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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.