Red Bull Rampage - A Special Event

definition in Le Petit Larousse;
A sporting event involving several teams or competitors.

The 14th Red Bull Rampage just happened and as always, the limits of our sport were pushed!

But before anything else and especially in order to understand what just happened, it’s important to remember the course this stand-alone event takes.

The 21 qualified riders were not there by chance... With each video of a young prodigy, the community ignites, hoping and demanding a qualification of so-and-so, but to be invited to participate is clearly not easy and cannot be underestimated.

Each invited rider is entitled to have help from 2 diggers and 1 media member with him. Being part of a team for an MTB competition makes perfect sense in the middle of the Utah desert!

Being a digger at Rampage is not a particularly pleasurable job. They are concentrated and calculated on every part of process with the end goal being to enable the rider to achieve everything on their line from top to bottom.

One of the major developments in recent years has been the access to water. A reservoir at the top of the mountain was replenished every day to feed pipes on all ridges. That way each team connects up and uses the water to compact their line. This is one of the major features of every Rampage site in Utah, the dirt. This dirt is perfect, with few pebbles. It’s similar to sand but with a little water and many pats of the shovel, it compacts easily offering up more precision and grip.

That said, let’s not diminish the work of each team. Shaping a 60 second run on a (nearly) fresh mountain requires technique and a large amount of work, even if it was the 2nd year at this venue erosion had already ravaged old lines. One of Rheeder's diggers hit away at a rock 10 hours a day for 4 days, to do something that may have seemed insignificant when watching the live feed. This is just one example of the commitment.

It’s this real gap between watching the live feed and seeing the event in reality that pushes me to write this article.

Talking about Kyle Strait and Rampage comes hand-in-hand since he’s the only rider to have participated in ALL 14 editions!

This year, Kyle was surrounded by Mitch Ropelato and Adam Billinghurst. More than just henchmen, they are his most trusted people who know riding inside out, and who are able to provide analysis on each element of the run they build together.

Kyle's media guy, that’s me! NicoB.

For this small and intimate Rampage community, the event began on October 15th with a week of digging and no bikes allowed. Then full practice with wheels from 21st. I arrived on-site on Saturday 19th, the last day of shaping, just enough time to gauge things.

This period is a key moment at Rampage; the choice of lines, the building and especially the final validations. It’s also at this moment that the competition actually begins as the judges spend all these days watching the teams evolve.

The scoring depends on 2 final runs with the judges also scoring according to risk taking, difficulty of the line and control. But i’s during these training sessions that first impressions are formed. So, it’s important to negotiate them well.

Each line is composed of highlights.
In Kyle’s case, there’s the famous 70-foot drop, already there in 2018 but that had never actually been ‘opened’…

At the bottom of the line, that big feature from 2018 finally became ‘normal’... This 11-metre blind drop becoming, by force of progression and commitment, a common element to hit!

For each of the participants, these highlights are finally ridden little-by-little, some only one or two times in practice and in the 2 final runs. This is what makes the last day of training so interesting and intense, because many wait until the last moment to try these monsters, waiting for them to be in perfect condition with a packed and smooth reception.

It’s on this point that I must insist, that being a part of this freeride elite requires of course an irreproachable technique, but also a methodology and calmness in the approach to competition. It is essential to have the run perfectly in mind because here improvisation does not exist!

If ignorance of the event leads some to define the riders as crazy or worse, they are far from knowledgeable. 

D-Day is ultimately the culmination many previous days’ work and certainly alongside the stress and nervousness of any international competition.

Arrival on-site at 7 o'clock in the morning when it’s 4°C, like a pilgrimage, doesn’t help to brighten the atmosphere.

When the first rays of the rising sun reveal the Rampage face intensity heightens. I’m talking about the spectator areas filling up at a glance, the ever-present Red Bull Rampage logos, cameras, the giant screen and especially the constant drum of the helicopters. The pressure goes up a notch!

Even if the lower zone is invaded by spectators and other guests, the top part of the mountain is actually quite empty. Just security and television limiting access to Red Bull cameras, rescue and medics, riders and diggers. While this may seem restrictive, it’s clearly evident that such an event must have strict rules for everyone’s safety.

And then the show begins! With that knot in the stomach of everyone there, the spectators first and foremost.
Having seen none of the days of prep beforehand, the public find themselves with no benchmark, and a 360° drop the size of a building! Of course, there’s family and friends... Ever-present waiting down amongst the racket of finish area, all of them know the risks and are thinking of possible problems, a hypothetical crash... Nobody can ever get used to that.

And finally, the team members... We were looking at things from a different angle, that of nailing the plan (run) put in place!

And then the runs pass. We see the crashes, zero gravity. The first round of scores are up and everyone tries to understand the judging criteria; more freeride, more slopestyle.

Each competitor that rolls through the finish arch is welcomed as winner. Amongst them, it’s as if the classification has no real importance. But it does, that's for sure!

In my work, I’m led to create product-oriented content, to promote the visibility of COMMENCAL. Regarding Rampage, the goal is quite different. Everything is centered around the rider, at the same time also which rider/s can prove the freeride capabilities of our FURIOUS... But eventually, it goes far beyond that, even if it is true.

Thanks to his top 9 finish, Kyle Strait has secured his finals place for next year. It will be his 15th consecutive Rampage, just like that!
Because this event was made for him and the story of Rampage has been played out, a big part through him.

During one of our meals together in the days leading up the final, I asked him if he realized that one day he was going to have to stop, like his friends (Zink, Sorge, etc.) Not that I wish that for him but the reality is that this day will be a turning point for him.

His answer is top, "Oh you know, it's going to happen but not right now! And there are lots of younger people who are strong and who for me are the epitome of freeride, like Tom (Van Steenbergen) and Jaxson (Riddle). They have the spirit!"

I will be returning to Utah for Rampage, because whilst it’s certainly the most stressful MTB competition in the world, it provides unique and unforgettable memories and emotions.


Nicolas BRIZIN




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