They say that you should always save the best for last and, when it comes to the mountain biking season, freeride spectacle Red Bull Rampage ensures exactly that.
Rampage gives 21 of the best freeriders in the world eight days to build a trail down a gnarly mountain – with no power tools and only two trail builders to help them with the dig. A panel of judges then watches on as each respective rider takes a unique line down the mountain, pushing themselves and the sport to the limit in a bid to take the coveted crown.
Wildest moments in Red Bull Rampage history
The contest is arguably the one mountain biking showcase that really transcends the sport each year and grabs the attention of the mainstream media. Expect world firsts. Expect death-defying step downs. Expect high-risk and high-reward riding and, whatever happens, expect it to make your parents, friends and work colleagues more concerned about your weekend MTB hobby.
Here are 13 of the top moments, since Rampage got going in 2001.
2003: Cédric Gracia brings rotations to Rampage
Best Rampage Runs 1 (2001-2003)
Cédric Gracia pitched up at Red Bull Rampage in 2003 as a downhill mountain biking legend. His iconic win at Leysin in 2000, beating countryman Nicolas Vouilloz by over nine seconds in wet and wild conditions, was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to his accomplishments on the racing circuit. It’s safe to say that nobody ever doubted the freeride skills of a man talented enough to showboat off the final jump in Leysin that day, but Gracia firmly cemented his legendary status when he took home gold at Rampage in 2003 with this classic run.
2004: Kyle Strait and the no-hander
Road to Rampage 2014 Episode 1 Bonus
What were you doing when you were 14 years old? If the answer is, “Mountain biking every weekend” then you were probably a pretty cool kid, and if your answer is, “Riding Red Bull Rampage” well, then, you’re Kyle Strait.
US freerider Strait is nothing short of a Rampage legend. He debuted when he was just 14-years-old and, three years later in 2004, he won the thing as a 17-year-old – after competing against doctor’s orders and throwing the insane no-hander above that still gives us chills.
2008: Brandon Semenuk wins at 17
Red Bull Rampage: Best Runs #2 (2004, 2008, 2010)
Returning to Utah after a four-year break for safety reasons, another 17-year-old introduced himself to the top of the podium at Red Bull Rampage – Brandon Semenuk.
A new name to nobody in mountain biking after he'd come third in Red Bull Joyride, the big stop on the slopestyle circuit in Whistler the year before, Brandon gave us all a taste of what was to come in his career. Not only that, he gave Rampage its second consecutive winner too young to legally pop open the champagne at the end. Fast forward 57 seconds in the video above to watch Semenuk's run.
2010: Cam Zink’s 360
See Cam Zink's Best Trick-Winning Rampage 360 Drop
We love a good 360. These days you could say a ‘good old’ 360 as you don’t see many 360s in competitions anymore – but they just look so good, don’t they? A good 360, one in difficult conditions, nailed with control and precision, is a beautiful, unexpected thing.
And are there any more famous than Cam Zink’s during his Rampage-winning run in 2010? Look at it. Just look at what he’s gone and done. It’s beautiful. We’re not crying. You’re crying. Leave us alone with our 360s.
2013: Cam Zink’s 78ft step down backflip
Rampage Top Moment: Cam Zink's Sender Backflip
This 78ft [23.77m] step down backflip is not only one of the most impressive Rampage moments, but regarded as one of the most impressive in mountain biking history. And the fact he only came third in this particular year (Strait took the win) just shows how good the competitors can be.
2013: Kelly McGarry backflips the Road Gap
Body of Work: Kelly McGarry's Huge Canyon Backflip
New Zealand rider Kelly McGarry tragically passed away back in 2016. One of the things he’ll always be remembered for is his truly historic backflip over the 72ft [22m] canyon gap at Red Bull Rampage in 2013. The video above breaks down the feat, and explains how truly impressive, and dangerous, the trick was to land. A true legend of Rampage and the sport.
2014: Andreu Lacondeguy gets his win
Andreu Lacondeguy's Winning Red Bull Rampage Run
Andreu Lacondeguy, the people’s rider and the freeride king, had come third at Red Bull Rampage seemingly every year since its conception – or at least that’s what it felt like at times. He finally got the big W in 2014, with a run that, for many, was Rampage mountain biking in its truest freeriding form – super fast, super flowy, and truly jaw-dropping.
2015: Nicholi Rogatkin’s 30ft fall and recovery
This Gnarly Crash Couldn't Stop Nicholi Rogatkin
When you’re asked about the Red Bull Rampage moment that stands out to you, there’s a good chance that the first thing that comes to mind won’t be a winning run, but a horrid crash.
Watching Nicholi Rogatkin fall off a 30ft [9.1m] clip in 2015 was a scary moment. The American slopestyle star is an unpredictable rider at the best of times, and one of the most creative and entertaining riders to watch year-in, year-out, but this was something else. Viewers around the world were just praying he was okay.
In true Rogatkin style, Nicholi didn’t just get right back up after this barbaric crash. He went and finished the rest of his run as well. It was an uncomfortable moment, but it was also a moment that mountain biking will never forget.
2016: Brandon Semenuk stomps one of the greatest runs ever
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Eight years after winning the contest for the first time as a 17-year-old, Brandon Semenuk well and truly realised his potential, not only becoming one of the best slopestyle riders in the world, but one of the best mountain bikers full stop.
He demonstrated that beyond doubt in Utah, starting with a unique double drop tough enough to put most of us in hospital and followed it up with an insane run that had commentators comparing him to the late, great Dave Mirra.
2016: Antoine Bizet nails the first double backflip seen at Rampage
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In 2016 Antonie Bizet returned with a vengeance, landing Rampage's first-ever double backflip and riding with strength. He controls the bike like it's in a video game and does so at speed. The crowd were behind him all the way with big cheers and the smile on his face when he nabbed second place for the second time – his first was in 2012 – was even bigger.
2017: Kurt Sorge becomes the first three-time winner
Red Bull Rampage 2017 winning run: Kurt Sorge
When your mum asks if you’re really going to be okay mountain biking this weekend, with an obvious air of concern in her voice, this is the video that she’s just accidentally ended up watching on her Facebook timeline.
There was a lot of debate around the judging of Rampage last year. Should Antoine Bizet have won? Should Semenuk have been ranked higher? Was Zink robbed? One thing is for sure – watching this run gives us major goosebumps. It's a perfect blend of all-out freeriding and pure slopestyle perfection. An incredible run from a Rampage legend who, somehow, hasn’t been mentioned in this list until the end. What was it we said about saving the best for last?
2018: Brett Rheeder eventually seals gold after 6 times at Rampage
Brett Rheeder's winning run
The level of riding for the 2018 competition was immensely high. Just when cynics didn't think Rampage could get any bigger, a new venue comes along and the riders raise their game. Standout moments include Tom van Steenbergen's backflip off a huge flat drop, pretty much everything Ethan Nell and Andreu Lacondeguy did on their bikes and Brett Rheeder taking his first Rampage victory.
“This is my sixth time competing at Red Bull Rampage and my first three years were tough. I was way out of my element and it took a long time to finally be a contender for the title and it feels unreal,” an elated Rheeder said in the finish area after the event.
2019: It's three-peat time for Semenuk
Brandon Semenuk’s winning run
After a year to forget at the new Rampage location in 2018 where he crashed on both of his runs, Brandon Semenuk was back at his best with a jaw-dropping winning ride that was packed full of style, technical tricks and big air. A top-side Nac Nac followed by a Front Flip on a double drop were the highlights of his winning run. 2018 winner Brett Rheeder came close to unseating Semenuk with his Backflip One-Footed Can Can off a flat drop drawing gasps from the watching crowd.
In the end though Semenuk would be crowned as Red Bull Rampage champion for a third time. How did this win compare to his wins in 2008 and 2016 was the answer that everyone wanted to know. Typically understated, Semenuk said it was hard to say, "Obviously, the last two wins were great, too, but to take the third one, I’m speechless. I don’t know. It’s awesome.”