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Photo Gallery: Formation Wraps in Powerful Showing of Women’s Freeride

The 12 athletes of Formation rode Rampage-level lines in the Utah desert

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Red Bull Formation wrapped on Sunday in one of the most powerful showings of women’s freeride in history. The 12 invited athletes smashed the glass ceiling by riding some of the same burly lines the men competing in Rampage conquered just a handful of years ago, while simultaneously setting a new bar for this small, but growing, corner of the sport. 

Casey Brown and Hannah Bergemann, both already freeride legends, took on one of the most ambitious lines of the week—resurrecting Brett Rheeder’s 2015 Rampage line to create a rowdy top-to-bottom that consisted of a blind drop off the top, a steep, sweeping catch berm, a triple threat of successive drops, and finished with several trick jumps in the snake pit. Brown and Bergemann both cleaned the drop-in on Saturday, after working on building it up for most of the week, a move that Brown called the scariest of her career. Bergemann bobbled on the biggest drop on Saturday, but after diggers reworked the lip, it was running better, and come Sunday, both women stomped the line. 

“I’m so happy,” Bergemann said once she made it down cleanly and safely, with a huge smile. “I cried at the bottom and I’m not a very emotional person.”

The entire morning was in fact filled with emotion. There were plenty of highs, like when Robin Gooomes turned the snake pit into her personal playground, throwing a sui off a massive drop, whipping the next jump, then finishing with a Formation-first backflip. Or when Vinny Armstrong completer her top-to-bottom run after a sprained ankle kept her sidelined most of the morning, or when Cami Nogueira hiked back up after a fall at the top of her first run, and made it through a fall-line gauntlet filled with steeps so loose controlling speed was nearly impossible, a huge double drop and a massive launch into the snakepit. 

“That was a fucking Rampage line,” said Brooklyn Bell, a two-year Formation digger. “Cami is freeride or die. This is her dream. She loves this. I think that was probably really fun for her.”

Formation first-timer Louise Ferguson looked like a long-timer as she slashed through her run with the poise, confidence and skill of a longtime freerider, and Chelsea Kimball overcame mental demons from earlier in the week to crush her line cleanly twice, which included a technical rock drop with a narrow landing to a double drop. Sam Soriano also completed her top-to-bottom, after a brief mid-run get-off. 

They were hard moments as well. Vaea Verbeeck wasn’t able to ride due to a knee injury from a crash when she sent the huge hip on her line Saturday, although Verbeeck was there on crutches to cheer on the rest of the ladies, and Harriet Burbidge-Smith had a nasty fall on the top of section of her line, sending both body and bike tomahawking down the hill. Burbidge-Smith quickly got up, and fortunately didn’t sustain serious injury, but she did not ride the rest of the day. 

Sunday’s final was not a competition—Formation is an incubator meant to help progress women’s freeride, and prioritized camaraderie and community over competition—but sponsor Industry Nine contributed a prize purse that the women shared equally. The wheel and hub brand also made a Tabasco-inspired award for the rider who brought a little extra spice to the week, and that went to the perpetually positive and hard-charging Nogueria.  

Photographer Katie Lozancich has a full recap of all the riding from Virgin, Utah, below. 

Sam Soriano hikes up to session her line on the first of three ride days.

Hannah Bergemann, whose appearance at Formation in 2019 helped kick her freeride career from part-time to professional, had one of the burliest lines on the mountain.
Vinny Armstrong sends her big drop on the first ride day, as she works her way down her line, ticking off features along the way.
Casey Brown turns up the heat.

Harriet Burbidge-Smith leveled up from alternate last year to headlining rider this year, an example of the progression path that Formation strives to achieve.

Casey Brown, sends it from uptown.

Kelsey Timpany, came over as part of the Queenstown, New Zealand, contingent to help dig and support the Kiwi riders.
Soriano see if it goes on day one, while Red Bull pro skier Birk Irving snaps for photographic proof.

Soriano, a Colorado transplant to full-time desert living, returned for her second Formation, riding in the zone she now calls home.
Bergemann and Brown water the take-off to their ridgetop entry, a full-commitment, high-consequence line that Brett Rheeder first rode in Rampage 2015.

Brown dropped in first, and cleaned it, later calling the move “the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never been that puckered,” she said at the bottom. A serious sentiment from one of the most accomplished women in freeride.

Bergemann was up next, and also greased the landing, which fed into a sweeping catch berm.
The lines these ladies are riding are serious, but Soriano and her digger Blake Hansen, can always find time for a smile.

Kiwi Louise Ferguson rolls in off the ridge, while digger Jake Byrne looks on. Ferguson, the only Formation rider who’d never been to the Utah desert, rode as poised as a seasoned veteran in the foreign landscape.

Another Kiwi, Robin Goomes, left, chats with diggers Martha Gill and Mike Ross. With her line, Goomes raised the level of tricks to heights never seen at Formation.

Bergemann was all focus on the morning of ride day three, when the women were called in off the ridge in a “3,2,1” countdown to attempt their full lines, top to bottom.

Formation co-founder, diehard champion of women’s freeride, steadfast supporter of all, and well-dressed safari leader? Katie Holden takes all her roles seriously, even when she’s having a laugh.
Vero Sandler guinea pigs her ridgetop line on day two.
Chelsea Kimball's double drop was among the biggest moves on the mountain.

Bergemann stomped the top drop of the triple threat on ride day three, after a hard crash there on day two prompted a re-build of the take-off and landing.

Cami Nogueira, left, drops in from the “Uterus,” the U-shaped feature off the ridge. Nogueira and Ferguson shared most of their line, a steep chute straight down the gut of the mountain with a large double drop to keep things extra spicy.

Brown, left, and Goomes, two of the most styles riders on the mountain, knuckle it out during a final jam session at the trick jump to cap off a wild week.
The Armstrong special, big air with a side of whip.

Burbidge-Smith tests her line on the first ride day. “Haz” was the first rider to get called in off the ridge for top-to-bottoms on day three.

Nogueira and Ferguson size up their mid-line sandbag roller.

Pinkbike presenter Christina Chappetta demonstrates the real meaning of multitasking.

Bergemann’s “commute” off the ridge after the first day of riding was a bit dusty but at least there was no traffic.

Brown’s one-of-a-kind Session came straight from Trek’s custom-paint lab, and was a piece of art.

The skills Ferguson honed in Virgin will no doubt help her as she drops into her first World Cup DH race later this week in Fort William, Scotland, her hometown.
Nogueira launches into the snakepit at the bottom of the course.
The wind sock abides and Kimball drops in.

Vinny Armstrong.

Goomes’ sui into the snakepit had plenty of bite.

Goomes and Burbidge-Smith hike back up for another hit.

Nogueira demonstrates perfect double drop form.

Local Ryan McNulty tows Vaea Verbeeck into her massive hip on day two. Verbeeck later went down on the same feature, and injured her knee, preventing her from dropping in on day three.
Armstrong pulling another one from her bag on tricks on ride day two.

Camaraderie and unwavering support is the underlying theme of Formation—Micayla Gatto, who took part in the first Formation in 2019, hugs it out with Verbeeck.

Kimball mid-double drop.

Brown, before dropping into one of the biggest moves of her career.

Bergemann, Brown and Nogueira are three of the very best women’s freeride has ever seen.
Brown sweeps into the catch berm after her ridgeline drop-in.
Armstrong threads the "notch crack" in the middle of her line.

Brown hits a fall-line sender on Nogueira’s line during ride day two, while Nogueira watches on.

Ferguson in full-commitment mode.

HB off the top on day three, looking strong and smooth.

Kimball in a moment of lightness, between the heavy.

HB and Dan Perl, a digging dream team.
Ferguson encourages Nogueira before her ridgetop drop-in on day two.

Bergemann guinea-pigs the big drop into the triple threat on ride day two. She went deep and crashed, but some dirt work that afternoon made the same drop run smooth and clean the following day.

Bergemann hoofs it up to the drop zone.

Georgia Astle off the top, an entry she shared with Vero Sandler.
Kimball takes the big line into the snakepit.

Formation 2022.

Eleven of the 12 Formation riders (missing Vaea!) and Katie Holden.
When the pressure's off, the fun is on.

The Industry Nine Extra Spicy Award went to Cami Nogueria.


Photography: Katie Lozancich