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Red Bull Formation: The Finale

As the sun set on Formation 2021 in the Utah desert, the women stomped their lines and collectively underscored what's possible on a bike


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The final day of Red Bull Formation on Monday slapped a huge exclamation point on a week filled with exclamation points, as riders dropped into their lines and collectively blew expectations of what women can do on bikes out of the water.

Hannah Bergemann was the first to drop her line top-to-bottom, quietly heading up to the mesa outside Virgin, Utah, and delivering a clean run first thing in the morning while the final practice session was still happening. Bergemann and Casey Brown, who also cleaned her run, both started on a no-fall-zone entrance from the mesa, before working their way down the mountain through a crux move into a loose, narrow chute, a double drop and a host of other features and jumps that just standing on top of  would be terrifying enough for us mere mortals, let alone having the mental fortitude and physical strength to ride them. Bergemann added in a steep roller linked to a huge drop that she rode for the first time just before attempting her full run. Sam Soriano, Jess Blewitt and Vinny Armstrong all rode similar versions of the same line on Monday.

Farther down the ridgeline, Vaea Verbeeck and Cami Nogueira stomped their lines (after Nogueira recovered from a nerve-rattling crash) and Chelsea Kimball landed the canyon gap and the big drop she and her diggers started from scratch and spent all week perfecting.

“It was super historic on a lot of levels,” said Formation founder Katie Holden. “They all raised the bar in a really big way. It’s progressing so fast. I had no doubt in my mind that women could ride out there, this just proved it. And they’re not nearly as far behind the boys as everyone might think.”

Although Formation proved that women certainly deserve a place in freeride competitions at the highest level, including Rampage and Proving Grounds (the Rampage qualifier), Holden has no plans for Formation itself to serve that purpose. The non-competitive setting and spirit of camaraderie are the magic ingredients that allow the ladies to push their riding to the next level.

“Formation is the piece in the middle where the talent pool is going to rise,” she said, likening Formation to an incubator or an accelerator. Invited athletes bring in up-and-coming riders to work on their dig crews, which begets a natural mentorship.

“The group dynamics with everyone, the camaraderie, it’s such a supportive environment. It’s really, really special.”

Keep on scrolling for a photographic recap of Monday’s finale, and check out all our Formation coverage here.

Photos: Leslie Hittmeier.

 

Hannah Bergemann, who was the first to complete a top-to-bottom run, heads up to the mesa.
Bergemann spent the first hour of the day sessioning a massive roll-in to drop combo that she hadn't ridden until the morning of the finale.

Rocks mark Bergemann’s take-off spot.
Nailed it.

The vibe at Formation is one of constant support. Here, a crowd cheers after Chelsea Kimball lands her signature drop, one she and her diggers built from scratch.

Katie Holden, a former pro rider who once endeavored to compete at Red Bull Rampage, envisioned Formation in her head for years before she teamed up with Red Bull to pull off the first event in 2019. It came out of the blue, without a lot of publicity, but instantly attracted levels of attention that women’s freeride had never before seen, led to more non-race sponsorship opportunities for women and to this week’s event, which further pushed the progression of the sport.
Bergemann rolling into the middle section for the first time, smooth as butter. The sequence below shows how gnarly this section is—definitely Rampage-caliber terrain and skill required.
Cami Nogueira soars on a picture-perfect day for flying.

Vinny Armstrong and Sam Soriano demonstrate one of the magic ingredients of what makes Formation so successful: camaraderie.
A serious moment while watching crash footage.

Vinny Armstrong comforts Cami Nogueira after a crash.
Vaea Verbeeck mid-flight, and on her way to a top-to-bottom run.
Jess Blewitt makes waste of the Plastic Bag drop.

Casey Brown midway down the mountain, and pausing for a kudos during practice from Red Bull ski athlete and Formation digger Michelle Parker.

Chelsea greased the landing on her drop and the canyon gap, accomplishing both of her big goals for the week.
Chill zone.

A mix of exuberance and relief at the bottom, as frayed nerves are replaced with genuine happiness.
Formation 2021.

At the end of the day, Bergemann received the Arc’teryx Evolution In Action award, for embodying the three pillars of Formation: progressing the women’s freeride field, storytelling and creating viable career paths for other women. The award was voted on by all eight Formation athletes.
A final moment of celebration.