The Red Bull Rampage might just be the craziest event in any sport with at least one athlete throwing a backflip off a drop of close to 50 feet, but they’re not so crazy that organizers won’t stop an event if the wind picks up. That’s just what happened on Sunday, Oct. 13 in Virgin, Utah, with organizers finally pulling the plug during the second round after a nearly two-hour wind delay.
As a result only the first run would count this year, something that worked in favour of American rider Kyle Strait. He was the first rider to brave the Oakley Icon Sender, doing a no-hander off the 50-foot. drop after picking an exposed, fast line up top and finishing the bottom part of his run with some big, stylish airs. Judges gave him an 87.5 that stood for the rest of the day.
“Starting from the top I was staring at those wind flags that were constantly blowing, one was going one way and one was going another, and I decided to go for it. It was pretty gnarly to go off that big a jump with that much air…” said Strait, who also won the event in 2004 and is the only Red Bull Rampage repeat winner in the event’s sporadic eight years.
Finishing second was New Zealand’s Kelly McGarry with an 86.75. His run included a huge backflip on a 70-plus foot gap jump, another corked backflip on a smaller feature and all-around great freeriding on the rest of the course. Judging is always controversial at these events and some suggest that he should have won the event for his overall run and line choices.
In third was American rider Cam Zink. He didn’t take the top prize, but pulled a backflip off the Oakley Icon Sender that is being called the biggest two-wheel backflip of all time. After landing that trick he played it safe for the rest of his run, however, something that brought his score down. He vowed to do it all again with more tricks on the lower part of the course — but never got his chance with the wind delay.
Zink was beside himself after landing the trick.
“It was just the most euphoric thing I’ve felt,” he said. “Just so much hang-time, and I was staring at the sky for a while and just in the zone. I had more to my run, but I said to myself after I hit this jump that I just have to get to the bottom and play it safe this run.”
Zink also came into the event with an injury that was almost serious enough to keep him on the sidelines. “It’s in the groin area and it just wants to bring you to your knees,” he said. “It’s not like when your foot hurts and you push through it… I was eight hours in the hospital the other day and they wanted to do surgery, but luckily they let me out.”
Rounding out the top eight were Andreu Lacondeguy of Spain with an 84.5, American Tyler McCaul with an 80.5, French rider Pierre Edouard Ferry with a 76.0, Cam McCaul with a 75.5 and Brendan Fairclough with a 75.5.
While Canadians made up the largest group at the event, none of them made it into the top eight — although things might have been different with a second run. The top qualifier was Graham Aggasiz of Kamloops.
Whistler’s Brandon Semenuk crashed on both of his runs, marking the second year he crashed on both attempts. He won the event in 2008.