From Crashed Out, to Fan Favorite, Bienvenido Aguado Flipped Red Bull Rampage on its Head [Interview]

We spoke to Spaniard Bienvenido Aguado about his progression as a freerider, his historic front flips, and Red Bull Rampage 2023.
Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Bienvenido Aguado’s first run down the mountain at Rampage this year was as exciting as a run could get. Near the bottom of the mountain, he laced together a 360 over a drop, a backflip over a step down, and to top it off, a front flip over a 72-foot canyon. When he nailed the landing, the crowd erupted. He threw a superman afterward, launched his bike, and stopped just short of the finish corral, chucked his helmet and threw his hands up, celebrating what he knew was an outstanding line.

His finish corral interview was emotional after the massive pressure release. His eyes poured tears, he launched F-bombs on live national TV, and briefly considered retirement. “I can’t be more happy.”

Aguado took 8th that day, a huge rebound for his second time at the event, after crashing out in 2019. Aguado also walked away with three of six separate awards: The Kelly McGarry Spirit Award, Best Trick, and the People’s Choice award.

For being a fairly new athlete in the Rampage ring, Aguado made a huge impact at the event this year. We got in touch with him a few weeks after returned home to Spain to learn more about him and how he pulled it off this year.

Can you tell me about your background in sports and how you started mountain biking?

So I did gymnastics when I was younger, for eight or nine years. And then at 14, I stopped with gymnastics and I started doing parkour, capoeira, breakdance and gymnastics, but on the streets just for fun, and some acrobatics and stuff. And then when I was 21 years old in 2007 I discovered La Poma Bike Park. And then I started riding dirt jumps. And then in 2018 I started riding downhill.

How did you transition into freeriding?

I was kinda over it on the slopestyle scene, you know, because after the FMB contest and so many shows, it got kind of boring for me. So I decided to move to freeriding because it was a new thing where I had so much stuff to learn. And that was motivating me a lot, you know.

I had the base of jumping because of dirt jumping and then I was like, man, I want to jump bigger, so I moved into big bikes.

What was your first freeride event?

I think it was Nines, when it was Suzuki Nine Knights, which was 2018 or 2019. There’s some slopestyle lines and some pretty wild lines. And I did one in Italy in Livigno at Mottolino Bike Park.

And it was a pretty quick thing how you got into Rampage in 2019, correct?

Yeah, I was an alternate, and Emil was well, and we both got in because we were both alternates, and Gee Atherton pulled out and then I think some French dude, I think Bizet pulled out so Emil got in, so we got our spot through qualification of the Proving Grounds event.

How did you qualify at Proving Grounds?

I did best trick and fourth place. That was Proving Grounds in 2019. And last year I did third place.

And best trick that year was a front flip, right? Have you always been into front flips?

Yeah, since I started and in 2011 I did the first double front flip in. And then I always like doing combos; tsunami front flip, cliffhanger, front flip no-handers. I always love it to be different. And I’ve not seen many people doing that.

Going to qualifiers like Proving Grounds, was your intent to get into Rampage?

No, not then. I just wanted to go to a freeride event that was cool to ride and learn more about big bikes, and and then I got fourth and best trick.

And I actually did only one run because the second one was windy. And I was like man, it’s okay, I did what I wanted. I did the fronty, and I was like, oh, that’s enough. And then I qualified for Rampage kind of by accident. I wasn’t even pretending. I was super rookie, but it was like, okay that’s part of the situation. And I learned the hard way on so many things, because my event didn’t go too well. But what I learned I could apply this year. And it was a pretty good result.

In 2019, you were really going for that front flip out of the gate.

Yeah. Because my line wasn’t the best because it was too busy already, you know, the venue was super crowded already. So I needed something to start with and be solid and consistent. So I was like, I need to try or otherwise I’m going to be at the end of the score list. So I was like, Okay, I go for it. And it didn’t work.

Looking back on it, do you think you would have done anything differently?

Nah, I would have done the same. I mean, of course, I would change some stuff. But if I was back in 2019, I would do the same. Then, it was my only chance. No one wanted to share. It was super busy and hard to go through the mountain straight down without jumping into someone’s spot. So it was pretty tough. And I was a rookie back them. So I didn’t know how to deal with it.

That was four years ago now. How do you think you progressed between then and 2023 to be selected as a wild card this year?

I mean, I still need to learn so much, first of alI. I still think I’m a guy on progression line, which is what keeps me motivated. But I think the bigger jumps, I got used to it. I’m good with flipping big features. For example, this year, the canyon gap, I flipped it on the third go. It’s not what I wanted to do, but I was fine with that. Like, let’s get some stuff out of the way. So it helps with the pressure, with the tempo of the jump. So it was a good decision to do it.

What was your ideal run this year?

On the top ridge it was really windy and I had some more sauce to give on the run. But the top line was so windy and sideways. So into that jump, the in run was super skinny, and I wanted to do a trick to trick, but I was only able to do a nac nac to save the situation because there was sideways wind. And once you go straight down, it was okay. But on the top, it was too soft. I needed to go kind of slow and carefully. And on the trick job I couldn’t do anything crazy. So then I was able to get to the biggest part of my run, down the middle of the run.

One of the things you talked about in the interview immediately after was how technical that front flip is over the canyon gap. Can you talk about how you get that right?

The problem was coming from the top, the speed was way too much. The terrain was changing, because it was either dry or wet, or loose or packed. So the speed was changing all the time. And coming from the top, it was way too much speed. And the braking was kind of hard. So it was really easy to go flat. And I didn’t want it to case that jump because it would have been a disaster.

So I was going the other way. But a little too much, I was trying to go as snipey as I could. And on the straight jumps, I was landing way too long. So that was the main issue.

And when you do a front flip, you actually go farther. So I had to go scary slow to be able to do the front flip. And that was the hard part; go slower than the speed is to clear the jump. And then push with the front flip, so you clear the jump, but you don’t overshoot the jump. Just to judge the speed was crazy.

Photo: Christian Pondella / Red Bull Content Pool

Wow. And if you had backflipped it at the same speed, it would have been noticeably shorter?

Oh, yeah. If I did a backflip with the same speed I was doing the front flip, then I would front case for sure. With the front flip, you go like 10 feet longer, because you push up, so you go higher.

Obviously, you were very stoked, but afterward you said you didn’t care about doing a second run. But you did do another. What changed?

Because of all the pressure and the crash, everything I got really so bad. I was like, I can be happy. I came and I did what I came for. But, it was like, dude, I have another chance. I’m not going to waste it. It took five minutes to realize, and then after those five minutes, I was like, don’t think I’m not going for my second round, and I want to clean it up, I want to do better.

But then the wind got harder. And I couldn’t do more tricks. I just could clean up what I already did. And I don’t stop at the end of the run. Because there was some doubts about if I got under judged, because I stopped at the end of the round to celebrate. So I was like, okay, I can do the same round. And then I go to the finish line. And then I’m done and I did a proper run, instead of sketchy and stopping on the the end and throwing my helmet, just to make it proper.

Photo: Christian Pondella / Red Bull Content Pool

And you ended up getting a few points higher than the first round.

A half point I think. The problem is my top, it was too slow and sketchy, but I couldn’t do more because of the wind. That was too risky. If I tried to do something else on the top, and I fucked up, then I’m not able to do the bottom.

So I was like, okay, I sacrificed the top and then I sent it on the bottom. I think it was the right choice, even if it’s not the position I was wishing for, but the result was better than expected. I’ve got the awards, people loved it, I’m in for next year. I couldn’t be happier. So it’s okay. I’m happy. and I’m not seriously injured.

Your runs were fan favorites, but not some of the judges. They had different thoughts on them. What do you make of that?

To be honest, I’ve got Pinkbike asking me about some judging post, and I was like, I don’t want to be a part of that. I don’t want to play that game. I know you guys love controversy, but I don’t want to play that game. I know what it is to be a judge. I know what it is to be a rider.

I wish, and I think I could have been a little higher on my score, but man I know, as well, and I’m pretty honest, the top was too soft. But I had to do it like this because it was windy. So, fair play from everyone, I played my cards, and the result is better than expected, even if I think I deserved a little more points, but definitely not winning the event.

Everyone thinks I’m winning the event, I’m like, no, man. I could be close to the podium, maybe, but not winning the event. I am missing some steepness on my run. Before the 360, if I had some steepness, some speed, then that could be considered a podium run. Without that, the lack of steepness and speed; it’s not a winning run, man. And I know that. That’s why I don’t want to get into the conversation with Pinkbike trying to get me in trouble.

Photo: Paris Gore / Red Bull Content Pool

Well, it’s obviously such a huge jump for you to go from crashing out in 2019 to 8th this year.

I mean, I think I deserve my spot. And now I can breathe, I can just think about my recovery. And the last four years has been worth it. No pressure anymore, man. All the pressure I’ve had these last four years to get my spot, to own my spot.

It’s been a really long way through all the other events. And I’m happy man, I don’t want to blame any judges or anything. They did their job. I think it’s kind of weird, some results. Not just me. You know, there was something a little strange. But at the end, the podium was fair play to me so I’m happy with the result. I’m happy and that’s it.

How did you celebrate?

I was pretty tired. And I tried to celebrate so I went to Reed’s place, we had some beers but at 10PM I was like, I’m going to sleep. The next day we went to Vegas and then we did some some proper celebration.

Do you feel like you had any advantages or disadvantages coming from Spain?

Yeah, I will say disadvantage because I have nothing similar to train on. I have some jumps, but man, I don’t have any big drop like Utah, or any exposure. I have Andorra, which is a pretty big downhill racing bike park. I have some other places that have some jumps, but it’s like more trick jumps than big jumps. Honestly, for Utah, it’s something you can only train for if you live in Utah. There is nothing similar to it.

Do you think you’d go back to Utah before Rampage to train before next year?

Yeah, but not too long, because then you get too tired. It’s good to go and send some big stuff, so you get the confidence on the highest level before Rampage. But it’s not a good idea to risk too much or get too tired either before Rampage, you know?

So maybe I’ll go midseason to enjoy the riding. Because when you go for Rampage, you don’t really enjoy the riding. Everything is about working, getting a result and being consistent on the riding, but there’s no chilling. So maybe I’ll go mid-season for two weeks and enjoy a little bit of time over there.

What other projects are you excited about this year?

Yeah, I have a project with YT. I can’t tell too much because it’s a bit of a secret, but I have a winter project with YT. And then the next year, I’m gonna do all the big bike events like Freeride Fiesta, Nines, Proving Grounds in New Zealand, hopefully, and then at the end of the year, Rampage. And let’s see what’s coming. I mean, I’m pretty open to do all the big bike events.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.