Inside Brandon Semenuk's stunning Rampage run
Fresh off of winning the overall America Rally Association in Michigan on Oct. 15, Brandon Semenuk quickly flew back to Utah to take third at Red Bull Rampage, and completed a sporting accomplishment unlike any other. In the span of the week, he asserted himself as one of the best athletes in two very distinct sports: rally car racing and freeride mountain biking. Few people in any sport ever, much less the cycling world, have ever claimed that distinction.
Semenuk knew that he wouldn’t have much time on the bike. He attended the first scout day at Rampage in Virgin, Utah, then flew to Marquette, Mich., to race the 2022 ARA National Rally Championship finale. He was ready to ride in Virgin the following Monday, giving him a scant four days to prepare for the biggest event in freeride.
Watch Semenuk’s run, courtesy of Red Bull:
“Missing the chance to go for that [rally] championship, that would have killed me,” Semenuk said after his run. “It was feasible to do both although it was challenging. We made it happen and won the championship, so I’m so happy that we did it. Obviously coming back here, we were pretty handicapped. I didn’t get to help my builders so we were super behind on the build, and obviously I had less practice, but at the end of the day it all worked out for the best.”
Semenuk’s diggers, Justin Wyper and Evan Young, worked tirelessly to construct a title-worthy line in his absence. Semenuk was riding for a fifth Rampage title, which would have padded his lead as the winningest rider ever at the event. Despite the history at stake, Semenuk said he wasn’t necessarily riding to win, “but I wanted to put on a show.”
He did that and more. He rode a single-crown Session and busted out a barspin over a canyon gap, a tail whip off a flat drop and a 360 tailspin Nac Nac. However, Semenuk’s entrance was his pièce de résistance. He began his run by performing a caveman drop off the starting platform, hopping onto his bike in mid-air before landing into a near-vertical chute. For his flair, Semenuk was awarded Best Trick.
“That start feature, it just screamed out to me,” Semenuk said. “It was wild because I wasn’t here during the build, and the boys killed it.”
Semenuk added that his final run of the trick was much sketchier than when he practiced it.
“The first time I did it, it felt way better than that,” Semenuk said. “[During the run] it was so wild after all the boys had ridden it. It was chunky and loose. It just felt like a bucking bronco down the chute.”
Semenuk has now landed on the Rampage podium six times in his career — in addition to his four wins, he also took third in 2014. He also made it down clean at a venue that he was unable to complete when he last rode it in 2012 and 2013. Suffice to say, Semenuk proved a lot to himself this week.
“We never know if we’re going to have a weather day, or practice isn’t going to go good because we’ve got wind or something like that,” Semenuk said. “But when life gave me lemons, I just took advantage of the situation. As soon as there was something ready to ride, I was up there with my bike.”