An 80-foot fall by freestyle mountain bike star Cam Zink that was captured on his helmet camera is giving non-thrill seekers a first-hand look at what it’s like to navigate one of the sport’s most treacherous events.
Zink’s death-defying fall happened last weekend during the Red Bull Rampage, a semi-annual downhill mountain bike contest near Virgin, Utah, that is considered the sport’s most challenging.
Zink, 26, was making his third and final practice run on the 65-foot Canyon Gap to Flat jump late Saturday when he overshot the landing ramp and, after a long free-fall in the air, crashed to the ground.
“The sun was in my eyes and it was hard to see the curve of the ramp and judge it properly so I went off how much I’d braked the run before,” Zink, of Reno, Nevada, told ABCNews.com today. “As soon as I came off the lip I knew I was in trouble.”
Thanks to quick-thinking by Zink and his decade of experience as a professional biker, the only injury he suffered was bruising to his heels.
“Since I was going over the [bike] bars I just had to eject and accordion myself,” he said. “You don’t want to stiffen up so you just brace yourself and let it happen. My heels took the brunt of the impact. They’re the only thing that really hurts.”
In the video,first posted on Zink’s Facebook page, Zink can be heard screaming, “Oh my God, oh my God,” just before he crashes to the ground. In the background, an emergency responder can be seen rushing immediately to his aid.
“This was one was really scary because as soon as I came off the jump I knew I was in trouble and it was a really long time in the air knowing that something bad was going to happen,” Zink said. “I’ve never heard myself so loud when I knew that I was going to crash.”
Zink won the Rampage in 2010 in a contest that was highlighted by his 360-degree turn off a 40-foot drop. He was excused from the qualifying rounds this year and automatically entered into the Oct. 7 final as a past champion, a spokeswoman for the Red Bull Rampage event told ABCNews.com.
Although Zink only bruised his heels in the crash, his injuries kept him out of competing in the final this year.
Canadian biker Kurt Sorge was crowned the champion at this year’s event.
Zink, who said he is “still tip-toeing” because of the pain in his heels, says he hopes to get back on the bike soon. The Red Bull Rampage event was the last competition of the year so he has time, he says, to “play it by ear,” when it comes to his recovery.
“These guys are professional athletes and they know the risks going into it,” the Red Bull spokeswoman said of freestyle mountain biking as a sport. “This isn’t a type of thing a novice would do. These guys wear their padding and protection but they’re fearless and brave and that’s what makes this event so exciting.”