The Red Bull Rampage is many things. It is hot and dusty, somehow both crowded and abandoned, exciting and terrifying, and almost incomprehensible. Yet amid all these things (in the minds of the riders) it is about one thing and one thing only…survival.
DIRT ISSUE 130 – DECEMBER 2012
Words by John Parkin. Photos by various
Riders may train and practice for months, take huge build crews into the desert, literally for weeks to fashion their insane lines, but in the back of their minds all they want to do is get down safely. Every other competition, every other race, riders push their minds and bodies further than the average person could even imagine, and yet somehow they remain in a comfort zone of sorts. Rampage forces people out of their comfort zones and with each and every day leading up to the event this becomes more and more evident. Previously cocky riders are now quiet and contemplative, while others remain excessively confident, in public at least. This may be a competition, but it is a competition like no other.
Having already been here in the desert just outside of Virgin Utah in 2010 to witness the last Rampage first hand, I had an upper hand on newcomer (and World Cup racer) Brendan Fairclough. There was a lot of hype surrounding Brendan’s first trip into the desert, people calling him for the win before he had even got on his flight to Vegas. Rampage is not an event you can win easily. While Brendan may be one of the most gifted bike handlers ever, he had never experienced terrain like this before. Days digging a line that more than a few thought might not actually work made it clear what his intentions were. Brendog was not here to make up the numbers.
Sitting at home reading this, most probably with rain falling outside your window, it will be hard to imagine how life is in the desert. First of all it is hot. Really hot. And while it may be hot, it is really the relentlessness of the heat that gets to you. Freezing cold at night, the temperature starts to come up as the sun rises, and by 10 in the morning it is at 30+ degrees, and it stays that way, until the sun sets at 7:30pm, each and every day. Shade is pretty much non–existent as all the plant life sticks resolutely to the floor. Were you relaxing on a beach with a cocktail in one hand and a copy of ‘The Secret Race’ in the other, weather like this is not exactly a problem. Add a big old pile of dust that needs to be climbed every day and things soon start to change. The dust gets everywhere. Incredibly fine, powdery dust that hangs in the air, clogging your nostrils and drying your mouth. You feel as if you are in an oven, with the intense sun beating down on the back of your neck and the dust sucking up every last ounce of moisture from the air. Once you can picture these conditions in your mind, try to imagine hiking up a 1000 foot mountain with a shovel and pickaxe and digging trails. Then do it every day for a week. Once you can do that you will have a pretty good idea of what life is like for the riders and their build crews.
Like everything in the modern world, Rampage is evolving, and that evolution is speeding up. 2010’s event was sold as the ‘evolution’ of Rampage, but the change between that and 2012 was even bigger. What used to be a rider and maybe a couple of mates digging a line has morphed into riders bringing huge crews of flat–brimmed cap wearing bro’s, weeks in advance, working into the night with generators and lights. There were murmurs among some of the assembled riders that this was maybe taking things a little too far, but no rules were broken. That is part of the magic of the event, the almost complete absence of rules and regulations. Riders can pretty much do as they please, and being in Utah this extends to pretty much everything off the bike as well. Want to shoot some shotguns at the old Rampage site a couple of miles north to blow off some steam after a frustrating day? Feel free. Want to get there on dirt roads in a massive truck? Feel free. Want to buy beer with more than 3.2% alcohol? Forget it… Utah is a Mormon state and as such their drinking laws are among the most prohibitive in the USA, either way it didn’t seem to slow things down at the after–party on Sunday night, as one of the World Cup riders found out to his detriment…>>