Red Bull Rampage has been raising the bar in freeride mountain biking year after year for the past two decades. After a one-year hiatus, the 2021 event will be no different as the riders return to the hallowed grounds of Virgin, Utah, and to a venue that was last used for the competition in 2017.
Day one saw all the athletes gather at the site for meetings and a track walk of the mountainside that will host this freeride mountain biking spectacle. The energy amongst the Red Bull Rampage competitors was palpable.
Constructing lines in Utah
Most of these athletes ride and travel the world with each other quite regularly, however, for many, this was the first time they had seen one another for nearly two years. While Red Bull Rampage is a competition, it's the friendships, mutual admiration and teamwork that creates the electric energy, often translating into incredible, history-making moves on the mountain.
We caught up with some of the riders on check-in day, and as they took their first official course walk, to see how they're looking to reimagine the course in 2021.
Working on the 2016/17 site
The site of the 2016/17 event is steep, raw and exposed, with a true big mountain top section. Some of the riders are already looking to revisit sections or the same lines they ran at those Rampage contests.
“We're coming back to an old site and I did have an existing line here, so for the most part the line is kind of in place. It’s just making some tweaks from this point forward.
“I think I’ll keep some of the technicality and eliminate some of the dead spots in the line where you keep the speed up, the flow and obviously make things bigger where you can. Hopefully, four years later my riding is a little better as well. So, we’ll see where we end up at the end of the event.”
“It was nice coming back the second year in 2017 just to make the line better and build off what we did. So this year we’re kind of going with the same tactic but just make it bigger, better and badder. It’s kinda sweet coming back to an older zone where you can really dial everything in instead of just squeaking by. So yeah, I just want to put together the dream line.”
“I’m pretty much following the same line that I was on in past years but adding more stuff. Stuff that looked big back in the day looks kind of small now, so I’ll just be making everything bigger and a little bit more trickable. Also, I’m trying not to just build features and link them together.
"I’m trying to build a top to bottom line that flows because sometimes watching the event on TV we’re trying to link sections and then we kind of look weird in between, so what we’re trying to do is have a top to bottom run that just flows. Hopefully, it works.”
“Coming into this year I’m super stoked because I get to go back to a line I only got to dig on one year. I did pretty well on the line so I'm hoping to come back and build it up. I’m pretty much taking the same run down – just adding some things, building things up, making it more trickable – so I’m really stoked to be able to come back and do what I really wanted to do."
Watch the 20 most iconic moments from Red Bull Rampage in the video below.
20 iconic moments
The field of fifteen riders might be smaller than in previous years but Cam Zink believes every rider will catch the eye. He says: "The talent pool is deep – there are always a couple of standouts, but this year I think there will be 15 stars."
Among these stars are two Red Bull Rampage rookies, Jaxson Riddle and Brage Vestavik. Local boy, Riddle, is primed to be one of the standouts of the event while for Vestavik, it will be his first time in any desert. Hailing from Norway, he is just beginning to familiarise himself with the exposure, learn how the dirt moves and find a place that illustrates the full potential of his riding.
"It's crazy, I'm still trying to comprehend it and wrap my head around it. I've been watching them ride this event over the years and here I am now, at the contest, it's surreal," says Riddle.
When asked how he's prepared for his debut, Riddle couldn't be more nonchalant, adding: "I just kinda do my daily thing; we come out here all the time, pretty much every day, so it is pretty normal feeling actually – it's nothing too out of the ordinary."
Vestavik is also happy to be in Utah having grown up watching the event. He says: "I have been looking at this place on DVD since I was like six years old, so it is still hard to believe that we are here. Just seeing all the old hits, it's just crazy to be here. Everything that happens from here is a bonus."
The chute is the standout feature on the course
Each year, there is always a standout trick or feature that defines a venue. In 2017, it was the chute Cam Zink and Kyle Strait rode straight down in 'the guts' of the course. It was one of the craziest things Red Bull Rampage has ever seen. Here’s what Strait had to say about that infamous chute looking ahead to 2021.
“I went down the chute in ’17 and walked away from that one. Even though it was a couple of years ago, it was by far the gnarliest thing I’ve ever ridden or most people have ever ridden. I was out here last year just riding for fun and doing a little filming and I was like, oh, good thing I don’t have to do that chute again! Then I heard we’re coming back here so automatically I knew, welp, looks like I’m riding that thing again!
“So we’re gonna fine-tune it a little bit just because we know more info than before, plus there’s still eight more dig days and then we’re also gonna change up a few things in between the line.”
One athlete who will be riding the guts of the course alongside Strait and Zink for 2021 will be Carson Storch.
“This year I have zero expectations because I have a line I did well on back in 2016 and used it again in 2017, so I think I’m just trying to change my game plan here," said Storch. "I just want to go faster and kind of have it more big-mountain, so I’m going with a whole new line this year.
“In 2016 I kind of just rode what I rode and built a big drop. Then in 2017 I tried to have my own complete line so I had to creep on a lot of stuff getting into new terrain, so it wasn’t possible to flow and go fast. This year I just want it to have more consistency and flow and go faster but kinda ride just more raw stuff so I’m gonna team up with Strait and Zink on the gut.
"Obviously you’re gonna go fast down it no matter what and then everything else is faster pace after that. But right now I just need to figure out which 360 drop to do, so I'm looking at those options now.”
The week ahead
At the end of check-in day, a late afternoon storm graced the venue. The course walk was cut short, but that extra rainfall was a welcome guest as moisture makes building and shaping that much easier. With clear skies in the forecast, athletes are keen to get building.
So what will 2021 bring? Athletes began breaking ground on the course and started putting shovels in dirt, building up lines and jumps, hauling sandbags and more. As the lines begin to take shape, so will a world of possibilities and game-changing moves.