VIRGIN, Utah (October 21, 2022) — This year marked the 16th edition of Red Bull Rampage, the legendary big-mountain freeride event, and once again it did not disappoint. Sixteen of the world’s best riders brought their A-game to the Southwest Utah desert, and in the end, it was Canada’s Brett Rheeder that came out on top with one of the biggest and baddest lines of the day. The event replay is available on-demand on both ESPN+ and Red Bull TV. Then on October 30th, viewers can also tune-in to a condensed 2.5-hour replay beginning at 5pm PT/8pm ET that will air on ESPN.
Having won the event in 2018 and finished as runner-up in 2019, Rheeder was determined to return to the top of the podium and delivered a remarkable run.
After nailing his massive entry drop, Rheeder aced a flip can on his burly 48-foot drop to tail whip his step up only seconds later. The two-time Rampage champion kept the tricks coming, spun in both directions, and linked together combinations like he was in a video game. His run was the perfect recipe of complex tricks and steep technical riding, rightfully earning him a 90.66 score to secure his second win.
“I was pretty unsure what was going to happen this year. I had a lot of changes I went through as a person, and I didn’t know if I’d ever get back to this level of riding. So, I didn’t come out to win, to be honest. I just want to make sure whatever I do is for me. Only for me. Not for any sponsors, not for my competitors, not for any ego. I want to make sure it’s for guiding the sport in the right direction and having a good time while doing it,” Rheeder explains in disbelief, still soaking in the achievement. “It’s the most positive I’ve seen [freeride].”
Brett Rheeder opened the door for other complex runs, with Szymon Godziek trailing closely behind him. Godziek took 2nd place, one of the few riders opting to ride Kelly McGarry’s infamous canyon gap. The Polish freerider indeed made the late McGarry proud by linking together a daring run with no shortage of awe-inspiring moves.
Godziek set the tone by flying down his knife-edge ridgeline, throwing in several manuals. Once he got in the air, the tricks flowed. He threw a tuck no-hander, backflip, flat drop 360 before lining up for his double drop—the last feature before the canyon gap. The canyon requires full commitment—you won’t know if you don’t have enough speed until you’re halfway over the chasm. Godziek only heightened the stakes by throwing a 360 off his double drop. He stomped the rotation, and before he could soak it in, the rider was backflipping over the 75-foot gap. To close things off, he did a backflip suicide no hander on his lower trick jump. An elated Godziek pumped his fist in the air in celebration, knowing that he had achieved something remarkable. The judges felt similarly and awarded him the score of 86.33, landing him on his first-ever Rampage podium.
“I wasn’t sure if I should do the 360 in the first run or the second run. It was a last-call decision, and it was super scary. It was by far the scariest thing of my life. It worked out but it was super heavy. However, the backflip on the canyon gap was always the plan from the very first day. Once I landed the 360, I remember thinking, “this flip is going to be easy,” laughs Godziek.
Brandon Semenuk’s was the easiest to spot out of everyone’s lines. Even from the finish corral, you could see his near-vertical run out plunging straight down from the start gate. Two other riders thought about the line, ultimately deciding against it. However, Semenuk always finds diamonds in the rough, deciding that the line was ridable and that he could start the run with a caveman air.
The four-time champion leaped from the start gate with his bike in hand, finding his pedals quickly in the 15-foot drop. He flew down his start chute, kicking dirt behind him like a jet stream. He followed things with a bar spin into his canyon gap. He aired his signature tail whip on the flat drop, a move he introduced to Rampage only last year. Next, on the dirt-to-dirt trick jump, he aired a back flip, then a one-footed table. He finished his run with a 360 flat spin knack. His final score was an 84, and on top of taking third, Semenuk walked away with the Best Trick. Talk of that caveman air is sure to continue for a long time.
“The line shouted out at me. I wasn’t the only athlete who looked at it, but I decided to keep going because I thought it could work. It was such a cool feature and hard to pass up on because it was a unique opportunity with how they built the start platform, and you might not have that opportunity again. So despite being gnarly, it was worth the risk in my mind,” Semenuk explained after winning the Best Trick award.
Semenuk was among the many riders who wanted to drop in for a second run, eager to improve his score. The wind had other plans, though. No longer idle, it whipped up along the ridgelines, sending the windsocks into a constant frenzy. Agonizingly, the riders sat through a wind hold, hoping for another window to ride. There was no relief however, cementing the podium spots.
Beyond the top three riders, plenty of moments wowed the crowd. Jaxson Riddle once again claimed the Michelin Style Award for his run chock full of moto-inspired tricks. Freeride legend Cam Zink also reclaimed the BFGoodrich Toughness Award for his perseverance and grit. For the McGazza Spirit Award, Tom Van Steenbergen earned the honor for his incredible return to Red Bull Rampage after a life-changing crash, and Brandon Semenuk brought home the trophy for the Utah Commission Best Trick Award with his caveman out of the start gate. Lastly, the Kia Digger Award was presented to Brett Rheeder’s team of Phil McLean and Austin Davignon. With their hard work, Rheeder’s run couldn’t have been possible, and they made magic happen on their line.
|Tom Van Steenbergen