Red Bull Rampage continues to push the boundaries of what's possible on two wheels and this 14th edition of the high-mountain MTB freeride contest certainly didn't disappoint. The 21 athletes chosen to take on the challenge at this year's event thrilled and entertained with riding that showed creativity, skill and no amount of courage on the steep and rugged mountain terrain in Virgin, Utah, on the edge of Zion National Park.
Brandon Semenuk took the victory on his first of two runs, with a ride packed full of tricks and technical riding. He now joins Kurt Sorge as a three-time winner of mountain biking's most iconic event. Brett Rheeder dropped into second place following his second run down the mountain, with Tom Van Steenbergen rounding out the podium places.
Replay the full Red Bull Rampage 2019 broadcast below:
Red Bull Rampage 2019
Brandon Semenuk was looking for redemption after his failure to stay on two wheels last year at this location and boy did he put those bad memories to bed.
We had a good line, I didn't rush and I got something good down
On his first run, Semenuk started with an Opposite 360 on the first drop out of start hut, which was then followed by a Suicide No-Hander. He then showed his supreme technical ability by skimming a rock with a manual before greasing a cork 360 on a rebuilt feature that he wasn’t able to land last year.
There was still more to come as he traversed the mountain. A top-side Nac Nac was followed by a Front Flip on a double drop, with a Backflip One-Footed Can Can coming next. A 360 before the end topped off this jaw-dropping run that would deliver the Canadian a score of 92.33 from the judges, that wouldn't be beaten.
Brandon Semenuk’s winning run
"Obviously last year didn't go very well, but this year we had a good line, I didn't rush and I got something good down," said Semenuk after his winning run. "It was still nerve-racking, but I was feeling it."
Brandon Semenuk on his big win
Semenuk, who prefers working on film projects rather than competing at events these days, didn't have to put in a second run. Brendan Fairclough, the last rider on the mountain, cut short his second run to confirm Semenuk as the 2019 winner.
2018 Red Bull Rampage winner Brett Rheeder returned to Virgin determined to stand on the top step of the podium again as the first back-to-back winner in the event's history. Things didn't look so good after the first runs however, when a couple of cased landing from his biggest tricks dropped his judging score and left the Canadian down in eighth place.
Demonstrating just why he's considered one of the all-time great contest riders, when all the pressure was on him for his essential second run, Rheeder delivered.
Starting with an incredibly difficult Front Flip off the start drop, Rheeder showed perfect composure on his unique line, cleanly landing a Backflip One-Footed Can Can off the flat drop and following it immediately with a crisp 360 on the newly-added jump to his 2018 winning line. Another clean 360 on the drop into the last jump set him up perfectly to float a smooth and incredibly slow-turning Opposite 360 to finish a huge run in style.
It was such a clean run in answer to Semenuk's marker, but fell just 1.33 points short of his great rival and Rheeder had to settle for the second step of the podium this year.
Brett Rheeder’s 2nd-place run
Canadian Tom Van Steenbergen has made a name for himself in previous Red Bull Rampage editions for signature tricks and lines that no one else tries on the mountain. He was at it again on his first run here. Riding with flow, Van Steenbergen started with a Front Flip before repeating his massive Flat Drop Backflip of last year and ending with a Backflip One-Footed Can Can.
It was run fun of huge hucks and speed that was enough to land him a long-awaited podium spot with a score of 89.66.
Tom Van Steenbergen’s 3rd-place run
Action got underway on what was the second year at this new mountain venue after a slight delay for a wind hold. As can be usual in Utah, the sun was out, but in the morning it can be cold. Mexican debutant Juan Deigo Salido was the only non-starter of the 21 riders after unfortunately falling victim to food poisoning.
For many of those athletes who competed at this location in 2018, this year's Red Bull Rampage was about continuing to work on lines they took down the mountain last year. For the rookies and those new to the location, fresh lines had to be scoped, or negotiating with riders to share existing lines.
Most riders made it down from the top of the mountain to bottom in one piece, though there were a few crashes on the mountain. American Cam Zink went down twice, while Belgium's Thomas Genon also crashed hard on his first run.
Carson Storch's run
Brendan Fairclough was a big fan favourite in 2018 and he had the crowd on their feet again with an excellent highly technical run of 87.66 that featured a breathtaking backflip over a canyon. Polish star Szymon Godziek, two-time American winner Kyle Strait and compatriot Tyler McCaul all reeled off impressive runs in the 80s.
Szymon Godziek - People's Choice Award 2019
One of the most memorable runs was from 2018's runner-up Andreu Lacondeguy, who crashed hard on his first run and then rode a second run that was a wild rodeo, where he barely managed to control his bike and somehow didn't head sideways off a cliff.
Andreu Lacondeguy's run
Genon, Reece Wallace, Reed Boggs and Ethan Nell all managed to improve their scores on their second runs compared to their first.
As with other Rampage editions there were a bunch of awards to hand out: Best Trick, the People’s Choice Award, Kelly McGarry Spirit Award and for the first time, the Digger Award.
Best Trick, as Presented by Maverik, went to Brett Rheeder for his huge can-can backflip. Szymon Godziek took home the People’s Choice Award, winning fans over with his bold choices throughout the contest.
The participating athletes named Tyler McCaul as this year’s recipient of the Kelly McGarry Spirit Award. The criteria for the vote was to select the peer they thought most embodied McGarry’s spirit. The Digger Award, presented by Venmo, honoured the hardest working Red Bull Rampage dig team. Brett Rheeder’s team were voted by the internal team that chooses and builds the Red Bull Rampage Course every year to take this inaugural award.
Red Bull Rampage 2019 results
|3.||Tom Van Steenbergen||Canada||89.66|
|4.||Brendan Fairclough||Great Britain||87.66|
|19.||Bienvenido Aguado Alba||Spain||45.33|
|21.||Juan Diego Salido||Mexico||DNS|