Red Bull Rampage is generally the home of the longest, beefiest bikes on the market. However, from Aggy’s Evil Wreckoning of 2019 to Paul Basagoitia’s Kona Entourage of 2013, there’s certainly some evidence that you don’t need to perform a full descent platform to take on Utah’s iconic cliffs. In the 20-year history of the event, there is only one rider who has ever competed in mountain biking’s most formidable event without a rear suspension – Russ Morrell.

Morrell was an American freerider who had always drawn attention for his wild video parts filmed on a Balfa Minuteman. In particular, Morrell worked with Thor Wixom, a filmmaker who chronicled the freeride scene of the early 2000s through the seminal Double Down (Down, Double Down and Third Down) trilogy and also arguably passed the word “jib” from the world of snowboarding to the world of mountain biking as he documented the wild but fleeting scene of urban freeriding in his film “Jib”. Jib was known for being a mountain biking movie without mountains, but also for containing one of the biggest crash sections of any mountain biking movie to date.

Russ’s section in Third Down

Morrell’s time working with Wixom culminated in the movie “Statement”, which came out in the spring of 2003 and featured the next clip which was supposed to be the biggest drop ever on a hardtail at the time. The team measured it at 44 feet diagonally with a vertical drop of over 30 feet.
It was probably that drop that secured Russ his place as a wildcard at Rampage in October of that year. As expected, he found himself on his trusty Balfa among a peloton of 29 freeride legends including Gracia, Watson, Kinrade, Spangler, Schley, Simmons, Vanderham and Minnaar. This was the first year that excavation crews were allowed on site and Josh Bender apparently brought in 7 members to work on a huge drop that would become part of freeride lore.
As for Morrell, unfortunately he suffered a big crash on his second run and didn’t make it to the final. Russ Day, our man in the field at the event in 2003, said: “Going at least as big as the boys on big trips, he looked pretty worked up after his first row and unfortunately crashed. on his second round by pulling a large whip bike near the top of the course. It was long after the medical helicopter landed beside him before he regained consciousness. Like Gee, Russ was also seen enjoying the action on Sunday, but looked like he’d been run over by a big Red Bull truck. “
Cedric Gracia took the win in the main event with a run that included a backflip he only learned to do in training with the help of Kyle Strait and free skier Seth Morrison. Gracia won a grand total prize of $ 3,500 (up from $ 200,000 in 2019) and finished ahead of Andrew Shandro and Glyn O’Brien on the podium

Morrell appears to have given up on mountain biking after this crash and we are reaching out to a few contacts to see if we can determine what happened to him next. But one thing that can never be taken away from him is that he was the first rider to tackle Utah’s craziest event on a hardtail and will likely be the only one to do so. .

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