Words and photos by Malcolm Mclaws
From Issue #187
Andreu Lacondeguy made his Crankworx debut in 2006. His arrival in Whistler, British Columbia, as a fresh-faced, clean-cut unknown was an introduction to someone who would become one of the most well-known and colorful riders ever. This is Little Andy.
With a riding style that has always been more motocross- and freeride-influenced than classic slopestyle, it would only take two short years for him to step up to the top tier and claim the slopestyle title at Kokanee Crankworx in 2008. That same year he also became one of only three riders to land a double backflip on a mountain bike in competition at the Snowboard Big Air World Cup in Graz, Austria.
He has continued to push boundaries within the sport through contests and videos, always letting his riding do the talking. This year he won the Whistler Crankworx Whip-Off World Championship.
At just 26 years old with “Love Dirt” tattooed on his fingers, “Little Andy,” as his friends call him, has a distinct attitude about where freeriding should be headed. He has won a lot, from Crankworx to Rampage, but still remains unsettled and wants to change the course of mountain biking.
To accomplish this, he has teamed up with Kurt Sorge, Graham Agassiz, Nico Vink, Makken Haugen and Nick Pescetto to form the Fest series (see video below), an innovative new series of week-long, invitation-only freeride sessions around the world, where only the riders involved vote on the best line, trick and jump, yet there’s no official winner or series champ.
I GREW UP IN A LITTLE TOWN IN EL MONTSENY IN CATALUÑA [CATALONIA], SPAIN, ONE HOUR NORTH OF BARCELONA. It’s a small town at the bottom of the mountains, so when I was a kid a bike was how I got around. I started riding cross-country when I was 10 and was a regional champion. Then I moved to BMX racing at 11. From there it was on … I learned how to jump a bike, and that changed everything!
When I was 12 I started downhill racing—that’s when I first mixed in my BMX skills with mountain biking. Racing was sick, and it’s how I learned to ride a bike. I got a contract with Team Maxxis when I was only 15 and traveled with the national team to learn from the old guys. I was national champ and won a few European Maxxis Cups. I even have a few photos with Josh “Ratboy” Bryceland and me on the podium.
I did over 100 races, and going fast was the main goal. That’s how I still ride—I love to go fast. I think I’m still a racer, but I’m not racing the clock or others. I’m racing the hills.
I WAS FAST IN DOWNHILL AND SLALOM BUT NEVER FOCUSED ON ANYTHING. Downhill racing was huge for me; I grew up racing the Spanish nationals and some European races. I looked up to Steve Peat and Sam Hill, and I was trying to look and ride like them—I think I still do.
SOCAL IS MY FAVORITE BMX SPOT FOR SURE. I always rode dirt jumps and skate parks on my 20-inch bike. I still do. BMX is super fun and easy to ride. I had some dream seasons in Southern California with BMX dirt-jump legends T.J. Ellis and Cory Nastazio that I’ll never forget.
CAM ZINK IS ONE OF THE GUYS I RESPECT THE MOST. I think that he is by far the most confident rider to ever ride a mountain bike. He pushes the sport more than anyone I know, with the biggest 360 drops and flips over some crazy jumps. He’s pushing the sport in the right direction, just going huge.
MOTOCROSS IS MY FAVORITE THING TO DO. I just love riding a dirt bike—it’s the most badass machine ever made, and it’s just insane what you can do with it. I got into moto when I moved next door to Edgar Torronteras—he’s a freestyle motocross legend with more than five X Games medals, X-Fighter wins, European Supercross and motocross wins. So as soon as I met the dude there was no way back. I’ll be burning gas forever!
WHEN I FIRST SHOWED UP AT WHISTLER [FOR CRANKWORX], I JUST WANTED TO SEND IT AS HARD AS I COULD. I was 16 years old and I didn’t care much about anything. My hair was long and dirty. I was hung over and riding in a Misfits T-shirt. I won qualifiers and then overjumped the biggest step-down on the mountain when I tried to flip it and landed in the hospital. Those days were crazy, and we were all a little out of control.
I’VE NEVER SEEN MYSELF AS A CONTEST RIDER. I have managed to get a Crankworx gold, an X Games medal and a Rampage win. Contests are just too restrictive for me. I don’t think that they are what riding means to me, so I’m not into them anymore.
X GAMES WAS CRAZY. I knew that the course wasn’t going to be fun and went there injured with a broken finger and two bruised knees. When I first showed up in Munich, Germany, and saw the course, I knew that it was probably going to be a one-time chance to get an X Games medal. The course was so horrible that no one was able to ride the whole thing on the first day.
Finals got out of control because of the wind and all of the [other] Europeans decided not to ride. When I dropped in, everyone was crashing super hard in front of me, and I just made it to the bottom. I got third with a shit run but got a medal. It was weird. I was stoked but embarrassed. That wasn’t freeride mountain biking at all.
I DON’T HATE SLOPESTYLE. I think it’s cool, but why use the word “freeride” for a slopestyle event? Freeride is something a little bigger than a few ramps in a parking lot. I got bored of slopestyle events: rankings, cities, rules—I just want to go huge on my bike, and there’s no way to do it on the FMB Tour. If you go big there, you land flat—I learned that the hard way, and I’m never going to go there again. Freeride Mountain Bike Tour? Call it Slopestyle Mountain Bike Tour, and freeriders will take care of freeriding.
I DON’T KNOW IF I’LL BECOME INVOLVED WITH ENDURO IN THE FUTURE. I just ride big jumps on my downhill bike. I don’t think I will race, not when I’m older. Enduro is the new name for mountain biking, but if it helps sell more bikes, perfect.
THE FEST SERIES CAME ABOUT BECAUSE ME AND OTHER BIG MOUNTAIN RIDERS WERE OVER THE WHOLE CONTEST SCENE. We just created our own thing. We build and ride the best jumps and trails on the planet and film it. The Fest series is the best thing that ever happened to my career. We are the riders, we build the courses and ride them. Fest series is going be the most insane freestyle events in the world. Just riding and exploring new locations while building and filming sick lines.
THE FEST SERIES IS ALREADY GROWING REALLY FAST. We’re going to make sure that the only benefits are for the sport. We’re going with the flow, having fun and going nuts on our bikes. We’ll see how it goes. I had more fun last year with Fest than ever, so I’m pumped about it.
RAMPAGE LAST YEAR WAS A GOOD WIN FOR ME. I came from riding the Fest series the whole year, so I was ready for it. I felt like I rode harder in Fest than at Rampage. Rampage is TV format, so I was being careful not to get hurt. There’s huge media at Rampage and you want to be safe until the last run.
IT WAS ALL ABOUT CONFIDENCE AT RAMPAGE. I was going to win and that was it, there was no way around it. I was going to build the craziest line and ride it as fast as I could. I didn’t need to step it up on my second run, and everything went smooth. I was happy that I proved myself and showed that if I really want something I can get it. That was kind of how Rampage felt for me.
CRASHES ARE ALWAYS THERE; IT’S WHAT MAKES IT FUN. The closer you get to going down the better it feels, but there’s a price. I’ve had a few bad crashes, earlier this year with a broken knee, and it sucked.
I MOVED TO THE PYRENEES A YEAR AGO. I wanted to ride my bike every day, and moving to the mountains was the way to do it. I’m going to be working on a big project with Red Bull and La Molina ski resort, so I just moved there. I have great trails right at my house, and we are going to build some big jumps this spring.
2014 WAS THE BEST YEAR ON MY BIKE FOR SURE. I’m happy about Rampage and the great result, but the main thing is that it was when the Fest series was born. This is what I’m going to remember when I can’t ride a bike anymore. I will always have 2014 in my head.
Massachusetts-native Nicholi Rogatkin is no slouch of a pro mountain biker. The 19-year-old finished third overall in this year’s FMB World Tour and is competing in his second Red Bull Rampage. In Thursday’s qualifying round, Rogatkin suffered one of the scariest crashes in the event’s history but managed to finish his run, including sailing over a massive canyon gap and back-flipping the final feature.Tweet Print
Courtesy of Red Bull
After a week of building in the desert it’s time to ride. While Andreu and Kyle are pre-qualified Tom has some unfinished business to attend to before qualifying. As Tom confronts his goals in qualifying, Kyle and Andreu prepare for two runs and one chance at Rampage gold. The entire season comes down to this, but who will stand on the podium at this years Red Bull Rampage.
Keep watchingTweet Print
Photos courtesy of Red Bull
Scott sent no less than seven athletes to Red Bull Rampage this year, each armed with the latest Gambler downhill bike. Three made it to the finals with Brendan Fairclough, above, and Paul Basagoitia, below, cracking the top ten and Louis Reboul nearly cracking himself when he came up just a bit short attempting to backflip the 70-foot canyon gap. He was carried off site on a backboard but was cleared at a local hospital and will make a full recovery.
Rampage isn’t just a bunch of dudes hucking off a mountain. Weeks of planning, backbreaking work and incredible pressure go in to making the event happen and making it to the top step. Scott Sports captured all the action in its latest Moments Of series with a special mini-site dedicated to the action. Check it out at momentsofsport.com/rampage.Tweet Print
Courtesy of Red Bull
After three straight years of coming in 4th place, Spanish athlete Andreu Lacondeguy broke his curse in a big way, coming out on top with an emotional victory after fighting back nerves and a stacked field of competitors. Set against the picturesque backdrop of the Southern Utah landscape, 20 riders thrilled fans tuning in live across the globe to watch an event considered the pinnacle of freeride mountain biking.
The sun came out in Virgin after a weekend that saw severe weather and flash floods in the area, and many of the biggest stars in the sport were shining with runs that combined speed, style and big tricks. Lacondeguy topped the field with one of the steepest and most difficult runs possible, capping with a huge flatspin backflip off the Polaris RZR booter. Previous Rampage champion Cam Zink earned the Best Trick, presented by Utah Sports Commission, for a massive 360 drop at least 60 feet off a cliff. His run also earned him the second place spot on the podium. Canadian rider Brandon Semenuk earned 3rd place and the People’s Choice with a line stacked with tricks, including an opposite 360 and backflip one footed can-can. He also secured the overall FMB Diamond Series Championship with his points from the event.
While top qualifier Graham Agassiz had to drop out of competition due to an injury sustained in practice, several qualifier athletes and Red Bull Rampage rookies made their mark, including Jeff Herbertson and Szymon Godziek who both back flipped a 73’ canyon gap. The new course for 2014 started as an open canvas for athletes, who alongside a team of builders shaped their lines 10 days previously, working their way down 1,000 vertical feet of cliffs. Athletes are judged not just on tricks but the difficulty of the route they choose, as well as their speed and style on how they get from top to bottom.
As Andreu Lacondeguy prepared for his run, his nerves were running high, but so was his desire to finally be on the podium. His first run proved to be all that he needed to finally accomplish his dream. “I knew I needed that extra little bit to be on the top and this year I just picked the steepest line. As soon as I heard the countdown I just got out of the cage and pinned it to the bottom.”
Watch his winning POV video here
As he went to the top to prepare for a second run, he watched the rest of the riders try to beat his score without success. As soon as his fiercest competitor Brandon Semenuk finished his run and he saw the score would not top his, he put down his bike and wiped away tears, as his dream was finally realized.
- Andreu Lacondeguy ESP 95.25
- Cameron Zink USA 89.50
- Brandon Semenuk CAN 89.25
- Kyle Strait USA 89.00
- Brett Rheeder CAN 88.50
- Kyle Norbraten CAN 82.75
- Jeff Herbertson USA 82.50
- Brendan Fairclough GBR 77.25
- Paul Basagoitia USA 76.50
- Mitch Chubey CAN 76.25
- Szymon Godziek POL 76.00
- Kelly McGarry NZL 73.25
- Thomas Genon BEL 71.50
- Louis Reboul FRA 70.75
- Carson Storch USA 69.25
- Pierre Edouard Ferry FRA 67.50
- Geoff Gulevich CAN 66.00
- Ramon Hunziker SUI 37.75
- Tom Van Steenbergen CAN 35.00
- Mike Montgomery USA 24.00
Red Bull Rampage Best Trick presented by Utah Sports Commission: Cam Zink, 360 Drop (60+ feet)
Red Bull Rampage People’s Choice Award presented by Army National Guard: Brandon Semenuk
Courtesy of Red Bull
It’s finally time to put some shovels in Utah’s red dirt, so Kyle, Tom and Andreu make the pilgrimage to Rampage. With a new venue comes a lot of new unknowns and our 3 riders must battle and collaborate with the other 35 athletes to find the perfect line. You can spend a year dreaming of your ideal Rampage run but you only get one week to build it. Will Andreu, Tom or Kyle have the creativity, shovel skills and raw talent to stand on this years Rampage podium?
Courtesy of Red Bull
It’s time for the last stops in the chaotic season leading up to Rampage. Kyle and Andreu head to Retallack Lodge to take on some of the biggest jumps ever built for a mountain bike but first they will have to take on the local weather. With time ticking down Tom is still injured and doing everything he can to prepare off his bike and Kyle leaves Retallack early to help a good friend achieve a life long goal.
Keep watchingTweet Print
Courtesy of Red Bull
As the clock ticks down for Rampages it’s time for the biggest mountain bike festival of the year, Crankworx Whistler. Kyle pursues a title that has alluded him for years against his biggest competitor and best friend Cam Zink. Tom heads to the foam pit to test his shoulder and get some riding in with slope-style prodigy Brett Rheeder. Meanwhile, Andreu get’s a history lesson from big mountain legend Robbie Bourdon.
Keep watchingTweet Print
Injuries are part and parcel to Rampage with such huge risks involved. While Andreu trains with his brother at home in Spain, Kyle and Tom dive into this year’s contest season from two very different angles. Kyle pursues his passion for racing and Tom goes to Europe for a Slope-style competition. It’s a decision he will quickly regret as he suffers an injury that could take him out for the season.
Who says freeride is dead? Red Bull Rampage is back this year with an all-new location with all-new lines. From big moves to big crashes, this competition is unlike any other.
Get a glimpse at how the riders prepare in the first episode of the 2014 Road to Rampage.
The event that has launched viral video stars and dropped thousands of jaws returns to Utah this fall, a freeride mountain biking spectacle known the world over as a proving ground for the best, bravest and most well-rounded rider on two wheels. Red Bull Rampage, a marquee event in the NBC Signature Series, will take place near Virgin, Utah with the finals set for September 28, 2014 and airing on NBC, November 30th at 12:30 p.m. EST.Tweet Print
On a gusty day in Southern Utah, a group of 25 daring mountain bikers blew the doors off what is possible on two wheels, unleashing some of the biggest moments the sport has ever seen. While mother nature only allowed for one full run before the conditions made it impossible to ride, that was all that was needed for event veteran Kyle Strait, who won the event for the second time—eight years after his first Red Bull Rampage title.Tweet Print