Words by Brice Minnigh
Photos by Anthony Smith
Most people know that the Red Bull Rampage is a non-stop succession of paradigm-setting performances by the world's most fearless big-mountain riders, but at least half the action takes place in between the labyrinth of lines that lace the dry, dusty mesas.
In between these lines—and often right in the middle of them—are animated pockets of spectators soaking up the vastness of the spectacle. Some carry lawn chairs part of the way up the mountain. Others wear safari hats and sombreros to shield themselves from the sun. Almost all of them are drinking beer and cheering for the riders' successes. And groaning in chorus at some of the horrific crashes that then bring all the noise to a halt, leaving only the sound of the wind blowing through the canyons.
Here's a glimpse of the pandemonium from Friday's qualifiers:
This one's too obvious: Garett Buehler even wears his Adidas goggles on his day off.
Even spectating can be a hazardous activity at Rampage, with ridiculously steep terrain laced with new lines built by the many riders. Onlookers have to be on constant lookout to make sure they're not standing in the middle of a contestant's run.
"Dude, it's like a desert out here in Utah—and I always bring my umbrella to the desert."
Bike magazine's 'B Team 1' gets marching orders to the top of the mesa for an intimate view of the topographic intimidation.
Rake and bake: Most of this year's riders have spent at least the past week digging and grooming their lines under the baking sun near Virgin, Utah.
In case you missed the wide shot on the @bikemag Instagram, here's the long-lens version from the 'Big Boy Camera': Gee Atherton might have a crutch, but that doesn't keep him from chatting up the female spectators.
Thomas Genon might look like a garden-variety hipster with his kneepads under skinny jeans, but would a stuck-up trendy actually wave to onlookers while he's launching a 20-foot gap?
"You're doing it wrong: I think those shifters are supposed to go on your bars…." Genon's unorthodox bike setup adds to the mystery surrounding this year's Crankworx Red Bull Joyride winner.
James Doerfling might be from Williams Lake, British Columbia, but that doesn't mean he can't appreciate a warm Tecate in the Utah desert. After his solid first run made him a virtual shoe-in for Sunday's Rampage finals, Doerfling was content to sit out his second run and sip some refreshing beverages.
The scale at Rampage is so vast, if you didn't bring binoculars, all you can do is drink beer and soak up the rowdy atmosphere.
The 2004 Rampage winner Kyle Strait is serious about perfecting his line for Sunday's finals—and some of the enormous drops in his run are perfectly terrifying. "I'm a little worried about that one," Strait told us on Friday. "That's one's big—real big."
This water's not going to carry itself into the canyon—good thing we've got a Claw to haul it in…. Darren Berrecloth is always meticulous in the preparation of his Rampage lines.
Andrew Shandro chips in to the colossal effort to build Brandon Semenuk's benchmark-setting line.