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The 15 riders to watch at Red Bull Rampage 2021
As the 2021 edition of Red Bull Rampage nears we take an in-depth look at the riders who'll be completing lines, dialling in speeds and performing tricks in the Utah desert.
Red Bull Rampage burst onto the mountain biking scene in 2001 and was like nothing that had gone before it. Big mountain drops, ridgeline riding and unforgiving terrain instantly made it a fan favourite as the best in the business took part in the latest frontier in action sports. Twenty years later, it's still a unique event, pitting the best freeride, slopestyle and downhill riders against one of the rawest mountains in the world.
Despite its location in Utah, Rampage has been dominated by Canadians over the years and it's tough to see past this year's crop of riders from north of the border – Brandon Semenuk, Brett Rheeder and Kurt Sorge have seven wins between them – when looking for your overall champion.
That said, there are some seriously impressive US riders on this year's roster, including Carson Storch, Cam Zink, old hand Kyle Strait and young gun Jaxson Riddle. Overseas competitors Szymon Godziek and Andreu Lacondeguy can't be ruled out, while we're excited to see the debut run from Brage Vestavik.
What is Red Bull Rampage?
These riders and five more will make up the 15 athletes taking part at Rampage this year. We look at some of the underlying stories behind their participation in Rampage as we go into the third edition at the new venue in Utah.
1. Can Andreu Lacondeguy roll back the years at Rampage?
Andreu Lacondeguy grew up just outside Barcelona, with a love for two wheels in his blood. Taking up BMX racing at an early age, followed by mountain biking, and even freestyle motocross riding, Lacondeguy is no stranger to going big and fast in the dirt. His love for these sports is no more apparent than the words “LOVE DIRT” tattooed across his fingers.
He’s stood atop both the Red Bull Joyride and Red Bull Rampage podiums, he’s finished on the Rampage podium twice and just missed the Rampage podium in fourth place three other times. This consistent Rampage top finisher is looking to be another strong contender if he can channel that boundless energy and personality into this year’s run.
2. Tyler McCaul looks to add to his McGazza Spirit Award from 2019
Tyler McCaul began his riding career in an unconventional way – learning tricks off a launch ramp into the family swimming pool along with his brother. He began his career as a downhill racer before switching over to freeriding and becoming known for his daredevil drops and BMX-like tricks.
Over the years, freeriding became an obsession and even led McCaul to relocate from California to Southwest Utah – near the Red Bull Rampage venue. The move is paying off because McCaul took home the McGazza Spirit Award at Rampage 2019 for always being positive, never giving up and loving everyone. One thing's for sure – we're looking forward to seeing this consistent Top 10 finisher back out in the desert.
3. Expect new tricks and world firsts from Carson Storch
If there’s one word to describe Carson Storch’s displays at Red Bull Rampage, it’s resilience. Whether it’s fighting his way to get on the podium in 2016, battling back from two incomplete runs in 2018 to finish in the top ten in 2019 or now recovering from injury ahead of the 2021 event, you can guarantee Storch will show up and give it everything he has.
The stylish rider from Bend, Oregon, who’s also known for his magazine covers and video parts – including his Last Chair, First Run edit alongside Jaxson Riddle and snowboarders Sean Fitzsimons and Luke Winkelman from earlier this year – will surely be found at his private training facility ahead of the big show. No doubt dialling in his set-up and probably some new tricks along with it.
4. Brandon Semenuk looks to make it back-to-back wins and become the first four-time winner
There’s not enough space to write about all the accolades Canadian Brandon Semenuk has collected in his years on a mountain bike. Maybe it’s his three FMB World Tour gold medals, his three Red Bull Rampage wins, his X Games gold medal, or his five Red Bull Joyride wins. Or if not his contest results, perhaps it’s for his work both behind and in front of the lens filming groundbreaking video segments.
Whether it’s starting his own production company, releasing his famous Raw 100 series, his viral one-shot clip from “unReal”, or one of his multiple feature films, Semenuk continues to make his riding look effortless – his most recent edit Realm is just the latest example – and will once again be one to watch in 2021.
Brandon Semenuk’s winning run
5. The rise and fall of Cam Zink
If there’s one name that’s synonymous with going big at Red Bull Rampage, it’s veteran Cam Zink, and he’s got the hardware to prove it (in both awards and surgeries). Zink has notched three podium finishes, two Best Trick awards and finished atop the podium in 2010.
Outside of Rampage, he’s won the FMB World Tour title, set a world record for the longest backflip on a bike and earlier this year he scored an X Games gold medal for his Real MTB video submission. There’s clearly no sign of slowing down for this Nevada native and all eyes will be focused on Zink when he rolls into the Red Bull Rampage start gate for the eleventh time.
6. Reed Boggs will thrive in the familiar
Riding freeride is Reed Boggs'slife and you could say Red Bull Rampage is Boggs's natural home. The American, who moved from his home in Cleveland, Ohio, to southern Utah to pursue his dreams, spends a lot of time in and around the Rampage site crafting his riding technique and creative style. This will be Boggs's third appearance at Rampage and he'll be hoping to get in the top 10 this time, having finished 13th in 2018 and 11th in 2019.
7. Expect the unexpected with Tom van Steenbergen
Canadian Tom van Steenbergen is known for his high-risk, high-reward style of riding and it’s continuing to pay off. Van Steenbergen’s first appearance at Rampage was back in 2014 and each year since he has successfully climbed the ranks, finally landing himself on the podium in 2019 and securing a Best Trick win in 2018 for his flat drop backflip. Van Steenbergen suffered a big injury in 2020 after coming up short on a road gap, but hopefully one of the best in the game can return in 2021 to continue his climb in the Red Bull Rampage rankings.
8. Szymon Godziek brings the slopestyle skills
Polish rider Szymon Godziek has been quietly making a name for himself for more than a decade now, earning respect through consistent, solid results and a positive, can-do attitude. He’s known for many things, from being the first to perform the 'tsunami flip' in competition and winning Red Bull District Ride to winning Wombat Dirt Jumping and even sticking a backflip on a road bike over top the peloton at Tour de Pologne.
But as one of mountain bike slopestyle’s most creative and stylish riders, it’s no surprise that Godziek secured the People’s Choice Award at the 2019 Red Bull Rampage and is looking to secure his first Rampage podium finish in 2021. Podium finishes at this summer's Red Bull Copenride and Red Bull Roof Ride suggest he's in good form, too.
9. Thomas Genon is a Rampage veteran
Thomas Genon like Szymon Godziek is best known for his slopestyle tricks and like Godziek is no stranger to riding the ridgelines of Utah. The Belgian has so far participated in an incredible eight Red Bull Rampage editions and has always impressed on his visits (2021 will be his ninth participation). Finals doesn't seem to overawe him, indeed two fifth places at the 2015 and 2018 Rampage's show that he's a rider who can make podium if everything goes right on the day.
Genon is one rider who always learns from his visits to Rampage and has understood his limits of what he can and cannot do on his big bike when it comes to riding the terrain in Utah. In preparation for riding at Rampage, Genon returned to his early bike racing roots by taking on the big gnarly downhill lines of Red Bull Hardline in Wales back in July.
10. Ethan Nell can show he's at home on the red rocks of Utah
Ethan Nell was born and raised in Southern Utah, just minutes away from the Red Bull Rampage venues. This is where he gained an appreciation for the steep exposed terrain, wide open lines, natural descents and, of course, the famous red dirt. Cutting his teeth on mountain bikes and motocross bikes, Nell has grown into an aggressive and fearless rider. This manifested early on, already securing two podium finishes at Rampage by the age of 24.
11. Risk vs reward for Vinny Tupin
Hailing from Evian, France, the rider known as Vinny T has slowly but surely been making a name for himself in the freeride world. He’s sent it off some of the biggest kickers at the FEST Series, destroyed Chatel’s The Face and has been featured in numerous films around the world. His first showing at Red Bull Rampage was in 2017, and each year since he’s climbed a couple of positions in the rankings, cracking the top ten in 2019. It will be exciting to see what he can pull off in 2021.
12. Veteran Kurt Sorge shows that there's life in the old dog yet
One of the veterans of the group, Canadian Kurt Sorge returns to Red Bull Rampage once again, many years after his first appearance in 2008. There’s something to be said for experience because this three-time Red Bull Rampage winner sets foot once again in the Utah soil. His love for freeriding and a good challenge will have him once again staring down his line from the Rampage start gate. Can he become the first-ever four-time winner at Rampage? Only time will tell.
13. Jaxson Riddle earns his wings and a debut at Rampage
For someone who didn’t ride their first downhill bike until they were 15 years old, Jaxson Riddle has come a long way in the past few years. Growing up in the backyard of some of the biggest and best freeriding terrain the world has to offer doesn’t hurt either. Born and raised in Saint George, Utah, Riddle was first introduced to the freeride scene by names like Reed Boggs, DJ Brandt and Ethan Nell.
After getting hooked on the high speeds and big air, Riddle soon carved out a reputation for being creative and fearless, with style and composure at a level far beyond his years. That talent has earned Riddle a coveted Red Bull helmet and an invitation to his first Red Bull Rampage in 2021.
14. Kyle Strait keeps his 100 percent record intact
As the 20th anniversary of Red Bull Rampage approaches, there’s only one rider who’s competed in every single one – Kyle Strait. He’s been a dominant force in the mountain biking scene since he was a kid, first competing in mountain bike competitions in 1997 and having a breakout year in 2004, when he podiumed at Crankworx Whistler and won his first of two Red Bull Rampage events.
Now residing in Alpine, California, and getting plenty of laps in on his home track and training facility, the former World Cup Downhill racer is sure to use his experience and knowledge of the local terrain to carve out yet another insane line at this year’s event. Looking forward to seeing what Strait can put together in 2021.
15. Brage Vestavik is looking to make an impact
One of two rookies invited to Red Bull Rampage this year, Norwegian Brage Vestavik has exploded onto the freeride scene as of late, culminating in a recent stand-out part in the 2021 X Games Real MTB video contest. When not racing on the European World Cup circuit or making a name for himself at Red Bull Hardline, Vestavik says he just loves to edit, film and create things.
This is a perfect outlet for Vestavik as he endures the short daylight hours of Norwegian winters and uses his days to squeeze in riding time before hitting the gym and working on his edits once it gets dark at 3pm during the winter time. Now let’s see how Vestavik adapts to the infamous Southern Utah terrain and dirt.