Cam Zink's Scariest Moment. Illustration: Kevin February

My scariest moment: Cam Zink

We ask some famous faces to recount the most heart-stopping moment they’ve had aboard two wheels. This time it’s Red Bull Rampage winner and freeriding don Cam Zink

“I’ve had a long career of pushing my limits and the sport’s, doing ridiculous things on a bike. There have been quite a few scares along the way, but the big high-pressure moments are usually mitigated by preparation and focus. It’s the times when you don’t expect it that things can go sideways!

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“Back in 2013, Red Bull Rampage was on the horizon. It was cold and windy, but there are no days off when preparing for the biggest event of the year. Paul Basagoitia, another friend and I had driven out to a downhill track I used to ride in the Pine Nut Mountains, south of Carson City in Nevada. The wind was picking up like crazy, but I’d ridden this trail many times and the biggest drop was only head high, so I wasn’t too worried.

“As I hit the drop, though, my wheels caught a 40mph gust like sails. It threw my balance completely off and, although I managed to land on my wheels, I was facing the wrong direction. Instead of leaning into the berm going left, I was spat off the trail to the right, into a steep rocky hillside. I was trying to slow down from the second I hit the ground, but I lost the front end and crashed towards a burned tree, which happened to have a thick branch aimed at my femoral artery.

The others showed up, baffled as to why I had my pants down. I’ll never forget the look of helplessness on their faces when I showed them

“Before I was done rolling, I knew something was wrong. I ripped my shorts off and instantly felt like death. Sick to my stomach, I stood up to see a lump the size of a B-cup boob where there should’ve been a crease between my leg and pelvis. There was no blood, but I was dying and I knew it. The others showed up, baffled as to why I had my pants down. I’ll never forget the look of helplessness on their faces when I showed them. I told them we had to bail immediately and, as we rode down the fireroad, I felt an enormous amount of blood building in my thigh and groin. Weirdly, I started to feel at ease.

“Turns out, I’d clipped my femoral artery and the blood had flooded into my groin. When there was too much pressure in the cavity, the artery stabilised and stopped spraying. I’m extremely thankful to have been wearing the old Troy Lee Designs Moto shorts, because their thick canvas saved me. Had there been an open wound, the blood wouldn’t have created the pressure and it wouldn’t have stopped. It’s likely I’d have bled-out on the road.

“Ten days later, I was in hospital to get it drained, and the doctor told me it was infected and needed to be cut open like a taco so it could heal. In the end I had to go without treatment, as I had one day until the Rampage finals and still hadn’t practised. That year I flipped the Oakley Icon Sender in front of my pregnant wife, taking the best trick and third place overall with half a run. It was a huge win for me!”

At home on the wildest of terrain, Cam Zink is a Red Bull Rampage champ and a multiple best trick winner. Pic: Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool
At home on the wildest of terrain, Cam Zink is a Red Bull Rampage champ and a multiple ‘best trick’ winner. Pic: Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool

Opening illustration: Kevin February


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This story originally appeared in MBUK issue 385 (August 2020). Subscribe here to get MBUK delivered to your door every month.