"10 years ago, we never could've imagined that Hardline would reach the stage that it’s at now". We look back at a decade of Red Bull Hardline

Gee Atherton riding Hardline
An injury free Gee Atherton will hopefully ride Hardline in June (Image credit: Dan Griffiths / Moonhead Media)

2024 is a big year for Red Bull Hardline. Not only is it celebrating its 10th year, but this year will be the first year that the world's gnarliest downhill race will take place at a second location. 

Since its inception, Hardline has always been an outlier in downhill racing. Over the last 10 years, the race has pitted a chosen few of the best riders in the world against one of the most extreme downhill courses. Although the track has evolved over the years, Hardline Wales has been a combination of huge jumps and treacherous rock sections, and from what we have seen so far the new Aussie course looks to be no different. 

“It has been so inspiring to watch the progression of the sport; in those early years, riders pushed themselves out of their comfort zone to adapt from riding a typical World Cup course, but recently the roles have reversed, and the onus is on me and the team to build a track gnarly enough to showcase the riders' skills." says Dan Atherton.

With the much anticipated Hardline Tasmania about to kick off this weekend, let's take a look back over the last 10 years of Red Bull Hardline to see how much has changed in a decade.

2014

The first year of Hardline saw a small group of riders take on a very fresh and raw track. Despite there being only seven riders who would race the course, it was a stacked field including course creator Dan Atherton, his brother and then World Champion Gee Atherton, former World Champion Danny Hart, future five-time World Champion Loic Bruni, Brendan Fairclough, Nico Vinc, Joe Smith, and Gareth Brewin.

Gee Atherton was the last man down but a rear puncture put an end to his Hardline run. It would be Hart who would be crowned the first Hardline winner, followed by Dan Atherton and Loic Bruni.

2015

With the Hardline concept proven, the 2nd edition saw some big changes, more sponsors, more riders, and an even gnarlier track.

Although the track was a bit more established now, Dan Atherton had added some challenging new features. The fully built-up Canon jump made its first appearance, as did the original dirt Renegade jump. Dirty Ferns and the ultra-technical hip sections were also added and proved extremely challenging. The new sections of track, along with a good helping of Welsh weather on race day, meant the second edition of Hardline was extremely attritional. 

Dan Atherton was the first to put himself on the sidelines with a broken shoulder after a terrifying mid-jump bail on one of the new features. The course would also strike Taylor Vernon, Martin Maes, Remi Thirion, Luis Lacondeguy, Gareth Brewin, Matt Simmonds, and Kye Forte from the start list

That left eight riders to drop into finals; Ruaridh Cunningham, Joe Smith, Adam Brayton, Gee Atherton, Alex Bond, Craig Evans, Reece Wilson, and Bernard Kerr. Gee Atherton was once again the favorite although another puncture stopped him in his tracks. Despite crashing into a tree mid-jump during practice, it would be Ruaridh Cunningham who would take the top spot, followed by Joe Smith and Bernard Kerr.

2016

In its third edition, Hardline has already firmly established itself as one of the most challenging downhill races.

The track would see minimal course changes for 2016, although drier weather would assure some competitive riding. The Renegade step-up would get its iconic huge motocross-inspired metal ramp and quickly start claiming riders as they got to grips with the massive jump.

Many racers from the last Hardline would return, with the edition of some new faces including Mick Hannah, Brook MacDonald, Mark Wallace, and Eddie Masters. Bernard Kerr would win with a 2.4-second advantage over Ruaridh Cunningham, with Adam Brayton in third.

2017

The roster of invited riders was the most diverse yet with the fourth edition of Hardline seeing a much broader mixture of downhill racers and freeriders take to the course. Alongside some fresh to Hardline World Cup racers including Lawrie Greenland and Greg Williamson, riders like freeride legend Darren Berrecloth, Brage Vestavik, Yoann Barelli, and Sam Reynolds were invited to compete.

The mud returned and come finals, the weather was looking considerably worse with high winds causing serious issues on some of the jumps. The start line was brought off the top of the hill for the finals, with racing starting in the first tree section. It was a day for the downhillers, with all ten of the qualifying riders using their wealth of World Cup experience to navigate the treacherous course.

Last year's winner Bernard Kerr came unstuck on the rocks and crossed the line in second. Adam Brayton was on a mission until a brutal head-on collision with a tree put him down into the fifth spot. That left Craig Evans with the fastest time of the day. In what would be his last Hardline final to date, Dan Atherton would complete the podium in third.

2018

The fifth edition would turn out to be momentous, with Gee Atherton finally taking the top spot on the podium and proving that he was always worthy of a Hardline win. 

The course saw some updates to the start and finish. Most likely inspired by the previous year's last-minute finals change, the official start was brought closer to the trees. Probably a popular update with any rider likely to be standing at the top getting battered by the Welsh weather while waiting to start their run. The bottom section was also updated, including a new 70ft gap into the finish arena.

Bernard Kerr would secure another second place with Charlie Hatton following up in third.

2019

This year was arguably immortalized by several riders throwing backflips on the Renegade jump. Although Gee went upside down in the course preview, Gaëtan Vigé pulled a huge flip no-hander in practice, and several riders flipped on their race runs, 2019 will always be remembered by Jono Jones's insane scorpion backflip crash during practice. 

On race day the traditional Welsh mud was replaced with thick dust, so although visibility was better the track was incredibly fast yet unpredictable. Minimal track changes included a brand new hip in the Dirty Ferns section and a new landing for the log into the finish.

Bernard Kerr made Hardline history, laying a clean run top to bottom to become the first rider to win Hardline twice. Followed by Gee Atherton and Joe Smith.

2020

Canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic

2021

Excitement was high as riders returned to the Dyfi Valley for 2021 Hardline, although trackside it was quiet as no fans were lining the course.

With two years worth of digging, there were a couple of big changes to the course for 2021. A new 14m Cliff Edge step down after the Renegade proved challenging and the legendary massive road gap was also made a meter higher and longer.

There were some notable absentees from the start list. Gee Atherton was still sidelined after his huge crash filming his Knife Edge edit, course builder Dan Atherton would also be sitting this one out.

Qualifying was canceled due to wind which treated spectators to a huge 24-rider final, featuring downhillers, freeriders, and enduro racers going head to head. Bernard Kerr would solidify himself as the king of Hardline, securing his third victory. Tight racing meant less than four seconds were separating the top five, with Laurie Greenland, Kade Edwards, Brage Vestavik, and Brendan Fairclough rounding out the top riders.

2022

The most progressive Hardline with some gnarly new features and another exciting rider list.

Jess Blewitt would make Hardline history, the New Zealander becoming the first woman to drop into the Hardline course. Gee Atherton also made his grand return to racing after his horrific 2022 crash and child prodigy 18-year-old Jackson Goldstone was set to take the start line.

On course, the Dirty Ferns section was gone and in its place were some of the biggest jumps we have ever seen. A technical on/off ramp-box-ramp sequence setup riders into the two biggest jumps in the history of Hardline. The first gap measured 27.5m (90ft) and rolled straight into another 26.5m (87ft) double.

The new features would prove a challenging edition to the already brutal track. Dan Atherton knocked himself out attempting his new creation and Bernard Kerr destroyed his front wheel on landing, breaking his scaphoid (wrist) bone and finger in the process. The rest of the track was taking no prisoners either, Jess Blewitt fractured her collarbone and joined Daryl Brown, George Brannigan, Phil Atwill, and Kaos Seagrave who would also be missing finals. 

In the end, it was junior World Cup racer Jackson who would become the first ever first-time winner of Red Bull Hardline, but also the youngest ever winner. Jackson crossed the line with a massive 6.5-second advantage over Joe Smith and Taylor Vernon who were split by less than a second.

2023

Hardline finally succumbed to the unpredictable Welsh weather. Although conditions were favorable in the few days leading up to the event, both qualifying and finals had to be called off due to the extreme weather conditions in the Dyfi Valley.

Although we didn't get any racing, Hardline was able to host its first Red Bull Progression Camp earlier in the week. The session saw six of the best women MTBers invited to take on the Hardline course, including World Cup downhillers Tahnee Seagrave, Jess Blewitt, and Louise Ferguson alongside Freeriders Cami Nogueira, Hannah Bergemann, and Vinny Armstrong.

2024

Hardline is bigger than ever with a brand new Red Bull Hardline event in Tasmania. This will be the first time the Hardline event will be held at another venue and will undoubtedly have its unique challenges. 

2024 Hardline riders are gearing up to kick off the series right now, as a strong mixed field of riders get to grips with the brand-new Maydena Hardline course ahead of this weekend's racing.

Our money is in either Jackson Goldstone or Bernard Kerr to take the top spot, however, there are plenty of other riders who are more than capable of an upset.

The event will be broadcast on Red Bull TV on Saturday, February 24 at 7 am GMT / 11 pm PST / 2 am EST / 8 am CET / 6 pm AEDT.

Hardline will return to the Dyfi Valley, Wales on the 1st and 2nd of June 2024. 

Graham Cottingham
Senior reviews writer, Bike Perfect

Graham Cottingham is the senior tech writer at Bikeperfect.com and is all about riding bikes off-road. With over 20 years of riding experience, he has dabbled in downhill, enduro, and gravel racing. Not afraid of a challenge, Graham has embraced bikepacking over the last few years and likes nothing more than strapping some bags to his bike and covering big miles to explore Scotland's wildernesses. When he isn’t shredding the gnar in the Tweed Valley, sleeping in bushes, or tinkering with bikes, he is writing tech reviews for Bike Perfect.

Rides: Cotic SolarisMax, Stooge MK4, 24 Bicycles Le Toy 3, Surly Steamroller

Height: 177cm

Weight: 71kg