You’ve got to have balls of steel to ride the Red Bull Rampage course, but you need to be made of even sterner stuff to shred the cliffs of Utah in little more than a tank top and shorts.
That’s just what Szymon Godziek did on his first ever trip to the infamous freeride contest last season, but it seemed his confidence, and lack of sleeves, was justified as he delivered one of the smoothest runs of the year, including a beautiful backflip over the 73ft canyon gap.
An 11th place finish as a rookie at Rampage rounded off an impressive season for the Polish rider. He finished fifth on the FMB World Tour Diamond Series and blew minds with the first ever Tsunami Backflip on a mountain bike at District Ride.
Last year Rampage was amazing. It became my favourite event of the year.
And although things haven’t gone quite as well for Szymon in 2015, he is more than ready to tackle the sport’s gnarliest event this Friday.
“Last year Rampage was amazing,” he said. “I can’t wait to be back in the desert! Evening riding sessions make the vibes amazing. Also, Utah has the best dirt to ride on.
“It became my favourite event of the year. Being there for ten days and building your own line, then shredding that in the comp, it feels amazing and makes for such a unique atmosphere out there.
“This is first year in the FMB World Tour that I’m lower in the standings than the season before. I could have got a podium in some events. I was winning or getting a top three in qualifications, but then messing up in the finals. I wasn’t lucky this year.”
You certainly need a little bit of luck when it comes to Rampage, along with a good line, great builders and no fear, but the unpredictable nature of the event means the top spot is always up for grabs.
If Szymon wants to get his feet on the podium however he’ll have to find his way past a host of world class freeriders, including the dominant forces on the FMB World Tour – Brett Rheeder and Brandon Semenuk.
The rivalry between the pair has been fascinating to watch this season and propelled the sport's progression further than ever. However, Godziek’s Tsunami Flip proved he’s capable of thinking outside the box and he hopes to be battling the best riders at the top of the standings in seasons to come.
I want to build new features in order to get to another level with my tricks.
“Brett is second in the Diamond Series rankings at the moment and we have one more event to come,” he added. “I think he can still win the FMB World Tour this year as he’s not a stranger to downhill riding and big mountain riding in Utah.
“I think I can win the tour one day. I’ve started building my own place where I want to build new features in order to get to another level with my tricks. I have some big plans and hopefully nothing like stupid injuries will stop me.
“My main goal is to ride as long as possible without any serious injuries. I’d like to be the best in the game, like everyone, but it’s not as important as being healthy."
Coming out of Rampage fit and healthy is always the first priority for riders, although it’s inevitable that not all of them will, especially given the level the riding has reached
Despite the dangers though, you can expect to see sleeveless Szymon cruising with confidence in his tank top this weekend. As for the rest of the event, and for next season on the FMB World Tour, anything could happen.