Welcome to the Labyrinth
Red Bull Ramparanoia hits Argentina
Words – Andy Zeiss, Bas Keep, Axel Jurgens
Photos – Rutger Pauw
By September last year Red Bull International forwarded me a concept they got sent from their colleagues in Argentina. I was asked what my thoughts were, and the idea pretty much blew my mind right away! It was only a short power point presentation with a few random slides attached, but it was enough to tell the overall idea. The images basically showcased an area deep in the Argentinian mountains, almost in the Andes. The area was presented as a natural terrain skatepark and the question was simple, would it be suitable for a bike event?
From the distance it was hard to tell, but that being said I jumped on the next plane to Buenos Aires to visit the local Red Bull team and to check out the site. It was quite an adventure to say the least, as just getting to the site takes a decent 2 1/2 days, starting with a flight to Buenos Aires, continuing the next day with another 1.5h flight and last but not least a 700Km drive, with a 300Km off road section. While the final destination of El Penon came closer, you started to feel the first changes too, with the air getting thinner and thinner. Arriving at the lodge, the altitude meter displayed 4.100m above sea level, not your average event location. As we arrived at night and our bodies were pretty sore and well worn from the cramped drive, we chowed some dinner and fell into the beds before the generators were shut down at 11pm. By the way, Lama meat doesn’t taste that bad at all!
Axel Jurgens and I shared a room and both of us were struggling to sleep, we woke up at least 12 times trying to catch some breath. The air really was a mission and you felt your body trying to adapt and to create more red blood cells. After a quick 6 am breakfast we jumped into the trucks again for the 1h drive to the spot, and let me tell you, the view was just stunning! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but I just looked on at nature at its purest. Desert, mountains, wild Lamas, clear blue sky…. It was simply incredible.
We could see the spot already from the lodge and it seemed like a 10min walk out to it, but once we realised the size of the area, we were mistaken. The area is known for its volcano’s and there were around 250 of them in total in that region. The actual spot was surrounded by 4 of them (all still active) and history documents that one of them went off 1500 years ago and spit pure white hot lava. This lava was quite light compared to the usual black lava, and over the past millennium wind and sand basically washed out or sandblasted the 10Km2 area into these crazy looking, but rideable sculptures. It was at that point that it became pretty clear that this would be an insane spot for a BMX event, so we called it.
The terrain was special, it´s by no means your average skatepark set up, even if there are box jumps and quarterpipes everywhere. It was full of lines and transfers but also quite challenging and super dangerous. The riders for the event needed to fit the criteria, they should be open minded enough to take on an adventure like this, but also would be able to take their riding and adapt it to a spot and location like this. Adapting was key! After careful deliberation, I think we made a great call on the riders who were to be invited. We unfortunately had invited two other guys, but due to other obligations they sadly needed to decline. But the “alternates” were perfect, and in the end it was a collection of different riding styles and personalities. Gary Young, Ben Hennon, Ruben Alcantara, Bas Keep, Tobias Wicke, Aaron Ross, Kevin Kalkoff, Daniel Dhers and local hitters from Buenos Aires, Martin Postigo and the 12 year old Inaki Mazza.
After we invited the riders we sent them an email with some valuable information that we thought they might need for the upcoming trip. We wanted to prepare them as much as possible as the country, weather, terrain, isolation and height were some facts a random western civilized person would not at all be used too. After a welcome evening in Buenos Aires, we jumped on the next plane to take us the 1.5hr flight closer to the spot. But as a welcome surprise we were able to skip the 700Km drive because Red Bull had hired one of their sky diving athletes´ airplane that picked us all up at the airport. It was quite a cool feeling to get off an airline jet, grab your bags and then jump on a non seated skydive bird. We even needed to share an oxygen mask as the air was already really thin and the plane didn’t have the air decompressing system the airline planes have.
After we arrived all of us had a full day to chill and to adapt to the area and settings. It would have been impossible to try and ride straight away as just cranking twice would make you feel tired and breathless. At midday the temperature could reach up to 45 degrees, and the combination of the heat, thin air and white lava stone was brutal. We got up at 5am every morning to arrive at the spot at around 6am. Yup, by far the earliest everyone had ridden their bikes, probably ever. But even at that time it was a good 20 degrees already and we wanted to get out of there before noon, when the sun felt like it was boiling you alive. The pictures seem funny, but there was a reason why everyone rode with shades on, it wasn’t a homage to Jay Miron, but simply because it was way too bright without them. Anybody that has been snowboarding or skiing will understand what I mean.
After we dropped everyone off at the location, all of them started to scope the area for spots. We had to map out a specific area, because the overall area was just too big to ride it all, and pretty dangerous. At base camp we gave all the riders a briefing on the format and then it was go time!
The format worked like this:
• 10 riders – all judged by each other
• Every rider should mission the spots and try to make the best out of them
• Every rider should end the event with a decent action shot
• Overall win
• Best trick
• The sickest picture
The riding that went down was crazy. All the riders adapted very well and took their riding way outside the box and challenged themselves pretty good.
As there were multiple lines and transfers, it was perfect for guys like Ruben or Gary. Tobias managed to lay down his tech wizardry on the craziest rocks, and Ben and Bas just did things like always, BIG! Kevin found some crazy lines and Aaron delivered some solid street moves to the scene. He tweaked his ankle pretty bad on the second day, but taped it all up and was back for day 3.
In the end the Piedra Pommez (area) catered to all of the guys and they had a blast. Daniel Dhers managed to pull various crazy box jump tricks and earned a well-deserved best trick shout for a 3 whip to bars over a sweet rock box. Mr Hennon took the overall win, after a close call with Gary, as it was those two who were the guys who stepped it up the most. The final award went to the local youngster Inaki Mazza who shot a very impressive Nac-Nac that was voted as the best image of the three days.
Overall I think everyone can honestly say that it was a once in a lifetime experience. It was a true adventure filled with many challenges and aspects. How many people can say they rode a bike at 4.100m, on white lave rocks? I doubt even many mountainbikers can! That terrain can probably say that before this event, it had never seen a BM bike before either.
Dealing with a journey like this, the altitude, nature, heat, food, etc. is something that will stay in the minds of who was invited forever, and of course with a fantastic host like Red Bull always is, it makes trips like this in even more memorable.
Once again, thanks BMX!