Kurt Sorge’s thrilling decent down a mountainous slope in Utah earlier this month signaled an ascent to the top of the world’s freeride mountain bike scene.
By winning the 2012 Red Bull Rampage — one of the most cherished titles in his sport — the 23-year-old Nelsonite has taken his career to new heights.
“It’s pretty surreal, I can’t believe it really,” Sorge told the Nelson Star last week after arriving home from the Virgin, Utah contest site. “It’s definitely the highlight of my contest career for sure.”
Sorge’s winning run can now be seen online at redbullrampage.com and will be broadcast to a worldwide audience on NBC as part of the network’s Red Bull Signature Series on December 8.
To win the event, Sorge had to lay down a line that was better than 20 of the planet’s best freeride mountain bikers.
“Showing up and seeing all the guys from around the world, you know what they are capable of and how good they are on a bike… to beat them all is unbelievable,” said Sorge. “Everybody rode really well and it’s not an easy contest. It feels really good to put down a clean, solid run all the way down.”
The event has riders tested on a steep desert-like mountain slope and staged jumps. Sorge and a crew of six helped shape his line over three days in the desert heat near Zion National Park.
“I wanted to find a line from the top that had some of those steep chutes and also link into some of the bigger jumps at the bottom,” Sorge said.
Riders have a chance to be scored on two runs. After the first run Sorge was in the lead and he held onto it with a clean ride in the second to clinch the title. It was the third time Sorge had taken part in the Rampage, finishing second in 2008 and tenth in 2010.
On the podium Sorge waved a big Canadian flag as he celebrated his victory.
“When we were up there I kind of forgot [about being Canadian] because we are all good friends, but it is an international event with riders from all over the world,” he said. “There were some Canadian fans there and they handed me the flag… I was more than proud to wave that flag on top of the podium.”
DESTINED FOR THE TOP
Sorge’s rise to greatness is not really a shock for those who have followed his career.
His love for the thrills a mountain bike can provide started at a young age when he would ride to elementary school. That quickly progressed into jumping off picnic tables, stairs and anything else he could find.
“It’s the freedom really,” Sorge said when asked what it is about the sport that attracted him. “You don’t have a coach or anyone telling you what to do or where to ride. You pick your own line, you ride at your own speed, you do whatever tricks you want to. It’s also the community that comes with it, all the friends just having fun.”
And it’s the community that Sorge credits for his ability to carve out new ground in the sport.
With local riders like Robbie Bourdon, Mike Kinrade and Joe Schwartz showing what could be done in the late-1990s, inspiration was right out his back door.
“Growing up in Nelson has been a huge part of it,” Sorge explains. “Not only the amazing terrain and the awesome trails, but an amazing riding community here.
“We were just a bunch of kids pushing themselves and riding their bikes as hard as they could.”
By the time Sorge was in junior high he was riding along with some of his idols and shooting his own videos with his buddies.
When Sorge was 16 he enlisted his good friend Tam Forde to help shoot a video for the RaceFace Ultimate Freeride Challenge contest. The on-line contest asked for submissions from all over the world and then RaceFace put the top 16 to the public for voting. Sorge and Forde’s video won, propelling the young rider into the professional ranks with a $25,000 sponsorship prize.
He hasn’t looked back since.
“I am so lucky to have a friend like Tam, without guys like that I would not have gotten the start I did,” said Sorge. “It’s pretty cool to be from a town with all these talented people.”
SOMEBODY PINCH HIM
Today Sorge is considered one of the best freeride mountain biking athletes in the world. With a long resume of movies, contest trophies and magazine shoots, he is a hot commodity in the action sports scene.
Sorge travelled the world as one of the stars of the current Freeride Entertainment film Where the Trail Ends which is getting rave reviews. In August he was one of the big names at the Suzuki Nine Knights event in Austria. Along the way he has gathered a solid stable of sponsors like Giant bicycles, Rockstar energy drink, Under Armor, RockShox, Sram, Oakley, Giro, crankbrothers and DT Swiss.
“I’m pretty stoked for sure,” he said. “I really like where the sport is right now and all the support from all the different companies. It’s a pretty unbelievable time to be part of the sport right now. I’m really stoked to see what comes out of it and what’s next.”
Sorge said he never really imagined that mountain biking would take him to this particular moment.
“It was my dream, but I never thought it would be what it is now,” he said.
As for all the young riders who are ripping down trails around Nelson, Sorge hopes the next big thing in the sport also comes out of his hometown.
“It’s a lot of work. The best training is to ride your bike as much as possible, but you have to keep your body in shape,” he said when asked to provide advice to young riders.
“You just have to have fun with it. Keep positive people in your life and strive for great things.”