2013 was a really exciting year. It was my first full season of having a bike sponsor and a bit of support outside of industry deals. I was on my second summer in a row in Whistler, progressing my riding faster than ever, and had a whole new level of confidence. I got invited to Red Bull Rampage that year and it was my big opportunity to turn mountain biking into a legit career.
When I first arrived at the Rampage site that year I was blown away by the sheer size of everything. Just as I suspected, I would have to do something very technical and unique to stand out in the crowd of stacked riders. I didn't have the same amount of Rampage experience as most of the guys, and I wasn't prepared to flip or spin the biggest jump or drop of my life. Mitch Chubey and I went down together and decided to share Gee Atherton's old attempted speed gap against a cliff. We rebuilt it to be a little safer, wider, and just more do-able, but it was probably still the sketchiest thing at Rampage that year.
2013 was a crazy year out there in general! There were a lot of injuries, the course was crammed with features from the previous years, and riders were battling over lines. Being a first time competitor, this was all pretty overwhelming to take in. The vibes were pretty scary. It felt like everyone was about to goto war with themselves. Everyone was either completely focused on their line, very nervous, or both. It was not a laid back scene at all. All for what? A $25,000 prize and the glory. Cam Zink was eyeing up a backflip on the big Oakley sender (that year he did biggest backflip the sport has ever seen), Kelly Mcgarry flipped the canyon gap, and Brandon Semenuk had an amazing natural cliff feature. It was a pretty legendary year.
My first attempt at the gap we rebuilt resulted in a shattered femur. I broke it in 5 places and was very lucky it wasn't worse. That was the heaviest crash ever. As soon as I was in the air I realized I was slightly off line. Still 20 feet above the landing, my right pedal clipped the cliff edge and I was sent over the bars into a full-speed front flip. It all happened so fast I didn't even have time to feel emotion. When I hit the ground, it felt like I has just been hit by a truck. The first thing I did was make sure I could feel my toes. All was good, not even a scratch on me, but I knew something was up with my leg when I attempted to get up and felt extreme pain directly below my hip. To make matters worse, my insurance company denied my case (more details here), and I ended up nearly $40,000 in debt.
Ever since that year I have avoided coming back to Utah to ride. It just left a bad taste in my mouth, but I felt it was finally time to go back and replace the bad memories for good ones.
The best part about this trip was riding all the fun spots surrounding Virgin, free of any contest pressure. The place is a mountain biker's paradise and Zion and the surrounding region is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes you'll ever see. I took it really easy and left wanting more. A special thanks to Lorin Whitaker and his rad family for showing us around and hooking us up. Safe to say this visit was a very successful one. Cheers Utah, see you next time!