Things got nasty after a morning session at the Red Bull Rampage venue today, with the intense heat giving way to a violent windstorm that tore through the canyons, blowing down gates and flags and choking the air with dust.
The whirlwind hit in late afternoon, just about the time that the evening sessions have been kicking up all week, with riders waiting to take to the course on their bikes until the relentless sun and heat had eased up a little. There had been some occasional menacing skies over neighboring canyons throughout the week, but the dark cloud parked itself directly overhead today.
Andreu Lacondeguy (pictured below) had just made his way up to the Oakley Icon Sender when dust started blowing on the upper ridges – much more than usual – followed quickly by a tidal wave of winds pouring from the start gates down to base camp. Logan Binggeli’s flip session on the step-up was cut short, and spectators scrambled down the mountain as the TV crews battened down the hatches.
Event director Todd Barber and his crew sprang into action; after all, they’re accustomed to the inclement weather, having endured an entire day of steady rain at the 2008 event. Hopefully it’s an isolated problem and we’ll be back on site tomorrow for the Finals under the bright, clear skies we’ve had all week.
Speaking of the 2008 event, winner Brandon Semenuk has been hanging out at the venue, supporting his friends from the sidelines after suffering an unfortunate injury at the Whistler Crankworx event in August. He went down on the last jump in the Slopestyle contest and broke his collarbone, usually a relatively fast-healing injury, but not this time. “I broke my other one and was riding again in five weeks,” he said, “but this one has been taking a lot of time.”
Semenuk won in his rookie Red Bull Rampage appearance, and is obviously disappointed about not being able to defend his title. “It sucks to stand on the sidelines and see all this cool stuff to ride without being able to,” he continued. “A couple days before I was supposed to head here and start digging, I still couldn’t even rest my arms on my trainer bike. I wanted to come here and try to win again; there’s no point unless I can ride at 100%.”
Two more of the 15 pre-qualified riders (taken from the top results in 2008) had to pull out before the event as well: Tyler McCaul and Paul Basagoitia. They also went down at Crankworx, with McCaul breaking his leg at the Colorado event and Paul B. suffering a second-degree separation of his shoulder and two cracked ribs in Whistler. More bad news came on Thursday here in Utah, with Mike Kinrade going down while practicing his Finals line, breaking his leg. He’s had surgery already and was on-site with crutches today, so here’s hoping his recovery is a quick one.
As I type this, the violent winds have died down and another beautiful evening has emerged, so we’re looking good to uncork the insanity of the Final tomorrow. With five rookies on the roster (Tyler McCaul, Greg Watts, Andreu Lacondeguy, Jamie Goldman and Curtis Robinson), will we see another newcomer in the top podium spot? “There are lots of kids with talent here,” Semenuk pointed out. “It could be anyone. It has a lot to do with line choice and building and just putting it together when it comes to the Finals.”
The skills of the other 16 riders set to throw down tomorrow make another rookie win a heck of a long shot, but then again, this is Red Bull Rampage, where anything can happen. Watch how it all goes down on the live webcast tomorrow (Sunday, Oct. 3) starting at 3 p.m. EST/12 p.m. PST on the Red Bull Rampage site, and don’t forget – you can score the riders’ runs yourself with the interactive voting feature.