Spinning hubs, the thud of tires on dirt and cheers of joy, this has been the soundtrack on repeat during the first days of practice at the 2021 Red Bull Rampage venue.
This past Sunday, event practice officially kicked off for the 15 athletes, culminating in an exciting sneak peek of what’s to come for the 20th anniversary edition of this storied event. Having waited nearly two years to be back at the red dirt in Virgin, the athletes were eager to shake off nerves and get back to what they love doing most. The weather hasn’t been perfect, but conditions have allowed the riders to make good headway for Friday.
Compared to years past, it felt a bit early to see riders dropping in – but that’s the beauty of being at a familiar venue. Most of the riders reclaimed their old lines, expediting the building process exponentially. Instead of building from scratch, they’re revitalizing old jumps and landing pads and focusing their energy on improving their original vision.
Constructing lines in Utah
While the majority of the riders have taken this approach, there are still outliers who are determined to do something new at the venue. Despite the differences in line choice, it’s hard to say who will walk away with the grand prize. Practice, however, continues to provide some glimpses into how the main event will shape up. Here are some key takeaways from the first few days of practice.
Brandon Semenuk’s single crown bike
Unlike the 14 other riders, Brandon Semenuk opted for a single crown fork over the dual crown fork most commonly seen at Red Bull Rampage. The reasoning behind the bold move? This fork allows for a whole array of mind-melting tricks like flip whips, tail whips and bar spins. Knowing Semenuk’s ability to link up challenging trick combos, his new bike setup might be his ticket to an unforgettable run.
“We’ve been at this site already for two years, so I wanted to do something that would allow me to do things differently. Otherwise, I feel like I’m doing the same thing for the third year.
"Honestly [the single crown RockShox Zeb] makes no difference in my riding other than it affects my left whips, because I don’t have the crown pushing against the frame. It feels stiffer to me than a boxer, so it’s not as if I’m underpowered.”
Reed Boggs’ Goblin Drop
The Goblin Drop is a historic Rampage feature, having been hit by riders like Tyler McCaul and Darren Berrecloth in years past. This year, surprisingly, Reed Boggs is the only rider to have included it in his line. So far during practice, he’s hit the step-down gap a handful of times and landed it flawlessly. If Boggs can incorporate some tricks into the lower half of his line, then it could set him up well for the judges.
The chute lives on
One of the most iconic features of the 2016 and 2017 events was the fall-line chute down the gut of the mountain. This year it’s back and it’s still just as steep and gnarly. On the second day of practice, Cam Zink and Kyle Strait dropped into the lower half of it. They rode the line clean, setting themselves up well for hitting the whole feature and the many other gnarly drops and jumps in the rest of their run.
“We rode from the landing [of the drop into the chute], mostly because it was windy everywhere else. It feels really good to have done part of it, but it’s funny when you’re in it because it’s still really gnarly,” Strait commented.
Jaxson Riddle’s bag of tricks
While the majority of the athletes have kept their cards close to their chests until event day, some couldn’t help but tease a few tricks. The lower section of the mountain has been one of the best spots to see some air time. Jaxson Riddle has been a standout during these sessions. He's wowed onlookers with everything from his iconic heel clickers to supermans that would make even Clark Kent proud. Given Riddle’s bag full of tricks, everyone is wondering the same thing: what is he going to throw on event day?
“I was psyching myself out – as I always do when I don’t ride for a period of time – but as soon as I start riding I get stoked. Everything we worked on a couple days ago works perfectly, so everything has been going well. I was even able to do a few tricks, so I’m feeling pretty happy. My focus for the next few days is to have fun.”
Brage Vestavik's new line
When athletes come back to an old venue, they tend to reuse previously built features. Not Brage Vestavik. The Rampage rookie favors the old-school style of freeride and wanted something a bit more “au naturale” compared to the arena’s previous lines. As a result, Vestavik is scratching in a new line, which is a bold choice. It has required a bit more digging than the other riders, but an original line could set him apart from all the other riders in a good way.
“We found a fresh line from top to bottom, so it’s a lot of work but we’re getting through it.”
What’s to come
These little glimpses paint a loose picture of what we might see on Friday. However, it’s still anyone’s game. The athletes still need to put finishing touches on their lines and link top to bottom runs. Plus, it wouldn’t be a Red Bull Rampage without a bit of unpredictability and nail-biting suspense.
Sometimes athletes make last-minute decisions when they’re at the starting gate, whereas others choose to follow a predetermined plan that they’ve envisioned for months leading up to this event. Ultimately, we won’t know what they decide until the athletes hear those four fateful words: three, two, one – dropping. Practice at least holds us over in the meantime.
How to watch
This year, Red Bull Rampage fans watching from around the globe will be able to experience innovative new virtual production technologies added to the live broadcast, plus updated augmented reality features and added visual enhancements to the Red Bull TV app.
Utilizing state-of-the-art virtual production technology and drone footage streamed over T-Mobile’s powerful 5G network, the broadcast will bring fans even closer to all the action and provide more viewing angles of the riders, course and lines than ever before, completely changing the way viewers experience the live event at home. Additionally, by using the latest A/R technology, viewers will be able to bring the entire mountain right into their living room – literally!
The enhanced second screen experience will be available to mobile viewers on iOS and Android devices by downloading or updating the latest Red Bull TV app. The broadcast will air live beginning Friday, October 15th at 6pm UTC on Red Bull TV and will be available in eight languages including English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Spanish and Russian.