Inside : ANTOINE BIZET vs RAMPAGE, la compétition la plus dangereuse du monde ! (VTT FREERIDE)

Inside : ANTOINE BIZET vs RAMPAGE, la compétition la plus dangereuse du monde ! (VTT FREERIDE)


On the cliff’s edge, atop the ridge, Antoine Bizet is preparing to leap down the steep Utah bluff. He is competing in the world’s most dangerous freeride mountain biking competition: Rampage. Ever since making history by placing second of the event last year, high expectations are resting on the Frenchman’s shoulders – he is pitted against the world’s 20 best freeriders. For a week, we have followed Antoine Bizet’s demanding daily routine on his way to the top. He is hoping for a victory on mountain biking’s most respected sporting event. D-10 Antoine Bizet is one of the best riders in the world. We’re joining the 25 year-old in his home, in Versailles, France. This is my morning warm-up. This small routine helps me have ankles of steel. Despite a long slump because of an ankle injury, Antoine never skips leg day. The competition starts in a few days. This is the biggest competition in our season. We prepare for it months in advance. I had this ankle injury so I decided to skip my whole Slopestyle season just to be ready on D-day. I barely touched my bike; I had to recover from an injury that was supposed to take from 4 to 7 months to mend. Freeriding is a dangerous sport. In the storied Taxco run of 2016, Antoine hurt his ankle badly. Only after a long re-education can Antoine get back on his bike. He heads to his usual training spot. The more I postponed my training, the more I let my ankle rest and the more I respected my body. I have done the bare minimum of riding but I made sure I was feeling okay at all times. I have to preserve my health so I’m not all sketchy on Rampage day. I want to be able to show the riding I want to. This training is crucial. It will help Antoine stock up on confidence on his bike. He has to forget his ankle and focus on the run. In Versailles it’s tough riding, you need to be at the top of your game. Rampage is the same but there are drops on each side of the path – if you fall, you die. Training is a good opportunity to fine-tune everything. I don’t want to come up short on that bump; so I’m training to be sure to make it the first time. If you don’t come up fast enough your back wheel – or even your front wheel if you’re too slow – will snag in the dirt and that puts a lot of pressure on the ankle in a very bad way. Antoine Bizet will repeat his movements until he masters them perfectly. Home training is over. Now we head to the Utah desert in the United States. We are three days from the event and as all his opponents, Antoine has free rein to imagine and build his own course. From the top of the cliffs to the finish line way below. This is where we meet him with his two shapers. They are helping Antoine build each section of his circuit. To have a chance at making it to the finals, they have to build an original and committed line. Thankfully it’s far from being my first time; I’m almost a local here. But it’s always impressive; I went over my previous jumps and I had never realized how big they were. I will show you how it is when you backtrack up the Rampage line. That makes four or five days of digging and this is the bump on which I’ve made my double flip last year. Last year during his run Antoine made an unprecedented move: a double backflip. It enabled him to place second. This year, Antoine is aiming for gold. The main difficulty in his run is a giant leap. He got help from another athlete to build it. The Belgian rider named Thomas, aka Tommy G. Sadly, after four days of work it all collapsed… And everything fell down here, you can still see it down there. That’s a tough one. So we are rebuilding something with a much more solid base. The jump Antoine wants to do is 15 meters high. He now has to make a tough choice: to keep building or not. The finals are drawing close. This is just the worst time. We were on it with Tommy G’s team, we were all building that big gap and we needed to get back into it. He decided to leave and go prepare another line, but I still tried to make it with my shapers. But we were only 3 for a bigger job. Lots of hard work, and lots of questions about whether or not we’ll finish on time. But I think we got it and I’m really excited to see Antoine get from the top to the bottom. He’s got an awesome style. I think he can win this event, that’s why we’re here. It’s his year D-2 Today, Antoine will be able to test his line. Go, go, go ! He needs to master his run perfectly. First day of riding at Rampage, we’re getting ready. We can finally test the lines we have built. First I’ll test all the stuff from last year so we’re going to the top. Start of the Rampage, this is the first drop, I have already done it once, I’ll try it again. It leads to a very steep slope so you need to take the turn perfectly. Now that’s what I’m talking about. I feel very good about it so I’m going to try and widen my jump a little, let’s do this. The first jump in his line is validated. He has to go on like this for a hundred more meters. The next section will have him do a backflip. Committed tricks are one of his trademarks. I have already made a few runs so I’m cool with it; even though it’s easier now because I’m doing every section separately. For the contest I’ll have to go from the top, I need to take this and the braking into account. The top of the run is validated. Then comes the infamous 15 meters high jump, sadly still under construction. It’s coming, slowly but surely. We just have to be careful about the edge over here and these rocks up there; this slab is a pain in the ass. The night falls, they are running out of time. Antoine and his team have to give up this rather promising section. We gave everything we had and we did not regret what we did. It will stay as a bad memory of the Rampage for us. D-1 We’re going to the Rampage and finals are tomorrow. I’m discussing our big gap with my shapers, we tried but we sadly did not have enough time to finish it. So we have come up with a new small line to replace it yesterday. Alright thanks. I’m gonna get a little training on this stepdown, I see how I feel it and if I can do a frontflip then we’re gonna change this part of the line. So we make a freeride part here? Yeah yeah, if we break everything here we will have enough dirt to make a big pass here, we can do it fast enough. I just tested the stepdown and it’s quite good. We’re going to make a line that goes back to the previous one so I still can have that stepdown in my run. Now, they’re preparing to shape it like crazy. It is time for plan B to replace the 15 meters jump. Antoine seems to have found a good compromise with this new lower jump. D-Day On the morning of the competition I was in the Rampage’s parking lot way before the sun rose. I was a little stressed out because I knew there were many things to try and thankfully on this day we had a very nice weather with no wind. We got an hour and a half riding session before the Rampage; I still think it was one of the best sessions in my life. I managed to ride down the line we could not fit in, everything went great. I remember that they called us for the riders’ meeting, I had made a big backflip on the bump and they called “Riders’ meeting, everybody come down here!” And then I thought “I’m going back up, I need to make one last run, they will start late anyway.” Yes let’s go ! And when I got up there I thought “Come on, let’s try that double flip thing.” This double backflip gives Antoine the confidence boost he needs to give everything in the finals that are a few minutes away. I think that this double backflip is the cleanest I’ve done. The experience helps me prepare mentally. Now I feel ready to make the run I had planned. It is now time for Antoine to capitalize on these months of training. He has two runs to show what he’s capable of. His performance will be judged on the choice of his line, his tricks and the fluidity of his riding and style. His first backflip goes over smoothly. And another one; he follows with an ultra-committed frontflip. Antoine is in the zone; and he makes another double backflip. The Frenchman just made a very high level run. It was fast and he did not make any mistakes. It went down exactly how I dreamed it all week. I’m so happy. But the judges’ verdict is unexpected. Will Antoine Bizet’s score be enough ? 81.66, he is in the top 10 81,6. A very low and surprising score. Far from the podium. With one run out of two, Antoine then places ninth. What just happened with the judges was unacceptable. I don’t know… Maybe it’s a bunch of friends or they’re stuck on their outdated vision of riding. But riding is so much more than what they have seen of my run. I made a lot of things that had never been done before. I made my tricks much better than the double flip that got me the silver last year. I have lost a lot in this competition. I did the best run that I could and I’m very happy with my riding but I was unfairly neglected here. Antoine still tries to keep appearances up. But he does his next run with his backpack. It is his second chance. The Frenchman is disappointed. He barely gains any speed and even stops in the middle of his run. Antoine neglects his second run just how he feels the judges neglected him. It is his way of showing it. Despite this, the French did not come for nothing. The People’s Choice Award for the 2017 Rampage goes to … Antoine Bizet ! This is a bittersweet revenge for Antoine Bizet. The crowd recognized his run as being the best of the competition. The people have put me in first place. This is a nice reward in itself. It’s crazy. It is the first time I get such a prize. To be elected by the audience is definitely beautiful. It will be my best memory of the season, having all the audience behind me despite the judges’ absurd decision. It was actually the best reward.