Andreu Lacondeguy during practice at Red Bull Rampage 2012 Ian Hylands/Red Bull Media House North America, Inc.

The final day of practice before the Red Bull Rampage 2012 qualifying round went down on Thursday, and a stroll around the venue revealed some of the wild gaps and transfers you’d expect at the world’s premier big-mountain contest -- and then some.

Instead of taking things to the next level in relation to the last event in 2010, the competitors seem to have skipped a few levels and taken it straight to the top-floor penthouse for this event. Whether the rider has a proven Red Bull Rampage pedigree or they’re making their rookie appearance, they’ve all been creating some of the gnarliest lines we’ve seen yet.

New this year in the riders’ arsenal of build tools is the sand bag; whereas in previous years, rock was removed and dirt redistributed simply to smooth out approaches and help ensure a fluid line top to bottom, now the riders are building out significant takeoffs and landings, using the sandbags to create possibilities for gap transfers that didn’t really exist before. Some of them are dangerous enough to rattle even the most seasoned riders, filmers and industry types -- people accustomed to seeing some crazy shit go down on mountain bikes.

nullChristian Pondella/Red Bull Media House North America, Inc.

As is typically the case, some riders are still frantically dialing in elements of their line without any time in the saddle at this point in the week, even after already having dug out and pick-axed their way through the site for several days.

The cooler morning temperatures brought a few bikes out in the morning, as a small handful of competitors tested their routes down the mountain, one section at a time. However, higher temps and whipping winds kept the venue relatively quiet, from a riding standpoint, through the afternoon. Just before the sun dipped below the horizon, however, it was on.

The riders emerged to milk the last moments of daylight, pulling the trigger on some of the scarier features to raucous rounds of applause and cheers from the rest of the field.



On Friday morning, 26 riders will throw down for the qualifier; 12 will earn their way to Sunday’s Super Final, where they will join the 12 pre-qualified competitors for the most stacked and progressive mountain bike battle of the year. Be sure to catch all of Sunday’s action via the Red Bull Rampage live webcast, which begins at 1:00 p.m. MT. Catch the full Red Bull Signature Series recap show on NBC on December 8 starting at 2:00 p.m. ET.

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