Remy Metailler was unable to compete at Redbull Rampage last year
after being stopped at the border on his drive down from Whistler to Utah. He headed down last month to redeem himself, and finally ride the line that he envisioned riding during the 2017 competition.
Why weren't you able to attend Rampage last October?
Well, I showed up at the US border on Thursday the 12th of October around 11am with Eduardo Arruda (my builder from Brazil that I met in Whistler earlier that year) my bikes, truck, I was all ready to drive down to Utah, enjoy some time before Rampage with my builders and friends, and then compete. I had a great trip planned, with the Monster Cup in Vegas as well to watch, some Zion visiting… I was so looking forward to it.
All went well until a border officer Googled me.
I had been to Rampage twice before (2015 - 2016) and to the US many times. I never had one single issue. During my previous trips, when the officer asked me what I was doing I would say the truth. The last two Rampage I said "I'm going to bike close by Zion, and then compete in an event”. Every single trip I had made and the Q&A with the officers had been recorded, so the officer could see I was honest and had never lied about the purpose of my trip, or the duration…
Going to the US and compete under a Visitor Visa (b1/b2) or ESTA is totally legal according to the US immigration laws. Knowing that, why would I apply for another visa? Or do something different. Here is an extract from the law: A professional athlete who is in the U.S. on a visa waiver or B-1 visa cannot earn money in the U.S. other than prize money from tournaments. The professional athlete is expected to have a residence outside the U.S. that he or she will return to after the competition is complete. This visa is not appropriate if the athlete wants to live in the U.S. full time.
Why would I try to hide anything? Nearly no one has an athlete visa anyways unless the rider actually works/worked in the US (film production, development, team camp…)
After hours spent at the border just north of Seattle, the US agent told me I won't be able to come to the US until I get an athlete visa or a new Visa.
As soon as it happened, I called a lawyer who confirmed once again that in my situation, to compete I did not need a work visa or athlete visa. I printed the law, a letter from the lawyer and went back to the border as the lawyer advised with no luck again.
I drove back to Vancouver, applied for a new Visitor Visa: B1/B2 (I had an ESTA originally which I can no longer have) and had the French embassy helping me out to get an express meeting 3 days later. The General Consulate of France mentioned that since the change of president in France and in the US, the tensions between the two countries generated an abnormal number of French citizens being denied entry in the United States.
The visa got denied but I still drove Eduardo my builder to work on my line (my other builder was already on the site) as I was hoping to make it after a second application the Tuesday (3 days before the event). I would have had no time to practice pretty much but f*ck it, it's Rampage and if I could have made it across the border even last minute, I would have ridden anyways. I tried a second time and met the embassy on the Tuesday before the event at 8 am and got denied again.
What was it like to watch your competitors and friends online from home?
I did not want to watch it live. I just wanted to ride, so I went to Kamloops and had a great weekend. While all that shit show was happening, I focused on getting stronger and faster to prepare the Urban Downhill of Taxco, which was the following weekend. I knew that the Taxco race was a good way to finish the season on a better note and something very important for me and my career to move on from the Rampage fail.
I watched the runs of the 20 riders afterwards. I was stoked that everyone had a great run, no major crashes, and that the sport had been pushed so much once again, but so mad I could not be there. I had trained and prepared all year just for that event.
What made you decide to go back to the Rampage site at a later date?
I don't like disappointing people. My builders worked so hard to get a line for me and I was not able to get there. So I went back this past April to show that I could ride that any day any time, with or without the helicopter and the media. I played it safe, just wanted to do a smooth top to bottom, that's it. Obviously during the event, with a medical crew, the media, other riders, my run would have been different, but by myself with no security around, wind flags or cell service on site, I was not going to risk anything. Some people would have, not me.
Did you go with a team of two builders and take four days to build/four days to practice like they do at the main event?
No, I just went by myself and stayed with my friend Tyson Hudson. We rode together (well not too much as apparently I picked up the windiest week in a long time hahaha), and on the last day the forecast said that the wind was going to be “ok” between 8am and 10am, so I had a 2 hour window to try the jumps and do a top to bottom. The day before, some very helpful young guys (Jaxon Riddle was one of them) came and gave a hand to rack the landings and rebuild some of the take off. I had my bike and kit ready to drop before sunset, but the wind was crazy. So we went home and came back at 7am the next day. The rain made it tricky as the dirt was slippery on some parts and sticking to my tires and shoes, but everything worked out fine. I wished I had got 1 hour more to dial everything and go faster/bigger and more stylish, but the wind picked really bad. Once I had jumped everything once, I was super comfortable and felt I could do that all day. I went back towards the top to get another lap in but the wind became to bad. I checked I got the GoPro for the gram, and made the call to go back down, packed up and I flew back home (Whistler) the next morning.
What was your goal with going to the site when there was no competition?
Just to have fun, and show my sponsors, fans, builder and friends that I was not going to give up after what happened last October. Clearly, I also wanted to earn a spot for this year’s Rampage.
Was it harder or easier to drop into your line knowing that you wouldn't be judged on it?
The judging part does not affect me during the event anyway. It was definitely harder to drop when I was pretty much by myself, and only because of security. I love biking and my job, but I don’t want to get an injury that is going to handicap me the rest of my life either.
What are your goals for the season?