2022 Proving Grounds



Words & Photos by Max Rhulen

Proving Grounds has returned for its third year! 2022 riders include returning champions Carson Storch and Camila Noguiera. Storch and Noguiera were tasked with defending their titles against a stacked field of 20 of the best male and 11 of the best female mountain bikers in the world, including slope-style prodigy Emil Johansson. 2022 marks a new beginning for Proving Grounds partnering with Natural Selection, a series of big mountain snowboard contests hosted by legendary snowboarder Travis Rice.

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Proving Grounds takes place 10 minutes out of Prineville, Oregon. The high desert of Prineville sees 300 plus days of sunshine a year and the forecast for this year’s event looked perfect. One weather element would stop the 2022 Natural Selection’s Proving Grounds from kicking off on schedule, wind.

Brett Rheeder was set to drop in first for his Qualifying run the morning of Thursday, September 8th. As he stood atop of the 25 foot wooden, flat drop at the top of the course he was not enthralled with the breezy conditions. His hesitation sparked the decision to regroup at 5pm and assess conditions. At 5pm it was decided that qualifications would now go at 8am Friday morning. 22 hours delayed.

Friday came and the riders were chomping at the bit to try to make their way into finals. Local rider, who now spends some of his year in Virgin, Utah, Ryan McNulty was loving the course. “My favorite feature is the lower cannon. It’s super steep and weird and hard to judge speed for, but it feels like you’re falling out of the sky!” Unfortunately Ryan did not make finals, but his energy was positive regardless!

▲ Ethan Nell early morning practice.
▲ Carson getting in some early practice on the upper section of the course. Can he defend his Proving Grounds title?
▲ Thomas Genon bringing the style during practice

Qualifying seated Beinvenido Aguado Alba, Clemens Kaudela, Talus Turk, Connor MacFarlane, and Brett Rheeder in the final.

▲ Riders like Garrett Mechem sending tricks like Cork 720s to try and make the big show on Saturday. Unfortunately not putting this one down…

No clouds, no wind, no problem. Finals were on! Riders were not holding back on their first run of two. Many knew wind could be a potential threat for cancellation on the second run so they were pulling out all the stops.

Defending champion, Camila Noguiera, sent the biggest drop on course showing her domination over the women’s field as no other rider was hitting this massive feature. Casey Brown was looking comfortable on both of her runs, hitting a crowd favorite feature, the megalodon shark fin. Even with Casey’s smooth runs and New Zealand Rider, Vinny Armstrong’s, massive whips they were not able to hold off Noguiera.  Camila Noguiera would repeat her victory at Proving Grounds with Brown in second and Armstrong in third.

Early on in this Proving Grounds contest it was apparent that Brett Rheeder was a force and that he meant business. This was his first contest since Rampage 2019. He took the top spot in qualifying and came down into first place on his first run during finals. Would Carson Storch and the other heavy hitters be able to wow the judges to claim that number one spot?

Dylan Stark showed creativity performing moves like a 360 off of the step-on shark fin. Reed Boggs was not only linking, but he was tricking many of the biggest hits on the course. Jaxson Riddle brought his moto inspired style, differentiating himself from the field with HUGE Indian airs. Coming off his 8th consecutive win at Red Bull Joyride, Emil Johansson was looking dialed. However, with a first run score of 90 and a crash at the bottom of run two, Emil would finish fourth on the day.

When the dust settled in the high desert the top three male riders were, starting with third, Bienvenido Aguado Alba, Dylan Stark, and Brett Rheeder. Having won with a score of 93.25 on his first run Rheeder did not take a second run. This put Dylan Stark as the last man on course and he celebrated by doing a full run on his e-bike!

E-bike heel clicker from Stark to celebrate his podium finish.

Men’s Results
1. Brett Rheeder (CAN), 93.25
2. Dylan Stark (USA), 92.25
3. Bienvenido Aguado Alba (ESP), 91.25
4. Emil Johansson (SWE), 90.00
5. Carson Storch (USA), 88.50
6. Nicholi Rogatkin (USA), 88.00
7. Conor Macfarlane (NZL), 87.25
8. Thomas Genon (BEL), 86.25
9. Reed Boggs (USA), 85.75
10. Juan Diego “Johny” Salido (MEX), 85.25
11. Clemens Kaudela (AUT), 83.75
12. Kyle Strait (USA), 82.50
13. Adolf Silva (ESP), 81.00
14. Louis Reboul (USA), 74.75
15. Ethan Nell (USA), 71.00
16. David Lieb (USA), 69.75
17. DJ Brandt (USA), 68.50
18. Jaxson Riddle (USA), 66.50
19. Talus Turk (USA), 49.25
20. Cam Zink (USA), DNS

Women’s Results
1. Camila Noguiera (ARG), 82.75
2. Casey Brown (CAN), 80.50
3. Vinny Armstrong (NZL), 78.75
4. Vaea Verbeeck (CAN), 75.5
5. Harriet Burbidge-Smith (AUS), 61.75
6. Kirsten Van Horne (CAN), 55.75
7. Robin Goomes (NZL), DNS
8. Georgia Astle (CAN), DNS
9. Chelsea Kimball (USA), DNS
10. Gemma Corbera (ESP), DNS

Backcountry Best Trick: Nicholi Rogatkin – Cash Roll
Pacifico Best Style: Casey Brown
i9 Heart & Soul: Camila Noguiera
i9 Heart & Soul: Dylan Stark

If you missed the show, you can watch the Proving Grounds one-hour show streams starting Friday, Sept 23 at noon PT on NaturalSelectionTour.com and runs on ESPN2 on September 25. 


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