Red Bull Rampage Returns with its Special Brand of Craziness

One of the many things that have made 2020 and 2021 such challenging years is the cancellation of some of our favorite events. Thanks to COVID, we’ve seen numerous expedition seasons shut down, athletic competitions delayed, and countless other annual gatherings postponed. Thankfully, many of those events are starting to return to the calendar, including one of our favorites that was sorely missed last year.

Tomorrow, the 2021 Red Bull Rampage will take place in Virgin, UT after taking last year off due to the pandemic. For years, this invite-only freestyle mountain bike event has been one of the highlights of the sport, pitting the world’s top riders against one another on a downhill course has to be seen to be believed.

Red Bull Rampage
Photo Credit: Kraig Becker

What is Red Bull Rampage

The first Rampage took place back in 2001with ten riders testing their skills on a wild course not far from Utah’s Zion National Park. It was a brutally challenging affair that included high flying jumps, impressive tricks, and wince-inducing crashes. Naturally, it soon became a fan favorite.

The event continued from 2002-2004, at which point it was unceremoniously cancelled. Rampage organizers and sponsors felt that it was becoming too dangerous, with riders taking higher risks in an effort to wow the crowd and claim victory. At the time, injuries were on the rise and both the athletes and equipment were being pushed to the limit.

Fortunately, Red Bull Rampage didn’t stay dormant for long. In 2008, the downhill event returned, bigger and badder than ever. With a few new safety guidelines in place, along with a strict screening process for the riders who were invited, the event rose to new heights in terms of popularity. In fact, several thousand fans show up to the Utah desert to watch the competition in person, while hundreds of thousands more stream the event online as well.

Red Bull Rampage
Photo Credit: Kraig Becker

Rules of the Rampage

For the uninitiated, Red Bull Rampage looks a bit like controlled chaos, with riders attempting to bend gravity to their will. As it turns out however, there are rules to the event that dictate the route a rider can take on his way from the starting gate to the finish line, much of which can be dictated by the athlete himself.

Riders and their “digging team” show up at the Rampage venue a few days before the event. This gives them the opportunity to survey the course, which shifts locations on a regular basis. Once they survey the various routes that are available for going from the top to the bottom, they can then build their own features from which they can jump, bank, or twist their bikes in the air. These man-made features can only be used by the rider who has created them however, making them off limits to anyone else.

On the day of the competition the goal is to reach the finish line in as spectacular of a fashion as possible. There is no running clock to beat, but riders are graded by a panel of judges who look for style, technical skill, impressive tricks, and level of difficulty. The rider with the highest score at the end wins.

Red Bull Rampage 2021

After taking the year off in 2020, the riders are reportedly anxious and eager to get the 2021 Red Bull Rampage underway. Of course, there will likely be some nerves to deal with as they ease back into the event, but video of the first practice runs of the year indicate we’re in for something pretty special.

This year’s line up consists of 15 riders, including some legends of the sport. Amongst the athletes to keep an eye on are past winners Brandon Semenuk and Kurt Sorge, along with perennial favorites Cam Zink and Carson Storch. Considering the two year delay since the last Rampage however, the competition looks to be wide open. Most of the competitors are from the U.S. and Canada, although there are riders from Poland, Spain, and Norway in the field too.

The event itself is sold out, so if you don’t already have tickets you’re out of luck for watching this year’s Rampage in person. However, the live stream of the event begins on Friday, October 15 at 1:00 PM EDT. Right now, there is a chance of rain in the forecast, which could make the event even wilder than normal. We’ll just have to wait to see how things unfold.

Welcome back Red Bull Rampage and good luck to all of the riders.

Kraig Becker