Extreme sporting events frequently are viewed as moments for obscure athletes to compete in an arena full of crazy fans.
To an outsider it is just another day. But, there is more to this world – especially at the beloved annual event in Utah perfectly named Red Bull Rampage.
This is not just a game. It is a way of life.
There is truly something to be said about a human being risking their existence to fly down the side of a peak on two wheels. This creature covered in dust and sweat performs flips and turns that make the beholder question if the master of the universe secretly granted certain people invisible wings to make them fly. That is the feeling that you get the first time you watch Red Bull Rampage.
These athletes are masterful artists. They eat, train and sleep the sport called freeride mountain biking. Imagine spending four days in the sporadic weather of the backside of Zion National Park preparing for this task. Mornings of blistering cold switching to dehydrating heat as you and a team of two people dig out trenches along the steep slopes of the mountain with limited supplies of shovels and sandbags. From sun up to sun down groups of young men carefully crafting lines and pathways down the hill for what is destined to be their epic journey at the end of the week. Then practicing and rehearsing moves of pure mad fury down that line. The art of freeride is a sport that takes skills of a colorful painter like Jackson Pollack combined with the powerful hands of the master sculptor Michelangelo to create this canvas.
The competition itself is like going to the Carnegie Hall of sports. The rider is violinist in an orchestra playing the sweetest sounds as the drums and symbols beat away to this music in your ears. You hear the wheels buzzing with energy as your heart leaps up through your throat when the biker defies gravity and flips in the air. They are light as a feather with the strength of a boulder storming down a hill in a flash flood of power that only Mother Nature can design.
To watch Red Bull Rampage is to watch magic happening. It makes the universe seem smaller. Seem more real.
There is no other spot in the world that matches the perfect conditions needed for this competition than Southern Utah. Soft dirt and slopes with multiple plateaus are elements needed to build these lines of intense measure and human capability. The riders alone on two wheels is a fantastic sight to see. It is no wonder that fans watching from the hillside bear down on the harsh outdoor elements for hours on end as they cheer and wave their flags with pride. But just as mesmerizing is the teamwork that Red Bull Rampage formulates.
A rider’s team works alongside him and builds out this lyrical poem. Glorifying and praising the effort is a boundless attempt. Indeed, these are families that as a unit make it all happen. Spending days in the desert together is a binding moment that creates a seal that cannot be broken. The days leading up to Rampage are like a clan reunion full of laughter, tears, joy, fear, gratitude and most of all trust. Even the hundreds of Red Bull TV crew members and production volunteers that are on hand from start to finish share in these incredible emotions. They are too momentous to ignore.
“I came here to have my mind blown away,” stated fan Frank Sanchez enthusiastically in the crowd. “This is the day if you are fan you live for. Even if you don’t know anything about these guys how could you not fall in love.”
Sports lovers and athletes alike understand these feelings and they are not unique. But, the tone that a company like Red Bull brings to this week is to be loudly applauded. The brand itself becomes another line in the glorious lyric of the song that is freeride mountain biking as they support and anchor the competition full-heartedly from start to finish.
“Having Red Bull put this together and to help us pretty much makes our year,” said champion rider Andreu Lacondeguy. “We’re really thankful for that.”
Red Bull Rampage is a gnarly event – devotedly, passionately gnarly.