Now that the dust has settled on another edition of Red Bull Rampage let’s take a deeper look into what we spotted from the sidelines.
1. This was probably the best Rampage ever
2. The Proving Grounds qualifiers failed to make the Top 10
Of course there'll always be lots to criticize and improve (just scroll down to get started with that), but from our vantage point this was an amazing event. It seemed like a lot of runs had healthy mixes of tech, steeps, tricks, and creativity, and unlike other years, everyone competing clearly looked like they belonged on the mountain. Regardless of personal opinions, the judging was largely sensible, and the cream rose to the top. It's insane how casual and confident people were about 50 foot stepdown flips this year; progressions is an overused word, but it's clear that even with just one true big mountain freeride event a year, the sport has changed dramatically in the last few years. Most importantly, everyone emerged (relatively) unscathed.
For the first time ever, the Marzorcchi Proving Grounds qualifier event in September acted as a feeder event for Rampage. Five riders made it to the big show on the back of their Proving Grounds results.
By finals day with the competition heating up and plenty of high scoring runs, it was definitely a tough job for the last minute additions. Proving Grounds winner Reed Boggs and Joyride winner Emil Johansson would make the best of the tough competition with scores of 80 and 79 respectively.
Reed Boggs (1st at Proving Grounds, 11th at Rampage)3. Year 2 in this venue seems safer, but maybe not easier
Johny Salido (2nd at Proving Grounds, DNS at Rampage)
DJ Brandt (3rd at Proving Grounds, 16th at Rampage)
Bienvenido Alba (4th at Proving Grounds, 19th at Rampage)
Emil Johansson (5th at Proving Grounds, 12th at Rampage)
Last year was a brand new venue for Rampage, and the combination of new terrain and the stresses of building seemed to wreak havoc on the field. Many athletes commented this year that they felt way better on the hill, with less digging needed, but when you compare the results, the number of crashes seems pretty even.
Crashed out in 2018:
• Bas van Steenbergen (in practice, out of the comp)
• Cam Zink (in practice, out of the comp)
• Szymon Godziek
• Vincent Tupin
• Adolf Silva
• Tyler McCaul
• Carson Storch
• Brandon Semunuk
• Carson Storch (again, kind of)
• Brandon Semunuk (again)
• Reed Boggs
• Andreu Lacondeguy
Crashed out in 2019:
• Johny Salido (in practice, out of the comp)
• Cam Zink
• Bienvenido Aguado Alba
• Kurt Sorge
• Thomas Genon
• Ethan Nell
• Andreu Lacondeguy
• Cam Zink (again)
• Andreu Lacondeguy (again)
• Bienvenido Aguado Alba
• Kyle Strait
The apparent parity of crashing could be just bad luck—a lot of the crashes this year were weird, small mistakes at the bottom. It's also possible that there's some safety in a fresher, raw venue, versus year two when people are pushing harder to get tricks into their lines. It also seemed like only one person (Johny) got taken out due to injury this year, compared to several last year. My unscientific takeaway is that year one is more dangerous, but year two is harder.4. Returning riders building on their 2018 runs had a big advantage
2018 was a tough year for riders, with a new venue and a focus on more natural features there was so much building to be done that a lot of riders felt they didn't have enough time to fully practise their lines for finals. This year saw most of the returning riders stick to their previous lines, which meant there could be a greater focus on nailing the tricks they wanted to do. This was definitely a factor in why the results were so tight at the top.
All but two riders from 2018 managed to improve on their runs, with just Andreu Lacondeguy not bettering or equalling their past run. But if he'd been able to hold onto his final hit after a wild second run, he likely would have bettered his 2018 score of 87.33.
On the other hand, riders that were first timers at the event were at a clear disadvantage. Emil, Johny, Bienvenido, and Reece had to scratch lines in with the leftover terrain and avoid the existing lines built by the returning riders, and Reece's especially got penalized for a lot of down-time in his run. None of them finished higher than 12th place.
All of them missed out on the Top 10 that get invited back automatically, and will have to earn their way back into the big show again next year. I'd love to see a way to level the playing field a little bit for returning riders, especially since line choice and creativity plays such a huge part in the judging. Maybe since returning riders don't have the advantage of a year's experience, they could get free rein to ride a section of other riders' lines without the original builders whining about it? I'm sure someone has a better idea than that, but I'd like to see something
.5. Bikes aren't invincible
Every year I'm blown away that bikes don't self-destruct at the mere mention of Rampage. These machines are legitimately incredible; the bikes of Rampage simply don't get enough credit. Not only are the forces involved in casing or over-rotating a 50ft 360 absolutely heinous, but freeriders are notoriously terrible at taking care of their bikes. Yes, some of them are meticulous and have the budget to have spare frames and mechanics doing full teardowns and inspections for cracks after each day, but many of them don't. Hell, of all people, Semenuk's brakes sounded awful all week.
So, while I'm sure that marketing folks and mechanics work hard to hide any failures in practice and elsewhere, it's always been surprising that there have been so few
broken bikes at Rampage.
This year though we saw several high profile failures. Brendan Fairclough's custom painted alloy Scott Gambler appeared to succumb to a vicious case of his canyon gap in practice, and he had to ride his carbon World Cup bike instead. Even more high profile, Bienvenido Alba's carbon YT Tues experienced a catastrophic failure during the live broadcast as he cased a front flip in his second run. I'm still not sure why the broadcast team didn't want to discuss it; the broken bike was clear for all to see, and sports marketing is always a high risk, high reward game. And finally, Carson's tire failed after an almost perfectly stomped 360. I'm not sure if it was already compromised, but it seemed cruel that he wasn't able to finish an absolutely incredible run.
To be clear, these failures don't mean there's anything wrong with either of the bikes that failed. I'm sure others failed behind the scenes, and I'm sure their failures don't reflect the quality of the bikes. Absolutely nobody
should be riding Rampage level moves and feel like their bikes deserve to emerge unscathed.A few more thoughts:• Kyle Strait is the most consistent Rampage rider.
The veteran has been at every event since it began, and is still one of the riders to beat. His score of 83.33 was solid, and it's nice to see him adding 3 drops to his bag of tricks. Looking back through Strait's career, he has only dropped below 70 points twice: a 65.75 in 2012 and 59.8 in 2008. After securing ninth place this year he will be automatically invited back for 2020, his 15th Rampage. • Brandon Semenuk joins Kurt Sorge as the most successful Rampage riders of all time.
Brandon Semenuk was looking for redemption this year. Two crashes in 2018 were clearly on his mind. With more time to refine his line and add a few new features, it's no surprise he came out swinging and earned a 92.33 from the judges. With three wins a piece, he joins Kurt Sorge as the most successful Rampage riders of all time.• Not everything went smoothly in production.
As much as I'm calling this the best Rampage ever, parts of the viewing experience shortchanged the incredible riding. The cable cam didn't work at all—I don't think I saw a single shot from it that worked all day, it kept awkwardly trying to correct itself during the final hits. I'm also not sure why long lenses are harder to come by than helicopters. And did I hear fake bike sounds? What was that? This thing costs Red Bull a shocking amount of money, and as an industry we're indebted to them for giving these athletes a stage, but sorting this stuff out doesn't take money (actually it might save
money). • When Brandon wins, Canada wins.
Every year except 2013 has had at least one Canadian rider on the Rampage podium. For 2019 it was all three medal positions going to Canadians Brandon Semenuk, Brett Rheeder and Tom Van Steenbergen. The only other time this has happened was back in 2008 when Semenuk took his first Rampage win.