While the biggest backflip in mountain bike history might have garnered most of the attention with its "must-see" highlight at Red Bull Rampage 2013 on Sunday, Kyle Strait came away with the biggest prize as the first two-time winner of the radical mountain biking event in Virgin, Utah.
Strait, who won the event nine years ago as a 17-year-old, became the first repeat winner by pulling off a perfect suicide no-hander off a 70-foot drop called the Oakley Icon Sender feature, completing it with a clean landing in front of 1,500 spectators and a worldwide online audience.
The Rampage, a unique event similar to freeriding by snowboarders and skiers, is designed to determine the best overall mountain bike rider.
Riders pick a line down the near-vertical sandstone near Zion National Park and descend the mountain, combining skills from downhill freeriding, slopestyle, dirt jumping, and racing.
Because of the gusty conditions, the 25 invited riders were limited to only one run rather than the customary two. Strait of Costa Mesa, California, totaled 87.50 points to win the event ahead of Kelly McGarry of New Zealand (86.75), Cameron Zink of Reno, Nevada (84.75), and Andreu Lacondeguy of Spain (84.35). Watch Strait's winning run:
"From 2004 to 2013, it's a big difference, it's a really big difference," Strait told Red Bull afterward. "I mean, back then we dug a little here and there if we wanted something changed, but now it's like you build a lot and you build it well, because it's gnarly.
"The first game plan was to set myself up to be dialed into the big drop and that's what we did. So that was the first time I hit that last feature and I'm going, well, I could've gone really bad or it could've been windy there, but I'm getting all the way down having a really good run, and everybody was stoked on it, so here I am now."
However, not everybody agreed that Strait should've been standing at the top of the podium, according to Bike magazine, which pointed out some believed the judging was flawed and that the three who finished behind Strait ought to have been given higher marks.
Zink, who won the Rampage in 2010 and crashed but escaped with just bruised heels at last year's event, earned the Utah Sports Commission Best Trick by landing an amazing 78-foot backflip off the Oakley Icon Sender. He had been planning the trick for months and it required him to build his own kicker ramp to get the angle needed to practice it. Here's his incredible backflip in his run, which many thought was scored too low:
The rest of his line apparently didn't stack up to Strait's as Zink finished third overall. But his tweet afterward seemed to indicate he wasn't upset or complaining about the judging, saying "Anyone else realize Kyle Strait is the first ever two-time Rampage champion with wins separated by nine years? Best bike rider on the planet!"
McGarry also pulled off a backflip, doing so over a 72-foot canyon gap that earned him the inaugural Red Bull Bike People's Choice Award from 400,000 fans watching online. Click here to see his backflip.
But he, too, fell just short of earning the top prize.
Judge and mountain bike pro Aaron Chase was definitely more impressed with Strait's winning run, telling Red Bull, "Strait's run was everything a Red Bull Rampage run should be. He rolled the dice but also rode with 100 percent confidence. He rode really strong, looked really good, and there weren't any flaws in his run. He earned it."
The Red Bull Rampage will be rebroadcast by NBC on December 21 at 2:30 p.m. ET.