“If anybody says they have no fear, at least a little, they are lying.”
That’s how professional mountain biker and Nelsonite Kurt Sorge described the moments before dropping into his winning freeride mountain biking run at the 10th edition of the Red Bull Rampage in Virgin, Utah this month.
A time lapsed photo of Kurt Sorge at the 2015 Red Bull Rampage. All photos courtesy of Red Bull
For Sorge, a professional rider since he was 16, the win was a surprise with a dose of redemption.
“I couldn’t really ask for a better outcome,” he said, adding that he was happy to prove himself at what he calls “hands down the biggest event of the year” for him after being injured and counted out for the last two years.
After his 2012 win at the same event, two consecutive broken legs weeks prior to the 2013 and 2014 Rampage kept him out of the competition.
Nelson’s Kurt Sorge trail building in Utah.
With an incredible first run down the mountain, Sorge, 26, cemented his spot in freeride mountain biking history.
Sorge was forthright about the challenges of competing in a high-consequence sport.
“It’s pretty nerve-racking at the top with a helicopter buzzing [filming],” he said. “Your friends are going down and crashing. That’s the worst part, watching other riders crash.”
But he tries to block it out, rely on experience and “try to remember what to do” as he descends.
He approaches the run “on shred mode” which began with a 30-foot (9 m) cliff drop to a chute landing, into a bench that soon led into a larger drop on an exposed ridge line. Sorge explained he overshot a planned 40 to 50 foot (12 to 15 m) drop, turning it into 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 m).
More airtime for Sorge during Red Bull Rampage 2015.
With a descent time under three minutes, riders are judged on line choice, amplitude, tricks, style and flow and overall performance.
“I try to find the line with difficulty — as many jumps as possible, get some speed, some style,” Sorge said.
The result was the record breaking score of 96.50, although he humbly points out the difference between first and second was “super, super close.”
On the podium with Sorge was defending champion Andreu Lacondeguy of Spain, coming in with 95.75, and Graham Agassiz of Kamloops rounding it out in third. (Pictured below. Photo courtesy of Red Bull)
They were among 21 of the world’s top riders competing in the premier freeride mountain bike competition as hundreds of thousands of fans across the globe tuned in to watch online.
Sorge’s win earned him a $30,000 purse, a small amount compared to the risk. And he didn’t do it alone.
Riders are given a mountain and one week to create their line and choreograph their run, complete with large ramps for the massive airs and jumps, dug into the red earth with hand tools. Sorge brought a team of three diggers from Nelson, Alex Volokhov, Chris (The Dude) Woikin, and Dave Santonave, to create the run, along with team manager Rob Dunnet.
“They give you a mountain and one week to slave away for hours every day picking and building your line,” said Sorge, adding they haul their own water and buy their own tools.
He’s been training to overcome his consecutive injuries. He said it’s hard to pick a favourite local trail as there is so much to choose from, but points to the trails at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park as ones he rides often.
As well he has co-organized Hoffest at Retallack for the second year, which is part of FEST, a series of rider-driven freeride mountain bike events. They take pride in the event’s high-quality courses.
“It really prepares us for Rampage,” Sorge said. “It helps grow the sport in the right direction and [promotes] longevity in the action sports world.”
Sorge during his winning run at the 2012 Red Bull Rampage.