Sorge wins, St. George’s Ethan Nell takes 3rd at ‘Red Bull Rampage’; photo gallery

Red Bull Rampage winner Kurt Sorge goes upside down during his winning run, Virgin, Utah, Oct. 27, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

VIRGIN — At the end of what was arguably one of the most intense editions of Red Bull Rampage yet, Kurt Sorge walked away with first place Friday afternoon, making him the only athlete to have ever won the freeride mountain bike competition’s top spot three times.

Taking the competition in his first run with a score of 92.66, Sorge bested a stacked field of veteran riders and held off an impressive run from a few rookies who were making their first marks on Virgin’s famed rugged cliffs.

Ethan Nell makes his third place run at Red Bull Rampage, Virgin, Utah, Oct. 27, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

“I can’t really describe it, it feels amazing,” Sorge said. “I’m just stoked Utah lets us put this on.”

Rounding out the top three spots were Red Bull Rampage icon Cameron Zink in second with a score of 90.33 and Rampage newcomer, 20-year-old St. George local Ethan Nell in a close third with a score of 90.00.

French rider Antoine Bizet was awarded the People’s Choice Award presented by the Utah Sports Commission. The award came after Bizet laid down an impressive run that included a double backflip. Judges failed to reward him, giving Bizet a score of 81.66. A score only good enough for 12th place.

Fans tuning into the live stream of the event overwhelmingly voted Bizet as People’s Choice and took to social media with hashtags like #bizetwasrobbed and #jesuisbizet to voice their discontent with the judges.

The participating athletes awarded Pierre Edouard Ferry the Kelly McGarry Spirit Award, which is presented to the rider that most embodied the spirit of the mountain biking legend.

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.

The tight grouping of scores for the top three was indicative of the elite level of competition Friday where fourth, fifth and sixth place riders – Brandon Semenuk (89.66), Brett Rheeder (89.33) and Thomas Genon (89.00) – were right on the heels of the top spots, each separated by only a few decimal points.

The competition’s two-run format – riders take their best score of the two runs – worked well for competitors like Semenuk and Rheeder who both crashed on their first runs but made huge point gains as they laid down second runs that boosted them from the bottom all the way to fourth and fifth respectively.

Rampage winner Kurt Sorge makes a final run down the course at Red Bull Rampage, Virgin, Utah, Oct. 27, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

But nowhere did the two-run format work better than on Ethan Nell’s second run. Nell, a rookie, entered the competition as a relative unknown and put down a clean first run that garnered him a strong score of 77.00.

Not satisfied with that, Nell left it all on the line in his second run improving his score to 90.00, earning a spot on the podium and making his name known.

“I came in a little scared this morning – this was my first rampage – but the crew built a good line and we got it top to bottom exactly how we wanted,” Nell said.

The storied competition has been held in the cliffs surrounding Virgin since the early 2000s. Events were held in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and this year, making 12 editions.

Mountain biker Kyle Strait, a perennial favorite, has attended all 12, winning the competition twice. But he was once a rookie too.

When he was just 14, his father, Jeff Strait, signed him up for the first Red Bull Rampage ever held.

“We had a little Toyota Tacoma and like $200,” Jeff Strait said, “that’s all we had.”

Mountain biking fans dots the cliffs of Virgin at the Red Bull Rampage freeride mountain biking competition, Virgin, Utah, Oct. 27, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Kyle Strait placed sixth at that first competition and has been coming back ever since.

In Friday’s competition, Kyle Strait gave a solid first run that earned a score of 87.33. Though it was a high score, it was only good enough to earn an eighth place finish on a day that almost every rider got at least one good run in.

It was a good showing for the hundreds of fans who made the trek to Virgin to witness the historic mountain bike competition. Announcers said this year’s crowd was the largest in attendance.

With not a cloud in sight and very little wind, weather conditions were ideal for what was an almost perfect day on the mountain in Southern Utah.

“St. George is the best place on earth to live,” Nell said, “the best place to ride.”

St. George rider Logan Binggeli placed 16th in the competition and Hurricane rider Reed Boggs fell during a practice run Thursday and was not able to compete Friday.

The Red Bull Rampage competition will air as a highlight program on NBC Dec. 24 at 4:30 p.m. EST.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • mctrialsguy October 30, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    Wow, great write-up and pictures!

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