It feels so good to be back in Canada! Holy a month on the road is pretty much the limit. By now the tales of Rampage have been spun and told, and let’s just say (for lack of better phrasing) it was one hell of a ride… on all fronts. The first hurdle, how does one get down to the event, fly? naw too easy. Run? hell no, way too hard, I’ll leave that noise to Dean Karnazes. Road trip? Three dudes stacked on the bench seat of a 1995 Ford F-150 named “big Red”… I think so! The contingent of bench seat brothers consisted of The Nutany (Andre Nutini) and Karl Malone, Maloon (Liam Mullany). 22 Hours, cramped quarters and thousands of scenic miles lay ahead. Our trip down was all business. Put the foot to the floor and get there. In Salt Lake our single vessel road show upgraded (literally) to a caravan, as the lovely folks at Cruise America served up the XL RV instead of the Standard we ordered. Bonus!
We arrived in Virgin, 3 days before the beginning of the event. Rampage is as much about building and creative vision as it is about the actual riding. My plan was to get the jump on things, put a solid effort into building early, and leave the days leading into Qualifiers for riding and getting comfortable with my line. This year my approach was to find a line that I was actually going to smashing good time riding. I wanted to find something that fit my style… fast, flowy, and well, big. Somehow every Rampage I find myself gravitating towards the biggest jump on the course. This year was no different. The “Granola Cruncher” is a 68ft step-down that caught my curiosity, and I couldn’t shake it. Liam, Andre, and I spent two and a half days sweating through the reconstruction of the in-run and lip, but once we put on the polish, it was a thing of beauty. Huge, but too much fun to overlook. At the end of those first desert dig days it was definitely a treat to stagger our dirty carcusses back to an RV. Big Thanks to The North Face for that!
Rampage is a beast that stands all alone. Before making the trek down South I spent a couple days in Whistler riding with Vanderham and Gully, and we came to the general consenese that there is no real way to train for this event. Just ride as much as possible and carry that confidence into the desert. The simple fact is that your run at rampage is like nothing you’ve ridden all year. Take the biggest hits you’ve done, mix it with a ridge-line or chute boasting career shattering exposure, and toss a handful of wind in there to mess with your melon… and there you have it, a run at the world’s biggest mountain bike event.
I have competed in Virgin since it’s rebirth in 2008, and first impressions are always the same, ”Oh shit what have I gotten myself into… again”. But after a couple days in the sun, dehydration takes it’s toll on your sensibility cells and your prespective shifts. Lines appear milder, drops smaller, jumps move from scary to fun. In 48 hours, the venue goes from overwhelming, to a full blown playground.
Like I said before, this year was all about committing to a line that was fun. I found that line, got the grunt work out of the way early, and had a killer couple days just riding before the real show began. It kind of felt like I was just riding on home turf. I was camping with good buddies, and my Dad and Brother drove down from B.C., so it kind of turned into a really sweet riding trip. This was my bro’s first time to the event and I think it’s safe to say within the first 3.5 seconds at the venue his mind was blown. He was super fired up. My Dad is on the same page, but being the parent he has his concerns. He usually translates anxiety into endless conversations with total strangers. I swear, you get that guy nervous in a crowd and he could throw a party that would dwarf the event. Talented Talker that one is.
When Qualifying rolled around I was more than ready. I had lapped through my line ten plus times and the only missing piece was the “Granola Cruncher”. I had done numerous speed tests, and was confident that I had it covered. It’s such a conciquential jump that I chose to leave my guinea pig hit till my Quali run. Just in case things did go sideways, I didn’t want to miss out on the entire event. There was a lot of hype around it, mainly because it was a monster, but I felt pretty comfortable with it. I had a few people watch my speed and we came to the standing that overshooting wasn’t going to be an issue. With that I headed up from my run.
Going into Rampage I didn’t just want to do well, I wanted to do really well. This competition embodies my style of riding, so naturally I wanted to put it down. My Quali line was dialed and I had a few burly additions I was going to make for finals. I was slated to drop second to last in the first round. In the start I mentally went over my run multiple times, calmed myself down, and rolled into the gate. When I dropped in it was exactly the same as the days leading up, Fun. I never once had that sense of competition, I was just focused on my line and was having a wicked good time. The drop before the 68 footer is pretty sizeable and coming off that felt so damn good. I greased the landing and generated more speed than I had in my previous tests. I knew I had the pace to clear the big fella so I relaxed a little. 30 feet before the jump I scrubbed over a small long-and-low that spit me over a road. This gave me an unexpected burst of acceleration. Instantly I knew I was too fast. I would have hit the brakes but with the jump so close I couldn’t afford to try and ditch speed and shoot off the lip awkwardly. Instead I went back to the assumption that I wouldn’t be able to overshoot, and boosted. In the air I was like “Ahhhh Yeah this is sick!”, and then I saw the landing disappear below me. The moment before I landed I still thought I could muscle through the impact. I knew I was deep on the transition but it wasn’t till I hit that I realized I had cleared the entire thing. Position-wise I landed perfectly, both wheels impacted at the same time, but there was no hope. I was 20 feet long, the final tally was 91 feet. I blew through my travel, my body wrapped around the frame and I got ejected! I actually saw a slo-mo screen grab where my helmet is in my front wheel, full Gumby. Lying on the ground all I was trying to do was breath. My chest hit my stem and gave me a serious winding. Weezing on the ground I was waiting for the pain of broken to set in… but it never came. Once I caught my breathe I just kind of hung out while the Paramedics did their checks. All I could see through a mass of legs and arms was my Dad staring at me with a shoe in his hand. It looked like one of mine but there is no way that could be. I crank my shoes super tight before every run. Sure enough when they finally let me stand up, my left foot was shoeless. You know you’ve taken a beating when your kicks make an exit. I waved to the crowd and staggered down the hill to base camp, where I sat in a daze and contemplated a second run. In the afternoon the wind picked up and I called it. I wasn’t in any condition to be on a bike. Other than some serious bruising, swollen ankles, a warped front wheel, and bent pedals, everything was fine. I will say, I am getting real tired of competing with Zinc for the events gnarliest crash. I’d say we’re both due for a clean event. Maybe next year.
The next few days were full of pain killers and high fives. Watching Finals was super hard because I just wanted to out there, but it was sick to watch all the boys throw down. Norb’s 3′s, Brandon’s Gap, T-Mac’s pinned line, Sorgy crushing, Dorefling being a boss, Rheeder and Howey representing the young crop, everyone rode super strong and I am pumped for next year. Congrats to Kurt!