Vertical limits


Queenstown rider Conor Macfarlane plans to go big at the world’s most outrageous and high-risk mountain bike event.

He’s in a group of 21 elite riders about to test their skill and mental toughness at the Red Bull Rampage in the desert outside Virgin, Utah, United States, on Saturday morning New Zealand time.

Macfarlane, pictured above competing at last year’s Rampage, has spent a week creating a ‘line’ down sheer sandstone cliffs with two digging buddies.

“I’m stoked with it,” he says from Utah.

“There’s some pretty big stuff in there and some nice trick-able features.

“I came into the event wanting to find and build some of the bigger jumps on the hill and I think I have succeeded.”

The Rampage, now in its 11th year, has moved location, giving riders a fresh canvas and ensuring their lines won’t overlap.

But they’re still facing some of the most demanding ‘big mountain event’ terrain on the planet – with high narrow ridges and near-vertical drops.

The event’s so extreme it’s been criticised by parts of the mountain bike community, after some massive falls and serious injuries.

It’s still one of the most coveted titles in the sport, though, attracting the best slopestyle riders, downhill racers and natural-terrain freeriders.

Wildcard entry Macfarlane, 25, who lives in Queenstown in the summer and Whistler in the northern hemisphere summer, admits he’s a little nervous.

“Yeah for sure, it’s good to be a bit nervous otherwise I would probably do something stupid.”

He’s already pushing hard though – Macfarlane went to hospital for stitches on Wednesday night after a practice run.

Red Bull has also launched the Kelly McGarry Spirit Award in memory of the late great Queenstown rider, who died in February.

Rampage riders will judge who most embodied the spirit of McGarry at this year’s event. A video tribute will also form part of the live broadcast.

McGarry competed seven times at Rampage, including his famous backflip over a 22-metre canyon in 2013.

Rampage is broadcast live on Red Bull TV online, for free, from 5.30am, Saturday.