As this year’s Red Bull Ride + Style approached, the competition was looking to be the toughest yet, with a solid, custom track set-up and a fixed freestyle lineup featuring riders from around the world. Competitors new and old geared up and hit the course at Justin Herman Plaza hoping to take home the coveted first place trophies.
Artwork on the ramps and course features from established street artists RISK, Tristan Eaton, Insa and San Francisco local Sam Flores brightened up the space and helped blend the two distinct cultures that have mutual respect for each other. The crowd of more than 5,000 spectators was not disappointed.
Back to attempt a return to the top of the track podium was the 2011 Red Bull Ride + Style winner Jason Clary, with 2012 winner Addison Zawada also looking to claim a second title. As the heats progressed, the riding was taken to another level -- some riders went full-bore and crashed, ultimately removing themselves from competition.
In an interesting turn of events, Zawada, who looked poised to take the title again, went down twice and left the door open. Clary gladly took advantage, charging the course non-stop and taking home his second Red Bull Ride + Style title.
“I dug deep today. I didn’t think it was going to happen; I’ve been off the bike for about six months,” said Clary. “I had so much support from Oakley, Zen, my friends and family and my new wife. I’m a happy man right now. I didn’t know what to expect, but the self-confidence was there, I had the right bike, the right attitude and I came in to do my best.”
Clary was followed up by the quick Hernan Montenegro in second and Mash team member Walton Brush in third.
As the freestyle competitors hit the freshly-painted course features, the judges knew they were in for a tough decision. Last year’s winner Josh Boothby was looking to land the first-ever in-competition flair, a full 180-degree backflip, while riders like 2011 winner Matt Reyes were cruising the course with an uncanny consistency.
A welcome surprise to most was seeing Zawada on the freestyle course throwing huge tuck no-handers and making his way onto the elite list of just three people to pull a backflip in fixed-gear competition.
In the end there was no stopping Reyes from reclaiming his place atop the podium. He came out of the gate strong, linking more tricks together than any other rider and had no trouble staying on his bike in his winning run. His dialed 360s over the flybox, super tucked no-handers and quick whipped 540s helped him impress the judges and secure the number one spot.
“The whole event this year was so good,” said Reyes. “The ramps were on point; the competition level had never been this fierce or crazy. Everyone was breaking themselves off and really going for it this time. I’m stoked to be here and see all my friends who live all over the world. Red Bull brings them together and this place is so good. I can’t even say how it feels to come out on top. I’m still trying to figure it out!”
The artist collaborations on this year’s obstacles featured pieces by iconic street artists Tristan Eaton, Insa, RISK and Sam Flores, who brought wild artwork and style to set-ups that were already crazy. The huge wall worked on by Bay Area local Flores was a crowd favorite, exhibiting a solid blend of cycling imagery and street style. More than 400 cans of spray paint and 20 gallons of lacquer were used in the design of the course features.
“It’s amazing. I wanted to put as much work as I could into these pieces to represent the Bay and my city as much as I could,” said Flores. “Everyone’s feeling it, and of the three years, the art this year really stands out with the riders rather than just being a backdrop. This year they’re on the same tier. It’s a really cool mesh of both worlds.”
Flores wasn’t alone in helping get the obstacles primed for the event this year nor was he the only one excited about them. The well-respected RISK brought his original style to the pieces and was pumped to see his work in the San Francisco sunshine.
“It’s awesome, especially with all the metal flakes sparkling in the sun,” RISK said of the artwork on the ramps. “When we painted indoors you couldn’t really tell but seeing them outside is awesome. The riders are totally stoked, so that makes me totally stoked because they think what we’ve done is cool.”
Reyes shared the sentiments of most in attendance and it likely couldn’t be put any better: “This is the one time each year we get to ride this spot. As long as they keep having events like this it’s only going to get bigger. It’s not going to get any smaller, we’ll make damn sure of it. The riders are making it happen and they’ll keep it around!”