In 2006, Anthony Napolitan became a household name in the action sports world when he won the Dew Tour dirt title. Three years later – at X Games LA – the Ohio native landed the first-ever double frontflip during the Big Air event. These two accomplishments prove that Napolitan loves two things: dirt and monster jumps. So, Red Bull decided to give the BMX star exactly what he wanted.
As part of its year-long Signature Series, the energy drink company created Red Bull Dreamline, a BMX dirt competition involving 32 of the world’s best riders, with everything judged by the athletes themselves. The event was conceived by Napolitan, so it’s particularly special to the 27-year-old, who worked with builder Adam Aloise to construct the course at Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico.
With Dreamline airing this Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. ET on NBC, we got a chance to talk to the mastermind of the event to find out how he liked it, what it means to him and more.
Craveonline: Can you explain a little bit about the concept of Dreamline?
Anthony Napolitan: The concept of Dreamline basically just brings BMX dirt back to its roots. In places like Pennsylvania, they’re building really big sets of trails in the woods – and big meaning tall, big gaps, or a lot of jumps, like 100 jumps in a line. With Dreamline, we’re just taking the concept of bringing dirt jumps back into the woods for an event and having some of the biggest dirt jumps in the woods and some of the best athletes in the world to compete on them.
Crave: Do you prefer a dirt course over the more common park atmosphere?
Napolitan: Most definitely. I grew up riding BMX dirt, so that’s kind of where my roots are in BMX for me. One of the main reasons I love doing this event so much is I love just giving BMX dirt the proper platform that it deserves to be showcased on.
Crave: What drew you to the event – obviously you like riding in dirt but what makes it special?
Napolitan: I came up with the concept of this event and I basically just took all of my travels for the past 10 years, all over the world riding dirt contests – I just took everything that I saw in front of me. I saw what concepts riders liked the most, what concepts riders didn’t like the most. I saw what formats worked the best and I listened to what the riders complained about and what they liked best about certain events – I basically just problem solved all of that. And that’s what led me to want to create the course for Dreamline.
Crave: What kind of feedback did you get from the other riders about the way the course was laid out?
Napolitan: I didn’t hear any complaints, everyone was really happy – and I didn’t even have to ask. A lot of riders came up and voiced how excited they were and how much fun the jumps were and how they were having the best time of their lives. Even if they hadn’t, I could tell just by watching them go down the line and having fun with all the other guys. Once they finished the entire course and on their way back up, whether they were walking or taking a truck back to the top, you could see their face because they just had the biggest smiles and they were talking to the other riders saying how crazy it was or whatever – you could definitely just tell, it wasn’t rocket science to see that they were having the best time of their life.
Crave: How does this event compare for other riders, compared to the Dew Tour, or the X Games?
Napolitan: From what I’ve heard from the other riders, this is the biggest dirt jumping contest of the year for them.
Crave: How were the conditions in New Mexico during the event?
Napolitan: The conditions were actually pretty good. The first day we got a lot of rain for practice but then after that it was clear skies. It was funny because it was really, really nice and then about an hour after the contest was over, it began pouring again, so we kind of just slipped right into that no rain, perfect weather slot – we really lucked out. The only other thing, there was really only one downfall, we were up at a great height of elevation, we were at like 8,700 feet. That was really hard on some of the riders, especially the guys in the finals. We took 12 guys into the finals and it was kind of like only the strong survive at that point because by the end of the two hour jam session for the finals, there were only about six guys left. A lot of the guys got altitude sickness and they were starting to get dizzy and lightheaded from being at that altitude. So, that was really the only downfall of the event.
Crave: So that [altitude sickness] really played into how they competed?
Napolitan: I mean, sometimes you don’t have any control over getting altitude sickness. For instance, one of the riders completely killed it in practice and prelims – everything. When finals came around, he just got sick and couldn’t do it anymore. It just kind of comes out of nowhere.
Crave: Do you have much experience with those kinds of conditions, or is that something, even for you, that is a little bit new?
Napolitan: It’s pretty rare that we have an event at an altitude like that. We’ve had events in Denver where it’s at 5,000 feet or whatever and we’ve had events in the mountains up in Canada but I think this is the first time an event in BMX has been taken past that 5,000 feet mark, so it added that little extra challenge to it.
Crave: You compete in tons of events throughout the year, which one do you like most?
Napolitan: I mean, I could be completely biased, but the Dreamline event is my favorite event. It’s something I came up with and it’s kind of like my baby. Honestly, since I’m a dirt jumper, this is something that I look forward to because it’s the only contest out of the entire year that is done properly and is for the riders, you know. That’s why I have a top three event list that I like to go all year – and Dreamline is definitely the top of my priority.
Crave: You spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania at [Camp] Woodward, correct?
Crave: And you rode a lot with Kevin Robinson, can you talk a little bit about what that was like?
Napolitan: Kevin and I go way back. When I was just a little guy, riding my local skatepark in Ohio, we would get a lot of pros that would come through because the skatepark was so amazing – and one of them was Kevin Robinson. Kevin took a particular liking to me. He kind of took me under his wing, you know. He gave me his number the first time I met him and told me to call anytime I wanted to chat, or head out to Woodward. So for the next two or three years, I would call him once every couple of months and just catch up and talk to him and see how he’s been and whatever. One day, he came down to the park again and he rode. I had progressed by a hundred times more than what I was before as a rider and…
Crave: Were you nervous the first time riding with him, because by then he was an established rider?
Napolitan: No, not really. We had pro riders coming to the skatepark all the time from all different calibers of riding, from all over the world. It was a really cool scene to grow up in – and it was kind of normal. So, it wasn’t like we rode a skatepark where no pros ever came through and then once a year like a pro rider would show up, you know. We literally had someone who was in the videos or in the magazines show up at the skatepark like once a month, so it wasn’t a rarity to have professional riders in the building, riding with us. And I’m not the nervous type either – I could go up to anyone and talk about anything. When I would see a new professional rider, I would always go up and introduce myself and ride with them for a little bit and kind of let them do their own thing. I always just thought it was right to go up to them and talk, you know.
Crave: Going back to Dreamline, what’s it like when you’re waiting to do your run – what’s going through your mind, what are you thinking?
Napolitan: Basically, [I’m thinking of] just having fun. I know from experience, being the first rider through the entire section is a little crazy because you don’t know what to expect. Especially for the last jump, the last jump is in the 30-foot range in distance. To be the first rider down and to hit that last jump is crazy, because you’ve made it all that way and then you’re left with that massive jump at the end. And ironically, the first year we did Dreamline, I was the first rider to go through all the jumps and finish through the last jump. This year, my younger brother, Ronnie Napolitan, made it through the entire section before anyone – and he did it on his very first run. I thought that was awesome.
Crave: What’s it like before you’re about to go over that 30-foot jump, because you have to be stoked knowing you can pretty much do whatever you want?
Napolitan: Generally, we have a type of step-down jump that launches you into a long runway that leads you to it, so you have a minute to kind of think about hitting the jump. A lot goes through your mind right before you hit it and you’re going really fast, man – you’re going so fast. And it’s just like you go off the lift and you launch and you’re looking for that landing and then you judge and you lay on the landing and you become relieved. The more you do it, the better you get at it.
Crave: When you land, with the crowd and everything, you have to get pretty pumped.
Napolitan: Oh for sure, man. And everyone is like alright now we can jump it, because no one has ever seen it before. Once they see it, it’s possible and they’re like, “game on!”
Crave: Just one more question, what’s it like working with Red Bull and getting this creative freedom?
Napolitan: It’s like no other. There’s no other sponsor in action sports that lets you get the freedom to do this, basically – the freedom to create, the freedom to make your dreams come true. There’s no other sponsor like it – even the competing sponsors with Red Bull, they got nothing on Red Bull. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to create Dreamline and I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do today on my BMX bike. They’ve given me so many different points to exploit the way I feel about BMX.
Ed Miller is a contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.
Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool