I was ecstatic to be granted a press pass for this years Red Bull Rampage event. To give some background, this is an invite only event where the best in freeride mountain biking compete outside of Zion National Park in Virgin, Utah.
21 Athletes were preselected to compete at the new venue this year. The rules were slightly different, the two main changes being riders only allowed to have build crews of 2 people, and not allowing any wooden features to be built. Other than that it was game on!
As you can see from the photos it was an incredibly dusty event. Each day started with a 4 mile off-road jeep ride at sunrise down a dusty trial. The build crews had to constantly be watering down the athletes runs, and water trucks were attempting to keep the dust down on the main road into the course. Camping gear, camera, and clothes were all caked with dust by the end of each day and required intense cleaning before bed each night.
Media was given permission to shoot on the two practice days and final. However on the last two days access was heavily restricted, cramping on how creative photographers were able to get without clearance. Due to the cut in build crews, many worked together to collaborate on different lines and features to maximize their build days before practice.
This was quite different from other types of shooting that i've done with mountain biking. First off these athletes are at the absolute top of their game, watching them ride their individual lines was otherworldly. Also most of my shots are somewhat "staged", meaning its either a pre-scouted location, or i'm having my athletes ride it over and over again with minor changes to perfect the shot. Obviously you're limited in this regard at Rampage, which is where I struggled most. It took time to learn each riders style and be able to guess when they were going to go or not. You wouldn't get any warning when the time came other than photographers near you turning their lenses. I vividly remember waiting over an hour for Kyle Strait to hit his big drop. Many of us sat there with our lenses pointed in his direction waiting. He must have run up to the lip 20-30 times to fine tune his run in speed and drop.
The final event was a nail biter. Out of the 21 athletes competing only 12 completed both of their runs, the remaining either crashed on course, or never started. Many of the athletes will push their runs to the absolute max during their final run. Both Graham Agassiz and Cam Zink decided to throw 360s of their step down drops, neither landed either trick (pictured above) and only Cam was able to walk away from his crash. Many of the athletes implemented tricks in multiple portions of their runs. Backflips, 360s, Tables, and Superman's were par for the course out there.
Check out the rest of my photos from the event under the "Projects" tab, or click on this link. 3 days and 2,500 photos later the curated collection is below!