above my bike as I started falling toward the sand. It was just sand. Had it been dirt I probably would have tried to land it at all costs... I got tangled up in my bike and was propelled into the ground head and shoulder first. I have never hurt my collarbone or shoulder in my life, but I instantly stood up and started walking in a panic circle. Freaking out. Attributed to adrenaline, it didn't hurt, but I knew something was wrong instantly.

I felt a pop, tear and something in my body failing; the most sickening feeling in the world. It wasn't bad planning, prep, or doing something I wasn't supposed to. It was just bad luck. It happens and if it hadn't been 7 days before X Games finals, I wouldn't have stressed. The McCauls and Dusty are pretty much doctors when it comes to shoulders, as I am with knees. I had a pretty good diagnosis right away that it was a torn AC joint. After seeing my doctor and physical therapist, they confirmed a level 2 AC separation where the ligament is torn but not completely in half. Not a serious injury, but apparently more painful than tearing it completely...

After 6 days I tried to manual and couldn't even lift my front end up. The next day I went to the airport not actually believing I would even be able to ride. With a broken wing and a forecast of rain clouded canceled contests, my lady and I packed up and got on the plane.

Despite the forecast for heavy rain, my girlfriend and I were welcomed to Munich with a light sprinkle. As we got closer to the course we heard the forecast was looking better and better. It would be a shame for Slopestyle's first shot at the X Games to get rained out whether I was in it or not.

course overview
satelite dish
  Image by Bartek Wolinski

My first look at the course was pretty frightening. Not for the size of the drops, but for the size of the uphills. Did Enduro make it to X Games along with Slopestyle? I had been looking at the drawings for months. Even though it matched the drawings, this is not what I pictured. Somehow. Unfortunately, the final jump was canceled due to a scaffolding failure. However, the rest of the course did have enough size to scare off some hardtails. Slope bikes are the future and at least the first X Games catered to them. Sort of. The middle of the course was the only bad part. A jump that had to be moved in to even clear, an up hill into “wackalite dish” a pump section and a boner log with a 3 foot drop. Besides the top drop to jump and the bottom drop, the course had came up short to the first Crankworx in 04... No matter what we determine of the courses quality, it is still the course we have to ride. We do what we can, then accept it and try to enjoy.

First practice, I rubbed on some Voltaren cream, took about 2000 milligrams of ibuprofin, had my shoulder taped and headed up the hill. The drops were a little too muddy, so starting from the landing of the first jump to clear the second, I sprinted through the mud and barely made it to the top of the landing. I could barely keep myself from screaming as I pulled up and caught a shock of the excruciating pain I would endure all week.

When I am on my bike I am a different person and problems seem to disappear. It wasn't the ibuprofen, the cream, or the tape, but the more I rode, the better my shoulder felt even pulling and pushing through the muddy enduro-slope course. It is the joy of riding with your friends, doing what you love and putting your mind in a better place that keeps us going and coming back for more.

Practice day two: rained out.

On qualifying and final's day Amanda and I woke up at 6, got breakfast and took a taxi to the event, not wanting to wait for a shuttle. The weather was holding out and sunshine was predicted for the whole day. Heavy winds were on the horizon and showing their dangerous head early. After watching the first couple riders do their qualifying run I decided to mellow out my quali run a little and have a guaranteed shot at the finals. After it was over I was surprised that I had ended up 3rd. I walked back to the top to my lady greeting me with tears in her eyes. We were in X Games finals with a solid shot at the Gold!

We all met back at the course a few hours later for an afternoon of mountain bike history. Along with a couple thousand sold out fans! We thought qualifying was just dead, but the patrons all jumped at the opportunity to buy a ticket for 30 euros for finals. Practice was going well and as I was fighting through the pain, we were all fighting through the wind. When the crowd was roaring and peoples TV's started turning on, the wind clicked on and started roaring harder. The first rider had the choice to drop and respectively decided to wait it out. The windsocks kept flailing and slowly everyone on top of the roll in decided it was looking like a big delay.

The more it's delayed, the harder it is to get started again.

Rheeder decided to take a practice run and nearly got wiped off the first jump from a direct side wind. He came back up with a smile on his face, amped!

bigquotesI dunno dude, the crowd is nuts down there! We gotta ride. - Brett Rheeder

After some deliberation, Semenuk and I took a run and although it was sketchy, we felt it and started to convince the other 7 finalists. There were few that would speak up to ride and many to speak up against it.

bigquotesTo sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men. - Abraham Lincoln

We were the ones in guaranteed medal positions if it were canceled, yet the ones most eager to ride. It just shows what changes inside you when you are on your bike. Sorge and Claw decided to join in and Andreu, the biggest advocate of a wind free contest, was a bit tentative. Claw said to him, “I don't care if only half of us make it to the bottom, we are riding.”

bigquotesI don't care if only half of us make it to the bottom, we are riding. - Darren Berrecloth

The concise motivational speech convinced Andreu it was not only the best thing to do, but we didn't have a choice. We weren't riding for ourselves anymore, we were riding for the sport we built from the ground up and has defined us as people.

We asked to run a 6 man final, but the organizers wanted the whole group and decided on another 2 hour delay, missing our TV slot, but hopefully everyone else will ride.

2 hours later there was surprisingly still a packed screaming crowd, yet the only to ride were the original 6. On a roll-in that marked the highest point in Munich, in front of the world, stood industry figures, producers and a group of friends ready to show the world what mountain biking is even with a sub-par course with sub-par conditions. I will never forget that dynamic till the day I die. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life. It felt like we were apart of a bad ass club or something. It was bitchin'!

We all rode a bit tentative and people started dropping like flys. After the first run, Claw and Andreu were the only ones to make it to the bottom! Whether it was wind, mud or not, I blew both runs on the first jump and ended up 6th. Rheeder and Semenuk put together ridiculous runs that become even more retarded when you realize how hard the course was to ride... Even though I blew my shot, we gave it our all and did everything we could. The two on the top of the podium saved the day for Slopestyle and should protect our shot at becoming a regular in the X Games line up.

This is the story of my blown opportunity, but sometimes it is bigger than yourself. I love this sport and have been in it since the beginning for the sheer love of progressing and putting on a show for screaming fans. It is the hardest to understand after working so hard, riding through the pain and overcoming everything that has been laid out in front of you besides the run you came to do, but if you give it your all, there isn't any reason to be bummed about that.

-Cam Zink

View all images by Ale Dilullo from X Games here.


  • 225 2
 Thank you Cam for sharing this. It really is honorable and courageous to see the best riders in the world risking their health and wellness for the sake of growing the sport. If it weren't for you guys, no one in the regular world would know anything about mountain biking. Thank you.
  • 15 1
 I concur^
  • 36 20
 sorta separated the north americans from the euros
  • 7 16
flag pumptracker120 (Oct 8, 2013 at 19:01) (Below Threshold)
 Sucks so much that Sloystyle MTB will not becoming back Frown
  • 12 0
 pumptracker what are you talking about
  • 5 0
 Its not?????????? ^^^
  • 6 0
 The X games are going back to only two domestic events next year- Aspen for winter and Austin for the summer. I don't think anything's been announced yet, but slopestyle is looking unlikely in eastern TX.
  • 8 0
 Not necessarily. All they need is a small hill and a ton of scaffolding to make a course, thats what they did this time.
  • 2 1
 The games are at the Circuit of the Americas, basically a flat F-1 track.
  • 2 0
 Austin, in central Texas, is rocky and near enough to some hills that could serve a course. The only problem is that they won't be directly in the metro where the contest is likely to take place. Austin is known for BMX, but it has a very healthy mountain bike scene as well.
  • 12 2
 @harrisonds yeah.....much like rugby separates us 'euros' from your american football haha
  • 24 11
 I find the comment about separating the Americans from the Euros interesting.... Maybe it's cos we're not so bothered about the X games over here? Every time these guys do a run they risk serious injury due to the nature of the tricks they do, but at least they are in control of it. When you add in the variables of a shite course and strong winds then it means your fate is no longer in your own hands, it's in the lap of the Gods. Taking such a risk is almost being flippant with life- if the Claw had turned to me and said 'I don't care if only half of us make it down, we're riding', I would politely tell him to fu*k off!
  • 2 0
 "Put me in coach" was a great video moment at X-games!
  • 4 2
 gavlaa, I think you just proved harrisonds' point... Don't know many North American riders who'd flip off the Claw... International conflict aside, Zink is a legend and has my full respect for how he approached this contest. It's great to see that these guys are really in it for the sport and not just for personal accomplishment. They're opening more doors than they probably imagined were possible! Thanks Cam!
  • 1 0
 I live in Austin and the F1 track is built on fairly hilly area. They could build a course out there

This is the view from the top of turn 1:
  • 1 0
 Zink is crazy... If you see all of his runs, for example, he 3x-up the first drop... Now think about doing an x-up with that shoulder!... He has balls, seriously!.
  • 1 0
 @harrisonds More shows the separation of the big mountain riders to the dirt jumpers. Not many big mountain euro's.
  • 3 4
 I don't think anyone is doubting that Zink has balls- he's an awesome rider.... But when you were young and you were misled into doing something stupid your mum must have said, 'If he'd told you to jump under a bus would you do it?'. This is the exact same situation only the people are no longer children... Basically the Claw is asking fellow riders and friends to put their life on the line. You fall from that height on your head then you're going to be chair bound for life... Hence why I would told him to suck it. Saying their doing it 'for the sport' is bullshit anyway- they're doing it because the sport is a reflection of who they are and they want to look good. I don't care what anyone thinks of MTB, I do it cos I love it. If it was regarded as the biggest waste of time known to man I would still love it.
  • 3 3
 this whole article was about how they're doing it for the sport...
  • 12 0
 Zink that's was awesome man!!!!!, I have been a freeride mtb'r since the beginning of the sport and what you guys did at X-Games was Top Level. The kids that didn't ride, are just that little kids, that will never be remember for their riding. You guys are Legends!!!! Good luck with Rampage!!!!!! Just send it!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 4 0
 This one contest will not define anybody's careers, even being X-Games. It is good that most of the guys put it on the line and made X-Games memorable, and they deserve a lot of respect for that.

Everyone seems to treat the other guys like they're indentured servants. It doesn't matter that so many of us would like to be in their position (we never will be) and it doesn't even matter that this lets them make a living doing what they love, they still don't owe the sport anything. They definitely don't owe us anything.
  • 11 0
 Great read! Thanks to Zink and all the other athletes who put themselves out there to compete in the first Xgames slopestyle event. Hopefully the course will progress and there will be many more to come!
  • 9 0
 Great article, don't think I've read that many words in a while! Amazing incite into what professional athletes have to endure just to make it to some events and it goes completely unappreciated by the spectators. So hoping Cam Zink makes it a double at rampage this year too!
  • 9 1
 That was a really great write up. One of the best things I read from a pro rider. It fascinates me how thin line it is between being brilliant and stupid to risk so much, off course in the eyes of people watching. If you pull it off, you are a God to people, if you fail, you will be called all sorts of names for being stupid and putting your health, life and career at risk. It's like going for a tough trial with them and with yourself. As if it wasn't hard enough to find strength to overcome pain and force yourself to visualize the positive outcome - if you succeed. To overcome the fear of failure if you crash out real hard. I guess true happiness and greatness comes when you put it all on the line. I haven't looked at my everyday life in that way, I guess it's time. Thanks Cam, really really great stuff!
  • 2 0
 I think what this reminds us of is these are people, just like you and me. They have fears, but more importantly they have passion. They love this sport, despite all of the consequences - and there are many. Making the decision to do this, for a living, when most guys bodies will be spent by their late twenties- is a difficult choice.
  • 7 1
 I think we should allow ourselves to see all great riders, no matter how bad ass we think they are, just as other people like us. People who directed their energy into one thing they do, and gave it all, put it all on line, where as "normal" mortals spend their energy in various places, like office desk, family or XBox. You never know if Cam or Steve Peat wouldn't look at your life and say, Wow, if he had access to all information about what you do. Nothing to take from them, it must take balls and incredible strength to follow the dream, punch through schemes of how you should live your life, but it also takes balls and smart thinking to live a happy life in "less epic" conditions. As soon as we look at them like gods, we start to expect them to be ones, we expect lots of things from them, which we are completely not entitled to. I find that to be the main reason behind various acts of hate towards all sorts of famous people, like it's been with Gee Atherton this year.
  • 5 0
 Great article by Cam, To be honest I am not bothered that MTB will not feature in future X-Games. X-Games has been getting worse every year loads of great events dropped and the coverage on ESPN is terrible. Crankworx and Rampage blow X-Games away.
  • 7 0
 Awesome writeup Cam! Thanks for sharing this with us. Was great insight into our sport...
  • 4 0
 Zink this gave me chills to read! You guys ARE the badass club and what f*cking badasses you are to step up to the plate on such crazy conditions. Pioneering mountain biking as we know it!

"It is the joy of riding with your friends, doing what you love and putting your mind in a better place that keeps us going and coming back for more."
  • 7 0
 Cam Zink: making it OK for a grown-a$$ man to have a super hero
  • 4 0
 Can't help but instantly think of Matt Hoffman after reading this. the Condor gave his all and basically created big air on bikes. Zink has similar mindset for mtb. Have a great rampage, Cam and stay safe!
  • 6 0
 Zink's a fuckin animal!
  • 1 0
 Hey Cam,
Your insight is great to us mere mortals. Keep riding, do what you do, as you have nothing to prove to us now- only to yourself. We're in awe.

You're an inspiration in that sometimes it's good to just get on the bike and see what happens. Best of luck @ Rampage, we'll be watching and fist pumpin' for ya.

All the best,
  • 1 0
 Solid right up, other than the hilariously ignorant use of the word "retarded." I'm all for saying whatever offensive stuff you want in your own life and think generally people over react to "offensive" words... but still, come on. Pretty easy and obvious to leave that one out and make your article more universally like-able.
  • 1 0
 I read it once before on PinkBike and I'll repeat it. "X-Games needs FMB more than FMB needs X-Games". And X-Games proved it with a course not even as good as the 2004 Crankworx in Whistler. FMB is on the "UP!" and they made a mistake in the first place for giving X-Games a "Diamond" event level status. P.S.- If the Claw asks you to do something, you do it.
  • 1 0
 It was cool watching him fist-bump all the kids in the lift line that he was in with on Northstar's closing day last Sunday. No cutting lines, just chillin with a bunch of other riders in line. There's a True sportsman in Cam Zink. This article just backed that up.
The sad thing is, maybe 20% of the riders around had any clue they were standing next to a legend. I don't know maybe guys were just giving him space.
  • 1 0
 Huge props to all the riders of xgames slopestyle 2013 . You put our sport on the map as a recognised action sport at the top level. And thanks for sharing your experience zink
  • 2 0
 AC tear is so painful. I would NOT have competed. And that's why I sit at a keyboard all day instead of riding for living.
  • 3 0
 Damn man you can write! Your one amazing chap! KEP TEARING It up bro
  • 1 0
 So Josh Bender is a hero then. He pushed the sport harder than anyone else back in the day. He proved you can go big and survive! Cam is the new Bender.
  • 1 0
 "The two on the top of the podium saved the day for Slopestyle and should protect our shot at becoming a regular in the X Games line up." oops...
  • 1 0
 hey dude im stationed in germany till 2015 if you're ever in country and wanna ride hit me up!
  • 1 0
 Cam Zink is one inspiring courageous dude. Respect bro...and great insight with your writing. Thanks for that!
  • 1 0
 This is one of the most motivational things I've read all week, and I really needed it! Zink, you are my HERO!!!
  • 1 0
 seriously that only me dont watch xgames anymore? I like the old xgames style...
  • 17 19
 Protip: If you don't want to ride in the finals due to wind, weather, or course shape; there are 100 younger, hungrier riders who will happily take your place.

Such is life in action sports.
  • 23 3
 Let those kids compete, natural selection will take its course.
Life and career > one event
Zink knows what it takes to be, and stay at the top. He's there, you're not.
  • 13 3
 Careful now, you don't want to insult any of the sissy-nannies on the site that don't understand how enormous this opportunity was for MTBing...

(there, I'll suck all their neg props to me so your post remains untainted... lolz)
  • 4 1
 I don't know dude, those are big drops and unless you were there standing on the platform with a bike ready to drop in can you say thats true?
  • 3 1
 Kona stinker, that's the exact opposite of what zink was saying here
  • 2 2
 You're not seeing the point.
  • 2 1
 It is you who does not understand the point, stinker. Clearly you didn't bother read the article. Your +20 is another victory for the illiterate pinkbike special kid army.

Feed me your neg props. Your tears only make me stronger.
  • 1 2
 you're just another person that's wasting their time expressing their ignorant opinions.
  • 1 1
 You tool, the point of Zink's article is that this one event propelled mountain biking on to the world, therefore EVERYONE should have put their lives and careers on the line for this one event.
  • 2 0
 yes he wanted to compete but, given his circumstances there was no way anything good could have come out of staying in the competition. he has done so much for the sport and realized that was his chance, and he blew it, but he gave it his all and is UNASHAMED. Is anyone saying anything about Martin or claw not competing at rampage with their injuries? you narrow minded people need to give this a rest.
  • 3 1
 Martin has a broken tib/fib and claw blew out his back. You still don't see the point of the article, and you clearly aren't smart enough to be worth arguing with, so l will give it a rest
  • 1 1
 I think he could use some further education in critical thinking before the 'MURICA stereotype becomes complete.
  • 1 1
 If YOU read the article, zink had a torn ac joint, and emphasized how much pain he was in...when a guy like zink says he's in that kind of pain he's clearly in no shape to ride, but he still tried and that's his point.
  • 2 1
 His point is that you should always ride for the fans and for the sport.

I said that you should always ride or face getting replaced by younger athletes.

Now read your comment - "Life and career > one event. Zink knows what it takes to be, and stay at the top. He's there, you're not."

Try not to derp so hard next time you comment, lol.
  • 2 0
 I'm not even a big zink fan, but you're not giving enough credit where it's due, most riders wouldn't even have traveled to the event with an injury like that. This shouldn't have turned into in English class, but read the last few lines of his write up, that's where his thesis is.
  • 2 1
 You trolling? nobody can be that blind or dumb. read everything again.
  • 1 1
 Are you?? find his thesis then...
  • 1 0
 Zink is such an amazing rider to watch!!
  • 2 0
 Cam Zink all the way
  • 2 0
 Thanks Zink! A true man
  • 1 0
 he has big ball of steel and pride
  • 1 0
 I enjoyed reading that. Would love to read another. Rampage perhaps?
  • 1 0
 You're the man, Cam! Very cool, love hearing the story. Keep on pushing!
  • 1 0
 Does anyone else sense a hint of nervousness in Andreu's eyes?
  • 1 0
 Nice to see the big guys giving us a glimpse inside their head. Thanks.
  • 1 0
 Awesome article.
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