Red Bull Hardline returned to its regular September spot in 2022 with a downhill mountain bike course that once again set the bar higher than it's ever been before.
It wasn't just the date that was back to normal either, as crowds were welcomed back to the mountain in Machynlleth, Wales, for the first time since 2019. They were treated to a show, too, as 20 of the world's best downhill and freeride mountain bikers delivered one of the best editions of the iconic race. Recap all the action in the links below and scroll down for highlights from the weekend.
Jackson Goldstone shows he can do it on the biggest stage
Rising Canadian downhill star Jackson Goldstone might only be 18, but the teenager already has an impressive haul of accolades that some riders wouldn't achieve in a whole career. The 2021 Junior World Champion and 2022 Junior World Cup overall winner, he's been the in-form rider of the under-18 class and often posts times that would see him comfortably on a World Cup elite podium.
Coming into his first-ever Red Bull Hardline, he seemed unfazed throughout the build-up to finals day. He was the first rider to complete a whole practice run, while his third-place qualifying time was only five seconds off of three-time winner Bernard Kerr's pace.
Watch Jackson Goldstone's winning run below:
Jackson Goldstone's winning run
Jackson Goldstone conquers the toughest course in downhill mountain biking to take the win at Red Bull Hardline 2022.
He was in the green from the first split, and his lead simply grew as he flew down the track. A slight dab in the technical section at the mid-way point was the only fault of note in an amazing run, and he was completely unfazed by any of the course's monster features. Crossing the line with a margin of more than six seconds would take something special to beat it. Slips from the final two on the hill – Bernard Kerr and Adam Brayton – left Goldstone head and shoulders above the rest, and he became the youngest ever winner in the process.
"I had a really good run. I linked everything I wanted to with just one tiny mistake," said Goldstone after the race. "I'm so stoked. It's not the way I wanted to win. I'm really gutted for all the boys who went down."
Local talent steps up
Although their names might not be synonymous with the podiums of the UCI World Cup series, both Joe Smith and Taylor Vernon put in solid, fault-free runs to secure second and third place, respectively.
Taylor Vernon qualified 13th but held on to the hot seat until the final six riders. A former member of the Atherton's academy, the Bridgend, Wales-based rider held on for third, recording his best performance at Red Bull Hardline.
Joe Smith is another with history at Hardline. The Welshman had already podiumed twice at the race (second 2015, third 2019) and was on for a good time at last year's event before a crash put an end to his run. This year, he held it all together, pipping his countryman to second place by just four hundredths of a second.
Top 3 runs
Enjoy the Top 3 runs from the world's hardest mountain bike race.
There were some in mountain biking who questioned whether we'd ever see Gee Atherton ride a bike again after his Knife Edge crash in 2021, let alone racing.
The two-time World Champion proved once again that he's made of stern stuff, though, and announced his intention to compete less than two weeks before finals day.
Although he claimed ahead of Hardline that the result wasn't important, the World Cup veteran was racing from the off, using his signature riding style as he threaded his way through the course's technical features.
Adding another win to his 2018 victory was always going to be a hard ask, but crossing the line was impressive enough for a 37-year-old still recovering from life-threatening injuries. A fifth overall shows he's almost back to his best, and you wouldn't bet against him adding another title next time out.
Top section catches many riders out
Red Bull Hardline is renowned for being the hardest course on the planet. It pits riders against gaps and jumps that are more suited to motocross, and the mountain is littered with gut-wrenching features from top to bottom.
In the 2022 edition, though, it wasn't the 100ft (30m) gaps or 90kph speed tucks that were causing the riders issues. It was some stereotypically damp Welsh woodland that was catching them out.
The second rider on course, David McMillan, set the scene with a slip on entering the wooded section, and it would become a reoccurring theme as the race progressed.
The highest profile casualties were a pre-race favourite, three-time winner and fastest qualifier, Bernard Kerr, whose race run was over before he'd had a chance to show what he can do on the bigger features; while the likes of Adam Brayton, Craig Evans and Charlie Hatton also had spills within the first 30 seconds.
With conditions pretty much perfect on the rest of the course, it once again shows just how difficult and unpredictable Red Bull Hardline can be.
Fans make a welcome return
While the riders put on a show and Dan Atherton's course brings a sense of spectacle to the occasion, if 2021's crowdless edition proves anything, it's the fans that make Red Bull Hardline unique.
Daily show – last-minute preparation
Join Jono Jones for a recap as riders tested out the infamous road gap at Red Bull Hardline 2022.
From the step up through to the finish field, thousands of spectators lined the course and made up for lost time at this year's race, bringing the atmosphere courtesy of cowbells, horns and cheers.
They were rewarded for their enthusiasm, too, with one of the best races in Hardline history, and a number of mid-race run tricks from the likes of Vincent Tupin and Theo Erlangsen.
New features already bedded in
The 2022 Red Bull Hardline course had some minor tweaks to previous editions – the Step Up ramp had been made taller to help riders scrub off speed. But one revised section was the talk of the Dyfi Valley from the moment riders stepped foot on-site.
Get to grips with the new features from 3:45 in the video below:
Daily show – course check & first hits
Riders check out the 2022 course and tyres hit the dirt for the first time at Red Bull Hardline in Wales.
Dirty Ferns had gone through a Fest Series-style makeover. Gone was the hip jump through the trees and in its place was a huge on-off complete with a 30ft (9m) table top in the middle, followed by the two biggest gaps in the entire course. Both measuring roughly 90ft (27m), riders were easily clearing 100ft-plus (over 30m) gaps when going long was factored in.
Bernard Kerr was the first rider to attempt the new doubles in practice, overcooking it by 15ft (5m) and crashing on landing. Although he somehow managed to avoid injury, his feedback saw the dig crew change the take off's angle slightly, ensuring riders could tackle the new features on race day.
Jess Blewitt becomes the race's first female competitor
New Zealand-based rider Jess Blewitt made Hardline history by becoming the first female athlete to grace the iconic course.
An attendee of Red Bull Formation 2021, Blewitt isn't adverse to riding some of the hardest terrain around, and proved she was more than up to the task on Dan Atherton's course – winning the BF Goodrich Rider of the Week award.
Although she didn't make race day after breaking her collarbone in practice, she's shown the way for other female riders.