1. STRAIT IS THE ONLY PERSON TO HAVE WON MORE THAN ONCE
He's not just the only rider to have won more than once, he's also the youngest rider to have ever won Rampage. Kyle Strait is a bit of a living legend in that regard. Back in 2004, Strait was just 17 when he took the win in Utah, beating the likes of Kinrade, Vanderham and Zink at the original site of Rampage, off Kolob Terrace Road, on the western boundary of Zion National Park.
Back then, Rampage was only three years old and riders were finding their limits, with none so more than Strait himself. A week before the event, he was at home preparing for Rampage. Cutting his visor with a sharp blade, he cut into his right hand right down to one of his flexor tendons. His doctor recommended rest because any further injury to the tendon could mean Strait would lose the ability to lift his finger forever. Instead, Strait splinted his finger and headed to the desert. If you look closely at the footage and photos from 2004, you can see the splint that held his finger in place. Want to go back in time and look at the tricks, bikes and body armour everyone was rocking back then? Check out the video below.
As the years went by - with some years being Rampage-less - there was increasing talk of whether it was possible for a rider to win Rampage twice. Perhaps freeriders are just as superstitious as World Cup riders who often say that winning the Rainbow Stripes means you'll have poor results the subsequent year, because soon there was talk of the 'Curse of the Rampage Win'. Strait obviously didn't believe in any of it and in 2013 he took the win again. Pulling a manual on the ridge, he weaved his way through the dirt to land a huge step-down like it was a mere curb drop. Throwing in a huge suicide no-hander, Strait's run was immense and booked him a well deserved place in the history books.
I did a couple of whips and a drop that I always over clear during practice and I over-cleared it again. I came down to the bottom and took my hands off of the handlebars for the longest I've ever had them off for. I was scared during the last jump, but thought to myself, let's make this. - Kyle Strait talking after his 2013 Rampage win
RED BULL RAMPAGE - TOP THREE RESULTS PER YEAR
So who else is on for a double Rampage win? Lacondeguy, Zink, Semenuk and Sorge are all out there this year, and you never know, Strait might make it a triple...
2. LACONDEGUY'S 2014 RUN WAS THE HIGHEST SCORED RUN EVER
With a score of 95.25, Andreu Lacondeguy's run is the highest scoring run in Rampage’s history to date. Riders are going to have to make a huge impression on the judges this year to come close to this score, especially as 2014 second and third-placed finishers (Zink's 89.5 and Semenuk's 89.2), also scored higher than anyone else in previous years bar Zink's podium-topping score of 89.2 in 2010. Going back through the years, here's the run-down on the winning scores from highest to lowest.
RED BULL RAMPAGE - WINNING SCORES
1ST PLACE RIDER
After moving away from the FMB Slopestyle World Tour and riding the FEST Series, Lacondeguy was very much the maverick coming into the 2014 competition. Lacondeguy had been hovering around the podium points for a good few years; in his previous three Rampage competitions he had consecutively made fourth spot. It was only a matter of when, not if, the young Spaniard would make it to the top three steps, but which one? Lacondeguy's run immediately began with a humongous drop from one of the sheer cliff-edges near the start gate. He made it look effortless and his ease of style swallowed up the various hips and gaps on his way down. With moto-whips a plenty, Lacondeguy dialled one of the smoothest flat-spin 360s we've seen to date; a trick he had tried and failed in the previous Rampage. With that final trick in the bag, he crossed the finish line leaving everyone pretty speechless. See for yourselves in the video below.
I've been getting fourth for the last three years, so this year I was like, "I'm going to go down the gnarliest things and try to go for the win." I'm super pumped and stoked that it happened. Stoked to put my name on the Rampage board. It's good! - Andreu Lacondeguy speaking in 2014 just after his win.
3. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A SLOPESTYLE RIDER TO PODIUM
Of course Red Bull Rampage has been open to freeriders, slopestylers and downhillers throughout its history (but so far no current Enduro World Series riders have competed). In its second ever incarnation, a young World Cup racer called Cedric Gracia turned up to play. It was 2002 and Gracia carved his way down the ridge line and like everyone else, dropped some fairly gnarly looking step-downs. Gracia managed to make the run look faster than anyone else that day which earned him second place behind Tyler 'Super-T' Klassen.
After riding the World Cup circuit, Gracia returned to the desert in 2003 for more glory. Gracia had been hanging out with a teenager called Kyle Strait and the skiing legend Seth Morrison in the build up to the finals. With a little encouragement from his friends, Gracia pulled a backflip mid run. He had never attempted a back-flip like this before, certainly not one at an event like this, and with that trick he landed himself first place. But the story doesn't end here. Gracia's trick jump-started Rampage into the contest we see today. Back then it was unheard of to see a trick like that mid-run, but now, with dig teams and wooden features thrown into the modern-day Rampage, big tricks are a staple for the competitors. Want to relive the glory days? Check out Cedric's winning run, as well as everything else that went on in the desert that year in the video below.
Another successful World Cup rider to podium at Rampage was Gee Atherton. Atherton came into the 2004 Rampage with his eyes wide open. He put on an impressive performance, so much so that he secured second place that year. He returned in 2010 where he rode an all-out gnarly downhill line with big air, including a massive step-down gap to wallride, but was pipped at the post by the mighty Cam Zink with his massive 360 off the Oakley Sender.
Things turned out differently for Atherton in 2012 when he tried to make a transfer line work. Unfortunately, the side of a ridge got in the way and cartwheeled Atherton off his bike. Atherton landed pretty heavily, and knowing the consequences of a second impact to the head, he sat out the rest of the competition. Atherton’s respect for Rampage has since fostered him and his brother Dan, the ambition for creating Red Bull Hardline in the UK.
It's also worth noting that Kyle Strait was a World Cup racer, successful racing against the best of them in the mid to late 2000s. Kyle even managed a bronze medal as a Junior at the 2004 World Downhill Championships in Les Gets, France.
4. THE PRIZE MONEY FOR RAMPAGE IS NOW $100,000
At the first ever Rampage, the prize money for the event was $8,000, which in today's money - bearing in mind the rate of inflation - equates to nearly $11,000. Jump to 2015 and the total prize fund is a juicy $100,000. To the victor and the runners up go the spoils - a split of the $100,000 from first to the top few runners-up - and to the People's Choice award winner, a Polaris RZR. The timeless debate will continue as to whether the prize money for the competitors should increase to reflect the challenges faced by the riders, or whether it should be kept reasonable so that riders don't feel the pressure of unduly risking themselves for a mere wad of cash.
5. MCGAZZA'S GOPRO RUN IN 2013 WAS ONE OF THE MOST SEARCHED THINGS ON THE INTERNET
It's not every day that you actually 'win' the internet, but Kelly McGarry actually did that thanks to his 2013 Rampage run which eventually landed him second place. With a field dominated by North Americans and Europeans, it took huge effort, courage and tons of style for the humble Kiwi to beat the majority of his peers and score so highly.
With the likes of Cam Zink landing the biggest step-down back-flip the world had seen to date during the finals, McGazza - being a master of the back-flip - packed his run full of insane style and skill, including his monster back-flip over the Canyon Gap that had 'Danger! High consequence!' written all over it. McGazza made it look like he'd been doing it for weeks but, in fact, it was his first attempt. Bold? Crazy? All of the above, it was epic. And as a result, McGazza's GoPro run made it into the top 100 things people searched for on Google in 2013. Now, not everyone can claim to something that immense just for riding a push bike!
The canyon gap...she is a whopper! Haha, but it was built well. Coming into it with a bunch of speed, I definitely wanted to flip it. I was stoked to get around, just sneak her in and ride away! Being on the podium at Rampage is obviously a dream come true having grown up watching the event. Being the dude from New Zealand, having my mates back home cheering me on I am pretty stoked. It's an amazing feeling. - Kelly McGarry speaking after his run at Rampage 2013
Red Bull Rampage will take place between the 15th and 17th October 2015, with qualifications on Thursday and finals on Saturday. This is all, of course, subject to change, particularly because of the weather. Talking of which, thunderstorms will be looming in the area on Friday and more-so on Saturday. We'll keep you updated on the schedule if (and when) it changes.
Words by Farah Ahmed. With thanks to Red Bull Media House for the additional data on the prize fund.