The Faces of Freestyle Mountain Bike's Biggest Event
It’s nearly “go-time” in Virgin, Utah. The athletes have arrived, and the storms came with them. Between the thunder and lightning, lines have begun to develop out of the red clay and rocky mountainside. Red Bull Rampage is the “final hurrah” of another long freeride mountain bike season, as Cam Zink puts it, and it’s a fitting exclamation point.
“It’s the biggest event, the most publicized event and by far the most legendary event in freeride mountain biking, so when you get an invitation, you know it’s time to shine,” explained Zink, a Rampage winner in 2010. “Just being here is huge. There’s so much hype and excitement that leads up to it, and then if you actually win the thing, it’s just the best feeling ever.”
Preparation for Rampage begins so far before the Qualifiers, which run on Friday, October 10th. There’s all the building and maintenance that comes from the build crew, especially with all the effort and planning that goes into the Oakley Icon Sender, a feature that’s been a part of the event since 2010. This year’s Icon Sender incorporates five launch points into three different landings, with ample opportunity for creativity. Zink, who won the 2010 event after landing a massive 360 drop, already has his sights set on the drop that’s being called “the Big Girl,” and is even thinking a massive backflip might be in his near future.
“You do some planning before you arrive, but you really can’t commit to anything until you’re on site. And planning too much is a Catch-22: if you hit the pre-built features like the Canyon Gap or the Sender, you’ve got to funnel in and out of those features. But as some of us have come to learn, limitation breeds creativity. When you knew where you need to go, you know what you have to work with, so it helps hone in your line. Once you make up your mind on what is the cornerstone, the focal point, of your line, and mine is probably the Sender drop, it’s just about finding the best line in and out.”
While the defending champ, Kurt Sorge, won’t be available to defend his title, he’ll certainly be on site and he’ll be donning a new cap: judge. Despite not needing to go through the process of assessing line options and determing which big tricks will land him on the podium, he still has his eye on the strategies that may prevail.
“I have a feeling a big move is going to take it this year,” said Sorge, who broke his leg . "There are just so many trickable features, the the big drop off the Icon Sender, and then the Canyon Gap has been waiting to be tricked for years.
“While I’m disappointed I won’t be riding, it’ll be kind of an eye opener to see [the event] from a different perspective,” Sorge continued. “I’m used to being the rider and stressing and trying to kind my line, so it’ll be cool to stand back and see what all the other riders find and create out of the landscape.”
Corrie Lindsay, the winner of the Render the Sender contest, had “big trick” in mind when he put together his rendering of the Sender. His quarter-pipe design was part of the inspiration for one of the craziest Icon Sender’s to date.
“I think the real ‘inspiration’ came from viewing the build site as an athlete. When I got in the mindset of what line I would choose to win the competition I figured I would have to do one big trick to separate me from the field. So I designed it as a feature to allow for innovation,’ explained Lindsay, who’s a licensed Landscape Architect in the Bay Area. “I’m excited to know that these amazing athletes had my design in their hands and conversed about actually hitting this thing. I feel honored even to be included in the Oakley design team, so far everyone I’ve spoken with and researched is a complete stud.”
Zink’s got a second Rampage win in mind – and he’s planning on using the Sender as the cornerstone of his run. Fortunately, the Sender ended up as big and bad and versatile as he’d hoped.
“It’s crazy, it’s its own area code on the whole zone. There are so many different lines and landings; there’s definitely more people hitting that than any other feature, other than the start gate and the finish line,” he said. “I’m definitely looking at the big drop line. There’s a chance others might flip it, if they do, it will come down to the rest of the run and how they ride, and that’s what Rampage is mostly about.”