A Queenstown-based mountain biker’s death-defying backflip across a huge canyon has attracted international acclaim at a leading global contest.
Kelly McGarry, a Queenstown Mountain Bike Club member, landed the audacious move safely after hurtling across a 22-metre road gap at the annual Red Bull Rampage in Southern Utah.
It was the highlight of a run which propelled him to second in what is regarded as one of the most prestigious – and hardcore – events on the professional freeride calendar.
The 31-year-old’s gutsy effort earned him the adoration of 400,000 fans watching online – and he also won the first-ever People’s Choice Award.
McGarry admitted on Red Bull’s website he was nervous about having a crack at the ambitious trick: “Last night I was freaking out, wondering if I should do it. But I had the speed, it felt right, so I just sent it.”
McGarry later told Mountain Scene it’s one of the bigger jumps he’s hit: “Not making it over the gap wouldn’t have been that fun. You’d have fallen back into the canyon and probably landed in a cactus. I’m stoked with the result and to rep it for Kiwis.”
The giant backflip and the rest of his run saw him score 86.75 to come a close second to winner Kyle Strait from the United States with 87.5. Fellow American Cameron Zink was third with 84.75.
The rampage event is a unique contest that determines the best overall mountain bike rider who can combine downhill freeride, slopestyle, dirt jumping and racing skills, Red Bull’s website says.
It adds that McGarry’s backflip was one of two that had the 1500-plus spectators going mental.
McGarry is well-known on the local mountain biking scene and is a stalwart of the annual Queenstown Bike Festival, in which he oversees the slopestyle contest downtown.
Queenstown Mountain Bike Club member Fraser Gordon says it’s a hell of a result – and McGarry was the only competitor in the event from the southern hemisphere.
“He’s a great ambassador for our club here in Queenstown and for New Zealand mountain biking in general,”
Gordon says. “Kelly’s been working hard on the overseas circuit for many years and for him to finally pull a result like this is huge.”
The result was made even sweeter for McGarry who was supposed to compete last year but broke a leg in training beforehand.
Speaking before it started, McGarry recalled how he had his sights set on jumping the canyon gap a year ago: “I’d seen it in years before and was super keen to hit it but unfortunately got injured a couple of days before the competition so never got to and was very disappointed about that. But I’m back to get it this year.”