Words by Brice Minnigh
Photos by Anthony Smith
After violent thunderstorms on Saturday put the fate of this year's Red Bull Rampage in the balance, Sunday morning's blue skies and relatively calm winds allowed riders to rebuild their rain-drenched lines. The dozen or so riders who had yet to attempt a second run in the Red Bull Rampage qualifiers got their fair shot at getting into the finals, which have been pushed back to Monday. Here are some of the day's highlights:
The uncertainty of Rampage course conditions after Saturday's heavy thunderstorms left riders taking a collaborative approach to assessing the rain damage to their lines and working together to ensure that all lines would be dialed for Monday's finals.
Like father, like son (and the other son). The Van Steenbergens quite visibly share the same DNA. But the three Steenbergen men could all agree that Mrs. Steenbergen would be in tears if she could see what her beloved boy is likely to attempt in Monday's finals.
Despite being a newcomer to Rampage, Frenchman Louis Reboul showed the composure of a seasoned veteran. And he consistently charged down his line with all the determination of a French revolutionary marching on the Bastille.
The world's best big-mountain riders were getting their hands dirty this morning in an effort to repair their rained-drenched lines, and one-time Rampage winner Cam Zink was no exception.
Early in the morning practice session, Graham Agassiz—who was emboldened over getting a shot at a second qualifying run—was already dropping not-so-subtle hints of the splendor to come.
Canadian Mitch Chubey had built a highly unique and creative line, and up until the last minute it looked as though he was going to squeak into the finals. But Graham Agassiz' mind-blowing run and an impressive showing from Paul Basagoitia meant he was pushed to the eleventh qualifying spot and is now an alternate who will only be allowed to ride in the finals if one of the top 20 riders is unable to compete.
Louis Reboul made the massive canyon gap look like a mere floater at his local bike park. His relaxed poise left spectators wondering if he might have something much bigger up his sleeve for Monday's finals….
Even after greasing the gargantuan cliff drop at the top of his ridiculously consequential line, Graham Agassiz still needed to land this 76-foot drop in order to qualify for Monday's finals. And he did it with speed and style, sending spectators into fits and catapulting him unquestionably into the top spot in qualifiers. Everyone who witnessed his run knew instantly that it was one of the most monumental moments in freeride's short history.
After nearly over-rotating a flip toward the bottom of his run, Aggy's skill and determination helped him hold on and keep his run intact, qualifying first. But even in this glorious moment the young Kamloops, British Columbia, native was as humble as the dude next door.
Cam Zink would never craft a line that could be described as anything but big. His near-vertical roll-in near the start gate is just the beginning of what looks set to become one of the most memorable runs in Rampage history. Check the bikemag Instagram for a glimpse of the herculean step-down that followed.
Brett Rheeder was another one of the heavies throwing down big tricks off some seriously big features, doing seemingly effortless backflips and 360s off the jumps toward the top of his line.
Tom Van Steenbergen's run-in to the canyon gap is steep and technical, and his imaginative gapping of natural features suggests that there could be quite a few surprises in tomorrow's finals.
So far, Polish phenom Szymon Godziek is the only rider to backflip the new canyon gap, and his stellar showing in the first qualifying run meant he could safely opt out of a second qualifier. And in today's practice, he jibbed around on some of the smaller features of his line, indicating that he is more than ready for tomorrow's finals.
Oh, and did we mention that Brandon Semenuk has also mapped out one of this year's gnarliest lines? And as usual, he's making it look smooth and easy.
Pre-qualified into the finals, Spanish style master (and speed demon) Andreu Lacondeguy was throwing down his signature flatspin 360s during the sunset practice session on the eve of Monday's finals. If he rides up to his potential, we could very well see him at the top of the podium on Monday afternoon.
It's hard for most mountain bikers to even conceive of the feats that Rampage riders pull off with ease. But for talents like Tom Van Steenbergen, they all start with a unique vision and are executed with an intense concentration. As the sun was setting on the eve of Rampage finals, Steenbergen was alone in his head, imagining what Monday could bring.
Rampage Finals start list:
1. Ramon Hunziker
2. Carson Storch
3. Brendan Fairclough
4. Jeff Herbertson
5. Szymon Godziek
6. Louis Reboul
7. Kelly McGarry
8. Tom Van Steenbergen
9. Geoff Gulevich
10. Kyle Norbraten
11. Brett Rheeder
12. Cam Zink
13. Mike Montgomery
14. Kyle Strait
15. Brandon Semenuk
16. Graham Agassiz
17. Andreu Lacondeguy
18. Paul Basagoitia
19. Pierre Edouard Ferry
20. Thomas Genon