Monday marked the newly arranged final of the competition, and it arrived with ne’er a whisper of the troubles that forced the postponement; spotless skies restored, the rain banished from whence it came and a sun-baked crust covering the event area all pointing towards the perfect competition.
Keen to make a good stab at decent coverage, I arrived earlier than previous days and was greeted with a mountain side full of activity – the hereunto out-of-bounds “finals course” was peppered with pockets of industrious digging as various groups of riders tended to their lines of choice. Paul Basagoita and Graham Aggasiz raked a landing free of rogue rocks, Robbie Bourdon chipped away at a cliff drop take-off and Darren Berrecloth was last seen heading off to a remote area of the ridge for his unique path.
As the start time approached, one by one the riders downed tools and began to scope out the possibility of actually riding the monsters they’d created; it’s one thing to envisage but quite another to make the leap of faith.
Kurt Sorge almost nailed a great superman, instead he fluffed the extension and couldn’t get it back to pedal
Left Cam McCaul sizes up the canyon gap on a Session frame that’s not long for this world Right Down and out: Gee’s a tough guy but a fall like that is going to put anyone out
One rider digging a little deeper into the courage reserves was Cam McCaul. Ever since arriving he’d been eyeing up the ridiculously large 60ft gap jump, and after several speed checks and an eternity of staring off the edge he finally plucked up the balls to hit it. “Fast” didn’t seem to quite cut it, and McCaul sailed in a graceful arc that ended just a foot or so too short. Ouch. Undeterred he tried again, the identical result this time accompanied by the ‘dink’ of a frame snapping. Oops, good job he brought a spare.
Heading into the final competition, it was clear that all the riders were suffering similar problems, no doubt exacerbated by the lack of real practice time. It seems odd that two days was given to practicing qualifying but only a morning for a finals run, but I guess it separates the men from the boys, so to speak. At one point it was looking like the podium would be made up entirely those riders who managed a clean run down the hill, such was the number of crashes; Gee Atherton was looking like a favourite to take the top spot with a floaty line of big airs linked together with steep transitions, but fell awkwardly and dislocated his shoulder, Berrecloth stalled one drop just a second too late to prevent an unfortunate fall and the likes of Basagoita and Zink were having a hard time sticking tricks off the ridgeline booter.
Left Paul Bas and Graham Aggasiz fine-tune their landing pad Right Just another view of the sheer ridiculousness of the canyon gap
He can pull it back… maybe. Paul Bas meets stem
Thomas Vanderham sits pretty after his first successful attempt across the monster gap
Bearclaw collects his bike after falling face-first down the drop on the left
Slowly but surely, the winners of the event emerged – Thomas Vanderham proved that despite his veteran status he’s still relevant to today’s freeride scene by not only clearing the canyon gap, but by stomping it with a huge suicide no-hander that carried him well past the initial case-point and well down the tranny, earning him the ‘Best Trick’ award and a cool $5000. Kurt Sorge placed second after a solid run that scored highly in the judges “amplitude” and “flow” categories but it was man-of-the-moment Brandon Semenuk who took the top spot, clinching victory with a line of huge airs and smooth transitions – he’s only 17 but can throw no-handers off huge drops like he’s not even thinking about it, the icing on the cake a big 360 off the last drop, followed by an appreciative roar from the crowd loud enough to drown out the booming MC. It was obvious to all present that it was the winning run, and Brandon quite rightly stood higher and banked more than anyone else that day.
Ladies and gentlemen, Rampage is back and once again redefining the riding possible on a mountain bike. A spectacle in the truest sense of the word, it’s definitely best witness live and in person. Given the somewhat fickle nature of the Red Bull event planners I’d say this is definitely one to catch as soon as possible, before the panoply of big-mountain riding is lost once again, relegated to memory and DVD box set. You won’t regret it.
1. Brandon Semenuk – $10,000
2. Kurt Sorge – $3,500
3. Thomas Vanderham – $2,000
4. Mike Kinrade – $1,300
5. Cameron Zink – $700
6. Mike Hopkins – $500
7. Cedric Gracia – $400
8. Graham Agassiz – $400
9. Kyle Strait – $300
10. Darren Berrecloth – $300
11. Robbie Bourdon – $300
12. Paul Basagoitia – $300
13. Cam McCaul
14. Michal Marosi
15. Gee Atherton DNS (did not start)