By Eddie Clark
(October 7, 2012) VIRGIN, Utah.—The Red Bull Rampage returned to the dry high desert of southwest Utah with even bigger crowds, bigger terrain, and a more talented field than ever before. Most notably was the slight change in format that had all Finals competitors starting from one new gate the was perched upon the highest point of the venue. With fifty and sixty foot cliffs on both sides of the start gate, every rider had a mandatory drop to knife edged ridge to simply start their run. Needless to say, it was a true evolution of big mountain freeriding.
Starting earlier in the week, those who were selected for Friday's qualifiers were out with their helpers digging, shaping, and practicing their lines. It was noticeable that for this Rampage, everyone was ratcheting up the stakes by building new and unique lines down terrain that was never considered ridable in past events.
On Friday, the boys were out early putting the final touches into their lines to ensure a smooth run that they would hopefully live through for a birth into the finals. Out of the twenty four qualifiers, only twelve would advance into the finals. With judged points being given for speed, style, tricks and difficulty, top honors went to Cam McCaul. McCaul made his Rampage return by succesfully clearing the 60 foot Canyon Gap jump, which was also the same jump that ended his last Red Bull Rampage two years ago.
Regarding his line choice and return to overcome the demons of the Canyon Gap, McCaul said, "For it all to come together that's good enough, and to earn a first place in qualifying position, I couldn't be more pumped".
For Saturday, riders were again out early in the morning to beat the mid-day heat, and further dial their lines. For those who had to qualify into the finals, it was also a day to expand upon their previous lines which started lower down on the venue. For the pre-qualified riders, it was a chance to get a couple last runs in for confidence prior to the big day. After a late lunch, everyone hiked their way back up to the top to ride back down, and repeat as needed until the last rays of light were gone.
The big news of Saturday's practice day was the crash of Cam Zink, who won the last Red Bull Rampage with his giant 360 out of the Oakley Sender. For 2012, Zink chose a different line with new huge drops that sent him into the Canyon Gap with too much speed. As Zink soared over the jump, he threw his bike away after getting bucked and grossly over jumping the landing. The crowd let out a collective grown as Zink smashed back down to the dirt landing squarely on both feet and sliding to a stop. Medics were by his side instantly to thoroughly look him over. Amazingly, Zink was conscious and able to walk away from the horrific crash, but his ankles would be too sore to compete in Sunday's finals.
Once again, on Sunday morning, the early dawn saw riders scrambling up the ridglines to get some last practice rides in before their final two runs. Going into the finals, most bets were on Semenuk, Doerfling and Berrecloth who all had very big technical runs dialed in. It turned out to be Canadian Kurt Sorge who stole the spotlight on his first run with a first placed score that he attained with fast fluid riding down technical lines with dialed tricks like backflips and supermans thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, many of the past favorites had their runs come unravelled with crashes on the lower sections.
Since the dreaded afternoon winds remained calm, contest organizers made the call to have riders take their second runs immediately after the first round was complete. Skipping lunch proved to be the right call, and everyone went back up for one last crack at it. With confidence in his corner, Sorge stomped his second run with even more authority to further improve upon his score and seal a victory that will have sponsors lining up for his signature. Second place went to Antoine Bizet of France who stuck his ridiculous line. Third went to Utah resident and former US national downhill champion Logan Binggelli who added even bigger lines and back flips to his solid run for a well earned spot on the podium.
"This podium is huge for me. 2004 was the first year I even knew about mountain biking. I went to the Red Bull Rampage when I was 14 or 15 years old and watched Kyle Strait win, and from that day on I always wanted to ride mountain bikes, and to come back here and get on the podium, I couldn't be more pumped", said Bingelli.