Last week forty-two of the best mountain bikers in the world competed on one of the most dangerous and challenging courses ever made for a $100,000 prize purse.
With representation from eleven different countries, riders from around the globe have highly anticipated Redbull Rampage each year since 2001. This year, five MSU students were invited to help run the prestigious competition, which included premiere access to the course and the athletes themselves.
The five students had one job: help the athletes. Each were tasked with assisting a rider, where they would help carry the bikes up the course, or simply hangout at the drop-in point with them for a bit while they figured out which line to take. “Our job was at the bottom of the totem poll,” joked Patrick Rooney, an MSU student who helps build and maintain local Bozeman mountain bike trails. Rooney continued, “but you have the best access out of anyone. You can be anywhere at anytime, more so than media coverage.”
Rooney amongst the other students slept atop an RV for the weekend, along with a group of 7 other campers from other universities. Most of the group had never been to the desert and were taken aback by how much they ended up enjoying it. Ian Nagel-Brice, president of the MSU Backcountry Ski Club, said his favorite part of the trip was “sleeping on top of the RV – it’s an incredible feeling sleeping in the desert.”
Going to bed around two in the morning and waking up at six a.m. sharp, each day was a long one. Averaging roughly 10,000 vertical feet per day made each hour of sleep that much more important. However it wasn’t the tough workout that was the challenge. Nagel-Brice said, “These were sketchy goat trails, and we had a bike on our back. If you slipped one foot you could recover, but two, you’re done.” He continued, “There were certain places you just couldn’t afford to fall.”
Lorenzo Politano, an MSU student, said that regardless of how hard the hike was, it was worth it. “I loved being up on the ridgeline,” Politano said, “it was an intimate experience with the athletes. I was able to watch these riders decide if they would push it to the next level and risk their life, or just settle for fourth place. “ Politano was helping one of the international athletes and said, “[it] gave me a new perspective of Rampage.”
Travel costs were covered by the sponsor of the event, Red Bull, which made the trip easier on a college budget. Nagel-Brice said. “Everything went super well,” he said, “I think the hardest part of the entire trip was trying to find a parking spot at Zion National Park.”
Kurt Sorge, a Canadian, took first, redefining the highest score in Rampage history with a 96.50 out of 100. Andreu Lacondeguy, representing Spain, placed second with a 95.75, followed by Graham Agassiz, another Canadian with a 94.75.
The group agreed that if there’s one thing they learned from their trip it was: “To speak softly, and carry a big bike.”