Redbull Rampage: The Dirtbag’s Perspective

Since its inception in 2001, the Redbull Rampage has represented the pinnacle of big mountain riding to me, and since 2001 it’s also been an event I wanted to see in person. So this year I finally pulled the pin, hooked up a cheap fare to Vegas, and got myself down there.

You’ve all seen the photos by now and some images are stunningly fantastic, but when you actually get down into the heat of the Zion desert you find that there’s really a lot more going on beyond the glam shots. So this is my take on Rampage, a dirtbag’s perspective if you will. I should also mention that I took mere snapshots, not photographs, so if you’re pining for more of that stunningly fantastic stuff, sorry bros!

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The first thing that struck me was is the sheer scale of the terrain. I snapped a quick shot of this map in the media tent not so much to post here but really just to get my bearings and have something to reference when billy-goating around these canyons. It’s a massive area basically divided into a gnarly and exposed natural upper section and a well-sculpted lower booter section. It’s also interesting to note that features from 2010 are left largely unridden simply because riders have moved on to bigger things.

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Bigger than it looks on TV. No, really.

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Gully sending it off the low side of the Oakley Sender – still huge.

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Contemplating the canyon gap, feeling insignificant?

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Rampage is one place where you won’t envy the pros – not only do they have to ride this stuff, but they spend days digging under the blazing Utah sun. There are no masseuses, no catered team tents with acai quinoa smoothies, no trainers to spin on. There are shovels and rakes, calloused hands, and a patch of earth under the stars to call home each night. Ho Chi Minh hats = not my first Rampage rodeo.

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The bike depot reportedly checked in over 700 spectator bikes and there were piles more stashed around the desert. Ever seen a couple million dollars worth of bikes in one place?

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Spectators were generally pretty rowdy folks – think heckler’s rock stuffed into a canyon. Maybe its the nature of the event, or the fact that people travel far and wide to be here (including a 6km hike/bike in), but the vibe is way beyond enthusiastic, it’s almost manic. These guys humped a f*#@ing sofa in. Dedicated.

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Troy Lee and his son, as well as Brendan Fairclough and Olly Wilkins, chillin’ courseside. The relaxed atmosphere and access to the pros is something that all the spectators seemed to enjoy and it’s yet another unique aspect of this event.

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As I mentioned earlier, when the shoveling is done the riders sack up and start evaluating lines, comparing notes as they go. Knowing the consequences of misjudging a feature, they take their time to put together a run.

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Here Graham Agassiz guineas the big drop on the new and improved Oakley sender. Gully cased this twice before dialling it in and I gotta give him props for shaking off two HUGE crashes that would have most guys calling their mom for a ride home.

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Many people would assume that pros get a shuttle up. Wrong. Not only do they hoof it for every practice run and every practice hit, they often haul their own bike up the steep and rugged terrain.

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You win some, you lose some. 2012 Rampage winner Kurt Sorge was on injured reserve along with Darren Berrecloth and, by the end of Rampage, Thomas Vanderham, Kenny Smith, Mark Matthews, Mitch Chubey, Mike Hopkins, and Logan Binggeli were added to that list. Healing vibes to all you guys, sincerely, fanboi nerds.

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The canyon gap wasn’t used as much this year but this gives you a sense of scale. From the flag at top right down to the flag at bottom left. ‘Nuff said.

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The anticipation from fans and pros alike is palpable in the dry desert air as each competitor preps way up at the top, and the whumping of the heli as it comes over the ridge adds a bit of ‘Apocalypse Now’ to the whole thing.

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After all the prep and the hard work, the curtain drops and the show begins. Boys and girls, this is an absolutely astounding show. I can’t stress this enough. No matter how many slopestyle contests you’ve seen, no matter how many vids you’ve watched, if you go to Rampage it will blow your mind. Zink, 78 foot backflip.

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That’s a NO.

So that’s a wrap, 2013 Redbull Rampage done and dusted! Congrats to the winners and survivors, and props to all the people along the way who helped this event into one of the greatest sporting spectacles on earth. If this whets your appetite for 2014, pull the pin and see what blows up.


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