This year’s Red Bull District Ride follows the event’s traditional format of urban freeride in old, going on ancient, surroundings. But for 2006 the competition is split across two rounds. The first was in Catania, Sicily, with the top ten in that going on to meet the top thirteen from last year’s contest in the finals at Nuremberg. The winner takes home a Ford pickup, which is a substantial prize whichever way you look at it.
The District Ride format involves a course built to take advantage of the location, so pre-existing features like steps, banks and walls are combined with specially-constructed ramps, ladders and the like. The course is divided into “districts”, which you can think of as being like sections in a trials comp. Points are awarded for tricks, style and the ever-evasive “flow”.
One of the defining characteristics of freeride competitions is the way in which the riders check out what the others are doing, then assess whether what they’re doing themselves is impressive/scary/lunatic enough to win. And if it isn’t, they have to pull something else out of the bag. Obviously there’s a lot of scope for riders to psyche out the rest of the field by being the first to pull something a bit iffy-looking, and so it was in Catania. Several riders were talking about backflipping one of the big drops at the start of the course, but it was Timo Pritzel who actually did it in practise. In our world, any sort of backflip is pretty bonkers, but flipping off a 12 foot vertical drop onto an unforgiving wooden landing seems to constitute a special brand of lunacy. But that set the bar, and all the top riders ended up flipping the start drop.
Two rounds of qualifying decided who’d be in the finals, which were themselves split over two runs. The best score per run counted, so riders like Niels Windfeldt, Darren Berrecloth, Darren Pokoj and Cameron McCaul were safely through after their first runs and could either back off in, or even not even take, the second. That’s “could” rather than “did”, of course – Berrecloth cruised his second run, McCaul didn’t ride it, but Pokoj went out again full-bore despite an apparently-twisted ankle that later turned out to be broken.
Last year’s winner, Aaron Chase, was looking good after the first qualifying round, but so many other riders came up with something new in the second qualifier that Chase was left 12th overall and no place in the finals. The ten riders who would fight it out on Sunday evening were Niels Windfeldt, Darren Berrecloth, Darren Pokoj, Carlo Dieckmann, Cameron McCaul, Cameron Zink, Timo Pritzel, Paul Basagoitia, British rider Lance McDermott and Andreu Lacondeguy.
It was Lacondeguy who scored the highest points in the first run. Pretty impressive for a 17-year-old. Paul Basagoitia, Timo Pritzel, Cameron McCaul and Lance McDermott occupied the remaining top-five slots going into the second run.
Britain’s Lance McDermott pulled out all the stops in his final run, which included such marvels as a no-footer to opposite-footed landing (that’s left foot on the right pedal and vice versa, legs crossed) and then straight into a backflip before returning his feet to their rightful pedals. Plus of course his trademark frontflip right at the end. His score was good enough for second place behind Lacondeguy, but twice Whistler Crankworx champ Paul Basagoitia was still to ride and Lacondeguy had a run in hand.
Basagoitia’s run included a tailwhip on a technical section that no-one had tricked all weekend and concluded with a pair of 360s over the final two dirtjumps – a nosedived one followed by a tailwhipped one. Lacondeguy couldn’t match the vast number of points that Basagoitia got in his final run, so it’s the 20 year old from Nevada who took top spot and is favourite for that Ford truck. Lance McDermott was third. The second leg of the 2006 Red Bull District Ride is in Nuremberg on 4/5 August.