RED BULL ROMANIACS
THE GOING GETS TOUGH! PART 2
Here is part two of the Romaniacs story from John Newman as we see our intrepid riders at the sharp end - this is how they got on...
Degrees of difficultyOn the Romaniacs course there are degrees of difficulty as they say. Riders enter and are divided into categories, Gold, Silver and Bronze in the way of athletics medals, and in this year's elite Gold entry three out of the first four places were won by riders from the UK: Jonny Walker, Graham Jarvis and Paul Bolton. Our TRF trio were able to take advantage of a new category 'Iron'; designed to encourage more participation from riders seeking experience at this level of rally racing, and it attracted seventy four competitors from across the world.
Mark Lampkin had nothing but praise for the Desert Rose crew, who looked after and coached them every step of the way: but how to prepare for such a tough and formidable experience in the months leading up to the event?
As well as taking care of their own fitness, they signed up with the Lee Walters Off Road Enduro Training School based in South Wales www.leewaltersoffroadtrainingschool.co.uk where he offers 'all aspects of your off road training needs from beginners to extreme Romaniacs style riding'.
Challenging their fearsThis experience of itself was strenuous and demanding, but they could not have contemplated getting off the Romaniacs start line without Lee's expertise as a rally racer and trainer who challenged their fears and equipped them with the confidence to go at terrain and sections that if presented to them raw may have meant them stepping away from the whole gig. Our three 'Iron men' arrived in Sibiu two days before the event started. With almost five hundred competitors entered, the process of signing on takes a whole day, then comes the riders' briefing where everyone mingles and where the bulk of the competitors get a true feeling of being part of a huge world event.
You Tube, that ubiquitous addendum to our lives, holds a veritable library of Red Bull Romaniacs episodes. Did our three view any of these before they signed up? There are scenes of a disturbing nature as the TV media often warn us before putting up scenes of a disturbing nature, and this is certainly the case with the Romaniacs Prologue stage. A course of almost insurmountable obstacles set up in the town to entertain the crowds much in the same way the medievals used bear baiting, dog fighting, public torture and humiliation.
Almost unrideable!With the exception of a handful of the top riders, even the experts found this almost unrideable. Certainly those who the Red Bull commentator describes as 'hobby riders', the vast majority, dragged themselves and their bikes in and out of skips, over log piles, across a field of giant tyres, around a pallet wall of death. Excruciating and punishing for Mark L, Mark H and Rob, but they made it; albeit last.
Now sitting comfortably back in his office Mark Lambkin can describe the challenging, demanding and strength sapping experience of the four days of the race proper. To begin Day One competitors had to be transported fifty kilometers to the start area in the back of a van with the bikes: it was too far to ride their relatively small two strokes. But at the arrival point all the razzamataz one associates with a Red Bull event was happening: the huge familiar arch, loud music, the young women dispensing cans of the drink. It lifted the mood just to be part of this.
Spectating at an extreme enduro event is easy, just look for where the crowds gather. It will invariably be at the most difficult or spectacular section, and so it proved for Mark and the others. Within two hundred meters of the start a large crowd had formed to watch riders try and negotiate a ten foot gully by riding around its edge. Mark was tipped off his bike by another rider, and thus began many episodes involving picking up and dragging his KTM half way across Romania.
Red Bull and pastaAt the close of Day One they were exhausted, wiped out, finished. Bikes were handed over to the support crew and forgotten about while Red Bull and pasta was dispensed. There was an evening meal where all the riders ate together; bed at nine, and up around four the next morning to kit up and prepare for Day Two that Mark describes as the toughest – out of 120 riders in the Silver category only 35 finished within the time limit set.
Across and through the toughest sections riders tend to help each other drag themselves and machines out of trouble. Our three became involved in this mutual aid exercise, but soon came to the conclusion that if they wanted to finish each day within the time limit, they should only help each other. This tactic worked.
It's hot in Romania in July. Thirty five degrees hot, and the constant physical handling of the bikes as well as the relentless pace demanded by the course times took a toll. One of the major pieces of advice from the Desert Rose support crew was not to try and ride through any heat exhaustion. Stop, rest, eat and drink. Mark Lampkin was on his own at the back of the whole field and was vommitting. There was no other option but to stop and rest. This resulted in his 'timing out' at the end of the day. You can only do this on one of the four days, then you are excluded, which is what happened to Rob Rogers after Day Three.
There is nothing easy or 'comfortable' on any of the routes the four days follow. Mark Lampkin commented that the Welsh Two Day enduro would be considered an easy morning at Romaniacs. On Day Four the hard and rocky trails were ever upwards, but they had to come down and bike control when exhausted is much harder on steep downhill runs. At one of the compulsory service stops Mark asked about the distance to the finish. Twenty kilometers, and one hour fifteen minutes to avoid being a non-finisher.
The bike was 'taking him home'He cannot truly describe what happened except that he felt the bike was taking him home. It should not have been possible for him to complete the section in the time available, but it happened; it was over, and at the finish line he stripped off and threw himself into the river: 'one of the most memorable moments in my life'.
There were after effects. There was two to three weeks of doing little but eating and sleeping before anything like normality returned. Such is the physical and mental rigour of an event such as this. Would they do it again? In the immediate aftermath it was definitely no, but time and the positive memories have invaded their thoughts. Well, maybe.
Go to You Tube if you want to watch the Romaniacs Prologue and other clips of people crossing impossible sections on motorcycles.
John Newman for Wemoto News
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