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THE RED BULL RAMPAGE VENUE IS TAKING SHAPE


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One could say that the theme for this year’s Red Bull Rampage course is, simply, “Bigger.” With the course in such phenomenal shape and many pre-existing features looking better than they did at the previous event in 2010, not much work is needed, other than simply increasing them in size.

The digging crew wants to construct the best features possible for the riders to throw down their top tricks and wow the judges. Quite a few of the take-offs are being built larger, with their respective landings being made longer and smoother. In a mere three days the diggers have managed to increase the size of the landing for the infamous “Canyon gap” by a monstrous six feet in vertical height, and they’ve started work on trails coming off the top of the venue from the new start location.

THREE VETERANS JOIN THE BUILD CREW


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Three new members of the Red Bull Rampage course build crew have showed up on site: brothers Robbie and Dennis Bourdon, and Adam Billinghurst — all three Canadian, and all three extremely talented professional bike riders. Adam had a segment in last year’s‘Strength in Numbers’ film and has been a member of the Whistler Bike Park trail crew for many years. Dennis is a former racer, and Robbie has competed at every single Red Bull Rampage event save one, when he was injured. He will be competing again this year.

These builders bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to an already stacked team. Work on the Red Bull Rampage course is proceeding ahead at an ever-faster pace as we reach the midpoint of the build. Every day new features seem to pop up on course out of nowhere, and pre-existing ones are drastically increased in size.

The ladder bridge is now complete, and serious work is now focused on perfecting the landing and quarterpipe at the finish line. Russell Shumaker, who is a former professional ATV racer, was kind enough to test-ride this feature to help the crew place the landing after the gap “just right.” Up top, the Coffin gap has been buffed out and reshaped, along with a series of additional drops and jumps. Everywhere the eye looks there are features tucked away just waiting for riders to test and work into their lines.

A rider favorite — the large wooden step-up near the bottom, is returning this year, with a twist. A second, massive 60-foot-tall dirt step-up jump is being built nearby to provide athletes with more options to showcase their skills. The new run-in to the dirt step-up leads down from Shocker ridge, and it’s looking fast. These two features will allow for bigger tricks to be thrown, such as backflips, tailwhips and 360s.

This season has been unnaturally wet, and there has been an excess of rainfall lately. Yesterday the Virgin area was issued tornado, lightning, and flash-flood warnings. The huge deluge of water that fell quickly turned the abundant sand to a thick, sticky quagmire which made travel rather difficult — rather “sticky” to say the least. However, once it hardens up it will reinforce and strengthen the dirt structures and trails.

After a day and a half of torrential, monsoon-like rainfall, we had another absolutely spectacular, jaw-dropping sunset out in the desert. Watching the sky ablaze in color and listening to coyotes howling at the setting sun isn’t a bad way to end a long work day. Stay tuned for more updates as the Bourdon brothers and the rest of the crew go to it with a vengeage on the infamous Oakley Icon Sender.

Red Bull Rampage course build

NEW START AREA FINALLY COMPLETE


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After a grueling, tedious week of work on the Red Bull Rampage course, the new start area is finally complete. This will be the first year competitors will be starting their descent from the highest possible elevation on course.

There are two new routes off the top for athletes to pick from: Rider’s right goes over the “scissor drop” and down a steep chute before veering further right and hugging the face of a cliff for 100 feet and continuing over to much more terrain and route choices. Rider’s left goes down “Shocker Ridge,” which involves a gap jump to knife-edge landing, followed by a series of drops down the ridgeline.

Josh Bender and Randy Spangler have completed most of the work up top, occasionally joined by Lindsey Beth Currier. The area needed a lot of meticulous work to widen the chutes, landings, plateaus and trails across steep faces. Cliffs needed to be trimmed back to ensure that riders’ bars won’t snag as they pass by. This work was especially slow, as the rock was quite hard and work had to be done by hand with picks and hammers because of the precarious location.

Due to the dust and dirt that would linger in the air during work, Josh and Randy have been wearing bandanas over their mouths to prevent inhalation of particles. Combine the bandanas with sunglasses, straw hats and torn sleeveless shirts and put them either in Tom Cars (small dune buggy-like vehicles) or on dirtbikes and they often resemble characters out of “Mad Max” rather than trail builders.

When the builders were asked how the name “Shocker Ridge” was bestowed, the story was told of an incident two years ago when Spangler was struck by lightning in the very same area. We had witnessed multiple lightning storms over nearby mountain ranges in the past week, so it was difficult to question the validity of his story.

A typical work day for diggers starts around 8:00 a.m. and continues until 2:00 p.m. with a two-hour break until 4:00 p.m., when they head back out to the site and continue until sundown — around 8:00 p.m. It isn’t hard to work late when the sunsets are absolutely breathtaking. Riding back in the dark isn’t bad either, as nights are generally clear and the moon and stars provide ample illumination for the journey home.

Stay tuned for more updates as Jeremy Witek and Russell Shumaker have been busy working on the new ladder bridge to quarterpipe, a brand-new feature for this year that will definitely up the stakes at the finish line.

Controversy over mini Minis at Olympic athletics


Fans at the Olympics have been chuckling at the sight of the miniature radio-controlled Minis which are being used to help out officials at the athletics.

The cars have been used to return javelins, discuses and hammers to competitors in the field events at London 2012, saving time and effort for all involved and adding a light-hearted element to the serious business at hand.

But the remote-controlled cars whizzing around the athletics stadium have triggered branding questions. The Olympic venues at the London Games are supposed to be strictly ad-free, but the use of the distinctive cars appears to be blatant advertising.

The International Olympic Committee ensures adverts or logos of products are not visible in the fields of play in line with its Olympic Charter despite sponsors paying hundreds of millions of dollars to be associated with the Games.

The Minis, made by German car manufacturer BMW who is also a Games sponsor, may not carry visible logos but are instantly recognisable for what they are.

However, they are not the iconic British-owned Minis produced from 1959-2000 but the new type produced by BMW.

“There is no commercial reason (behind choosing Minis),” said Timo Lumme, the IOC’s director of TV and marketing services, when asked if branding rules were being broken.

He said the choice as transporters for the athletes’ equipment was not dictated by a commercial decision.

Since the start of the athletics competitions last week, the Minis have instantly become a point of discussion with their use inside the stadium raising the questions of whether the IOC was indirectly relaxing its own strict ad rules.

He said the International Association of Athletics Federations, responsible for the track and field competitions at the Olympics, had cleared the use of the small vehicles.

“IAAF validates several different transporters. Yes, it happens to be the official partner of the London Games but there is no commercial delivery,” he told a news conference.

“There is no link between the sponsorship and the coverage of the physical fact that these are mini Minis on the field of play,” Lumme said.

The IOC’s rule on advertising states that no form of advertising or other publicity shall be allowed in and above the stadia, venues and other competition areas which are considered as part of the Olympic sites.

Commercial installations and advertising signs are not be allowed in the stadia, venues or other sports grounds.

There are three of these vehicles in total. Each puts in four-hour shifts across nine days of athletics competition, covering six kilometres per day.

The Mini also featured in the Games opening ceremony but again it was the new version and not the one symbolising iconic British post-war design.

“The bottom line is that the producer showed an individual quirkiness, a fantastically entertaining take on British history,” said Lumme of the car’s presence in the opening ceremony.

“The Mini is an incredibly known globally, British icon. Again Rule 50 compliant. No logos,” he said.

The London Games have received some £700m from sponsors wishing to be associated with the 2012 Olympics.