Southern Utah often is often described as having a Martian landscape. Certainly, the hues evoke such comparison, but there’s also an unfamiliar quality to the red dirt and rock for many who visit. Not for Ethan Nell. The born-and-raised southern Utah local is a professional freeride mountain biker. He practically grew up on two wheels and his riding style, perfectly adapted to the unique setting, is as much a reflection of where’s he’s from as who he is. Nell is among the 15 riders taking on the steeps around Virgin for Red Bull Rampage this weekend. After back-to-back third place finishes in 2017 and 2018, he’s eyeing the top step.
Rampage is perhaps the purest and most literal distillation of extreme sports. The world’s best mountain bikers tackle impossibly steep terrain with massive jumps and drops in the Utah desert. Just how big? Legitimately enormous. Check out the video below for a little illustration of what the riders are stepping up to.
Since the inaugural competition in 2001, Rampage has captured the attention of everyone from diehard mountain bikers to curious fans captivated by the red rock formations and death-defying stunts. Only nine riders have been crowned champion over the 14 events, highlighting how difficult it is to reach the top spot and earn the most prestigious title in freeride mountain biking.
With a combination of technical mastery on rugged terrain and a deep back of aerial tricks, Nell is one of the few riders on the planet with the ability to reach those heights. To do so, he’ll have to top a veritable who’s who of the best bikers in the world, including multiple time Rampage champions Kurt Sorge, Kyle Strait and Brandon Semenuk. The venue is the same as in 2017 when Nell bagged his first podium, and it’s about time a Utahn put his stamp on the local event as the world watches.
Tickets are sold out, but you can always hit the secondary market, hop in the car and head to Virgin. If you want to watch the madness and cheer on Nell from the comfort of your own couch, check out the Red Bull TV Livestream. Finals are slated to begin at 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 15.
Relive Nell’s 2018 third place run for a little preview of what you can expect come Friday in the video above. Read more outdoor coverage.