SOUTHERN UTAH — The desert terrain of Southern Utah will again host 21 of the world’s best freeride mountain bikers Friday for the 12th edition of “Red Bull Rampage” – the energy drink’s premier freeride mountain bike competition.
Held at the doorstep of Zion National Park in the rough cliffs that surround the town of Virgin, Red Bull Rampage could best be described as an epic “king of the mountain” competition where winning is as much about besting the other riders as it is about conquering the mountain.
Few mountain bikers know that better than competitors Reed Boggs and Logan Binggeli, who live and train in Southern Utah.
For Boggs and Binggeli, the narrow ridgelines, steep drops and unpredictable dirt surfaces that make up the Rampage course, are home territory. A veritable backyard playground for practicing their speed and agility and mastering their courage on a course that has claimed dominion over more than a few of the best of the best.
Both riders are entering Red Bull Rampage as wildcard athletes. While previous Red Bull Rampage competitions held a day of qualifying rounds with the top athletes advancing to the finals, in 2016 the competition’s format changed.
This year, ten of the top finishers from 2016’s competition automatically qualified. The other 11 spots were filled with wildcard athletes who were invited to the competition based on a combination of previous Red Bull Rampage and other mountain bike competition performances as well as other qualifications.
See the full list of Red Bull Rampage 2017 athletes here.
Bingelli, a KHS Factory Racing athlete and three-time national champion, spends the majority of his year as a competitive rider on the downhill circuit. He got his professional start when he was just a senior in high school and has a long history with Red Bull, making six previous appearances in the Rampage competition. He was also an invited athlete at this year’s Red Bull Valparaiso, an extreme downhill mountain-biking competition on the steep urban streets of Valparaiso, Chile.
His Rampage showings have had both extreme highs – Binggeli placed third in the 2012 competition – and extreme lows – the following year he broke his femur on a run putting him out of competition and off the bike while he underwent surgery and rehabilitation on his leg.
“I’ve seen both the good side and the bad side of the fence at Rampage,” Binggeli said.
In 2016, Binggeli crashed on a practice run the day before competition and got a mild concussion which prevented him from competing.
It was disappointing to many fans who had watched him throughout practice. Several who attended last year’s event said Binggeli had one of the best lines of all the competitors.
For this year, Binggeli is taking it all in stride.
“If I can make it to the starting gate and conquer my line from point A to point B, I will be really happy,” Binggeli said.
Another change to the competition format in 2016 was the elimination of the giant man-made ramps that made former Red Bull Rampage competitions so famous.
Instead of the huge ramps, the new format is a more pure form of freestyle riding. Riders are allowed a team of two builders and the teams spend weeks on the mountain digging their lines and building their own jumps.
It was as a member of a build team where Boggs first caught the Red Bull Rampage bug, he said.
Two years ago, Boggs came to Southern Utah as a digger for rider Nocholi Rogatkin, he said. In 2016, Boggs returned to the Red Bull Rampage course as a member of the build team for rider Thomas Genon.
Having grown up in Cleveland, Ohio, where opportunities for mountain bikers are basically nonexistent, Boggs said he rode motocross and BMX bikes. But after coming to Southern Utah and being part of Red Bull Rampage, he decided he had to become a competitor.
Two months after his first trip to Virgin, Boggs moved to Southern Utah to start his training.
Combining his skills as a motocross and BMX rider, Boggs quickly improved his skillset on the mountain bike and began making waves in the freeride and slopestyle – forms of mountain bike competitions – worlds.
“Over the last two years, he’s been making huge gains,” Binggeli said of Boggs. “He’s really dedicated.”
To get the wildcard invitiation for this year, Boggs said he compiled all of his footage from the entire year and made a video package explaining why he wanted to compete in Red Bull Rampage so bad.
He emailed the video to everyone on the Red Bull Rampage committee. And it worked.
“I have worked hard for it,” Boggs said.
Having had two years of experience digging lines and building features for other competitors Boggs feels he has a nice advantage coming into the competition. But even with a lot of experience, building a great line isn’t easy.
“You wouldn’t believe the physical work that goes into building,” Binggeli said.
Both athletes, along with their fellow competitors, have spent a great amount of time with their teams, walking up and down the steep and often slippery cliffs where the competition takes place, as they design their route and map out their tricks.
For both Binggeli and Boggs, living and training in Southern Utah gives them ample opportunity to practice on similar terrain, even riding at previous Rampage sites.
In addition to understanding the terrain, as well as the weather patterns, living in Southern Utah also gives the athletes the chance to ride with other elite racers who come to what Boggs called a “mecca for mountain biking.”
“This area kind of seems to draw the best in the world,” said Kevin Lewis, director of the St. George Area Sports Commission. “It takes a special breed to conquer the land the way they do.”
Those “best in the world” riders will leave it all on the line at Friday’s competition as they vie for the Rampage title and become unofficial kings of the mountain. And though first-timer Boggs is feeling the nerves, he is not letting that stop him from enjoying the ride.
“I mean there are always those pre (competition) jitters,” Boggs said, “but what’s the fun if I didn’t have those?”
Tickets to the event sold out months ago. Spectators wishing to view the action can tune into the live stream on Red Bull TV Friday, or watch it as a highlight program on NBC on Dec. 24
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