The Red Bulletin April 2021 (US)

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BEYOND THE ORDINARY THE RED BULLETIN 04/2021

BEYOND THE ORDINARY

THE GAME

CHANGER

Pro cyclist JUSTIN WILLIAMS aspires

to do more than win big races—he’s

out to transform bike racing in America

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to rise.

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It’s a new It’s a day, new and day, there’s and there’s daylight daylight to burn. to burn.

It’s time It’s to time rise. to rise.


With the sun setting over Malibu, Joe Pugliese captures Justin Williams in repose.

EDITOR’S NOTE

SEEING

THE

LIGHT

Bicycles are simple tools.

They’re just two wheels

and a frame, a handlebar

and some pedals. And yet

there’s something magical

about them; even today

physicists don’t fully

understand why they’re so

stable in motion. These

machines can multitask as

transportation workhorses,

race vehicles, instruments

of self-expression or toys

for recreation. Bikes can

help people get fit, lose

weight, find grit, express

individuality and otherwise

change their lives for the

better.

Two features in this issue

demonstrate the power of

bikes to truly move people.

04 THE RED BULLETIN


CONTRIBUTORS

THIS ISSUE

JOE PUGLIESE (COVER)

Williams did some hard sprint efforts on

Saddle Peak with Pugliese on his tail.

Our cover story, “Power

Broker” (page 22), profiles

Justin Williams, a pro bike

racer whose life has taken

him from a tough L.A.

neighborhood to become

one of America’s top

criterium racers. And along

the way, he’s transforming

the demographics and

future of his sport.

In a similar vein, “Taking

the Leap” (page 34) explores

the past, present and

future of Formation, a

groundbreaking event that

is changing women’s place

in the freeriding mountain

bike universe. The story

details the history of this

landmark event and offers

some wisdom on how

women want to express

themselves on bicycles.

In short, bikes can take

you where you want to go.

We hope you join the ride.

PARIS

GORE

Already a veteran of shooting

Red Bull Rampage, Gore was

excited to shoot the first

Formation. “I knew many of

the riders prior to Formation,

so it was really exciting to see

them all challenge themselves

in new ways,” says the

Bellingham, Washingtonbased

photographer, who has

shot for National Geographic,

Bike and Outside as well as

brands like BMW, Patagonia

and Arc’teryx. “The way the

women supported each other

brought a unique vibe to the

whole event.” Page 34

JOE

PUGLIESE

The Los Angeles-based

photographer has shot

presidents, Hollywood legends

and moguls but has long had a

personal passion for bike

racing and jumped at the

chance to shoot Justin

Williams. “I’ve known Justin

and his brother, Cory, since

they were junior racers,” says

Pugliese, who has also

photographed Kate Courtney

and Ken Roczen for The Red

Bulletin and shot covers for

The Hollywood Reporter,

Fortune, Variety, Outside and

many other titles. Page 22

EVAN

MAJORS

“After interviewing Blxst, it

was clear to me that he’s an

artist I think we’re going to

hear a lot from in the future,”

says Majors, who profiled the

rising hip-hop star. “I think

he’s going to be one of those

rare artists who is going to

move fluidly between all

genres of music as a producer

and songwriter—he has that

‘it’ factor.” A part-time writer

who has penned features for

Bleu magazine, Majors is a

casting director and talent

executive who resides in Los

Angeles. Page 9

DUSTIN

SNIPES

“I spent months researching

night-sky photography,” says

the Los Angeles-based portrait

and sports photographer, who

after meticulous preparation

was able to capture an

extraordinary shot of the Red

Bull Air Force descending over

Marfa, Texas, on a starlight

night. “I feel very fortunate to

get to work with people who

continue to push the

boundaries of creativity.”

Snipes’ work has appeared in

ESPN The Magazine, Sports

Illustrated and The New York

Times Magazine. Page 44

THE RED BULLETIN 05


CONTENTS

April

FEATURES

22 Power Broker

Champion cyclist and sprinting specialist Justin Williams wants

to do more than win big races. He wants to change his sport.

34 Taking the Leap

How the women of Formation, a groundbreaking event in

Virgin, Utah, transformed freeride mountain biking forever.

44 Bright Lights

In Marfa, Texas, one photographer sets out to capture a

different kind of flying object: the Red Bull Air Force.

58 Raising the Reef

A group of young Polynesians are fighting to protect the

world’s reefs against the effects of global warming.

68 Driving Change

An unlikely alliance between motorsports and eco-activism

spawned a new racing series with a mission to save the planet.

44

SHOOTING STARS

Strange lights have

long attracted

curious visitors to

Marfa, Texas. This

time it was the Red

Bull Air Force.

06 THE RED BULLETIN


26

ANGYIL

Tyler Blevins—known

to his tens of millions

of Fortnite fans as

Ninja—knows how to

balance his fame and

stay grounded at home

and on the road.

22

SPRINTING AHEAD

“I like to win, but I’m

more interested in

pursuing a greater

good,” says Justin

Williams. The gifted

bike racer put on

his Red Bull helmet

for the first time

on January 20.

THE

DEPARTURE

Taking You to New Heights

9 L.A.-grown artist Blxst

carves out his own lane

12 A British curator puts

diversity in the picture

14 Autumnal mountain biking

in the forests of France

16 Ice-cool surfing in Alaska

18 Body-positive surfers share

their fight for recognition

19 Common shares top tracks

with the power of change

GUIDE

Get it. Do it. See it.

81 Urban escapes: How to find

close-to-home adventures

84 Fitness tips from freeride

MTB prodigy Jaxson Riddle

86 Dates for your calendar

88 The best trail-running gear

94 Helmets for all seasons

96 The Red Bulletin worldwide

98 Rallying in Saudi Arabia

JOE PUGLIESE, KELSEY WILLIAMS, DUSTIN SNIPES

58

REEF RESCUE

In the South Pacific,

cultivated coral is

fixed to a dead or

damaged reef with a

few dabs of marine

cement.

THE RED BULLETIN 07


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LIFE & STYLE BEYOND THE ORDINARY

THE

BLXST OFF

The L.A.-grown, multihyphenate

artist carves out his own lane

—and makes no apologies.

KOURY ANGELO/RED BULL CONTENT POOL

Since the release of his

debut EP, No Love Lost,

last September, Blxst

has been busy working

on his forthcoming LP.

THE RED BULLETIN 09


T H E D E P A R T U R E

Living in L.A. can feel

like a vacation—the

sun-soaked days,

towering palm trees, vast

mountain ranges and

beautiful beaches. It’s lovely

for many people, but in South

Los Angeles, there is a

different existence, one that is

distracting and dangerous and

surrounded by gangs. This

was the reality for the multihyphenate

rapper, singer,

songwriter and producer

Blxst, who grew up near 75th

Street and Central Avenue.

“When I was young, living

with my mom, my school was

eight blocks away from my

house,” says Blxst. “It was

literally between two gangs,

where anything could happen

on any street.”

The twentysomething

artist has been singing for as

long as he can remember, but

September 2020 marked the

release of his debut EP, No

Love Lost, on Red Bull Records.

In just a week, the collection,

which seamlessly blends rap

and R&B, picked up 4 million

streams and reached 75

million streams as of January.

The deluxe version, which

dropped in December,

features bonus tracks with Ty

Dolla $ign, Tyga, Dom

Kennedy and Bino Rideaux.

His versatility, DIY ethos and

singsong, melodic funk sound

have been compared to the

“King of Hooks”—the late hiphop

legend Nate Dogg.

Growing up, Blxst dreamed

of playing in the NBA, but he

eventually fell out of love with

basketball. To escape the

trappings of South L.A. street

life, he relocated to the Inland

Empire with his dad.

The Inland Empire—or

“the IE”— is a short drive east

from Los Angeles, but worlds

away from South L.A. Known

for its harsh deserts, mountain

towns and sprawling suburbs,

the IE is where Blxst picked up

a new love—skateboarding.

“I was definitely invested in

skateboarding,” Blxst says

during a phone interview on

MLK Day. “I was skating every

day, like to the point where I

thought it was going to be my

future—until I got a reality

check and broke my ankle.

That led me to picking up a

laptop. I started recording

myself and taught myself how

to make beats when I was

around 16 years old.”

The change of scenery

allowed Blxst to hone his craft

and his sound, but more

importantly, learn how to be

his authentic self. “Living in

the IE was the complete

opposite of South Central,”

says Blxst. “It was more

suburban. The school system

was strict, but it also made me

keep to myself. I didn’t really

know anybody out there, so

that’s how I fell into the pocket

of being home and just

creating music.”

For Blxst, the decision to

lean into his music career

eventually paid off, but it

wasn’t without contention

from some of the people who

were closest to him. After the

release of his first single,

“Who Would’ve Thought,” in

2016, and his 2019 breakout

hit, “Hurt,” Blxst’s rising

success and the amount of

time he spent focused on his

work caused some friction

with friends and family.

“Sometimes people around

you can’t understand,” Blxst

explains. “It takes separation

for elevation. Being away from

everyone gave me a different

perspective, a sense of

discipline. I decided I wanted

to do things for myself and

have a different dedication

towards my music.”

With this newfound focus,

Blxst teamed up with R&B

sensation Eric Bellinger to

produce the 2018 track “By

Now.” In return, the singer

appeared on Blxst’s single

“Can I.” Picking up on this

momentum, Blxst joined

forces with Bino Rideaux for

the collaborative Sixtape in

2019. To date it’s generated

nearly 5 million total streams,

flaunting fan favorites such as

“Selfish” and “Bacc Home.”

“I felt the pressure early

on trying to build my

foundation,” Blxst says of his

career beginnings. “I didn’t

even know where I was going

to lay my head at a certain

point. I was just trying to

follow through with the plan,

just strategizing and executing

and believing in myself.”

It was around this time that

Blxst came to a difficult fork in

the road, where he had to

make a choice between the

people he loved and chasing

his dreams. “That’s what a lot

of No Love Lost is about,” Blxst

says. “It’s saying ‘no hard

feelings’ to my loved ones, to

my friends—that I had to take

time away from them to be

self-sufficient and support

myself. Sorry, not sorry.”

But it’s also that type of

perspective and selfassuredness

that’s led Blxst to

find his own lane in an already

crowded hip-hop space. “I

create music for the soul,” Blxst

says. “No matter what genre it

is, it’s going to be intentional.

I create what’s missing in the

game. I feel like people are

missing that love connection,

that honesty, that soulfulness,

and I want to be that.”

As he wraps up work on his

first full-length album, set to

be released later this summer,

Blxst continues to stand firm

in his own truth as an artist.

“[My music] is about being

authentic and being real with

myself,” he says. “I’m opening

up and giving the listener an

opportunity to know that

they’re not alone, no matter

what emotion they’re feeling.

I just want to be able to show

people that it’s cool to feel, it’s

cool to love. It’s cool to be who

you are.” —Evan Majors

10 THE RED BULLETIN


“I create music for

the soul,” Blxst says.

“No matter what

genre it is, it’s going

to be intentional.”

KOURY ANGELO/RED BULL CONTENT POOL

“IT’S COOL TO FEEL. IT’S

COOL TO LOVE. IT’S COOL

TO BE WHO YOU ARE.”

THE RED BULLETIN 11


T H E D E P A R T U R E

Bolanle Tajudeen

MAKING ART

HISTORY

This U.K.-based creative, activist and entrepreneur is

reinventing the education system with her Black

Blossoms School of Art and Culture.

When Bolanle

Tajudeen began

frequenting

galleries and museums eight

years ago, while studying PR

at the University of the Arts

London (UAL), it changed her

life. She fell in love with art. But it

was the inequality the Nigerianborn

Londoner encountered in

both the education system and

the mainstream art world that

prompted her to become a

curator. “I was around so many

creatives of color, but I didn’t see

their work reflected in the

industry,” she says. At UAL,

Tajudeen began displaying the

work of Black artists for Black

History Month. By 2019, she’d

hosted successful exhibitions and

taught a sell-out course, Art in the

Age of Black Girl Magic, at Tate

Britain. Yet she was struggling: “I

worked in a fried chicken shop to

pay the rent. I was applying for

museum and gallery roles and

not getting them. I grew up in

[public housing], so I had to build

my own network. No one knew I

was broke.”

Fast-forward to 2021 and the

32-year-old has found a way to

bypass traditional institutions

and promote a more diverse

perspective on art. Her Black

Blossoms School of Art and

Culture curates affordable,

accessible online courses that

aim to decolonize, deconstruct

and democratize the education

system. And, Tajudeen says,

that’s just the beginning.

the red bulletin: What does

art mean to you?

bolanle tajudeen: I never

went to galleries growing up—

they didn’t feel like spaces for

me. But art was everywhere.

At Nigerian parties, the way

people would tie their head

scarves was artistic. Even how

the boys would hang around

our [home]—compositionally,

it was an aesthetic. I feel seen

when I see art that speaks to me

or has been made with me in

mind. I’m very political, but I’m

over standing on a soapbox.

I believe art can be a tool for

change. It speaks to me being

a woman, being Black, being

a mother. Art helps me articulate

feelings that I might not be able

to with words.

What hurdles did you face in

becoming a curator?

I’m not from a curatorial

background. I’ve educated

myself. I’ve taken courses and

attended conferences and

artists’ talks to really understand

the history of Black art in this

country. And I’ve got a teaching

qualification. But I didn’t want

to study art history. The courses

don’t talk about the things I

want to discuss. I didn’t want to

spend more money just to learn

about old, dead white guys.

Was that sentiment why your

Tate Britain course sold out?

It was one of the first courses of

its kind at any major institution.

It focused on the historical and

contemporary practices of Black

female and nonbinary artists,

using the Tate collection and

work outside of that, too. I put a

lot about activism in there; how

artists have responded to social

upheaval and political change.

It spoke to people, as there was

nothing else like it.

Is that why you founded your

school, Black Blossoms?

I first thought about it while

working as an education

officer at UAL after my studies.

I wanted to decolonize the

curriculum, get more authors

of color on reading lists,

more [minority] lecturers

teaching courses. Then, when

[COVID] closed museums and

galleries, I decided to teach

online. I realized I knew so

many great experts and this was

our chance to make a change.

For me, the pandemic took away

the power of universities and

other institutions. We can all be

curators now; we’ve got Zoom,

and people are doing courses

at home in a way that felt

unnatural in 2019. Before,

I never had the confidence, the

social clout or the capital to say,

“We don’t need the backing of

an institution—we can do it

ourselves.”

What has been the response?

Amazing. People have said it’s

revolutionary.

What’s next?

I’m working on opening 40 artist

studios, a gallery and a website

where artists and writers of

color can write about the art

world. My ideal would be for

all Black households in Britain

to have a Black Blossoms

subscription. A lot of Black

people don’t feel comfortable in

museums and galleries—this

could be their entry point.

Basically I’m hoping for a mini

Black Blossoms empire!

black-blossoms.online

ALEXIS CHABALA RUTH MCLEOD

HAIR: SHAMARA ROPER, @SHAMARA_ROPER; NAIL TECH AND MAKE-UP: JENELLE ROPER, @JENELLEROPER

12 THE RED BULLETIN


“GROWING UP,

GALLERIES

DIDN’T FEEL

LIKE SPACES

FOR ME.”

THE RED BULLETIN 13


T H E D E P A R T U R E

Brioude, France

FALLING

INTO PLACE

In life, sometimes everything just comes

together. Take Jean-Baptiste Liautard’s

last-minute assignment to shoot mountain

biker Amaury Pierron. Following a flight

from Vancouver, then a long drive, the

photographer arrived in south-central

France, tired and short of ideas. Enter a

sudden snowstorm. “I remember running

in every direction, trying to figure out the

shot I should do and the lighting needed,”

he says, “but I’m glad I had time to set up

everything before it stopped snowing.

We were even lucky with the fall tones of

the trees perfectly matching Amaury’s

gear and bike.” Thank you, Mother Nature.

jbliautard.com


JB LIAUTARD

15


Yakutat, Alaska

CHILL WAVE

Action sports photographer Dom Daher

was working at the Freeride World Tour in

Haines, Alaska, when he received a text

from former freeride medalist Anne-Flore

Marxer. “She said it was pumping in Yakutat

and we should go right after the event,”

recalls the Frenchman. “So the next day

we flew there—in a very small plane.”

Yakutat in southeast Alaska has a

population of just 600—“the town cop

knows everyone’s home phone number by

heart,” reports Daher—and a wave that

local surfers keep a fiercely guarded

secret. Nevertheless, resident teacher

Andrew (pictured) was on hand to add a

human element to this dramatic shot.

domdaher.com


T H E D E P A R T U R E

DOM DAHER

17


The true surfing

community has never

been as tanned and

toned as the marketing lets on.

While brands push the image

of six-packs and supermodels,

anyone who has surfed

California’s breaks will know

that the wisest surfer in the

water is often some crazy old

dude on a longboard. Now,

a new online movement is

giving a platform to a surfing

On board: Social

influencer Elizabeth

Sneed is among

those challenging

outdated surfing

stereotypes.

Body-Positive Surfers

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

The plus-sized women board riders fighting

for recognition in the surf community.

demographic that has too

long been overlooked: plussized

women. A growing

collective of professional

board riders, including

Brazilian Silvana Lima and

American Bo Stanley, as well

as amateurs such as fitness

coach Kanoa Greene and

online influencer Elizabeth

Sneed, are pushing a new

narrative in surfing that has

space for women of every size.

Texas-born Sneed, who

owns the Instagram account

@curvysurfergirl, only began

surfing three and a half years

ago after moving to Honolulu

for work. She quickly fell in

love with the sport and then

looked for role models to

follow. “But there are no

images of curvy female surfers

online,” Sneed explains.

“So I got in touch with surf

photographer Tommy Pierucki

and asked if he wanted to

create some shots.”

Six months later, Pierucki’s

images of Sneed have been

viewed by more than 18,000

followers on her Instagram

and have sparked a global

trend for surfers to post their

own photos with the hashtag

#curvysurfergirl. “We have

to believe that we’re worthy

and belong in the surfing

community,” says Sneed.

“You don’t have to stress out

about your body or your

insecurities. Seeing women

of different body types in the

water is so encouraging.”

The body-positive surf

movement is about more than

self-confidence and good

vibes, though. Sneed says

that in her early days of

surfing she struggled to even

find performance gear that fit

her. She now hopes the world’s

biggest surf brands will finally

pay attention. “This movement

is a direct communication to

them that there are women

in this demographic who have

a demand for surfwear and

activewear [made for] the

water,” she says. “Every single

person who follows my

Instagram is testament that

something needs to be done.

“I hope there are more

photographers who will be

inspired to turn their camera

towards curvy women and

create more images of people

like me, so that in the near

future we have a lot of curvy

surfers out there shredding.

We need to show all women,

of every shape, that there’s a

future for them in surfing.”

TOMMY PIERUCKI LOU BOYD

18 THE RED BULLETIN


T H E D E P A R T U R E

Playlist

SING THE

CHANGES

Rapper, actor and activist

Common shares four songs

that embody the sound of

revolution.

Social activism and

promoting positivity have

long been trademarks of

Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., best known

as rapper and actor Common.

The Chicagoan, a regular on the

frontlines of protest in 2020, is the

author of two best-selling books,

has appeared in films including

2014’s Selma—for which he

co-wrote the Academy Awardwinning

song “Glory” and starred

as civil rights leader James Bevel—

and has recorded 13 albums. With

his latest, A Beautiful Revolution Pt.1

(out now), the 49-year-old Oscar,

Emmy and Grammy winner wants

to heal and inspire those affected

by racial and social injustice. Here

he lists four classic tracks with the

power to change the world.

thinkcommon.com

MARK LEIBOWITZ FLORIAN OBKIRCHER

JOHN LENNON

“IMAGINE” (1971)

“This song has always resonated

with me because I’m a dreamer

and I really believe in a better

world, full of love, compassion

and happiness. Imagination is a

powerful tool. So many things

we create start off as an

imagined thought or hopeful

feeling. John’s inspiring words

make me feel like change can

happen. That, to me, is one of

the seeds of revolution.”

QUEEN LATIFAH

“UNITY” (1993)

The end result of revolution

should be unity. Throughout

history there’s been an

imbalance of male energy and

dominance that has negatively

affected the world. Queen

Latifah is empowering women,

telling them they’re queens and

they should demand respect.

The revolution is nothing without

women in power, in leadership

roles, with respect and honor.”

YASIIN BEY (FKA MOS DEF)

“UMI SAYS” (1999)

“Mos played this to me before

it came out, and I remember

telling him, ‘This is one of the

greatest records I’ve ever

heard.’ It felt so soulful and

uplifting. When I think of this

song—especially the lyric ‘My

Umi [‘mother’ in Arabic] said

shine your light on the world’—

I see it as an act of revolution.

If you’re shining your light on

the world, that’s part of it.”

GIL SCOTT-HERON

“THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT

BE TELEVISED” (1971)

“I was really young when I first

heard this song. It was unique to

me, because I’d never heard

spoken word on a song before.

As I got older, I really took heed

of what he was saying. Gil Scott-

Heron represents the true core,

heart and purity of what

revolution is: being unafraid,

courageous, clever and having

power in what you say.”

THE RED BULLETIN 19


TEAM WORK

7-Eleven employees give back to

a local Feeding America food

bank in 2019.

HUNGER GAINS

How 7-Eleven and its customers are set to fight hunger through

an innovative campaign.

The past year has doled out a lot of harsh

and unexpected adversity and demanded

adaptions that no one could have imagined

before the world turned upside down. Take the

problem of hunger. Already a sweeping systemic

issue in the U.S., things got tougher when the

pandemic brought a steep rise in unemployment

and triggered an increase in demand for food

assistance. Feeding America® has projected that

more than 50 million people, including 17 million

children, could be food insecure due to the ongoing

economic fallout from COVID-19.

There are no easy solutions to a problem of that

enormity, but 7-Eleven is stepping up with a new

campaign, a collaboration between the conveniencestore

giant and Feeding America, the largest domestic

hunger-relief organization in the country, that at once

draws attention to the issue and promises to make

a positive impact. Through an inventive program

that will run from February 24 through April 27,

7-Eleven—the company that invented to-go coffee

and self-service soda fountains—expects to help

provide an estimated 20 million meals* to the

Feeding America network of food banks.

*$1 equals at least 10 meals secured by Feeding America on behalf of member food banks.


PROMOTION

“BRANDS CAN SIMULTANEOUSLY BE A

FORCE FOR GROWTH AND FOR GOOD.”

“I’m a big believer that brands can

simultaneously be a force for growth and for

good,” says Marissa Jarratt, 7-Eleven’s Chief

Marketing Officer. Noting that 7-Eleven has

roughly 10,000 stores in the U.S., while Feeding

America is a nationwide network of 200 food

banks, Jarratt sees an obvious synergy between

the two community-based organizations.

“7-Eleven franchisees are small business owners

who really care about their communities and have

a daily relationship with customers that’s deeper

than just transactions, so this is a great chance to

make a difference.”

Here’s how the program will work. With

every purchase at participating stores and via

the company’s 7NOW delivery app, 7-Eleven

customers will be able to round-up to contribute to

the program—and thanks to zip code analysis, all

the proceeds will be digitally routed to the nearest

Feeding America member food bank. 7-Eleven will

separately be making its own donations—last year

the company helped to provide 1 million meals and

donated more than $1 million in organic juices to

21 food banks in 13 states.

In order to drive engagement, 7-Eleven will be

running a number of customer activations during

the two-month program. Some will be exclusive

to members of the company’s 7Rewards loyalty

program, but others are open to all. Every Friday,

for instance, the company will help provide one

meal to Feeding America with the purchase of

any large fountain, coffee or Slurpee drink. And to

celebrate Pi Day—March 14 if you need help with

the math—every participating store will be selling

large pizzas for (wait for it) $3.14 and providing a

meal with the purchase of each pie, whether it’s

delivered or purchased in-store.

Jarratt is excited how a few of 7-Eleven’s key

partners have stepped up with creative prizes—

what she calls “prizes that money can’t buy”—like

a one-on-one virtual date with NFL Hall of Famer

Emmitt Smith. Or an all-expenses-paid trip to

Iceland (“when travel is back, of course,” says

Jarratt) to see the Northern Lights. Anyone who

rounds-up their change and scans their 7-Eleven

app upon checkout in-store, or orders a delivery

order through 7NOW and opts-in to round-up is

eligible for these and other sweet prizes.

In the end, though, this partnership isn’t about

a fantasy vacation or even a deliciously affordable

pizza—it’s about community engagement to help

fight hunger. “Food insecurity has long been a

problem in America but it’s spiking right now,”

says Jarratt. “At 7-Eleven we talk often about

wanting to activate awesome. Getting 7-Eleven

franchisees and our customer and the company

to work together to help provide millions of

meals—that’s awesome.” —Peter Flax

FEEDING AMERICA, 7-ELEVEN

HELP IS IN STORE

The program will urge

customers to give—and

ensure donations help

provide meals to people in

the same community.


POWER

BROKER

Justin Williams wants to do more than win

big races. He wants to change his sport.

Words PETER FLAX

Photography JOE PUGLIESE

“I like to win, but

I’m more interested

in pursuing a

greater good,” says

Williams, who was

photographed in

Malibu, California,

on January 26.

23


I

It’s true that you can’t really win

important bike races without raw watts,

without unbridled speed. But it’s also

true that you can’t come close to your

full potential as a racer without

something intangible—let’s call it

racecraft. This amorphous term helps

describe one’s ability to master tactics, to

assess the competition and the course

and the moment, to intuit several chess

moves in the future. A bike racer who has

an aptitude for racecraft has a huge

advantage because he fully understands

where to position himself for success.

Justin Williams understands

racecraft. He triumphantly posts up at

a lot of bike races after a turbocharged

sprint in the home stretch, but those

wins are almost always set up through

tactical acumen—knowing how and

when to conserve energy, how to move

fluidly toward the front, how to marshal

teammates or foresee obstacles. In a

similar manner, Williams, 31, has

developed an acumen to chart his own

course to break free from and possibly

transform the often-inflexible sport in

which he competes. “I want to change

the sport of bike racing in America,” he

says without swagger. “It has to be

different, so it’s more vital and appeals

to a broader group of people. It’s a lot of

responsibility to take on that change,

but I stopped letting people control

what my destiny is going to be a long

time ago.”

On his unconventional and ambitious

path, Williams has founded his own

team and a development squad, both

of which seek to win races but also

provide better opportunities for young

Black and Hispanic athletes. He

simultaneously lives the lives of a

professional athlete, a businessman and

a content creator. And Williams is fully

invested to both defend and grow the

distinctive American discipline of

criterium racing. “I obviously like to win

but I’m more interested in pursuing a

greater good,” he says. “I made some

sacrifices—I let go of some other dreams

to get here, but I’ve known for a long

time that I want to be more than just

a great athlete.”

24


Including track and

junior titles,

Williams has won

11 U.S. national

championships and

is the reigning

criterium champ.


On January 20, Williams celebrates his new helmet with (from left) Payson McElveen, Colin

Strickland, Reggie Miller and Kate Courtney.

From the beginning, Justin Williams

was the farthest thing from a typical

American bike racer. He was born in

South Los Angeles and was raised on

39th Street at a time when everyone still

called the neighborhood South Central.

His family was from Belize, which

actually has a pretty crazy bike racing

culture. His father, Calman, had some

success as a racer. But it’s safe to say that

very few kids in South L.A. imagined

themselves racing bikes—it was an

activity that existed in a distant universe.

But sports were important from the

start. “I was lucky enough to grow up

with a massive family,” Williams says,

noting how he was always playing in the

alley behind their apartment building

with his brothers and “like 15 or 20 older

cousins.” Naturally, when many of them

came together to form a Little League

team, they called themselves the Alley

Cats. Williams saw the value in that

community early on.

Williams was into football initially,

but he had issues with injuries and his

mom’s disapproval. That’s how he got

into cycling when he was 13. In an

interview several years ago, he told me

about how his father didn’t exactly make

it easy for him at the start. His dad

insisted that he ride on an indoor trainer

nearly every day for two months and

then took him on a pretty brutal maiden

voyage—a 70-mile loop up to Malibu.

After the young teenager got disabling

cramps, Williams’ dad left him on the

side of the road until an aunt drove up

to get him. Williams expressed more

bemusement than trauma when he

recalled this story. “I understand what my

dad was trying to convey,” he told me in

that 2017 conversation. “Racing bikes is

hard and you need to be serious about it.”

Over time, Williams got pretty damn

serious about it. He won a bunch of

junior national titles on the track and

had success on the road, too. He was on

a professional squad as a teenager and

after a few years was invited to join the

prestigious Trek-Livestrong U23 team in

Europe. For so many promising young

elite racers, competing in big European

events on a legit team is the equivalent to

making the major leagues. But despite

some promising results in races, Williams

“IT’S NOT ENOUGH FOR ME TO JUST

DO SOMETHING ON MY OWN.”

AARON BLATT

26 THE RED BULLETIN


struggled. It can be tough for any young

athlete to adjust to a new culture, but it

was different for a young Black man

from South L.A. with immigrant parents.

“Going over to Europe made me feel

really isolated,” he says now. “It was a

mix of people making me feel like I

didn’t belong and my own odd kind of

experiences with being different.”

There were too many challenges and

not enough support, disappointments

that ultimately would inform and

motivate future career moves in the sport.

“When I was over there I just kept

thinking if there was a way that I could

continue to do the thing that I love doing,”

he says. “I was thinking about Southern

California and criterium racing.”

In the following decade, after a period

of ups and downs and team dramas that

have been described elsewhere as his

“wilderness years,” Williams eventually

carved out his place as one of the top

criterium racers in the U.S. In 2016 and

2017, despite some tension with his

team, he won a combined 30 races. And

in 2018, racing as a sort of privateer with

With three other Red

Bull cyclists (and an

NBA Hall of Famer),

Williams hits the road.

THE RED BULLETIN 27


a sponsorship from Specialized, he

finished in the top 3 in a remarkable 30

out of 35 races, found immediate success

in Red Hook criteriums and won national

championships both on the road and in

the criterium.

For those who don’t know the

criterium discipline well, these races

involve multiple laps on a closed course.

They typically last an hour or two—

significantly shorter than a road race at

the same level—and tend to be flat,

relentlessly fast and full of sharp turns.

“It’s a fast-moving, high-stakes chess

match where if you make a mistake,

you’re sliding across the ground in a

millimeter-thick piece of fiber that does

very little to protect you,” says Williams.

“From the start I loved how the physical

element reminded me of football. You

know, when you’re playing wide receiver

and you have a corner on you trying to

jam you on the line; in a crit you often

have to put a shoulder into somebody to

slightly shift them. It’s a contact sport.”

Colin Strickland has felt that

shoulder. Now a winning gravel racer,

Strickland used to compete against

Williams in criteriums all over the

country. “Justin’s assertive when he

races—he knows what’s his and takes it,

but he’s never a dick,” says Strickland.

There’s a culture of self-importance in

U.S. racing culture but he’s not like that.”

When asked to assess the strengths of

the newest rider to strap on a Red Bull

helmet, Strickland quickly outlines

Williams’ physical gifts and his racecraft.

“Physiologically, he’s got a knockout

punch,” Strickland says. “He comes out

of the last corner and he can throw on

afterburners and punch it in a worldclass

way. On the intangible side, he’s

a master of navigating, brilliant at

positioning his bike and body. So with

200 meters he’s in the winning position.

He’s just a master of the craft of racing.”

And yet, despite all his racing

success, even with dozens of victories

including two national titles, Williams

ended his 2018 season wanting

something bigger. “Winning all those

races was fun, but I wanted to start a

new chapter and share that experience,”

he says. “It’s not enough for me to just

do something on my own. I need to

create something, to grant opportunities

to people who I love that I know deserve

it, while simultaneously putting

criterium racing on the map.” This is

how L39ion was born.

There is a conventional, well-trod

path for professional bike racers

looking for results, money, fame

and other markers of success: Join the

biggest, best-funded, most prestigious

team you can and leverage its resources

to pursue common interests. It’s a

system that has operated for decades,

but generally speaking it hasn’t exactly

served the interests of athletes like

Justin Williams.

That’s why Williams and his younger

brother Cory—himself a super-talented

crit racer—decided to start their own

team. One that was focused on

criteriums and had roots in their

community and gave opportunities to

people of color and otherwise exploded

the stereotypes of how a racing team

operates. Cory suggested the name

Legion, and it stuck. “It was this perfect

balance of something serious but

unintimidating that I immediately

“JUSTIN IS GIVING A WHOLE

DEMOGRAPHIC AN ASPIRATION

TO GET INTO BIKE RACING.”

wanted to be a part of,” Williams says.

“When we show up to races, it says that

we’re not messing around, but it’s subtle

enough where we can shape our own

identity in using the word.”

Williams has always had an interest

in typography and design and he went

to work to shape the team’s logo and

identity to shape a stronger narrative.

“Legion” became “L39ion” to reflect his

family’s roots on 39th Street in South

L.A. And the image of a lion was

integrated into the branding of the

squad—symbolizing both his childhood

Alley Cats team and an icon of

Rastafarian culture in Belize. The whole

backstory and vibe was light-years away

from the traditional aesthetic of European

teams, where everyone wears a matching

tracksuit to dinner.

Anchored by the Williams brothers,

the L39ion squad has a diversity that

reflects the vitality of a big U.S. city like

Los Angeles, a vitality that has been

nearly absent in American bike racing

culture. They also started a development

squad called CNCPT—which assembles

young Black and Hispanic athletes as

well as some cool creatives into a racing

team. Among many other things,

Williams is making personnel decisions

on both teams, building sponsorship

relationships, managing schedules,

executing content plans—all while trying

to win races at the highest level.

“Justin is literally giving a whole

demographic an aspiration to get into

bike racing,” says Strickland, who

himself turned down a WorldTour

opportunity to chart his own path in the

U.S. domestic scene. “If younger athletes

don’t see someone who looks like them,

they likely don’t consider a sport. Justin

is such a selfless, positive person—and

he’s a winning machine—and he likes to

spread the gospel of cycling. Being a

Black athlete in our sport is a rarity,

and he could help change that.”

Of course, in this game, having good

intentions and a cool story will only take

you so far—the concept only takes flight

28 THE RED BULLETIN


Williams founded

the L39ion team,

lined up sponsors

and created the

team’s branding.


Since the small

Black community

in cycling helped

him in a big way,

Williams is

determined to pay

it forward.

if the team wins bike races. That box,

fortunately, has been checked. In June

2019, wearing his L39ion kit, Williams

rocketed out of the final corner at the

USA Road National Criterium in

Hagerstown, Maryland, to win with a

big margin. He thus again earned the

Stars & Stripes jersey given to national

champions, a title he still holds since the

race was not contested in 2020.

The last official result that Williams

had before the virus changed everything

was last March at the Tour de Murrieta,

a big weekend race series in California.

There, the team founder played the role

of team player. When the dust settled, the

final omnium standings had Williams

finishing third, with his brother Cory on

the top step and another young

teammate, Tyler Wiliams (no relation), in

second—a L39ion sweep. Justin Williams

was no longer playing by someone else’s

rules, and he was winning.

The pandemic has shut down road

racing in the U.S. for about a year now,

but Williams is hopeful that he and the

team will take up where they left off

when it does. He hopes to defend his

national crit title this summer. He’s

definitely thinking about the 2024

Olympics in Paris, which might have

a finale that suits pure sprinters.

In any case, the downtime has given

him the bandwidth to get control of his

team management role—and to ponder

the future. “Last year I was teetering on

this fine line, like can I be an athlete who

wins a national championship while also

managing the logistics, the management

and the vision of a pro team,” he says.

“And now it’s transitioning to this place

where all I have to do is manage the

vision. I have the people in place to help

me, and I just have to manage the vision

and make sure that we stay true to what

we’re trying to accomplish.”

It’s happening. On a cool, sunny day

in January, Williams went for a ride in

the hills above Malibu—not so far from

where his first training ride went

sideways two decades earlier—with

a small squad of Red Bull cyclists. His

HE’S EYEING THE 2024

PARIS GAMES, WHICH MIGHT

BE SUITED TO SPRINTERS.

buddy Colin Strickland was there, as

were mountain bike powerhouse Kate

Courtney and gravel and XC marathon

racer Payson McElveen. NBA Hall of

Famer turned cycling fanatic Reggie

Miller was there, too. There, up in

a spot known as Saddle Peak, with a

backdrop of big sky and big ocean,

those riders surprised Williams with his

Red Bull helmet and welcomed him to

the family. All of these athletes had

spoken up and written testimonials

about Williams to help make this

moment happen. “Justin is an extremely

talented athlete with great results, but

I’m equally if not more impressed by the

many ways he is working to redefine

what it means to be a professional

athlete,” Courtney says.

“He’s such a nice human,” Strickland

adds. “Red Bull is like an amplifier—you

plug in and whatever you’re doing gets

30 THE RED BULLETIN


ANATOMY OF A CRIT

Defending national champion Justin Williams deconstructs a high-level

criterium bike race in his own words.

In the beginning, it’s chaotic and people have so much

energy. I’m just dodging grenades as people take bad

corners. I’m usually just looking for a space to save

energy, hold momentum and prepare myself for what is

coming later. As a sprinter, I need to be as explosive as

possible at the end of the race. But in the beginning—

man, people are crazy. It’s four guys fighting for an apex

that’s wide enough for two riders. Or riding through it as

fast as they can, wasting energy and then slamming on

the brake, creating this accordion effect.

Fortunately, in the middle of the race it settles down and

you start to see more dominant riders finding their way

to the positions that they want to ride, where they can

kind of manage what they’re doing. If it’s to go up to the

front, they take the front. If it’s to wait for the sprint,

they’re toward the middle. And all the people who early

on rode above the level that they’re supposed to are now

just looking for anywhere to hide and they’re not

thinking anymore. You can see on people’s faces—when

your heart rate gets above 175, it’s hard to think about

your next move.

Then there’s this moment of calm right before everyone

tees up for the finish. If that’s a sprint, that moment of

calm ends pretty quickly and then it goes back to a

chaotic environment like it was in the beginning. But

now you’re doing it with the guys who can actually win

the race. So it becomes a little more intense because

these guys are a bit more skilled.

Usually with about three laps to go, the field starts to

accelerate and the real contenders lock into the

positions that they need to be in. If my team is strong,

I have five guys in front of me. And then with one lap to

go, there’s two scenarios. If my team’s done it right, it’s

strung out and we’re going 35 miles an hour, and my

guys are taking their final pull in their effort to get us the

win. If they do their job perfectly, we’re in a straight line

going 35 and it’s my job to go from 35 to 40 and then to

42 or 45.

In other races, if my team falls short—maybe they did

too much work early, maybe the course is difficult—then

it’s this pinball game to try to find position and be in the

right place. But that can be volatile because we’re

fighting for position on every turn. And when I don’t have

a team around me, that becomes nuts, man. But that’s

one of my specialties, that’s the reason I’m still able to

capture a lot of wins when I race on my own. I can put

out the watts to compete with the best in the world, but

really, navigating through chaos is my real talent.

DANNY MUNSON

Williams, wearing the jersey of the reigning national champion, wins the first criterium at Oklahoma’s Tulsa Tough in June 2019.

THE RED BULLETIN 31


louder. Justin is a super-exciting athlete,

but results are limited. To do something

bigger we need people who will

advocate for change.”

To that end, Williams and Strickland

have spent training rides and other

conversations brainstorming and plotting

how to reimagine and grow the sport of

criterium racing in America. Williams

imagines a format that resembles other

professional leagues, with wellorganized

and well-funded franchises in

big cities competing against each other

in spectator-friendly contests.

Strickland imagines race courses

being built in these cities that can host

these races and weekly community crits.

Both of them imagine a future where

young people of color have a venue to

get involved in the sport. “The culture of

our sport needs a serious shake-up,” says

Strickland. “Justin has the business savvy

to make something happen. He’s not just

looking to make money; he legitimately

wants to change and grow the sport.”

This is the racecraft—having the

foresight when you’re going hard as hell

to think through your next moves.

Williams isn’t satisfied being the Black

kid from South L.A. who struggled in

Europe but came back to be America’s

crit king. He wants to be more than the

guy who bounced around teams and

finally started his own pro squad. He

wants more young people to get the

opportunities that he had to battle for, to

see the sport he loves grow to reach its

full potential.

When asked to explain where this

hunger comes from, Williams takes it

back to 39th Street. “I will always

remember my parents really going out of

their way to help people when I was

growing up,” he says. “Like there were

people who would come live in our

house for a month while they got on

their feet if they were moving to America

from Belize. So I think seeing my parents

sacrifice so much, to go out of their way

to help people even when they would get

nothing in return really shaped me. And

then seeing it happen or feeling it

happen to me when I got into cycling,

the way the small Black community in

cycling really helped me, reinforced that.

So naturally, I knew what needed to be

done, to pay it forward. It’s never seemed

clearer what I’m trying to accomplish—

to attract younger people from different

backgrounds to the sport. This is bigger

than me or the team. This is big.”

WILLIAMS WANTS MORE

YOUNG PEOPLE TO GET THE

OPPORTUNITIES HE HAD TO

BATTLE FOR.

32


If all goes well,

Williams hopes to

defend his

criterium national

championship this

summer.


Taking

the Leap

How the women of Formation transformed

freeride mountain biking forever. Words JEN SEE

PARIS GORE


Hannah Bergemann

drops into the top of

her line at the

inaugural Formation

in October 2019.

35


T

he sun had just begun to rise

near Virgin, Utah, when

Hannah Bergemann began

to climb. Shouldering her

35-pound downhill bike,

Bergemann walked steadily

up a narrow desert ridgeline.

When she reached the top,

she looked down the line that

she and her dig crew had

patiently carved out of the

red desert sand, peeling back

layers of prehistoric stone. If

Bergemann felt any nerves,

she didn’t show them.

Then she began to ride.

With precision, Bergemann

followed the narrow track

unwinding along the canyon

wall as the landscape blurred

beneath her wheels. She hit

her first jump, flying over the

gap. The ground dropped into

wide-open air beneath her.

Then came a series of ledges,

a staircase made for giants

formed out of rock layers,

none of them laid straight.

A steep chute sent her

hurtling down until, at last,

Bergemann arrived at a final

jump. She soared over the gap

cleanly, her bike’s suspension

compressing under the force

of the landing.

Bergemann had come

to Virgin for Formation, a

freeride camp for women.

The groundbreaking October

2019 event brought together

six of the world’s best freeride

mountain bikers and gave

them the opportunity to ride

in the storied Utah terrain

made famous by Red Bull

Rampage. A few of the riders,

like Bergemann, had ridden

there previously. But for

the others it was all new.

Certainly, it was all the riders’

first opportunity to work

collaboratively to push the

boundaries of their sport.

After five days in the

desert, the women of

Formation had transformed

the landscape of women’s

mountain biking. No longer

could anyone say that women

lacked the skills to ride the

intense and unforgiving

terrain of the Utah desert.

They had united to create the

foundations for women’s

freeride to fly. Together, they

had created a new beginning.

“It gave me confidence to

start from a blank slate on the

mountain and make it into

something rideable that

pushed my limits,” says

Bergemann. “There hasn’t

been a lot of space for women

to pursue freeride—I feel like

this is the start.”

While getting down

the canyons near

Virgin requires skill

and verve, the trip up

demands simpler grit.

KATIE LOZANCICH, PARIS GORE

36 THE RED BULLETIN


It was the riders’ first chance

to collaborate to push the

boundaries of their sport.

Veronique (“Vero”)

Sandler throws down

a suicide no-hander

near the bottom of

her line at Formation.


Formation’s roots go

back to 2017, when

Rebecca Rusch traveled

to Rampage as a guest. A

decorated endurance

mountain biker, Rusch had

never seen the iconic event in

person. She stood in awe of

the riding skills on display but

couldn’t help wondering why

no women were competing.

She began to ask questions. “I

was the pot stirrer,” she says.

Rusch learned that

Rampage had never

specifically excluded women.

But none had ever qualified.

“I felt like I had to be the one

to push. I was not a freeride

athlete, so it wasn’t like I was

out for myself,” she says. “I

had no skin in the game; it

was just the right thing to do.”

With that push, the

conversation about where

women fit into the Rampage

picture began in earnest.

There were some hard

conversations,” Rusch recalls.

The next year, a crew of Red

Bull athletes, female gravity

riders and Rampage veterans

gathered around a table to

discuss the idea of a women’s

event in Virgin. Should

women be added to Rampage?

Should there be a separate

event? No one knew exactly

what equality and inclusion

for women looked like in the

context of Rampage.

“I think people just could

not picture what it would look

like for a woman to ride it,”

recalls Katie Holden, a nowretired

downhill pro who was

at the table that night. “It’s

just this dude environment.

It’s hardcore, and it’s gnarly.”

Holden had her own

history with Rampage. Like

many female riders, Holden

had started her career as a

racer, but it had never felt like

the right fit. When the offer to

partner with women’s brand

Liv came along in 2013, she

jumped at the chance to do

something new. She became

a brand ambassador and built

a portfolio of travel, filming,

clinic events and freeriding.

Holden’s new role also opened

the way to chase her dream of

qualifying for Rampage.

There wasn’t a path to

Rampage for women, because

it had never been done

before,” she says. “I just tried

to spend a lot of time out there

and be a sponge and learn as

much as I possibly could.”

After spending several

years digging at Rampage and

riding the terrain in Virgin,

Holden put all her chips on

the table. Together with a

filmer and photographer,

Holden went to the desert to

make a movie she hoped

would score her an invite to

Rampage. “I put everything

into it,” she says. Her attempt

ended quickly, though, when

she crashed and tore her calf

muscle. “It was really

emotional,” she says. “I

realized that dream was not

going to come true.” Two

years of injuries followed,

while the level of riding at

Rampage rose exponentially.

Even as Rusch began

asking questions, Holden still

felt the sting of regret. “I had

wanted to be the girl who

made Rampage,” she says. At

the same time, she had begun

to come to terms with what

had gone wrong for her. In

retrospect, she could see that

though she came close to

reaching the heights required

to compete at Rampage, she

didn’t have the perfect skill set

to do it. And she saw that her

approach had isolated her in

crucial ways.

Vero Sandler digs her

line in the desert sun.

PARIS GORE, MICHELLE PARKER

38 THE RED BULLETIN


The first pioneers at

Formation (clockwise

from top left): Vero

Sandler, Tahnée

Seagrave, Vaea

Verbeeck, Micayla

Gatto, Vinny

Armstrong and

Hannah Bergemann.

So when the chance came

to design a women’s event in

Virgin, Holden was all in.

Here was a way to put her

experience to work and build

a space for women to succeed.

“I don’t like to say that I failed,

because I don’t really believe

in failure, but my experience

was a stepping stone for

Formation,” she says. On a

drive to her mom’s house on

Whidbey Island from her

home in Bellingham,

Washington, Holden pulled

over to sketch the outlines of

a women’s freeride camp. By

the time she arrived, she

knew: Formation was on.

When New Zealander

Vinny Armstrong

stepped off the plane

in Las Vegas, she’d never seen

the desert. “It feels like a

different planet,” she says.

Known for her stylish airs, she

stood at a crossroads in her

career at the time. “I was

really tossing up whether

I was going to keep trying to

be a World Cup racer or do

a freeride career,” she says.

The six riders invited to

Formation came from diverse

corners of the mountain

biking world, but most shared

a background in World Cup

downhill racing. As Holden

considered riders, she felt the

experience of learning World

Cup tracks and dealing with

the pressures of racing would

help them navigate the steep

challenges posed by riding in

Virgin. Holden also felt the

need to prove that women

could handle riding the area’s

unforgiving terrain. She

wanted to set them up for

success. “A lot of people didn’t

believe in Formation before

Formation came to be,” she

says. “So I felt like we had to

make it perfect in order for

people to jump on the train.”

The sandstone walls of the

canyons around Virgin are

marked with tracks and jump

lines that riders have built

over time. During its 12-year

history, Rampage has used

several sites in the area, and

the remnants of many features

remain. “It was exciting just to

see all that in front of my

eyes,” says Veronique Sandler,

who is based in the U.K. and

focuses on filming. She

recognized a number of the

jumps from seeing them in

Instagram clips from Utahbased

riders such as Jaxson

Riddle and Ethan Nell.

On the first day, the women

headed to one of the original

Rampage sites to acclimate to

the terrain. “Just getting used

to the exposure—there are

times when your brain just

goes ‘no, that’s just not even

something I’m going to try,’ ”

says Canada’s Vaea Verbeeck,

who won the overall at the

Crankworx series in 2019.

Riding in the desert, some of

them for the first time, the

group tested the traction and

braking points as they began

to uncover the desert’s secrets.

“It takes a bit to get used to it,

because you still get heaps of

grip, even while sliding and

drifting everywhere,” says

Armstrong. “It’s just so sick.”

The first day also let the

women reconnect. All six

riders knew one another from

past events, but typically they

spent their time competing

against each other. From the

start, Holden envisioned

All six riders knew each other

but they typically just

competed against each other.

THE RED BULLETIN 39


With Sandler looking

on, Tahnée Seagrave

drops into an exposed

ridge drop.

Formation as a collaborative

effort to raise the level of the

sport. The women embraced

the concept. “We were legit

standing next to each other,

discussing everything

together, brainstorming

together, trying to make it

work together—for each

other,” says Verbeeck.

The next day, the women

and their crews headed to the

2015 Rampage site and began

digging the lines they planned

to ride. An often underappreciated

element of

Rampage is the skill required

to dig tracks and features into

the walls of the canyons. “One

of the hardest parts is seeing

raw terrain and being able to

visualize how to turn it into

something you want to ride,”

says Bergemann.

Both Bergemann and

Sandler spend hours digging

at home, but working in the

desert was different. “I do

a lot of digging but it’s so

different out there,” says

Sandler. “Casey Brown was

injured unfortunately, but

she’s done digging at

Rampage before, and she had

tons of tips for us.”

After three dig days, the

women had created three very

different lines. Bergemann

and Canadian freerider

Micayla Gatto went big with

exposed, high-consequence

features. Bergemann and her

dig team built a long, steep

track with multiple drops and

gap jumps. With help from

PARIS GORE

40 THE RED BULLETIN


“A lot of people didn’t believe

in Formation until Formation

came to be.” —Katie Holden

Rusch, big-mountain skier

Michelle Parker and motocross

racer Tarah Gieger, Gatto

sculpted a fast chute down the

narrow spine of a ridgeline.

Her line included two blind

step downs.

Across the canyon face,

Sandler, Verbeeck, Armstrong

and British World Cup racer

Tahnée Seagrave collaborated

on a flowing track that they

dubbed the “party line.”

These riders sought space to

show their style and throw a

few tricks into the mix. “At

first, it was like, ‘this looks

crazy!’ ” says Verbeeck. “But by

the time we rode it, we didn’t

know how easy it would feel.”

Their line included a series of

drops, an arcing berm and a

jump line at the end.

“Every line showed each

rider’s personality, and that’s

what I really love about

freeride,” says Brown, who

competed in Proving Grounds,

a Rampage qualifier, in 2019,

and attended Formation in a

supporting role, due to a

broken collarbone. “It’s an art

form rather than just a race.”

As the first of two

riding days began,

Bergemann set an

early standard. Her line was

done; she was ready. “I was

super stoked and eager to

get on my bike after several

days of digging and thinking

about riding,” she says. As the

other women prepped in the

parking lot, Bergemann

soared over the gap of her

final jump. Seeing Bergemann

ride, Parker, who was present

to mentor the riders, recalls

thinking, “Oh, it’s so on now.”

For Holden, the moment

felt like validation. “It gives

me chills just thinking about

it,” she says. “It was the first

riding day and there was so

much tension. All of a sudden,

we all saw Hannah grease the

gnarliest line. It really set the

tone for the whole thing.”

But learning to ride the

steep terrain had its

challenges. Like her peers at

Formation, Gatto had raced

World Cup downhill. In 2014

a severe concussion put her

racing career on hold, and she

redirected her energy to

filming, bikepacking and

hitting big jumps in her spare

time. “I was just feeling like

I want to ride big chutes and

big ridgelines,” she says. “It

was always this pipe dream to

go and see Rampage and ride

out there.” Formation offered

a chance to chase that dream.

Gatto built a vertigoinspiring

line with steep dropoffs

on either side. It included

a heavy double drop. To make

the first drop meant sending

her bike flying off the edge

of the cliff line. As she

committed to the drop, Gatto

could not see the landing,

which sat far below her with

its edges falling away into a

steep canyon. If she missed

her narrow landing patch,

Gatto would plummet into

the canyon below. “It’s just so

scary, that fear of crashing,

because if you crash, you’re

done,” she says. Gatto ended

up skipping the first big drop.

Across the canyon face,

Armstrong wrestled with a

similar dilemma. As she rolled

up to one of the drops on the

party line, all she could see

was sky. “I couldn’t see the

landing until my front wheel

was nearly in the air,” she

says. After nearly missing the

THE RED BULLETIN 41


The athletes, dig crews, organizers and mentors who together made Formation a reality celebrate the breakthrough event.

landing spot on her first run,

Armstrong began setting out

small rocks to guide her like

the lights of a runaway.

Each evening at Formation,

the riders and support crew

gathered for a series of roundtable

discussions. One night

they talked about fear. “I

learned a lot about how the

other girls deal with fear and

the processes they go

through,” says Sandler. The

sessions proved intense. As

she has thought about future

editions of the event, Holden

has wondered how she might

preserve the knowledge

sharing, while giving the

riders more downtime.

The insights into managing

fear have had lasting value.

“All these emotions we feel

pushing boundaries, we’re all

doing similar things,” says

Gatto, who found inspiration

from Parker. When she

prepares to ski a big line in

Alaska, Parker channels the

confident voice in her head.

“I named my confident person

Chad,” says Gatto. “Every time

I went to try something, I

could hear the girls yelling,

‘Go Chad!’ ” Since Formation,

Gatto has continued to hone

the mental side of her game.

Next time, she wants to make

sure she’s ready to hit every

big drop.

For women’s freeride,

Formation was just a

beginning. “I’m super

excited to go back, because we

know we can definitely trust

the terrain more and go a bit

harder,” says Verbeeck. Both

Parker and Rusch are eager to

repeat their roles as diggers

and mentors, too, while

Holden is already jotting ideas

in her notebooks as she drives

around Bellingham.

“I was frickin’ blown away

by the talent and the skill of

In five days, the women had

transformed the landscape of

women’s mountain biking.

these women,” says Rusch.

“Seeing it up close was just

really inspiring for me. I want

to go back so much.”

The riders all say they’re

ready for more chances to lift

their freeride progression.

Brown, for example, values

the pressure that competitive

events put on her to hit new

features, but she’d love to see

more events that share

Formation’s noncompetitive

nature. “I think a lot of women

get out of the sport because

they feel that the only places

to participate at a higher level

are contests and not everyone

is made for that,” says Brown.

She is hoping to see more

space for women in freeride

events such as the Fest Series.

Already Formation has

changed career trajectories for

some of the women. “Even in

the past year, the industry has

invested in women in a way

that they haven’t before,” says

Holden. Shortly after

Formation, Bergemann and

Sandler received invitations to

travel to India with Teton

Gravity Research and ride in

their high-profile film project,

Accomplice. Bergemann now

has sponsorship support from

Red Bull and Transition Bikes

to chase her freeride dream.

Armstrong says new doors

have swung open for her, too,

and she’s shifted her focus

away from racing to freeride.

After the COVID gap year,

planning is underway for

Formation 2021 to happen

this fall. Though she may

tinker with the details,

Holden expects the event to

look similar to the 2019

edition with a combination

of digging, riding and roundtable

discussions. She remains

committed to keeping

Formation a noncompetitive

event. Holden has found a

deep satisfaction in bringing

her own experience with

Rampage full circle and

showing the world just what

women riders can do.

“I just have this full-body

high from knowing that

women can ride there, and

people believe and know that

women can ride there now,”

says Holden. “To see a

collective of women look

good out there—once people

could see that, it just changed

everything.”

PARIS GORE

42 THE RED BULLETIN


Vero Sandler shows

her classic style as

she charges down

the mountain.


Space

Oddities

Those squiggly lines in the

night sky aren’t UFOs, but

four members of the Red

Bull Air Force: Captain Jon

Devore, Amy Chmelecki,

Jeff Provenzano and Sean

MacCormac. The team

was photographed on

November 15, 2020,

near Marfa, Texas.

44 THE RED BULLETIN


Bright

Lights

In the remote town of Marfa, Texas,

strange lights have long attracted curious

visitors from around the world, but one

photographer set out to capture a different

kind of flying object—the Red Bull Air Force.

Words NORA O’DONNELL

Photography DUSTIN SNIPES

THE RED BULLETIN 45


Like many a wild adventure,

it all started with a crazy idea.

In the high desert of West

Texas, the veil of the Milky Way

drapes over a night sky bursting

with stars. Near the small town of Marfa, the high

elevation and lack of light pollution make it the

perfect spot to view such astronomical wonders—

and to examine some of its mysteries. For more than

a century, locals have observed strange, pulsing orbs

of various hues, commonly known as the Marfa

Lights. Maybe they’re UFOs or simply atmosphere

reflections; the fun lies in the speculation.

Which is why photographer Dustin Snipes leapt

at the opportunity to capture the Red Bull Air Force

against this celestial landscape. What if these worldclass

skydivers embodied this phenomenon and

actually became the Marfa Lights? “The crazier the

idea, the better,” Snipes says. “Because that means it

probably hasn’t been done before.”

The L.A.-based photographer spent months

planning out the concept, weighing hundreds of

variables with a team of experts. “More than any

shoot I’ve done, there were so many unknowns,”

Snipes says. After scrutinizing iconic local

attractions as potential backdrops, Snipes and the

Red Bull Air Force settled on the historic Cibolo

Creek Ranch, which spans 30,000 acres and

provides plenty of room to arrange a shot from a

faraway distance. Snipes also consulted with the

International Dark-Sky Association to decipher the

best time to capture the Milky Way as it moved

along the sky.

But even after calculating the perfect nighttime

position, Snipes still had to figure out how to

photograph illuminated bodies falling from more

than 10,000 feet in the air with only a few minutes

on the clock. The entire setup used nine cameras,

including six Canon 1 DX Mark III DSLRs that Snipes

mounted to a custom-built base that allowed him to

shoot a 180-degree view.

The final result is otherworldly, but the following

pages also provide a glimpse into the monumental

effort it took Snipes and the Red Bull Air Force to

pull off this feat.

“Whenever I do shoots like these,” Snipes says,

“I always think of that JFK quote about going to the

moon—that we didn’t do it because it was easy, but

because it was hard. You don’t want to just sit there

and do a cakewalk all day.”

Los Angeles-based photographer Dustin Snipes (pictured) first traveled to Marfa in September 2020 to scout potential locations

for his shoot with the Red Bull Air Force. “It took months of planning,” he says. “There were a lot of moving parts.”

ROSS MORALES

46 THE RED BULLETIN


Wide Angles

Snipes and the Red Bull Air

Force settled on the historic

Cibolo Creek Ranch for their

shooting location. The

rugged, 30,000-acre

property allowed Snipes to

set up his cameras 2 miles

away from where the

skydivers planned to jump.

The ranch went on forever. We drove all over

the place—there were endless possibilities.”

THE RED BULLETIN 47


The Red Bull Air Force did one daytime practice jump while Snipes set up his equipment on the ground. Here, Captain Jon Devore and

Sean MacCormac capture GoPro footage from the air. Each team member has logged more than 20,000 jumps over the past two decades.

Southwest of Marfa’s town center, the Cibolo Creek Ranch sits nestled in the Chinati Mountains. Starting in the 1850s, Cibolo was a cattle

ranch and trading post, but since the 1950s, Hollywood has occasionally used the location in films such as Giant and There Will Be Blood.

RED BULL AIR FORCE

48 THE RED BULLETIN


The crazier the idea, the better. Because that

means it probably hasn’t been done before.”

DAN WIX

Gearing Up

Shortly after sunset on

November 15, Snipes readies

his gear for the first of three

evening jumps by the Red Bull

Air Force. Red lights are an

essential tool for night

photography because they

prevent the shooter’s eyes

from readjusting.

THE RED BULLETIN 49


“You’re in the middle of nowhere. And then you

look up and see the most amazing stars ever.”

Under the

Milky Way

The abandoned sign of the

Stardust Motel is one of

Marfa’s most photographed

attractions. At one point,

Snipes considered it as a

potential foreground for the

Red Bull Air Force, but the

nearby landing site was too

unsafe. “And there would be

too many telephone wires in

the shot!” Snipes jokes.

50 THE RED BULLETIN


To make themselves visible in a moonless sky, the Red Bull Air Force wrapped themselves in LED lights, but they also added pyrotechnics

to help show the speed and energy of the team while they are in freefall. The added effect makes the skydivers appear like human comets.

RED BULL AIR FORCE

During the three jumps, Snipes had the skydivers experiment with using just the LED lights in some shots and pyrotechnics in others.

The LED just looked like squiggly lines,” he says. “But the pyro added so much randomness and gave it more of a mysterious look.”

THE RED BULLETIN 51


“When there are shoots with this many moving

parts, you have to think differently.”

52 THE RED BULLETIN


Made to Order

To capture the Red Bull Air

Force with a panoramic view,

Snipes built a customized

mount for six Canon 1 DX

Mark III DSLR cameras. Each

camera took eight different

long-exposure shots of the

jump from start to finish.

The mount had to be light

enough to travel but sturdy

enough to hold all the

equipment. It took Snipes

five days to build it.

THE RED BULLETIN 53


“We needed more pyro, so we asked the

athletes, ‘Can you be on fire any longer?’ ”

54 THE RED BULLETIN


RED BULL AIR FORCE

Burning Man

To fully achieve a comet-like

effect, Snipes needed the

skydivers to shoot

pyrotechnics for as long as

possible. No one on the team

balked at the request. The

trickier part? Seeing the

landing area when it’s pitch

black outside. Only the

headlights of two pickup

trucks marked the spot.

THE RED BULLETIN 55


Money Shot(s)

This image is actually 48

photos perfectly stitched

together. Six cameras each

took eight long-exposure

shots, following the Red Bull

Air Force as they jump from

the airplane, go into

formation and finally

disappear behind the

mountains. “The result is an

abstract light painting with

an endless night sky,”

Snipes says.

56 THE RED BULLETIN


There were so many unknowns with this

shoot. But you do it because it’s hard to do.”

THE RED BULLETIN 57


New life: Cultivated

coral is fixed to a dead

or damaged reef

with a few dabs of marine

cement. This is applied

using a form of piping bag.

KELSEY WILLIAMSON


Raising

the Reef

A group of young Polynesians

are fighting to protect

the world’s reefs against the

effects of global warming,

one piece of coral at a time.

Words RUTH McLEOD and CHRISTINE VITEL

Photography RYAN BORNE

59


Deep concerns: 22-year-old Taiano Teiho (left) and one of his fellow Coral Gardeners set off on a restoration mission.

Each time freediver Guillaume

Néry disappears into the

underwater world, he learns

something new. It is this

seemingly limitless potential

for exploration that fuels the

Frenchman’s passion. And

being underwater gives Néry a feeling

he can’t find on land. “It’s this sense of

zero gravity,” he says. “When I’m

descending, there’s a moment when

I’m suspended in space and time, and

it really feels like I’m flying. There’s a

sense of freedom—it’s transformative.

I’m switching from a landbound human

to an aquatic one.”

This desire to learn is what has drawn

Néry to the island paradise of Mo’orea,

around 25 miles from Tahiti in the South

Pacific. That and something else unique

to the underwater world: coral. For the

past seven years, the 38-year-old has

come here with his partner—fellow

freediver Julie Gautier—and daughter

Maï-Lou, whom the couple want to raise

close to nature. “I’m lucky enough to

have been freediving for more than

24 years now,” says Néry, who has four

freediving depth world records and two

world championship titles to his name.

“I’ve traveled the world, had experiences

in every kind of underwater environment,

from oceans to lakes, under ice. But

there’s really something special about

tropical areas. It’s the biodiversity you

witness, especially here in French

Polynesia. The extraordinary examples

of life you find underwater here are

almost all due to the coral reef system.

It’s an entire, complex ecosystem. It’s

really something amazing to witness.”

But when Néry visited in 2019, after

a rise in water temperature caused by

global warming, he found that 30 percent

of the coral had died. “Dead coral is

monochrome,” he says. “There’s no color.

It’s a place with no life at all, like a desert.

Sometimes you’ll see a fish pass by, but it’s

only looking for somewhere else to go. I

knew this global warming episode wasn’t

natural; it was due to human activity. The

scientists say there will be more episodes

like that. The ocean is resilient, but there’s

a limit. If things change too fast, there’s a

big chance most of the world’s coral will

disappear. When I realized that, I was

terrified.” Now his visits here have become

about more than underwater exploration;

he’s fighting for the reef’s survival.

Néry is working with an organization

known as the Coral Gardeners, who, as

the name suggests, tend to and cultivate

coral. They have shown Néry how to

replant broken coral, and in return he has

taught the group breathing techniques

that allow them to remain underwater

for longer periods while they work. This

is a symbiotic relationship that the Coral

Gardeners—a team of young Polynesian

60 THE RED BULLETIN


Coral dilemma:

Freediver Guillaume Néry

became an ambassador for

the Coral Gardeners after

a 2019 visit to French

Polynesia, where he witnessed

the devastating effects

of global warming firsthand.

The more of us who

are concerned about

this, the bigger

the change can be.”


Second chance:

Fragments of damaged

coral are collected by the

team, then transported

here to the “nursery

table” for assessment.


World of difference: The seabed is home to in excess of a thousand distinct species of coral,

and more than 170 of these can be found in French Polynesia alone.

surfers, freedivers and fishermen—are

keen to foster; after all, it’s a philosophy

they’ve learned from the very coral

they’re trying to save. “A coral is an

animal, a polyp,” explains Taiano Teiho,

a 22-year-old member of the coral

restoration group. “It lives in symbiosis

with a plant-based life form, the

zooxanthella. This is a form of

microalgae found in the coral’s tissue.

The polyps provide shelter for

the microalgae, and in exchange, the

photosynthesis the microalgae perform

will provide 90 percent of the nutrients

the polyps need to create the coral’s

calcareous exoskeleton.

The one cannot live without the

other. When water temperatures rise,

the zooxanthella creates toxins that

the polyp can’t live with, so it then

rejects the microalgae. This leads to

coral bleaching, as it is the microalgae

that creates the coral’s colorful

pigmentation. All you’re left with is the

calcareous skeleton—a dead coral.”

The breakdown of this relationship

in the world’s coral reefs is a fitting

metaphor for the ruinous effect human

activity is having on the natural world. “In

the worst-case scenario, we’d see the loss

of all marine life, from the smallest fish to

the largest marine mammals, as we would

lose the nutrient input that comes from

the sea,” says Teiho. “We would also lose

more than half of the oxygen we breathe

if all organisms, such as phytoplankton,

which photosynthesize, died. That’s why

we have to act now.”

The coral reef has

been our playground

and our school. It has

taught us respect.”

One reason why action is happening

now on Mo’orea is local surfer and

freediver Titouan Bernicot, who

founded the Coral Gardeners. “The

Polynesian people have always had a

strong link to Mother Nature,” says the

22-year-old, who has lived on the island

since he was 3. “I’ve grown up surfing,

freediving, spearfishing, diving with

sharks. The coral reef has been our

playground and also our school. It has

taught us humility and respect.”

Bernicot, the son of Tahitian pearl

farmers, has a house on the beach so that

he’s as close as possible to the sea, and to

the coral garden he has created beneath

the surface. “I’ve spent a lot of time

learning how to build up [the coral] and

finding out more about the underwater

ecosystem,” he says. “The coral creates

such varied architecture. It’s like a big

city where coral, every species of fish,

every crab and octopus has an important

THE RED BULLETIN 63


Depth charge: Teiho keeps a watchful—almost paternal—eye on the coral cuttings in his care.

“Our nurseries are

like little gardens

underwater where

the coral will adapt

themselves.”

role to play in managing the balance of

the reef ecosystem. It’s really like a

[conventional] garden, but instead of

birds we have fish, and instead of a dog

there’s the shark and stingray.”

Bernicot has been tending to his

garden since he was 16. It was then that

a day’s surfing changed his path in life.

Bernicot, his younger brother and a

friend had rowed out to the reef break in

his small aluminum boat. “And as we

were waiting for waves, we saw something

really weird under our feet,” he says. “All

the corals were white—they’d bleached.

That was the first time we’d seen this.

“That same afternoon, I googled it

and discovered two things. First, I learned

that corals aren’t simple stones; they’re

living organisms, and they were turning

white due to global warming. This could

be the first ecosystem on our planet to

collapse, even as soon as 2050. And it

wasn’t happening only on my island of

Mo’orea but everywhere in the world—

64 THE RED BULLETIN


at the Great Barrier Reef, at the Florida

Keys, in Indonesia, Egypt, the Maldives.

Second, I learned that the coral, these

little organisms, gave me everything I

need in my life. From the best moments

surfing reef-break waves, freediving and

swimming with sharks, to the fish we

eat—the reef feeds my family and my

community. It also brings tourism and

develops our economy. It protects our

coastline by acting as a coastal protection

barrier, stopping 97 percent of the waves’

energy, preventing erosion. Coral reefs

are also home to a quarter of all the

species we know of in the ocean. Reefs are

like the rainforests of the sea. Scientists

estimate that 70 percent of the oxygen we

breathe comes from a healthy ocean. The

most shocking thing? Almost no one on

our island realized this. That’s why the

Coral Gardeners exist.”

That day, Bernicot decided he would

devote his life to helping protect the

coral around his island. On the beach,

he met a local who was replanting

broken coral and showed him how to

do it. Bernicot set to work on his own

underwater garden. Next, he sought

advice from marine biologists working at

Mo’orea’s two scientific research centers:

the Gump Research Station, administered

by the University of California, Berkeley;

and the preeminent French institution

CRIOBE (Center for Island Research

and Environmental Observatory), which

has facilitated the study of marine life

in Polynesia for more than 30 years and

now works in partnership with the Coral

Gardeners. But what they told Bernicot

wasn’t what he wanted to hear. “I knocked

on the doors of all the scientific and

research institutions,” he says. “Everyone

told me to finish high school, then do a

three-year biology degree, then a master’s

in marine biology and then, ‘If you’re

sharp enough, go and do a Ph.D.’ There’s

a real need for scientists—today, we work

hand-in-hand with them—but that’s just

not me. I’m more of an entrepreneur.

I told them they were crazy, I couldn’t

do that. It killed my motivation.”

It was actually a stint away from his

island home that eventually gave

birth to the Coral Gardeners. Feeling

defeated, an 18-year-old Bernicot

consented to his parents’ wishes that

he study business in the southwest of

France. He lasted two weeks. “I couldn’t

stand it,” he says. “There I was, all alone

in my little apartment in Bordeaux. I’d

left my island family, my dogs, my

friends, my corals. I called my parents

and said, ‘Sorry, but I won’t be going

back to school.’ They told me, ‘Titouan,

we believe in you, but you won’t have

any more money from us now. You have

to support yourself.’ That was a shock.”

Bernicot decided he would somehow

pay back his parents the €7,000 they’d

spent on his business course, then return

to Mo’orea to try to help save the coral

reef. Aptly, it was the South Pacific Ocean

that provided the means: Tahitian pearls.

“I went to the business center of the town

and created a jewelry company the next

day. I went to every hotel, every winery,

every house, to sell my Tahitian pearls.”

With the earnings, he paid his parents,

his rent, then took a surf trip to Morocco.

His remaining money went into founding

the Coral Gardeners in 2017, following

his return to Mo’orea. “I still didn’t know

it could be my life plan or my career,” he

says. “There was no business model to

THE RED BULLETIN 65


“Reefs are like

the rainforests

of the sea.”

International rescue: The Coral

Gardeners plan to expand their

reef relief work from a localized

concern to a global mission.


KELSEY WILLIAMSON

achieve that, except becoming a marine

biologist, and I didn’t want to do that, so

I had to reinvent everything.” But Bernicot

has always had a head for business. At

the age of 11 he started his first company,

selling stickers at school. The proceeds

bought him his little aluminum boat.

“I’ve always had the feeling that nothing

is impossible. If you work hard and

connect with the right people, you can

achieve your dreams. And I’ve never

worked so hard as this. Day and night.”

Bernicot’s team has now grown from

one to 20 full-time staff, who are paid

a fair wage for their long hours, and all

profits are reinvested into the company

to fund the planting of coral, raising

awareness worldwide, and innovation.

Over the past four years, the group have

planted more than 15,000 corals on the

north side of Mo’orea. When they set off

on a restoration mission, they start out

by collecting pieces of coral scattered in

the water. Destroyed chiefly by swells

and human activity, these “fragments of

opportunity”—as the team call them—

are taken to a nursery, where they will

regenerate, stabilize and grow in the best

conditions possible over several months.

These provide cuttings that are then

replanted on damaged or completely dead

reefs. The coral is wedged in a small

crevice where it can survive alone. Marine

cement is dabbed around the coral to

strengthen it and keep it in position.

“We like to say it’s a second chance for

damaged coral,” Teiho says. “Plus it’s

bringing new life to a dead coral head.”

The Coral Gardeners monitor the

replanted coral closely and record their

observations to build a more detailed

picture of how the changing environment

affects them. There have already been

breakthroughs. “People often ask, ‘OK,

global warming is killing corals, so why

are you planting them? They’re going to

die anyway,’ ” says Bernicot. “Well, the

scientists here found something super

exciting this past couple of years:

species of coral they’ve called super

corals. Super corals are genotypes of

coral that [can tolerate] the rise in water

temperature. During a bleaching event,

some of these corals are not dying—

they’re more resilient. Our nurseries are

like little gardens underwater where the

coral will adapt themselves. We monitor

them and let them grow for 12 to 18

months until they’re an ideal size. Then

we’ll put them back onto a damaged reef

in the hope that they’ll grow. If so, a

Local hero: Titouan Bernicot spurned a potential

career in business to save his island’s reef.

couple of years later they could spawn. If

we see this, it’s game on. Then they’ll be

populating the reef around them.”

However, Bernicot and his team

know that replanting alone won’t

be enough to stave off the

potentially catastrophic effects of global

warming. “We have a few little signs of

hope,” says Bernicot, “but planting corals

itself won’t save the reef, which is why

we’re trying to also raise awareness.

Basically, we need more people to give

a shit about coral reefs. If we really want

to help the reef, we need to create a

worldwide movement of collaborative

action at the same time as planting

resilient corals.”

To this end, the Coral Gardeners have

already amassed a following of more than

500,000 on social media and through

their coral adoption program—their

main revenue stream—whereby people

pay to adopt a particular coral, for which

“We want to reach

a figure of a million

super corals planted

back onto reefs

worldwide by 2025.”

they’re sent a picture, GPS coordinates

and regular updates. More than 21,000

people have adopted so far, and that

number is rising daily. There’s also an

innovation center headed by Drew Gray,

a former director of engineering at Uber

and the first hire made by Elon Musk

when developing Tesla’s self-driving car.

The Californian is using his tech acumen

to improve restoration of the reef, better

monitor human impact and bring

adopters closer to their coral—soon

they’ll be able to see it growing online.

“We have big plans,” says Bernicot.

“We want to reach a million super corals

planted back onto reefs worldwide by

2025. That will mean opening 30

international branches in Indonesia, the

Maldives, Seychelles, Philippines, Egypt,

Australia, Hawaii . . . and more in the

islands of Tahiti. We’ll need hundreds of

people planting corals every day. What’s

beautiful is the people planting coral in

our team are local fisherman, freedivers

and surfers, so they’re really comfortable

in the water, and then they learn from

the scientists. They’re doing their ideal

job, restoring the reef. It’s beautiful to

watch as a coral gets bigger and there are

fish and crabs in it—that’s why we started,

and it’s what stimulates us to do more.

Tomorrow we’re talking to 50 kids on

our island. I want them to have the same

feeling I had at 16; to fall in love with the

corals and the ocean and want to help it.”

And then there’s the awareness that

is being spread by ambassadors such as

Néry and other athletes and influencers

who have been moved by the Coral

Gardeners’ ambitions and appreciate

the urgent need to highlight the issue.

“Adopting a coral, especially for kids, is

a very good way for them to understand

how important it is to protect it,” says

Néry. “Change has to happen locally

first, and then, if many people act, it can

grow into a huge wave. I see the Coral

Gardeners as pioneers in this work. The

more of us who are concerned about

this, the bigger the change can be. That’s

why I’m helping.

“I used to be a very optimistic person,

then I had a phase where I was very

pessimistic, and today I think that I have

—that we all have—to give as much

positive energy as possible. We each have

our own way to make an impact, then

we’re connecting, trying to combine our

actions and skills for the same cause. It’s

only together that we can create hope.”

coralgardeners.org

THE RED BULLETIN 67


DRIVING

CHANGE

Motorsports and

eco-activism: two

camps that rarely play

together. But thanks to

an unlikely alliance, here

is the surprising story

of a race—an actual

race, with revolutionary

vehicles—to save our

planet from ecological

destruction.

Words RICHARD FLEURY

JORDY RIEROLA/SPACESUIT MEDIA


The Extreme E teams come

to grips with the Odyssey

21 E-SUV for the first time

on January 15 at MotorLand

in Aragón, Spain.

69


Ordinarily, race cars are heard

long before they are seen. But

not this one. It emerges silently

from the fog like a manta ray

gliding through the ocean, before

melting back into the gloom

with a faint mechanical sound.

Spain’s MotorLand Aragón lies midway

between Barcelona and Madrid. Pre-COVID,

this racing complex drew massive MotoGP

crowds. But today, in the final weeks of

2020, it’s almost deserted, save for these

mysterious vehicles drifting and bouncing

around a makeshift dirt circuit. They resemble

overgrown radio-controlled buggies but sound

unlike anything you’ve heard—quiet at low

speed before accelerating into a Scalextricmeets-Star

Wars-podracer whine. And yet,

these electric-powered SUVs are built for a

race that’s even more outlandish than they are.

Extreme E is billed as “the race for

the planet.” Its bold aim is to reinvent

motorsports as an environmental force for

good, highlighting the world’s ecological

crisis with zero-emission SUVs racing

wheel-to-wheel in far-flung locations

messed up by mankind, from felled

rainforests to beaches littered with ocean

plastic. The series kicks off this April in

the desert sands of Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia,

followed in May by a beach race in Dakar,

Senegal. In August, Kangerlussuaq in

Denmark hosts an Arctic X-Prix, before

Extreme E moves to Santarem, Brazil, in

October, for a competition on soil where

the Amazon once stood. The finale is at

the melting glaciers of Tierra del Fuego,

Argentina, in December.

Carving around ecologically scarred

sites in 4x4s might sound like a counterintuitive

way to save the planet, but

Extreme E’s bumper-sticker motto is:

“We race without a trace.” “We drive on

rocks and sand,” says its mastermind,

Alejandro Agag. “Cars cannot break sand,

cannot break rocks. There’s no damage.”

The series’ founder and CEO promises his

team will leave these “front lines of the

climate crisis” in better shape than they

Left: Sébastien Loeb

sizes up his Team

X44 SUV for the first

time in Aragón. Right:

The ABT Cupra XE

team car in action.

70 THE RED BULLETIN


CHARLY LOPEZ/SPACESUIT MEDIA

“Cars cannot

break sand,

cannot break

rocks. There’s

no damage.”

THE RED BULLETIN 71


found them, investing in environmental

projects at each destination. And it aims

to be totally carbon neutral by the end

of 2021. The concept is seen by sponsors

and host countries as a win-win;

governments have welcomed it with

open arms. “It’s green, you promote their

country for tourism, and it also gives a

good image,” says Agag. “For a politician,

it’s a no-brainer.”

He’s speaking from experience: The

suave and savvy 50-year-old Spanish

businessman enjoyed a promising career

in politics before becoming a major

player in motor racing. It’s an unlikely

backstory for an environmental champion,

but, as the founder of electric streetracing

series Formula E, Agag has done

plenty to wean motorsports off fossil

fuels and into eco-rehab. This commitment

to leaving no damage in its wake means

Extreme E will have no ticket-buying

spectators, but its impact will be felt.

Media buzz was already growing when,

in September, Formula One megastar

Lewis Hamilton announced his own team

and it went stratospheric.

Make no mistake, Extreme E will be

very big indeed.

If you’re serious about making a splash

as a green A-lister, you need your

own boat. Jacques Cousteau had the

Calypso. Greta Thunberg has her zerocarbon

yacht. Conservation organizations

Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd boast

entire fleets. Agag has a 30-year-old

former Royal Mail ship upcycled into

a “floating paddock.” Cars aren’t

airfreighted to races but transported

inside the 6,767-ton RMS St. Helena.

Agag scrolls through his phone to

show The Red Bulletin a picture of the

vessel after her multimillion-pound

refurb, sporting a new black, white

and green paint job. He’s particularly

pleased with the slogan across the hull:

When Lewis

Hamilton

announced

his own team,

the buzz went

stratospheric.

“Not electric … yet!” The engines have

been converted to run on low-sulfur

marine diesel, cleaner than the heavy

diesel (basically crude oil) commonly used

in shipping. RMS St. Helena can cruise on

one engine to lower fuel consumption and

emissions and, says Agag, will one day

run on biofuel. Traveling by sea rather

than air generates a third of the carbon

emissions, but what happens as this ship

sails is more amazing still.

In steel shipping containers onboard

are hydrogen fuel-cell generators—

portable emission-free power sources

that can charge the cars either at sea

or at the race site. “Green hydrogen is

produced by solar panels or wind,

depending on location,” explains Agag.

“We’ll prove you can power remote areas

with clean energy.” He hopes this offgrid

technology might one day supply

emergency power to disaster zones.

RMS St. Helena sleeps 110 in 62

cabins, and her 20-meter swimming pool

has been stripped out to make space for a

science lab inspired by Cousteau’s Calypso.

This is not just for show—Extreme E has

also employed a committee of climate

experts to provide education and research.

Since her 18-month refit in Liverpool,

the ship has been in strict quarantine.

After virus outbreaks obliterated the

cruise industry, Agag is not taking any

chances—a stowaway microbe could

scuttle the entire adventure.

Organizing a global racing series of

this magnitude was never going to be

easy, but doing it during a pandemic was

a huge undertaking—an ever-changing

obstacle course of travel restrictions,

border closures and COVID testing. “It’s

been challenging,” admits Agag. “Like

walking with a [200-pound] backpack.

But soon the backpack will drop.”

And yet, even as the world ground to

a standstill, his big idea gained traction.

Motorsports aristocracy wanted in.

Alongside seven-time champion Lewis

Hamilton, F1’s Nico Rosberg and Jenson

Button also have their own teams, while

Red Bull Racing’s engineering guru Adrian

Newey leads another. From rallying, the

roster includes two-time world champion

Carlos Sainz and Sébastien Loeb, the

sport’s most-successful-ever driver.

They were waiting for this

opportunity, hoping for off-road to

become an actor in the climate action

we need,” says Agag. That opportunity

has finally arrived at MotorLand as they

get to test their cars for the first time:

“Today, we see an idea become reality.”

All 10 teams have the same car: the

Odyssey 21, built by French firm Spark

Racing Technology and powered by dual

Formula E motors. This is the teams’ first

test at full power—400 kW (536 hp). “I’m

happy with their reliability,” says Agag,

smiling. “Normally with new technology

and so many cars, a lot of things go wrong.

But the only thing that has is the fog.”

The morning sun is already burning

that fog away, revealing cars being flung

around by some of the most skilled

72 THE RED BULLETIN


CHARLY LOPEZ/SPACESUIT MEDIA

drivers on the planet as drones hum

around them like mosquitoes. These will

capture the action during the spectatorless

races, streaming it live around the

world. Away in the distance stands a lone

figure. “Oh look, a nine-time world

champion peeing,” deadpans Agag.

Sébastien Loeb has done and won

it all. After dominating the World Rally

Championship for a decade, winning

the Race of Champions three times and

finishing second in the 24 Hours of

Le Mans, the Frenchman retired in 2012

but then went on to smash the Pikes

Peak record in his first try, and come

runner-up in the Dakar Rally. But driving

for Lewis Hamilton’s X44 team will take

him to places, such as Patagonia, where

he’s never raced before. “It’s something

completely new and I wanted to discover

that from inside,” says rallying’s serial

achiever. “If we want motorsports to

continue in the long term, it’s good to

take new directions. This is one.”

The Ganassi Racing

car goes through its

paces. It’s since had a

redesign to resemble

Team Ganassi’s GMC

Hummer supertruck.

THE RED BULLETIN 73


Extreme E’s CEO

Alejandro Agag (left)

takes a break at the

Aragón test circuit to

chat with race legend

Sébastien Loeb.

At 3,600 pounds, the Odyssey feels

heavier than the highly developed,

astonishingly quick WRC cars Loeb is

used to. “It’s quite technical to drive,” he

says. Usually reserved, rarely smiling,

he’s nonetheless clearly thrilled. “We

have to fight with the car sometimes. But

that makes it exciting. I think in the

desert it will be really fun.”

From those who’ve left an indelible

mark to those just beginning to make

theirs, Extreme E’s drivers are diverse by

design. The youngest is 22-year-old Brit

Jamie Chadwick; the oldest, Spaniard

Carlos Sainz, is 58. This is also the first

motorsport to feature a 50/50 gender

split. Male and female racers compete on

equal terms, inspired by the mixeddoubles

format in pro tennis. “I liked the

format because the men and the women

are equally decisive for victory,” Agag

says. “So I thought we should play this

championship as teams—one man and

one woman doing two laps, one each.”

One of the championship’s youngest

drivers, 23-year-old Catie Munnings,

describes Extreme E as “inspirational. It’s

going to encourage girls to have a serious

career in motorsports at the right age.

And for young drivers, it’s the future.”

Munnings got her career off to a

flying start, winning the European Rally

Championship Ladies Trophy in 2016 in

her first season, the first British driver to

claim a European title in almost 50 years.

But, after a tough first year in Junior

WRC in 2020, she’s joined the Andretti

United Extreme E team with World

Rallycross champion and fellow Red Bull

driver Timmy Hansen. “Women aren’t in

the teams just for the media,” she says.

“Everyone’s been picked on merit. All

that money, that development, the hours

—it’s pointless unless you’ve chosen

someone because you think they’re fast.”

Temperamentally, Munnings couldn’t

be more different from the low-key Loeb.

While the taciturn rally deity is unlikely

to get his own talk show anytime soon,

the chatty Munnings has already hosted

her own children’s TV series: Catie’s

Amazing Machines. While she’s clearly

thrilled to be in such company, and

confesses to having done double-takes

while hanging out with some of her

sport’s greatest names, the Brit isn’t fazed

by the caliber of the competition: “We’re

all just drivers learning a new car.” But

then, this is a woman who won her first

“If we want

motorsports to

continue long term,

it’s good to take

new directions.”

international rally after surviving a

massive crash, and took her Biology

finals the day before qualifying.

Today’s test is a data-logging exercise,

but one pair seem to be having more fun

than is necessary: the American team

owned by NASCAR’s Chip Ganassi.

Drivers Sara Price (a former dirt-bike

champion) and off-road racer Kyle LeDuc

are going all-out with big jumps and

gravel-pinging tail slides. A camera crew

is showered with grit as the car careens

around a bend. They’re finally ordered out

of the way by an anxious marshal, who

warns that the Ganassi car spun out of

control earlier after “popping a tire off.”

It takes up to two hours to charge

Odyssey 21’s batteries for 20 minutes of

testing. Range remains a perennial

problem for electric cars, so races are

short at just two 16-kilometer (10-mile)

laps. On X Prix weekends, each team is

allowed one full charge for the day’s two

races. After a few spirited test laps, a

plasticky electrical whiff emanates from

the Ganassi car. They all seem to do it, but

it’s not a smell anyone would want coming

from their fuse box at home. Most electric

cars today are powered by lithium-ion

batteries, which, on rare occasions, have

caught fire, even exploded, in a reaction

known as “thermal runaway.” But safety is

a priority in any motorsport, and Extreme

E has a team trained to extract drivers

from electric vehicles. Agag insists the

CHARLY LOPEZ/SPACESUIT MEDIA, EDER FERNANDEZ/SPACESUIT MEDIA

74 THE RED BULLETIN


“Women aren’t

in the teams just

for the media.

Everyone’s been

picked on merit.”

British driver

Catie Munnings

wraps up a test.


With Odyssey 21’s

plant-fiber shell

lifted, its tubular

frame is revealed.

“We’re not

in this for

commercial

gain—we

believe in it.”

Odyssey 21’s batteries, made by the British

company Williams Advanced Engineering,

are extremely safe, explaining that Spark’s

own test driver rolled his car earlier and

experienced “no problem at all.”

Lithium ion presents another concern.

Mining for “white gold,” as lithium is

known, has a devastating impact on

ecosystems around the world. Agag is

fully aware of the issue but takes a

pragmatic view that climate change is

the more pressing threat. “The most

urgent thing is not pollution caused by

minerals, it’s CO 2

in the atmosphere,”

he says. “We have to make a choice,

and that is to try to cut the CO 2

in the

atmosphere and the toxic particles

coming from cars. For that, batteries

are the solution. Are they perfect? No.

Are they better than a diesel car in the

city? Definitely.”

Adrian Newey has been converted to

the cause. His cars have won more than

150 Grands Prix and secured four

consecutive F1 drivers’ and constructors’

championships for Red Bull Racing

between 2010 and 2013. The 62-year-old

engineer and designer (left) has stood at

the pinnacle of racing since the 1980s,

when F1 teams ran, in his words, “on a

diet of cigarettes, coffee and beige

polyester.” Fossil fuels have been the

lifeblood of his exceptional career. Now,

as “lead visionary” of the Veloce Racing

team, Newey has been presented with

a new challenge. “[Extreme E] is an

interesting concept to combine

technology with conservation,” he says.

“We know we’re damaging the planet.

Everybody is grappling with how we

reverse that process.”

For Newey, climate change is a

complex engineering problem, but he’s

skeptical about battery technology as

a long-term solution: “It’s not quite the

panacea that governments make it out to

be.” He believes the automotive industry

has been “press-ganged” into embracing

it. “But it will grow and mature, just as

the combustion engine did,” adds

Newey. “And other sources will creep in

—hydrogen being the most obvious.”

He’s a big advocate of hydrogen and

would like to see it fueling Extreme E

as soon as season three: “Hopefully, by

then, the boat will be converted to

hydrogen and become very sustainable.”

Newey was introduced to Extreme E

by his racing-driver son Harrison, who

helps run Formula E champion Jean-Éric

Vergne’s Veloce team and its esports

sister company. “A huge number of

people watch gamers competing and

audience figures are massive,” says

Newey Sr. “Hopefully, Extreme E will

appeal to the same demographic.”

Agag, a gamer himself, definitely had

Gen Z’s digital natives in mind when

brainstorming both Formula E and his

new venture; he even lifted a few tricks

from video games. Take “Hyperdrive,”

where the Extreme E team that performs

the longest jump on the first jump of

each race gets a speed boost to deploy at

will. “That’s from Mario Kart,” he admits.

“Alejandro has shown tremendous

vision,” says Newey. “I wouldn’t be

involved if I didn’t think it had something

to offer. We’re not in it for commercial

gain—we believe in it.”

But how did a career politician

metamorphose into a planet-saving

motorsports visionary? Intelligent,

charismatic and ambitious, by the age

of 25 Agag was a rising star in Spain’s

center-right People’s Party and had

been appointed as political aide to Prime

Minister José María Aznar. He was

elected an MEP three years later and

married the PM’s daughter Ana Aznar

—after reportedly proposing in her

father’s offices—in 2002. The nuptials

were attended by Spain’s king and queen

as well as its celebrated crooner Julio

Iglesias, Rupert Murdoch and members

of the world’s political elite. Tony Blair

and Silvio Berlusconi were witnesses.

Though strongly tipped as a future party

mover-and-shaker, Agag had, by then,

already quit politics. He never returned.

Decamping to London, armed with his

book of stellar contacts, he moved into

motorsports, thriving in the notorious

EDER FERNANDEZ/SPACESUIT MEDIA, EXTREME E, ISAAC FORCELLA-BURTON/VELOCE RACING

76 THE RED BULLETIN


For Agag, the

climate fight should

be “above politics.”

Everyone has a role

to play.

shark pool of F1 and forging a reputation

as a formidable dealmaker. In 2002,

alongside Flavio Briatore (then managing

director of Renault), Agag snapped up

Spanish TV rights for F1; in 2007, as part

of a consortium with Briatore, F1 chief

executive Bernie Ecclestone and steel

magnate Lakshmi Mittal, he acquired

EFL Championship soccer team Queens

Park Rangers; and the following year

he bought an FGP2 racing team. “Being

a politician never leaves you completely.

It helps you create agreements and

places where people can meet,” says the

man with the golden SIM card.

The next chapter was Formula E,

which he started with FIA president

Jean Todt in 2014, partly in response to

motorsports’ growing image problem.

In the 2019 Formula E documentary

And We Go Green, Agag is seen reclining

on a sofa, puffing on a fat cigar as he

recalls, “I tried to convince a company to

become a sponsor for Formula One. And

in every email they said, ‘We cannot be

involved, because it’s polluting.’ I thought,

‘We have a problem.’ ”

As Greta Thunberg’s generation

approaches the age that Agag was

when he entered politics, the

environment continues to climb the

world’s political agenda. For Agag, the

climate fight should now be “above

politics.” From Extinction Rebellion to

ExxonMobil, everyone has a role to play.

Sports, he believes, can be an agent of

change. “Out of the 25 most-watched

TV programs in history, 24 have been

sporting events,” he says. “It has the

possibility to spread the message in

a much wider way.”

Imaginative, driven, seriously wealthy

—he dug into his own, evidently very

deep, pockets to fund Extreme E—and

not so much well connected as plugged

directly into the international power

grid, Agag is clearly a man who can

sense which way the wind is blowing.

And right now, it’s blowing very much

in his favor.

Ripping across the sand in an

elderly open-top Land Rover,

Extreme E’s sporting manager,

Guy Nicholls, shouts directions

to his driver over a roaring sea wind:

“Turn right at the porpoise.” To the

vehicle’s left is the Atlantic Ocean;

on the beach to the right a badly

decomposed dolphin carcass. The

sorry cetacean’s final resting place is

an ugly tide mark of plastic detritus

that stretches into the hazy distance.

“It’s tough to see this,” says Nicholls

as the driver steers inland.

Senegal’s coastline—more than 430

miles long, including estuaries—is

drowning in plastic waste. The whole of

Africa is choking on the stuff. It clogs

roads, pollutes soil and contaminates

animal feed. Rain washes it into

waterways and eventually the sea, where

it’s ingested by marine life or spat back

onshore by the tide. According to an

industry report in 2019, almost 360

million tons of plastic were produced the

previous year—more than the combined

weight of every human on Earth at the last

estimate. Plastic can take up to 1,000 years

to biodegrade, and it doesn’t only harm

dolphins; it breaks down into tiny shreds

that can affect human development,

reproduction and health. A 2019 study by

the University of Newcastle, Australia,

found that the average adult consumes the

equivalent of a credit card every week, and

microplastic particles have been found in

the placentas of unborn babies.

Nicholls and his team are at Senegal’s

Lac Rose beach for their first site survey.

In May, they will be followed by the

whole traveling circus. The Ocean X-Prix

will transform this sprawling sand pit

into a buzzing techno-village. Container

trucks will shuttle race cars, service

vehicles and equipment from RMS St.

Helena, docked at the capital, Dakar, an

hour’s drive away. And 70 air shelters—

those giant inflatable tents used by relief

organizations and murder investigation

teams—will house the race command

center, driver change area and garages.

As sporting manager, Nicholls’ first job

is to sketch a circuit onto this “huge

canvas” that’s practical, televisually

appealing, exciting and safe. Mapped out

by pairs of flags—“rather like downhill

skiing”—each five-minute lap will send

drivers out along the beach, returning

on bumpier, jumpier inland terrain. “It

allows them to go one route or another,”

explains Nicholls, who will return in a few

weeks with racing driver Timo Scheider

and a fast dune buggy to fine-tune the

course. “It’s up to them—the shortest

distance between two points is not always

the quickest.”

At Lac Rose, Senegal, a

volunteer collects plastic

waste to make an “ecobrick,”

which can then be used in

building construction.

THE RED BULLETIN 77


Shipping plastic

waste to Africa

is cheaper than

recycling it. Out of

sight, out of mind.

Below: The Team

Andretti United race

car. Opposite page:

Senegalese fisherman

Abdou Karim Sall

surveys the mangrove

swamps in his

pirogue.

Behind the dunes lies Lac Rose, or

the Pink Lake. Today its salty water

is rusty gray, but pigmented algae

sometimes turns the lagoon a shocking

cotton-candy hue. For many years it

marked the finish line of another

famous—or, more accurately, infamous—

off-road race. If Extreme E promises

a greener future for motorsports, the

bad old days of the Paris-Dakar Rally

embodied its grubby excesses. The

spectacle of wealthy westerners speeding

through impoverished African countries,

leaving dust, destruction and deaths in

their wake, did little for the sport’s

environmental reputation. But it

brought visitors and international

attention. Since the Paris-Dakar left

Africa in 2009, the local community

has felt its loss.

“It was one of the biggest events

showcasing Senegal, but when it left

people didn’t reinvent the destination,”

says Senegalese eco-entrepreneur

Stephan Senghor. Pink Lake is no longer

a tourist hot spot, and the neighboring

village of Niaga faces “a cocktail of

challenges—people are living with the

bare minimum here.”

Niaga’s dusty main street is alive with

activity and color, its shops and stalls

trading everything from truck parts to

traditional dresses, but plastic trash is

everywhere; scruffy goats and bony

cows graze on it as they wander the

roadside. Africa leads the world in its

ban on plastic—last year, Senegal

prohibited all water sachets and plastic

cups—so why is it still so ubiquitous?

One reason is that the continent remains

among the developed world’s favorite

dumping grounds. Shipping plastic

waste to Africa is cheaper than recycling

it. Out of sight, out of mind.

Senghor has devoted much of his adult

life to cleaning up his homeland. After

studying and working in Canada, he came

back with an idea to turn plastic waste

into building materials. His fix is simple,

ingenious and low-tech: filling soft-drink

bottles with compacted plastic waste.

Cemented into walls, these “ecobricks”

make strong, long-lasting structures.

Now, with Extreme E’s support,

Senghor’s organization is helping Niaga

reinvent itself as a sustainable community

or “EcoZone”—a living lab showcasing

environmental initiatives while improving

lives. Working with schools, Senghor

incentivizes children by gamifying litter

picking. Every ecobrick made can be

redeemed for money for community

schemes. If successful at the Pink Lake,

the project will expand, perhaps into

CHARLY LOPEZ/SPACESUIT MEDIA, RICHARD FLEURY

78 THE RED BULLETIN


The mangrove

is good for the

community and

for the Earth.”

other African countries. “This is the first

time they have a race where a project

comes with it,” he says. “It’s about how we

can be side by side, doing stuff together.

Everything is possible if we want it to be.”

Abdou Karim Sall was “born

a fisherman” in Senegal’s Saloum

Delta, a four-hour drive from

Dakar. A physically imposing

man with a piratey past, the 55-year-old

once kidnapped a Chinese sea captain.

For decades, foreign commercial fishing

vessels have looted West African waters.

Each one can sweep 250 tons of fish into

its nets daily—50 times what a local boat

catches in a year. So Sall boarded one of

these mega-trawlers and abducted the

captain. He was jailed the next day, but

a mob of angry fishermen persuaded

police to let him go. The episode made

national headlines, forcing the

government to negotiate a solution.

“To solve problems, you have to create

other problems,” Sall says, matter-offactly.

That was 30 years ago. Today, he

insists, his swashbuckling days are over:

“Sometimes it’s necessary to do bad

things. But I was younger; I wouldn’t do

it again.” However, he’s still banned from

China. “They will never give me a visa,”

he laughs, looking distinctly unconcerned.

Sall grew up in Joal, a fishing port

responsible for more than a quarter of

Senegal’s entire annual catch. From the

town’s plastic-strewn beach, he launches

a long wooden boat called a pirogue.

According to one origin story, this

traditional Senegalese fishing vessel

gave the country its name (“sunu gaal”

means “our pirogue” in the West African

language Wolof). Its shallow draft is

perfect for navigating the estuarine

backwaters where the mangroves grow.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of

the mangrove ecosystem to both fishing

and the environment. The mangrove is

the only tree that can grow in salt water.

Its tangled roots are a habitat for crabs

and shellfish, and a vital nursery for

young fish. Mangrove forests create a

buffer zone, protecting the land from the

sea while sucking up 10 times as much

carbon dioxide as the rainforests. “The

mangrove is good for the community

and for the Earth,” says Octavio Fleury,

scientific director of Oceanium, the nonprofit

reforesting Senegal’s swamps with

help from Extreme E.

When a decade-long drought raised

salt levels in the 1970s, large swaths of

West Africa’s mangroves died. Senegal

alone lost more than 100 million, replaced

by lifeless salt flats, empty apart from the

tire tracks of smugglers driving across

the delta at low tide from neighboring

Gambia. “It was terrible,” says the

Frenchman. “A little change like salinity

and all the mangroves can disappear.”

Oceanium pays schoolchildren to

collect “propagules”—the mangrove

tree’s spearlike buds—and plant them in

neat rows across the delta mud at low

tide. “The idea is to make restoration

easy,” explains Fleury, “but we need

the population to be involved, to

understand the importance of a

healthy environment.” Led by Senegal’s

environment minister, Haidar el Ali,

Oceanium enlisted 150,000 people from

500 villages, planting 173,000 acres

across Senegal. Last year, for the

Extreme E project, they planted another

156 acres—roughly 120,000 trees.

While growing up, Sall saw the

mangrove forests disappear, but he knew

little about their importance. When asked

if he’d help plant a million, he replied,

“What’s the point?” A decade on, his

commitment to the cause is total. Thanks

to Sall, more than 500,000 new mangrove

trees are growing in the Saloum Delta.

The kids call him Mister Propagule.

But Mister Propagule was not

always Mister Popular. When Sall

established the waters around Joal as a

government-backed Marine Protected

Area in 2004, local fishermen hated him.

“I was everyone’s enemy,” he says. But

now, as president of the Fishermen’s

Association of Joal and the Committee

of Marine Reserves in West Africa, he’s a

formidable champion of both the fishing

industry and the environment. “To

manage local communities here, you

need two sides to your character,” he

says. “One that is a fighter, and the

other with the knowledge to help

them understand.”

Sall benefits from Oceanium’s

finances and resources, but his local

influence is invaluable. “And his

mystical support,” says Fleury with a

smile, as the bow of Sall’s pirogue noses

through overhanging branches. Senegal

is predominantly a Muslim country, but

the supernatural poetry of voodoo and

gris-gris, spirits and sacrifices remains

very much alive. Deep in the mangroves

are sacred sites. Sall believes the forest

genies who live there have always

protected his home. Now is his time to

return the favor.

If Extreme E is an attempt to

“greenwash” motorsports, it is an

extraordinarily elaborate and expensive

one. And does it really matter? As its

founder will tell you, politics is the art of

the possible. It’s quite possible that

Extreme E will make a real difference in

the fight against climate change. After

all, how many sports can claim to get

motorsports magnates, climate scientists

and mystical eco-pirates all working

together to save the planet?

extreme-e.com

THE RED BULLETIN 79


guide

Get it. Do it. See it.

GETTY IMAGES

URBAN

ESCAPES

To put it mildly, traveling to find

genuine adventure in the past

year has been understandably

tough. These close-to-home

adventures from six big cities are

wild without being irresponsible.

Words DAVID HOWARD

Now’s the time to

cross the Grand

Canyon off your

bucket list.

THE RED BULLETIN 81


Do it

G U I D E

Hang gliding in

northwestern

Georgia is a fun way

to raise your game.

New York City:

Off-road immersion

The idea of plunging a fourwheel-drive

monster down

rutted trails and barely-there

roads into the wilderness

holds a certain timeless

allure. But if you don’t know

a butt-scratcher (a trail

obstacle that scrapes a truck’s

rear end) from a brake fade

(what you really don’t want

to happen heading straight

down a mountain), you might

want to bone up before

heading into the great

unknown. And even people

with some experience

behind the wheel of a 4x4

will find something useful

in the weekend-long

Overland Fundamentals

course run by Northeast

Off-Road Adventures.

driving-centric classes, like

wilderness survival, first aid

and something called antikidnapping

and hostage

survival. No prior experience

needed. From $700;

nyoffroaddriving.com

Atlanta:

Hang gliding 101

Think of a weekend at hanggliding

school as a socially

distanced way to get all

doped up on adrenaline. It’s

a sport with a high learning

curve, but Lookout Mountain

Flight Park delivers the goods

during an action-packed twoday

tutorial (we won’t call it a

crash course). Sign up for the

weekend package and you’ll

spend daytime hours in

Ground School, learning the

fundamentals of winged

Offered monthly on select

weekends in the Catskills, the

course includes outdoor chalk

talk, workshops and behindthe-wheel

instruction in the

outfitter’s park, which

features an obstacle course.

This last part of the

curriculum—referred to as

“woodland driving skills”—is

the fun part. But you’ll also

learn basic maintenance, trip

planning and how to recover

a vehicle from various sticky

situations. Socially distanced

primitive camping and

vehicle rentals are available.

If you get hooked, you can

next sign up for an immersive

course on overland travel,

which involves a vehicle

equipped for multi-night

expeditions (usually a tent on

the roof). There are also nonflight,

and on the bunny hills,

working your way skyward

on training flights. In the

evenings you’ll join the

teachers on instructional

tandem flights, when the

opportunity to defy the laws

of physics crystallizes in

dramatic fashion. The goal,

if you’re game, is to get good

enough to go thermalhunting—soaring

up to cloud

bases as many as 10,000 feet

above the surface of the

Earth. Located 30 miles from

Chattanooga, the 41-year-old

flight park is centrally located

between Atlanta, Knoxville,

Nashville and Birmingham.

The park is outfitted with

COVID-friendly cabins and

a campground where it’s easy

to pitch a tent far from

others. $399; flylookout.com

DEAN FUNK, GETTY IMAGES

82 THE RED BULLETIN


Urban Escapes

Los Angeles:

Climbing in J-Tree

The story goes that Joshua

trees got their names from the

18th-century Mormons—who,

on their westward journey,

found themselves in the

Mojave Desert. The pioneers,

possibly hallucinating by then,

saw the gnarled limbs as

reaching out in supplication,

guiding them toward the

promised land. Climbers feel a

fervor for the granite that dots

expanses in the national park.

Joshua Tree is all about lowercase-d

democratic climbing—

meaning there’s something

for everyone, from sport and

trad climbs of almost every

difficulty to legendary

bouldering options. If you’re

looking for an entry-level

experience, the outfitter Cliff

Hanger can get you oriented

and safely on the rock. A fullday

session spans nine hours

and is customized to whatever

kind of climbing you seek.

Shoes, harnesses and helmets

(and a gourmet lunch) are

provided. To ensure pandemic

safety, Cliff Hanger keeps trips

small and never mixes groups,

while keeping everything

distanced and sanitized. $395

per person or $500 for two;

cliffhangerguides.com

Miami:

Float the Everglades

Summer is no time to be out

in the open sun in Everglades

National Park. But in

springtime, meandering

among the crocodiles and

dolphins in a kayak or canoe

makes for an idyllic day trip or

overnight escape. Temps hover

in the mid 80s and drop into

the comfortable 60s at night

throughout March and April.

The optimal choice is the

Hell’s Bay Trail, a 13.5-mile

odyssey through a magical but

disorienting mangrove estuary

and a collection of diminutive

bays. You’ll follow 160 PVCpipe

trail markers to keep

your bow pointed in the right

direction amidst a maze of

islands and creeks with

wishbone intersections. Just

leave plenty of time to snap

photos of crocs, blacktop

sharks and roosting pelicans.

Overnight, crash in one of

the park’s chickees, essentially

a dock on stilts with a roof.

Stow a cooler of beer, some

food and a tent and crash at

one of the two sites on the

trail. Each site has two

chickees (outfitted with

portable restrooms) that hold

parties of up to six. (Reserve a

spot at reservation.gov.) You

Otherworldly climbing abounds in Joshua Tree—less than three hours from Los Angeles.

can look forward to shaking

off sleep to the sounds of

dolphins breaching for air.

Rent boats from Flamingo

Adventures, which will also

deliver them to and from the

put-in and takeout. Two-day

rentals start at $92;

flamingoeverglades.com

Phoenix:

Bag the Grand Canyon

There are weekend adventures,

and then there are tell-yourgrandkids

epics. As one of the

world’s most iconic geographic

features, the Grand Canyon

plainly falls into the latter

category. Fortunately, the

national park has carefully

thought-out pandemic

strategies that have kept it

open to hikers and campers,

allowing for some astonishing

beauty and mind-boggling

perspective during this

otherwise challenging time.

There are two approaches

for experiencing the canyon in

a quick turnaround time: One

is to drive up to the canyon

the night before, get an early

start and do an epic dayhike.

From the North Rim, the

North Kaibab trail to Roaring

Springs is a full-day, 9.4-mile

excursion to an idyll 3,050

feet below your starting point.

At the springs, cross the creek

and soak in one of the many

pools of cold, glass-clear

water. Or, for an overnight,

head all the way to the

Colorado River on the South

Kaibab (7 miles) or Bright

Angel (9.5 miles) trails to

Bright Angel Campground,

which is limited to half

capacity during the pandemic

(you’ll need a permit in

advance). The park has made

things easier for hikers by

installing drinking-water

filling stations in high-traffic

areas, but you should still

bring plenty of water as well as

something to treat water from

other sources, just in case.

nps.gov/grca

Chicago:

Jump out of a plane

What better way to celebrate

being alive than by doing

something that feels like a

near-death experience—but

is actually totally safe? Toast

the arrival of spring—and the

looming end-game of the

pandemic—by plunging out

of an aircraft via Skydive

Midwest’s “Learn to Skydive”

package. After a brief training

class, you’ll pair up with an

instructor, climb aboard a

small plane and head for the

heavens above Lake Michigan.

First up is the mad adrenaline

rush of free fall, where gravity

asserts itself at speeds of up

to 120 mph. Once the chute

opens, just settle in with vistas

of the suddenly nearbylooking

skylines of Chicago

and Milwaukee. For those

who find this sort of thing

addictive, Skydive Midwest

offers classes in which you can

become a licensed skydiver in

as few as 25 jumps. The

outfitter, located in Sturtevant,

Wisconsin, is 60 miles north of

Chicago and 30 miles south of

Milwaukee—and is accessible

via public transit. Skydive

Midwest has a set of carefully

thought-out COVID policies.

$239; skydivemidwest.com

THE RED BULLETIN 83


Do it

G U I D E

TRAIN LIKE A PRO

“I CAN ALWAYS

GET BETTER”

Freeride mountain bike prodigy

Jaxson Riddle shares how he trains

to send big lines.

The first time Jaxson Riddle went out to Virgin,

Utah, to ride the terrain made famous by Red Bull

Rampage, he was 15 and took his BMX bike—the

only bike he had. Riddle promptly sold it and

bought his first downhill rig. In freeride mountain

biking he had found his sport. Now 20, Riddle has

turned the challenging Virgin terrain into his

playground and dreams of one day competing at

Rampage. A typical day for Riddle might include

hitting jumps at the Snake Hollow Bike Park in

Saint George, Utah, where he lives; building a

new line in Virgin; mastering a high-consequence

aerial maneuver; or maybe offering friendly

advice to kids at the local skatepark. “I take a lot

of inspiration from freestyle motocross,” says

Riddle. “I just try to bring those tricks to

mountain bikes.”

There really isn’t a

right or wrong way to

do this sport,” Riddle

says. “With freeride,

you can be as creative

as you want and build

whatever you want.”

84 THE RED BULLETIN


Fitness

ON THE BIKE

“I don’t really have

a set program.”

“I have a lot of respect for people

who have a routine and can stick to

it, but for me it’s different every

day. I try to ride every day, but

I don’t have a set amount of time

that I spend on the bike. Either I go

out to Virgin or go to the skatepark.

Then I go ride dirt bikes or go skate.

I just got into skating, and it’s been

awesome, because it keeps

everything fresh. You expect to be

good at something new, because

you’re good at riding bikes, but it’s

not how it works. There’s always

something you can learn.”

NEW TRICKS

“I do it in little

steps.”

“I’ll just watch a video, like a

hundred times. Then I’ll visualize it

when I’m out there. I do it in little

steps. If it’s a Superman, I’ll do

a no-footer. Then I inch my way

to the Superman. I ride the jump

a couple of times and envision

myself doing the trick. I try to work

it out in my head at the top of the

run-in. Then I’ll go to the jump and

try to do what I just visualized. If

I keep trying, and I’m making the

same mistake without progress, I’ll

take a break until I can come back

with a different mindset.”

“FOR RECOVERY, I TRY

TO KEEP IT SIMPLE.”

There’s a sick river spot

in Virgin—it’s basically

freezing, so it’s like cold

therapy. I also get regular

massages and do stretching

as well. I don’t do yoga as

much as I should. I need to

get more consistent with it,

because I need a lot of hip

mobility to do tricks. I do

foam rolling and I try to stay

on top of stretching.”

DIG DAYS

“Digging is like strength

training—and a rest day.”

PREPARING TO CRASH

“I have to be as good

at crashing as riding.”

PETER JAMISON/RED BULL CONTENT POOL JEN SEE

I go out to Virgin with an open mind

and find features that draw from

motocross and BMX. I try to

imagine how to bring ideas from

those sports to mountain bikes. It

usually takes three or four days to

build a new line, depending on if it

rains or is super dry. We attack a

line for three days in a row, from

sunup to sundown. In the

summertime, when it can hit 110

degrees in the middle of the day,

we go out there at 4 in the morning.

That’s super draining.”

“With repetition, you learn how to

crash and what not to do. Learning

how to push your bike away, so

there’s no chance of it landing on

you, is helpful. You don’t want that

thing hitting you. I try to be

calculated and not try things that

I don’t know will work. I try to think

of the things that could go wrong,

so I’m ready. And then I’ll breathe

three times, in and out, and just try

it. Usually it works out. I try to have

it pretty dialed. I’m not going from

square one to square five.”

THE RED BULLETIN 85


G U I D E

See it

Calendar

10

April

WRESTLEMANIA 37

Like this year’s Super Bowl, the premier event in pro wrestling is happening at Raymond James

Stadium in Tampa, Florida. So yes, there will be spectators, but the venue will be at limited

capacity—with it likely that empty seats will be filled by cardboard cutouts. But after that, the WWE

will not return to its regular touring schedule of ticketed events until at least the second half of

2021. One noticeable absence from this year’s WrestleMania will be John Cena, who recently told

reporters he couldn’t attend due to his commitment filming Peacemaker for HBO Max in Vancouver.

Way to powerslam us right in the heart, Mr. Cena. wwe.com

25

April

ACADEMY

AWARDS

The smell of buttered

popcorn, trailers, a

laughing audience—

remember those things?

The theater industry has

been hit hard this past

year, but thank heavens

for streaming services

and innovative virtual

film festivals to keep our

eyeballs occupied. The

Academy Awards will

look very different this

year, with reports that

Oscar-winning director

Steven Soderbergh has

been hired to reenvision

the ceremony, which will

air on ABC. oscars.org

Happening now

RED BULL

CAPTURE POINT

Move over, National Geographic.

Indoor kids, this new photo contest

is your turn to shine. (And let’s face

it, a lot of us are indoor kids right

now.) Now through May 2, you can

submit in-game photos from

some of PlayStation’s most visually

epic titles, including God of War,

Demon’s Souls and more. Just

upload them to Twitter using the

hashtags #RedBullCapturePoint

and #Contest for a chance to win

some sweet cash prizes.

redbull.com/capturepoint

Available

now

DESIGN AND

CONQUER

Matt Jones has really

embraced the WFH

life. The 26-year-old

mountain biker spent

last summer turning

his garden into an epic

dirt track. Now, in this

four-part series, he

seeks the help of fellow

pro bike legends Kriss

Kyle, Gee Atherton and

Kye Forte, in a quest to

master three neverbefore-achieved

tricks.

redbull.com

GETTY IMAGES(2)

86 THE RED BULLETIN


The 11th iteration

of the Saucony

Perigrine adds some

sweet updates to a

classic shoe.

WILDLY

CAPABLE

As spring finally arrives, we round up the best new trail

running gear so you can head for the hills in comfort and style.

Words MICHELLE HAMILTON


G U I D E

SHOES

HOKA ONE ONE SPEEDGOAT

Named for the winningest 100-mile runner on

earth—Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer—the fourth

iteration of this popular shoe delivers a stable,

cushioned ride with good traction. It boasts

Hoka’s trademark pillowy cushioning, 3Dprinted

overlays for midfoot support and a wider

toe box for increased comfort. An updated mesh

upper improves breathability. Count on the

Vibram outsole and 5 mm lugs for grippy ascents

and confident descents. $145; hokaoneone.com

SALOMON SENSE RIDE 4

The updates to Salomon’s classic trainer offer a

cushier, more breathable and responsive ride for

long-distance terrain. The retooled heel collar is

more secure and adds padding in the heel for

comfort. An anti-debris mesh upper provides

ventilation, while the Optivibe foam absorbs

impact and decreases muscle fatigue. And with

decoupled rock plates to guard against sharp

objects and a grippy outsole, it’s ideal for daily

dirt and epic adventures. $120; salomon.com

LA SPORTIVA KARACAL

The just-launched Karacal is a zippy shoe with

long-mile comfort and best-in-class grip. Built on

a roomier last, the wider shoe increases comfort,

as does the dua-density compressed EVA in the

midsole and a cushioned tongue. While not the

lightest trail option, a hardened EVA rock guard

that runs the full length of the shoe and medial

and lateral counters provide stability, while

varied-length lugs let you barrel over rocky

terrain and sloppy trails. $130; sportiva.com

ADIDAS TERREX

TWO PRIMEBLUE

These shoes offer a responsive ride for long

distances. Comfort comes from a wide toe box

and the sock-like, seamless Primeknit upper

(made from upcycled ocean waste). The midsole

contains Boost beads, a polymer that increases

shock absorption without sacrificing energy

return. The Continental rubber outsole has a

grippy lug profile that’s optimal for routes with

a road and trail mix. $180; adidas.com

SAUCONY PEREGRINE 11

It’s hard to go wrong with the 11th iteration of this

consistently popular trail shoe. Devoted fans love

its claw-like grip (thanks to aggressive lugs and

tacky rubber), just-right midsole cushioning and

the 4 mm offset that yields an uninhibited, fast

ride. This version adds a breathable, ultralight

mesh layer that acts like a gaiter, keeping trail

debris out. Runners in climates with sloppy

conditions should consider the Peregrine 11 ST

(soft terrain). $150; saucony.com

ALTRA LONE PEAK 5

Newly updated, Altra’s most popular trail shoe

(now in its 10th year) offers a compelling mix

of features: The zero-drop, wide toe box and a

25 mm stack Lone Peak devotees love, paired

with a revamped Altra Ego foam midsole that

allows for max energy return and a responsive

ride without an overly cushioned feel. The

MaxTrac outsole provides a reliably toothy grip,

letting you feel grounded and protected, with

the freedom to fly. $130; altrarunning.com

The Two Primeblue has a sock-like, seamless

upper that’s made from upcycled ocean waste.

THE RED BULLETIN 89


APPAREL

BUFF TRUCKER CAP

Iconic style has technical cred with a low-profile,

moisture-wicking headband that keeps sweat

out of your eyes and a dark underbill designed to

help protect your eyes from sun reflecting off

snow. The 100 percent polyester front panel is

breathable and quick-drying and the mesh back

allows for air circulation. Choose from modern

mountain to retro-style graphics. Plus, Buff is

donating 2 percent of sales to UNICEF projects

combating COVID-19. $28; buffusa.com

PATAGONIA NINE TRAILS SHORTS

Performance meets sustainability in these

lightweight shorts. Made from 91 percent

recycled polyester and 9 percent spandex, they

wick away moisture and breathe, thanks to

quick-drying fabric and a relaxed fit. Both men’s

and women’s models feature a lightweight liner

and elastic-and-drawstring waist. Three zippered

pockets offer ample space for phone and keys

(men’s; women’s has one zipper pocket). A DWR

finish fends off light rain. $65; patagonia.com

INJINJI MIDWEIGHT

TRAIL MINI-CREW

Toe socks may seem gimmicky, but fabric

between toes helps prevent hot spots and

blisters. The toe sleeves keep your toes drier—

and therefore less prone to blisters—and also

splay your digits into a more anatomical

position, providing better stability and comfort.

These socks include a snug double cuff that

blocks out dirt and grit, and a mesh top for

breathability. Woven with a blend of Coolmax,

nylon and Lycra fibers, they prove to be both

flexible and durable. $16; injinji.com

OISELLE FLYOUT TRAIL TANK

This just-released piece offers women who run

something new: a tank specifically designed to

pair with a hydration pack. The wider cut in the

shoulders and back (vs. racerback) provide chafe

protection and moisture management in a

stylish muscle tank. Made with a proprietary

blend of polyester, tencel and spandex, the

durable technical fabric is designed to withstand

variable weather and high use, yet is also

lightweight, soft and comfy. $48; oiselle.com

ORTOVOX MERINO WINDBREAKER

This lightweight windbreaker is an ideal outer

layer for spring’s changing mountain weather.

The mix of merino wool and nylon provides solid

wind protection and temperature regulation for

warm and chilly days. An adjustable hood keeps

wind out without blocking your view, and long

cuffs offer hand protection. Pocket lovers be

warned: There’s only one zippered breast pouch.

But the jacket stuffs into said pocket for easy

carrying when not in use. $228; ortovox.com

90 THE RED BULLETIN


G U I D E

APPAREL

The stylish ease

of the Tracksmith

Harrier belies a

layer with technical

credentials.

TRACKSMITH HARRIER

LONG SLEEVE

The beauty of this top for the shoulder season—

besides its clean, classic look—is the 89 percent

merino wool. The soft wool fabric is a

temperature regulator; it’ll keep you toasty on

cool spring days and prevent overheating if

things warm up. The merino-nylon blend guards

against stink, so you can wear it to brunch postrun.

New colors for spring include stonewash,

melon and tamarind. $82; tracksmith.com

Merino wool is a temperature

regulator, keeping you comfortable

when it’s cool and when it’s warm.

THE RED BULLETIN 91


ACCESSORIES

The Petzl Iko Core

is the headlamp

reimagined.

PETZL IKO CORE

Petzl has managed to squeeze a ton of light out

of a reimagined lightweight lamp body. The Iko

Core weighs a mere 79 grams, and the thin strap

is more like a crown, sitting low and snug (no

bounce!) thanks to a tiny bungee in the back.

Fewer contact points improve air circulation and

reduce pressure points. Seven LEDs produce up

to 500 lumens of light and the rechargeable

battery lasts 2.5 to 100 hours, depending which

of the three levels you use. $89.95; petzl.com

92 THE RED BULLETIN


G U I D E

ACCESSORIES

COROS APEX 42MM

This watch delivers the must-haves without

sticker shock. Count on accurate GPS, long

battery life (25 hours), crack-resistant sapphire

glass and a customizable trail-running mode

with time, distance, elevation gain and loss,

cadence and calories. If you upload a route,

arrows provide direction—or head out without a

plan and when you turn around it plots a route to

the trailhead. Bonus: New updates include track

and strength training modes. $300; coros.com

TAIGA TERRA

Taiga began as a quest by two outdoorsmen for

a durable adventure cooler that could keep food

fresh and drinks cold for days. Now they’ve

released the first sustainably built, highperformance,

hard-sided cooler, made with

hemp (rather than oil-based polymers) to

reduce carbon emissions during manufacturing.

The 27-quart Terra holds ice for up to 10 days—

ideal for weeklong camp-and-runs. It’s bearsafe,

too. $199; taigacoolers.com

CAMELBAK ZEPHYR

This vest may feel light and airy, but it’s a

workhorse. It features 11L of gear capacity,

including the main pouch and stretch pocket in

the back and six pockets in the front for quick

access to phone, fuel and shades. Poles attach

easily, and you can add a 2-liter bladder to boost

the 1-liter fluid capacity to 3. Mesh body paneling

aids ventilation and adjustable straps allow for a

custom, stable fit. Unisex and women’s versions.

$150; camelbak.com

SALOMON SENSE PRO 5 W

Women eager to return to trail racing will

welcome this new hydration vest. The no-fuss,

minimalist pack hugs the body without

restricting movement, thanks to stretchy,

durable fabric and just-right cut. More elastic

and space around the chest eliminates pressure

points and sealed seams help prevent chafing. It

features a whopping 10 pockets. Two 500 ml soft

flasks fit securely up front. Also in a larger size

and two men’s models. $160; salomon.com

BLACK DIAMOND DISTANCE

CARBON Z RUNNING POLES

Runners wanting the energy-saving benefits of

poles without excess weight will appreciate the

lightest choice in BD’s collection. The carbonfiber

shafts weigh in at a mere 5 ounces each (for

110 cm). They assemble quickly and break down

into a packable 13 to 17 inches (depending on full

length; seven sizes are available). If you want

adjustability, opt for the Distance Carbon FLZ

poles. $169.95; blackdiamondequipment.com

The lightest running poles from Black Diamond

are carbon fiber and weigh a mere 5 ounces.

THE RED BULLETIN 93


Peace of Mind

These innovative helmets—for biking and snow adventures—all have

cool tech to keep your brain safer if things go south.

Words PETER FLAX

S-WORKS PREVAIL II VENT

This update to the Prevail, long beloved by

roadies for its comfort and performance, has

upgraded ventilation and impressive safety

features. The helmet can accept an ANGi crash

sensor (sold separately) that will detect a crash

and (when used with an iOS or Android app) text

specified contacts with your location. The

minimalist MIPS SL system, exclusive to

Specialized, integrates MIPS crash protection

into the helmet padding. $250; specialized.com

The Prevail II Vent’s

add-on sensor can

detect crashes and

alert contacts in

your phone.

94 THE RED BULLETIN


G U I D E

BIKE

BERN HUDSON

Helmets for commuters tend to be heavier on

style than safety-driven innovation—and just

kind of heavy—but the Hudson includes the

MIPS protection system as well as integrated

LED lights, which are water resistant, USBrechargeable

and can flash or pulse. The

Hudson also has 13 strategically placed vents,

including two clever U-lock-compatible vents in

the rear that make it easier to secure your lid

when you’re not riding. $120; bernhelmets.com

SNOW

POC TECTAL RACE SPIN

This striking half-shell mountain bike helmet

features a tech called SPIN—Shearing Pad

Inside, if you must know—that uses proprietary

silicon-infused pads that absorb rotational

impacts. The Tectal, which is shaped to cover

your temples and the back of your head, also

includes an integrated RECCO reflector that

search-and-rescue teams can use if they’re

looking for you in the wild. All this and a pretty

cool goggle clip. $220; pocsports.com

SMITH TRACE

Using and elevating the MIPS System, the Trace

contains Smith’s innovative Koroyd honeycomb

lining, which improves how impacts are

absorbed. The helmet—good for road or gravel

riding or bikepacking—also has a proprietary

antimicrobial lining with sweat-activated odor

control. The VaporFit retention system allows

you to micro-adjust the fit with a dial. The Koroyd

system tends to run a bit hot, so 18 fixed vents

help keep things cool. $250; smithoptics.com

GIRO GRID MIPS

This helmet debuts Giro’s proprietary Spherical

technology—which allows the inner and outer

liners to rotate separately to redirect impact

forces away from the brain and means the Grid

can combine dense foam (for high-speed

crashes) and less dense foam for slower

tumbles. This protection is tucked in a helmet

that’s got backcountry cred—it’s lightweight,

well vented and comfy thanks to a Polartec liner.

Available for women as the Envi. $280; giro.com

RUROC RG1-DX

This isn’t a helmet to fly under the radar in. But

don’t let the postmodern storm trooper vibe fool

you; the RG1 is full of tech to bolster safety and

performance. Inside the surprisingly light ABS

shell is an integrated Rheon gel liner—a liquid

that hardens on impact—and a RECCO reflector

for search-and-rescue ops. The helmet comes

with an integrated Italian-made goggle unit with

magnetic, anti-fog lenses so you can see as well

as be seen. From $350; ruroc.com

ANON MERAK WAVECEL

Two new helmets from Anon, including the highend

Merak, are the first in the snow category to

utilize WaveCel technology, a system that has a

cell-like layer between the shell and lining that

can flex, crumple or slide to minimize impacts.

The Merak also has clever features like the

Fidlock magnetic strap buckle, which can be

easily used with one gloved hand, and niceties

like a cozy Polartec liner and 19 vents, eight of

which are adjustable. $320; burton.com

Don’t let the postmodern storm trooper vibe fool you—

the RG1 is full of safety and performance technology.

THE RED BULLETIN 95


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BEYOND THE ORDINARY


Action highlight

Done and dusted

After his 14th overall victory in the world’s most iconic rally raid, French driver Stéphane

Peterhansel (pictured here in Saudi Arabia during stage three on January 5) could

officially change his name to “Mr Dakar.” But it’s probably not worth the passport hassle,

given all the global travel he has to do. Africa, South America, the Arabian Peninsula—the

55-year-old has conquered them all at Dakar. See him in action at redbull.com.

The next

issue of

THE RED BULLETIN

is out on

April 20.

MARCELO MARAGNI/RED BULL CONTENT POOL

98 THE RED BULLETIN


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