Brendan Fairclough mid-run at Rampage 2018
Devil's Advocate

Another Rampage, Another Robbery?

Words AJ Barlas
Date Oct 31, 2018

Breathe...

It’s been a few days since riders drew their final lines in the dirt near Virgin Utah. And since the broadcast wrapped up, the usual hysteria that plagues the event has ensued. The competitors threw down insane runs at the new venue, but as seems commonplace with Rampage, the internet is not entirely impressed.

Overall, most fans appear happy with the top three. Rheeder surely won, Lacondeguy is an absolute weapon (can you imagine if he stomped his second run?), and local boy Ethan Nell proved that his rookie podium last year was no fluke. All of the riders went L-A-R-G-E through the medium of video, which makes everything look smaller.  I am committed to witness the event in the flesh someday; it’s the only way to truly appreciate how insane these riders are.



Even without egregious errors for the top spots, discussion continues surrounding the judging and how the event unfolded. Brendan Fairclough's performance has been a particularly hot topic. His run would leave an ordinary viewer thinking he is slightly mad, and fans of the sport reached a new level of appreciation for his mind-bending bike handling skills. When his score dropped, I was in complete disagreement and I still am. Come on! That canyon gap was sketchy, the rock drop was unique and the cliff he rode down doesn’t even seem possible. Brendog did receive the Kelly McGarry Award, which is special on its own, but it likely did little to dull the sting of his low score.


Keyboard warriors rarely second guess themselves, but is it possible that fans of Rampage have it wrong? We stare into our devices sending a continual barrage of comments toward Red Bull, but maybe we’re out of line?

Perhaps Red Bull and the appointed judges have an agenda that mandates riders throwing down insane slopestyle moves on relatively manicured booters at the bottom of their lines. They seem to want to see big progressive tricks mid-run, and they want to have an even mix of tricks with classic big-mountain flavour. Is it only the fans that push for more ‘raw’ riding and less slopestyle zest? Would we find it a little boring without the mix?

Brendan Fairclough's tech cliff line

A front view of the cliff line in Brendan's run. It's wild to think a guy on a bicycle can ride down something like that. It seems he didn't throw enough tricks to score higher though. Photo: Red Bull/Bartek Wolinski

Szymon Godziek Making use of the booters at the bottom

Adolf Silva made use of the booters toward the bottom of the mountain. He finished the day in 11th according to the judges, but in the minds of the fans (who voted) he won. Photo: Red Bull/Bartek Wolinski


Maybe that is the answer to the question; variety. If all lines were raw like Brendan’s, would fans and the viewing public find it as fascinating? Did it push the progression of freeride in all aspects? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for raw and steep, and would have pegged Brendan’s line in the top five. But if every run was like his would it be as entertaining and progressive? We already know fans wouldn’t be completely satisfied if Rampage was overly manicured as it was becoming a few years back. Having a good balance of rider skills for viewers is key and while my jaw-to-floor glee was high as after Brendan put his line together, I enjoyed Lacondeguy’s speed and back-to-back trick section, and Rheeders incredible style and big tricks.


Make no mistake, Red Bull takes note of public opinion which could explain why riders, subconsciously or not, are so vocal about the event. You could argue for giving the fans what they want to guarantee success, but Red Bull probably knows that pleasing everyone, especially mountain bikers, is a fool's game. Particularly when everyone wants something different. 

Rampage 2018 was incredible with a deserving top three and spectacular action from all involved. Was Fairclough’s line underscored? One-hundred percent. But were it not, fans would still find something to whine about. Do mountain bike fans have it wrong or is there still room for Red Bull and the riding public to meet at some mythical point in the middle?





Comments

fartymarty
+7 Mammal Velocipedestrian grambo Endur-Bro clarkee Zapp AJ Barlas
fartymarty  - Oct. 31, 2018, 2:22 a.m.

IMO Rampage needs less building and riders having to take their own lines.  Less slopestyle more freeride.

Reply

hugh_mayer
+1 grambo
hugh_mayer  - Oct. 31, 2018, 3:02 a.m.

I still recon it should change to a cross country event.

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AJ_Barlas
+1 grambo
AJ Barlas  - Oct. 31, 2018, 5:37 a.m.

XCFR could be the future! Haha.

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TheSpangler
+4 Pete Roggeman Mammal grambo Tim Coleman
TheSpangler  - Oct. 31, 2018, 8:24 a.m.

Brendan's run was definitely underscored. Less manicured lips and landings and more raw rowdy lines.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Oct. 31, 2018, 9:11 a.m.

A former judge has spoken! Nice to hear from you RS!

Reply

TheSpangler
+1 grambo
TheSpangler  - Oct. 31, 2018, 9:27 a.m.

Hahah I am not Randy Spangler, Cam! Just a dude who likes tech bike lines!

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+2 Mammal grambo
Cam McRae  - Oct. 31, 2018, 9:55 a.m.

Damn! lol Makes me want to track down Randy for a comment or two though.

Reply

LoamtoHome
+1 natbrown
Jerry Willows  - Oct. 31, 2018, 9:08 p.m.

manicured landings and lips are making it safer for the riders...  the whole is event was anti-climatic though.  The Helicopter pov's made everything look tame.  I would think drones would be better visually.

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LWK
+1 Pete Roggeman
LWK  - Oct. 31, 2018, 9:11 a.m.

I enjoyed the bits I watched of the event and the coverage afterwards. I think its ironic that the event is held in some terrifying and unforgiving terrain, which is then largely manicured into slope style hits, albeit very large ones!  I also really liked Brendan's run.  But, I wonder if huge tricks are required to separate the riders now. I suspect most riders there could do Brendan's line as well as he did.  Not sure if the opposite would hold?  Rampage seems like its in a bit of an awkward adolescence where its not quite sure what it is.

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morgan-heater
+1 Endur-Bro
Morgan Heater  - Oct. 31, 2018, 9:47 a.m.

Judged athletic events are always flawed. This one is especially silly, as they're not competing on the same course.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Pete Roggeman
Cam McRae  - Oct. 31, 2018, 9:58 a.m.

I think that's one of the best aspects of Rampage. Creative line building and choice go into the judging and that freedom creates moves that wouldn't be imagined otherwise. I used to enjoy Joyride when there were options on the course. Now that everyone does the same run I find it impressive but pretty underwhelming to watch.

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morgan-heater
+1 ReductiMat
Morgan Heater  - Oct. 31, 2018, 10:14 a.m.

I'm not saying that it's not awesome to watch, just that the idea of a "winner" is silly. In my mind, it's like saying, "Mozart totally crushed Beethoven, definitely won the comp." It seems like the "competition" aspect of it is totally arbitrary, and mostly for marketing purposes.

I guess I think of Rampage as performance art, rather than a sporting competition.

Reply

esteban
+1 Garrett Thibault
Esteban  - Oct. 31, 2018, 12:40 p.m.

Well... Beethoven "copied" Mozart, so there's that.

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natbrown
+1 ReductiMat
natbrown  - Oct. 31, 2018, 11:28 p.m.

I feel similarly, but as you word it I disagree. I'd say having to swallow someone else's subjective interpretation, of what is essentially an artistic sporting event, as if it's some sort of real metric is preposterous. Obviously. The only real consideration I give those numbers is just how differently the judges see things, how they value them, to me. I just appreciate the riding.

To throw the judges a bone though, they're handcuffed to some degree. The weight to the final score is what really determines this bias towards tricks etc. Perhaps the judges are happy with the weighting, but whether or not that's the case, they are stuck with it. If 1/4 of the final score is trick based, and someone only does 3 tricks of moderate difficulty and another does 6 of similar difficulty, assuming similar variety, they have to double that portion of the score. Or double the difficulty, in overly simple terms. Technicality simply doesn't have the same kind of dynamic range, even though some people like me might be very interested in that and therefore discriminating in how we see those aspects, it would be a hard case to make that Brendan's line was two or three times harder than anyones. Especially considering that all runs are technically insane, buffed or not. Like, who here is gonna ride any of them. A very small number at best. Anyway, that seems to be a reasonable explanation of how the technical bicycle riding, as opposed to technical trickery, seems to not contribute as significantly to the score as people like me would prefer. I just hope they weight it enough to keep tech riders interested and able to compete.

As an aside, why do these scores get quantified with a 100 point maximum? Is it to keep it mysterious? To torture the judges on their first few scores as they calibrate scores for the day and hope no one truly blows their minds? I know I've got an unusually logical perspective, but it strikes me that having some sort of standardised value for the components making up the criteria is hard to argue against. Just sum it all up and while it's still subjective, it's easier to understand and justify. And progression could actually be quantified year on year as scores grow. I'm just barking at the moon, I know...

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fartymarty
+1 Morgan Heater
fartymarty  - Nov. 1, 2018, 2:42 a.m.

Is it still "sport" if it is judged?  For me sport it not subjective.  Art is subjective.

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natbrown
0
natbrown  - Nov. 1, 2018, 10:06 a.m.

Really good question. It's not simply art, but it's artistic, and sport doesn't seem right either. To consider this event as art almost implies that racing be considered design. Semantics aside, I think this is a philosophical issue, and one that's fairly inconsequential to me.

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fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Nov. 2, 2018, 1:38 a.m.

There are lots of Olympic sports (that are sports) but are judged and therefore subjective.  I'm no expert in gymnastics or diving or ice skating but I can generally see when one person is better than another when they are doing the same routine or move.

It gets interesting when they do different routines or moves.  Then you need to know which particular move is more difficult and should get more marks as a result.  Hence expert judges are involved and scores are assigned to moves.

This is where Rampage gets interesting.  You have multiple lines, multiple moves and a judging criteria that is maybe not best understood.  I think if the judging criteria was set out (and published in advance) with moves and associated scores (like a video game) then it would be easier to follow and less would be up for discussion.  

The other factor is which lines gain higher scores... etc, etc.

The worry about going down this route is that it all gets a bit formulaic.

For me Rampage is about gnarly lines down a mountain with a few tricks.  The emphasis is on the line, not the tricks.  Recently it has been more tricks, less gnar.  As such I have not bothered to watch the last few years as i'm not really a fan of slopestyle

Reply

grambo
+1 natbrown
grambo  - Oct. 31, 2018, 2:14 p.m.

The judging criteria was explained to riders beforehand, but I wonder if they really get into the weighting of flow/line choice and how they evaluate those? Brendog's was by far my favourite line (sad we didn't get to see Jordie's though) and I would've scored him 10 points higher but I still think you gotta give the podium to the dudes doing tricks based on the scroing criteria.

That said, I would love if they either changed the criteria (tricks = worth way less) or did something with line building to reduce the BMX/dirtjump perfectly sculpted jumps that would be great. Having one well built kicker/drop to showcase a trick would be fine but when the entire run is just perfectly sculpted hits... meh.

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pedalhound
+1 AJ Barlas
pedalhound  - Oct. 31, 2018, 3:36 p.m.

Hopefully, Jordie can get in next year and stay healthy for the event, I was really looking forward to his run.

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AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - Oct. 31, 2018, 6:44 p.m.

Agreed. It was a shame that Jordie fell ill. His line sounded quite wild and he started strong with the cork 7.

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LoamtoHome
0
Jerry Willows  - Oct. 31, 2018, 9:13 p.m.

backflipping or spinning a 50 ft drop is going to score more than going down a steep cliff.  Judges did a great job imo.

Reply

GladePlayboy
0
Rob Gretchen  - Oct. 31, 2018, 3:13 p.m.

VitalMTB had a good article on an alternative format.    Two mandatory lines to ride for each rider.   One is techy and raw and the other builds in some opportunities for tricks.   Best combined score wins.    I am sure its not a perfect system but really could it be any worse than the current format?

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pedalhound
0
pedalhound  - Oct. 31, 2018, 3:35 p.m.

While I don't think Brendan's run was a winning run, it deserved better than 10th...you know...maybe 8th. ;)

This year was a nice mix of the gnarly and the built stuff. I think people forget that before the built landings people were eating shit pretty hard and injuring themselves. The event this year was a great mix of the gnarly and the slopestyle.

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DanL
0
DanL  - Nov. 6, 2018, 2:48 p.m.

I really would like to see more camera work pointing down those insanely steep walls, sometimes it's hard to get an idea of just how vertical those lines are.

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