Red Bull Rampage goes back to basics with new format; Semenuk takes top spot

Rider Andreu Lacondeguy performs a trick known as the Superman during the Red Bull Rampage freeride mountain bike competition held in Virgin, Utah, Oct. 14, 2016 | All licensed images are printed with the express permission of Red Bull Media House North America, Inc. Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

VIRGIN The 11th edition of Red Bull Rampage – Red Bull energy drink’s freeride mountain bike competitiontook place on the harsh desert terrain of Virgin Friday where the world’s leading downhill and freeride mountain bikers gave their best attempts at conquering the mountain.

While many of the stacked field of riders showed their grit, prowess and skill on the seemingly unrideable cliffs that make up Rampage’s course, it was Brandon Semenuk of Canada who came out on top. Semenuk, a perennial favorite at Red Bull Rampage, became the third rider in Rampage history to win the event twice. Last year’s winner, Kurt Sorge, and this year’s fifth place finisher, Kyle Strait, are the other two.


Ed. note: All licensed images were obtained at the event and are published with the express permission of Red Bull Media House North America Inc.

Rider Kyle Strait performs a backflip during the Red Bull Rampage competition in Virgin, Utah, Oct. 14, 2016 | All licensed images are printed with the express permission of Red Bull Media House North America, Inc. Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Rider Kyle Strait performs a backflip during the Red Bull Rampage competition in Virgin, Utah, Oct. 14, 2016 | All licensed images are printed with the express permission of Red Bull Media House North America, Inc. Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

This year’s edition of Red Bull Rampage returned to a more pure form of freeriding. Where in the recent past Rampage has had large manufactured ramps from which the riders were able to perform huge aerial tricks, the new format removed those elements and allowed the riders along with a team of two builders to design and carve their own paths from the top of the mountain to the bottom.

Riders spent nearly two weeks walking the course, designing and building their lines and planning their tricks in advance of Friday’s competition.

The athletes responded well to the format.

“The digging and the builders were on another level this year,” Semenuk said in a news release from Red Bull Rampage.

Additional changes were made to Red Bull Rampage this year regarding the amount of riders invited to participate. The 11th edition eliminated preliminary qualifying rounds and limited the number of riders allowed to compete.

The top 12 finishers from 2015’s competition were automatically qualified for this year’s Rampage. Nine additional riders were invited to participate based on past Red Bull Rampage performance as well as other qualifications, bringing the total registered competitors to 21 riders.

But when the day began only 18 of the 21 riders made it to the starting gate. Local competitor Logan Binggeli was invited to the Red Bull Rampage competition but was injured in a practice run and was unable to make it to the start.

In a post to his Facebook page Binggeli wrote:

“Beyond bummed to not be competing today at #redbullrampage. … Ended up with a concussion. … Good luck to everyone today.”

Of the 18 riders who did start, seven had won Rampage previously leaving no doubt that the competition would be fierce.

Rider Graham Agassiz crashes at Red Bull Rampage in Virgin, Utah, Oct. 14, 2016 | All licensed images are printed with the express permission of Red Bull Media House North America, Inc. Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Rider Graham Agassiz crashes at Red Bull Rampage in Virgin, Utah, Oct. 14, 2016 | All licensed images are printed with the express permission of Red Bull Media House North America, Inc. Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Semenuk set the bar early with a run that almost flawlessly strung together a flat-spin 360, flat drop backflip and a backflip one-footed can can, earning him a score of 84.33 that would stand for the entire competition.

Right behind Semenuk in second place with a score of 81.00 was Antoine Bizet of France who landed a huge double backflip near the bottom of the course on his first run.

Bizet considered this year’s podium finish redemption from last year when he broke his humerus on a fall, he said.

“It was the worst injury I ever had,” Bizet said.

Bizet has spent extensive time living and riding in Southern Utah preparing for Red Bull Rampage, said Zoe Gregoric, Bizet’s close friend.

Friendships between the riders were obvious on the course as each competitor would cheer on their fellow mountain biker’s success or worry over those who were injured.

Significantly missing from this year’s competition was Kelly McGarry, a rider widely considered a friend to many. McGarry died in February of this year at the age of 33 of an apparent heart attack.

In honor of McGarry, an award was given to the rider who best embodied his spirit over the course of the build and competition. The riders voted and the award was given to rider Conor MacFarlane.

Spectators walk or ride bikes to the Red Bull Rampage course in Virgin, Utah, Oct. 14, 2016 | All licensed images are printed with the express permission of Red Bull Media House North America, Inc. Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Spectators walk or ride bikes to the Red Bull Rampage course in Virgin, Utah, Oct. 14, 2016 | All licensed images are printed with the express permission of Red Bull Media House North America, Inc. Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Virgin’s cliffs took their toll on MacFarlane who crashed on an early morning practice run and in both of his competitive runs. But despite his falls he continued to get up and try.

MacFarlane wasn’t the only rider who fell victim to the gnarly desert terrain. Graham Agassiz who finished third in 2015 went down hard during his first run and had to be taken off the mountain by medical personnel. An update on his condition was not made available by the close of the competition.

Rounding out the top three finishers was Carson Storch of the United States with a score of 79.00. Storch landed a massive step down 360 which also earned him the Utah Sports Commission Best Trick Award.

The event was streamed live on Red Bull TV. Viewers who tuned in to the live stream were able to vote for their favorite rider for the People’s Choice Award, which went to Semenuk – he also won the award in 2015.

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Email: hreina@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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