24.05.2012: Marking Trails for the 2012 Red Bull Romaniacs - By Chris Karol
Remember? A few weeks ago, we were looking for new additions to our team of track managers here at the 2012 Red Bull Romaniacs hard enduro rallye. Chris Karol, an Extreme-Enduro rider from the US, made his way into the team and here is what he has to report:
Marking Trails for the 2012 Red Bull Romaniacs
The World's Toughest Hard-Enduro Rallye
By Chris Karol
It's raining sticks and mud in Romania at the bottom of the dark ravine where I now stand. Jet-lagged and sore, I am one of the lucky members chosen for the track-marking crew of the 2012 Red Bull Romaniacs Hard-Enduro Rallye. It's now day-2 and I am beginning to wonder what I've gotten myself into.
The Red Bull Romaniacs is the brainchild of 2-time World Champion snowboarder Martin “Frejn” Freinademetz. Known as one of the crazier competitors on the World Cup snowboarding tour, Freinademetz retired from competitive snowboarding in 2002 and brought his warped sense of fun to the world of competitive motorcycle enduro. Now in it's ninth year, the Red Bull Romaniacs has earned its reputation as “The Worlds Toughest Hard-Enduro Rallye”.
This race is not only a test of skill and endurance, but a true test of survival. Enduro Star Taddy Blazusiak competed here in 2010 but never made it past the first day. Taddy hasn't been back since. Meanwhile, survivors such as Chris Birch, Andreas Lettenbichler, and Graham Jarvis keep coming back every year for their annual dose of pain and glory – …so what the hell am I doing here?
I am attempting to follow Martins lead track manager, Klaus Sorensen on a day of track marking in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania. Every year Klaus and Martin scout new routes worthy of the Red Bull Romaniacs name. They found a good one here, but this is just a few hundred meters of track in the middle of what will be offroad day 3 for the Expert class. The line is ridiculous but I've just watched Klaus bulldog his way up on his Husaberg 300, proving that this is indeed possible.
On Klaus's advice, I've parked my bike on the road below along with the machines from the rest of the track marking team so we can clear the line on foot. After crawling up the hill and hacking a path through the underbrush on top with my machete, I've slid back down the slimy forest on my ass only to discover that Klaus, being the gentleman that he is, has parked his bike at the top and returned back to the bottom to retrieve his crew. Now he is shuttling my bike along with those from the rest of the team, up to the top of this nasty little climb so we can continue on with our day of track marking. This is only an Expert section. I'm not sure if I even want to see what we have in store for the PROs.
At the bottom of the climb it seems as if the forest floor has never seen sunlight. Between the slimy roots and moss-covered rocks are patches of matted pine needles and loose rich soil. The soil tastes refreshing as it rains down on my head. My helmet, which Klaus has kindly placed at the foot of the climb, is completely full of dirt.
Looking up, I see Klaus dragging a Husaberg 570 up and over a particularly nasty section. The other members of the team are trying to help, but it seems as if Klaus is actually dragging them up the hill along with the bike. The best I can do at this point is to gather my gear and summon the strength to slowly drag my butt up the hill. Welcome to the world of the Red Bull Romaniacs!
Once past the knuckle of the climb Klaus gives the crew a well-deserved break and promises fresh cold water ahead. The scenery is spectacular as we ride out of the woods onto the rolling green meadows perched atop of the steep dark Romanian forests. Shepherds and their dogs roam these hills tending their flocks of sheep and cows. Farmers have lived in these mountains for centuries, their huts and barns sprinkled throughout the landscape. The farmers only access to the outside world are the trails and paths which criss cross these mountains in the most unlikely places.
What seems like a normal dirt road in Romania can quickly turn into a washed-out unridable crater around the next corner. For the Red Bull Romaniacs riders, these roads are the highways to get to the next track. The tracks Klaus has loaded into my GPS for the day, are not necessarily trails, but that's why we are here on the Track Marking Team - to clear the line and mark over 600 kilometers of new routes for this year's enduro rallye.
These tracks are kept secret from the competitors until the morning of each days event. Each morning before the competition they will be loaded into the competitors GPS units and revealed. Until that time they are only known by Martin, Klaus, and their Track Marking Team. Most of the technical sections are either straight up or straight down. If you can't go straight up, you make a ziga-zaga and find another way. When all else fails, you find help to drag your bike up the mountain. At times it can seem impossible to get to the top. But the downhills are easy, as Martin likes to say... One way or the other you will always find a way to the bottom!
Here in Romania, if the hill is steep on top, you can be sure it will be steeper below… My objective for the downhills is to keep things under control and to keep my Husaberg 390 from cartwheeling down the mountain. Ditching the bike for personal survival is always an option, but if you want to arrive at the bottom with your bike in one piece, it's best to stay with the machine.
By days end we have ridden over 80 kilometers of Romanian wilderness with 4000 meters of climbing and 4000 meters of descents. Fast singletracks through the forest, connected by rolling hilltops provide a break from the extreme climbs and downhills which are the heart of Red Bull Romaniacs.
Riding back to the Romaniacs Headquarters at the end of the day, we are met by young kids lining the road extending hands to catch rolling hi-fives from the dirtbike warriors that have become part of life in the hills and villages surrounding Sibiu, Romania. Nothing can compare to riding dirtbikes in Romania. The combination of amazing scenery, insane tracks and flat-out fun riding is enhanced by the friendly waves from hikers and shepherds. There is a unique freedom found in this diverse mix of old European and modern-day culture. This is just one of the many elements, which make the Red Bull Romaniacs what it is.
For the Pro riders of Red Bull Romaniacs, winning this enduro rallye is a statement like none other. Yet each year the scores of amateur riders competing in the Expert and Hobby classes do it simply for the personal challenge. Regardless of their competitive-class, all those who finish the Red Bull Romaniacs will be rewarded by the glory of accomplishing what many would consider to be humanly impossible.
Finishing a day of track marking with Klaus merely offers a glimpse into the world and mind of Martin “Frejn” Freinademetz.- For those wishing to find their limits, they will find them here. For some, this may be a simple off-road tour with Martin's guided Xventure tours. For others who think they have what it takes to finish the 4 days of the Red Bull Romaniacs, the Black Mamba awaits!