Every fall, a small town normally not visited by many, roars to life with the return of the worlds greatest freeride mountain biking event, RedBull Rampage. Thousands of spectators flood into a beautiful desert valley in Virgin, UT just outside of Zion National Park, to unite with their friends, embrace their inner rampage, and shred some of the most unique terrain the world has to offer. Bikes are absolutely everywhere, and they’ve come from everywhere too. Germany, Spain, France, Canada, you name it. Not only the riders but the fans too. They travel thousands of miles to show their support for their local hero, even those no longer with us.
Redbull Rampage is so incredible, it’s truly one of the hardest events that I’ve ever tried to describe. The electricity in the air is a hard thing to transpond into words, and that’s just one little piece of the magic. The magnitude of this event is beyond what you’d expect from reality. The strength and skills these riders display here make their lines look fun, relaxed, and easy, but that’s all part of the style.
Once you get behind the scenes, you learn a lot about what the event really is. You realize that these riders are indeed human, and that rampage is still scary to them, but each risk is carefully calculated and every possible measure is taken to ensure a safe descent. I’ve spoken to sooo many riders over the years, and any riders number one goal is always to make it down safely. Scores and placement come second. The features get bigger and the stunts get wilder every year, and so, the risk of crashes and injuries rises too. I’m elated to say that not one rider had to be airlifted by the med-evac this year, and all riders greeted the offseason in relatively good condition. Perhaps a lot less exposure at the new venue helped bring about that reality? Either way, it’s great to see the riders ride away from the event under their own power.
A New Venue:
This new venue seemed to be an all-around favorite. Riders, judges, staff, and fans were all pleased by the benefits brought by the new venue.
|Decreased Exposure: This helps protect riders from the major killjoy of Rampage, WIND. Riding more along the face of the mountain rather than the ridge tops allowed riders to increase the hang time on jumps, and complexity of the stunts performed on each one as well. This enhances the fan experience and helps ease riders anxiety caused by a unpredictably windy run.|
|Back to the Basics: Rampage returned to its roots by going all natural again this year, soothing complaints centered around the frustration of slopestyle encroaching into the big mountains unique territory. Lines are dug here at rampage, not built, and we like it that way.|
|Early Start Time: This year to additionally battle the wind, and level the playingfield for all riders, the start time was scheduled earlier. In virgins red rock desert, you’ll come to find that there is a few hour block in the morning where the mountains are still and quiet, and wind plays no factor. This calm period however, is immediately followed by what is usually the windiest part of the day. Hopefully this start time trend will become tradition, and all competitors can finish at least one of their two runs before the wind can naysay.|
Although there were no wooden features this year, that didn’t stop certain features from standing out and earning their names. I’d have to say the most unique feature we’ve ever seen at rampage would have to be Brendan Fairclough’s massive rock drop, suitably named after Dwayne Johnson. Nestled midway through Faricloughs run, and bigger than it looks, this feature was a head turner and had no trouble waking the crowd up and getting the energy going. See Faricloughs POV below.
Another run that just sent explosive energy through the desert was the premier run of 21 year old rampage rookie Adolf Silva, where he sent his drops so deep and stopped them so hard, it astonished even veteran rampage fans. He laid down what was sure to be a podium run if it hadn’t included a minor hicccup. A slipped pedal caused a small crash and unfortunately ruined the chance for a podium score, but it seemed as if the fans, and silva himself didnt even know it happened. Silva hopped back on the bike and headed down to the finish corral while the crowd went absolutely ballistic. Definitely the loudest the crowd was that day.
Another big zone filled with the riders choice of several huge drops, was named “The Price is Right”. This section united then individualized many riders lines, creating a beautiful set up to compare the styles of the riders. Many riders hit this but no two runs are ever the same. Rampage is where athletes become artists. They have a sandstone canvas, ready for sculpting. They have shovels and picks as their tools. They have a vision in their mind, and they get to work creating their masterpiece. Every rider, along with the help of their dig team builds the best line to showcase their best skills, and then they put them to the test. So needless to say, diggers deserve a little credit here for busting their backs to bring this event to life. This has gone on for 13 editions of the Red Bull Rampage.
The rapid evolution of this event leaves competitors and fans wondering what they will come up with next. This event has come such a long way, and so have the bikes, and its because these riders refuse to set limits. The sky is the limit for these guys. Just take a look at the comparison between the first Rampage, and the latest, and see the progress for yourself.
If you’re lucky you’ll get to meet one of the OG’s of freeride. Legendary riders from the foundation days of the sport, that return to the desert to admire the progress that they inspired in freeride mountain biking. I consider myself very lucky to have shared rides and great memories with some of what I call the “OG’s” of Rampage. If you see any of them, you owe it to yourself to stop and start a conversation. Don’t miss a word from Richie Schley, Cedric Gracia, Josh Bender, Darren “Bearclaw” Bearclough, Robbie “Bordo” Bourdon; and of course, Mr. Consistent himself, Kyle “Lyle” Strait. The stories these guys can share, about the epic evolution of not only Rampage but freeride mountain biking in general; will leave you awe-struck and ready to get a sick ride in, or build a killer new line.
Hope to see you all there next year! Congratulations to all rampage competitors, and a huge thank you to everyone who helped make this event spectacular as always!
Results: Red Bull Rampage 2018
|4TH||TOM VAN STEENBERGEN *Best Trick*||84.66|
|10TH||BRENDAN FAIRCLOUGH *Kelly McGarry Spirit*||67.66|
|11TH||ADOLF SILVA *People’s Choice*||64.33|