Return to Romaniacs
For anyone unfamiliar with the concept of extreme enduro, Romaniacs has been around since 2004 and is touted as the ‘Toughest Extreme Enduro Rallye in the World’. To keep this title, the organisers do absolutely everything they can to ensure the race is so difficult that only a certain percentage of riders will finish.
The event starts with an obstacle course-style prologue, followed by four ‘off road days’. The tracks average 120km and consist of slippery, seemingly endless hill climbs followed by equally long and slippery mountain descents where a bike must be walked down if you want to survive. Creek crossings must be navigated without drowning your bike, switchback climbs zigzag up seemingly unrideable terrain, and open sections must be ridden fast to buy a rider time for the subsequent slower extreme section.
The goal in every class is simply to beat the clock and finish within the allocated time. The dream is to win.
After finishing Bronze (clubman) class last year, I decided that, rather than doing the same class again, I’d put everything on the line to train hard and contest Silver (expert) this year. The jump from Bronze to Silver is technically huge.
As a privateer, the logistics of funding races like this are difficult. The training schedule is exhausting, never-ending and often quite lonely.
There was nothing I thought about, or valued more, than doing everything I could to finish this race. My biggest fear was that I’d not be able to get through the first two days, and I’d get kicked out of the race (time-barred). I thought, if this happens, I’ve put so much into this I’m going to be an absolute mess.
Race day one arrived, and I rode a smooth prologue. I had a lot of fun, despite being absolutely petrified of the course, turning up with two left gloves and having a mini-meltdown.
Day 1 started out fairly manageable, but a mistake sent my bike down the side of a hill and it took a good half hour to retrieve it. That, combined with my pace not being up to speed enough for these tracks, had me struggling by the halfway point. After replacing a fork protector that I’d managed to rip clean off the bike, I proceeded to get stuck with about five other Silver class riders on a hill in the rain. By the time we had all hauled the bikes up to better tracks, we timed out at the next checkpoint.
The second day saw me spewing in a service station carpark before the start. This race really can do your head in!
Two monster hills greeted riders within the first two kilometres, seeing some return even before the first checkpoint. I was lucky to make it to Checkpoint 2, but was timed out again. I wasn’t up to scratch, and my race was over.
My worst fear was realised, and the next day I woke up hoping it was just a nightmare, but no, the race continued without me. The sense of loss was heartbreaking. I remember sitting down and just crying.
A few days on, though, and everything changed. I honestly looked defeat squarely in the face and asked the question, “So, what can I learn here?”
What seemed impossible last year, this year was possible. What seemed impossible this year, next year will be possible.
One thing I do know now is that ‘failing’ is not something I fear like before. Perhaps one of the best things that’s happened to me in racing so far is coming up short and realising that life still goes on. All that work I put in has made me a better rider than if I’d sat back and refused to set high goals simply because I was too scared to fail.
I’d love you to follow me on my next adventure as I head to Turkey in September to race the Red Bull Sea to Sky Extreme Enduro. Head to facebook.com/melissabruceenduro.