Desflurane's Romaniacs Blog

Chronicle of My Participation in the World's Toughest Enduro Rally – Again…

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So, what is the prologue really like?

Posted by desflurane on February 24, 2013

It seems that the prologue at Romaniacs generates a lot of fear and anxiety among would-be competitors. And from watching video of the pros blasting over the crazy obstacles bar-to-bar with other racers at breakneck speed, it does indeed look intimidating. However, the experience most competitors will have on the opening day of the rally is rather different.

For the vast majority of entrants in each class (except pro) the prologue will consist of two runs through the course at whatever speed you can manage, and that’s it – you are done. The fastest sixteen riders from each class are then called back for the elimination heats. This is where the competition really starts – eight riders line up each time and it is a true race. The fastest riders from each of those heats then meet in the finals to determine the winner.

Right now there are 58 riders signed up in the Expert single class and 78 in the Hobby single class. Honestly now, what are the chances that any particular rider (such as me…) will end up as one of the top 16 and advance to the finals heats? Pretty slim I think.

The odds are skewed a bit further due to some degree of sandbagging in the classes (Expert or even Pro-level riders competing in easier classes) as well as the random occurrences on the course (a great rider might just have some bad luck and get hung up on an obstacle or a poorer rider might just get lucky and smoke the course). So most of us can just take a deep breath, relax and make a casual attempt at a decent run – above all trying not to crash big and get hurt.

So here is what it looks like (at least back in 2011 when I was there):

The line up

This was a fairly relaxed deal. I didn’t even realize that these were the actual timed runs until a little later, but the excitement was definitely there. But each rider takes off to tackle the course individually and most have had the opportunity to ride most of the obstacles already (during practice sessions after construction of the course is completed). There is adrenalin flowing for sure, but it really isn’t so terrifying.

Out on the course

As you can see, nobody is trying to kill themselves here. Sometimes small groups of riders would collect in front of the more intimidating obstacles, each guy picking his line carefully and waiting for the other monkeys ahead of him to clear out of the way (again, this kind of thing adds to the randomness of who will end up in the top sixteen for each class – you might be an incredible rider, but get stuck behind a gomer who holds you up for a few precious seconds…)

The scarier obstacles

In the 2011 prologue the most intimidating obstacle (at least to me) was the big log pile. The climb up the front side was a bit sketchy but the drop down the back just looked gnarly with the one big log poking up higher than its neighbors near the bottom. It looked like a sure set up for a nasty endo onto the pavement below. I didn’t see anybody eat it on that obstacle. A few guys came close – when they chickened out and locked up the brakes at the top and tried to inch their way down. Everybody else just gutted up and rolled right down without incident.

It seemed that most of the obstacles were that way – very intimidating to look at, but if ridden with confidence were no big deal. In fact the majority of Hobby riders never even got to try this log pile, as it was NOT included in their time trial runs. I don’t recall exactly but I don’t think it was included in the elimination runs either. Only the guys in the final heat had to do this one.

Once the elimination heats begin things get a lot more exciting for those few who have made it. But again, you just make your best run and try not to destroy yourself.

It’s long, but the live transmission shows what the elimination and final heats were like in 2012.

In summary, while it will certainly be exhilarating and hopefully enjoyable, the prologue shouldn’t engender such tremendous fear. For most riders it will consist of two nearly solo runs through the course at whatever speed you like, and that is it. Done deal. A few will be called back to participate in the elimination and final heats, but you still don’t have to kill yourself there. Like Richard Main said after winning the hobby class prologue in 2012, the real goal is to survive unharmed for the start of off road day one!

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