Red Bull Rampage – What it's like for the riders' families
For Amanda Zink, watching her husband Cam take on MTB freeride's gnarliest event is a nerve-wracking affair
This weekend, Red Bull Rampage returns to the arid, rocky slopes of Utah, USA. It's a tough event for the athletes, who risk life and limb as they mix technical lines with big tricks on the unforgiving and exposed terrain; the organisers, who face a huge logistical task; and even the on-site spectators, who must deal with the desert heat and dust as well as lengthy waits for the wind to die down so the next rider can drop in.
However, surely it must be hardest of all for the riders' partners and kids, as they watch their loved-ones plummet down the mountain, putting everything on the line for a shot at Rampage glory and a handsome prize purse. Malcolm Mclaws spoke to former champ Cam Zink's wife Amanda for us at last year's event to find out exactly what it's like...
"I've been to Rampage MANY times," says Amanda. "Ten years of it. And as I watch Cam, one thing goes through my mind, on repeat – 'Lord, please protect him.' Now that I'm bringing the kids with me, the emotions and anxiety are at an all-time high. As Alya and Asher get older, they're becoming much more aware. It's another challenge to comfort them, as they're also riddled with anxiety watching their dad. It's tough on the mama heartstrings, to say the least.
"Cam's crash in practice last year has to be in my top-three worst experiences at Rampage, because of the kids' reaction. Others who were close-by had to come help me calm and comfort them, as they were extremely shaken. Ayla was in a state of sheer anxiety the following day, watching her dad attempt it another two times. We prayed together over and over again. When he walked away with fourth place and only bruised lungs, it felt like victory to us."
"Long-term, severe injuries are what haunt my thoughts," Amanda admits. "How life altering it would be if something happened to my husband and the father of my children. When my high school buddy Paul Basagoitia had his life-altering crash in 2015, the risk became very REAL."
So, why keep coming back? "Cam is going to do what he's going to do. The more you try to talk him out of something, the more he wants to prove you wrong. I have to bury my emotions and fears, because the last thing I want is for Cam to be second-guessing himself while riding down a cliff. I signed up for this nut show when we got married and, as his wife, I have to trust and support his decisions. I want him to 'hang it up' when he feels the time is right, without being strong-armed into it. That's when resentment comes knocking."
It's worth the anxiety, too, to see Cam in his element. "The thing I'm most proud of is the camaraderie," says Amanda. "Watching Cam cheer on his fellow competitors with genuine enthusiasm always warms my heart. At the end of the day, these boys really love and care for each other. I love watching them give each other tips, hugs, motivation and support, while pushing the level of the sport. I admire this so much."
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Watch Red Bull Rampage 2022 live on Red Bull TV from 5pm GMT tomorrow (Friday 21 October). Details at www.redbull.com.