Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, hello and welcome to Mpora’s emporium of terror. Gather round and turn off the lights. It’s time for a ghost story.
There will be no haunted houses or midnight murderers in this tale though. We’re talking about something far more frightening – the Red Bull Rampage winner’s curse.
Never in the history of Rampage has a winning rider been fit to defend their crown the following year…
It’s no secret that Rampage is one of the gnarliest contests in action sports. The freeride frenzy brings riders to the edge of giant gaps and pushes them over drops that eclipse even Shaun White’s ego.
Anyone who can navigate the Rampage course with their pride and their ride intact deserves a fair bit of credit. But for the man on top of the podium at the end of the day, eternal glory is only the beginning of the story.
Certainly, there seems to be a very real catch for these eventual victors – and it comes in the form of the ‘champion’s curse’.
The short of it? Never in the history of Rampage has a winning rider been able to defend their crown the following year. They’ve always had a colossal crash that’s denied them the honour.
Cue the scene-setting smoke and an eerily melancholy soundtrack as the unnerving narration continues…
The curse of Red Bull Rampage goes all the way back to the first freeride showcase in 2001. Wade Simmons took the win that year, but couldn’t follow it up after a serious bail left him with a broken leg before the second edition.
Wade got somewhat of a double hit from the curse as well, after he returned to Rampage in 2004 and fell victim to this massive bail:
In 2002, Tyler ‘Super T’ Klassen won and met a similar fate, breaking his arm the next year. Cedric Gracia then won in 2003 and actually managed to stay fit for Rampage, only to break his collarbone on a step down in practice.
Coincidence or curse? There certainly seems to be reason to hide in your room and lock the door if you’re a previous Rampage winner. And there’s much more where that came from too…
In 2004, Kyle Strait won the event and successfully competed in the next Rampage showcase, but that was in ’08, after the event had been on a four-year break.
It’s just not quite the same as defending your crown the following year, but Kyle Strait does have a unique relationship with Rampage, which we’ll get on to later.
While the hiatus may have halted Rampage, it didn’t stop the curse. Brandon Semenuk won the comp in 2008, but when it next took place in 2010, was unable to compete due to injury.
After nailing a near perfect run at Red Bull Joyride, Brandon went on to break his collarbone in the contest, sidelining him for a substantial period of time.
Perhaps the Rampage overlords were jealous of his talents, and supernatural aggression was their answer to this problem.
Whatever the case, Cam Zink would win that year, and would find out just what the curse was all about in the 2012 contest, further fuelling rumours of paranormal intervention…
Zink is a pro when it comes to putting pain and fear to the side, but this was one of the gnarliest crashes we’ve seen in the contest. The rider landed really hard after a high fall.
Whether this was a misjudgement from Cam or an otherworldly being brain-washing him into jumping off his bike remains unknown, but Zink was unable to defend his crown.
As a result, Kurt Sorge was able to take on the much coveted winner’s chalice and try and avoid the poison – something he was predictably unable to do.
Sorge was in practice for the final slopestyle showdown of the season last year – the only event left before Rampage – when he took a nasty crash that meant he needed surgery on his knee.
That allowed Kyle Strait to reclaim the crown and the burden that comes with it, and now we can only wait and see what unfolds at the event this year.
When it comes to Rampage though, Strait is a bit of a legend. He was 17 years old when he won it in 2004, and he’s the only man to have ever won the showdown twice.
He’s also come closer than any other winner to breaking the curse, and he’s going to be trying to put it to bed again by completing the three-peat this weekend.
So, has Kyle made a deal with the devil, granting him Rampage success and an injury-free schedule? Is he just too damn good to fall on the mountain? Or will he finally be subjected to the wrath of the mystic riding gods?
All we know is that he better watch out for falling rocks and slippery slopes when he’s building with Cam Zink in Utah ahead of this week.
It’s on the record that Strait has broken plenty of trends at Rampage before though, so if there’s one man who can buck the curse, it’s probably him.
We wish Kyle all the best when he rides this weekend, but beg him not to underestimate the wrath of the Rampage. If the king does crash, he can’t say he wasn’t warned…