[Adventure]

Kye Anderson Rocks Romaniacs

3 months ago | Words: Kye Anderson

Red Bull Romaniacs is one of the toughest hard enduro races on the planet. For most riders, three days riding through some of the most gruelling terrain Europe has to offer is enough for bikes and bodies to break down – not only for the weekend, but for life. For Australia’s Kye Anderson, it was more than just the race that got him stuck. It was a case of sheer bad luck and a visit from a Romanian viral bug that forced him to cut his 2018 Romaniacs adventure short. Here’s what the seven-time Transmoto Ironman winner himself had to say about his journey of ups and downs abroad…

Bag-packing essentials

First things first … before I even leave Australia, I must pack my bags with everything I need to race for five days straight through the Carpathian Mountains in Romania for Red Bull Romaniacs. But packing bags for Romaniacs is quite a bit different to your average traditional enduro race, let alone a hard enduro race. We don’t only need our riding gear, but also a survival kit. Yes, that’s right; a survival kit! This is designed to keep you alive for at least one overnight stay in the mountains.

My survival kit contains some of the following:

  • Space blanket
  • Mirror
  • Lighter
  • Emergency flares
  • 1 litre of water
  • Compass
  • Pen and notepad
  • Knife
  • Ibuprofen/Voltaren
  • Gels and muesli bars
  • Mobile phone
  • Tool kit
  • Putty steal

Plus, anything else you think may keep the bears and wolves from eating you, or perhaps even the local villagers. After all, this race is held in Romania’s Transylvania region, the home of Dracula!

Pre-Romaniacs training

On arrival to Sibiu after my 30-odd hours of flying, I catch up with my German buddies and start hatching a plan to start getting some training in before the chaos starts the beginning of the following week.

We decide to get a couple of days in to try and gel with the Romanian countryside as it is like nowhere else on earth to ride, offering endless unpredictability of bountiful traction and then in equal amounts of what seems like the slipperiest terrain in existence. This would be in full force after Sibiu and surrounding areas have had one of the wettest summers in a long time, and judging by the swollen and raging rivers it was definitely going to be interesting.

We teamed up with a tour company to get some GPS tracks so we would know where we are going, plus this would help aid as a little extra navigation training prior to the race. But before we set out for our 175km GPS ride, one of the locals showed us a video of a bear sitting on the road where we were going. This was only the week before we arrived and this bear was well and truly big enough to kill a person and wasn’t too worried about cars or bikes either as it sat on the road whilst everyone had to make their own way past it. Thankfully, we did not come across any bears on the ride – just cows, sheep, dogs and one unfortunate hen that was on the road in the wrong place at the wrong time, but for our own safety from the villagers we didn’t turn around to check, or we may have ended up in the same situation as their prize hen!

Prologue

Prologue would have to be one of the highlights of the event for the media and spectators as it offers so much in regards to crazy riding styles, carnage and epic racing to boot. This year’s prologue track was by far the most gnarly one to date, ranging from an infinite amount of tyres, rocks and logs, and then throw in the large timber structures you must jump on and off.

For me, my run started off clean and smooth, which was good for me since my trials background is all but non-existent. But it started to catch up with me as I gained more and more momentum from clearing each obstacle. Towards the end of the run, I made a bone-head mistake on a simple obstacle and crashed hard over the handlebars, ringing my bell and finishing my Day 3, and then with a poor time and a fair share of frustration to say the least.

Off-road day 1

4am and my alarm is in full force, telling me to get up and get into it for the day. As I look out the window, it’s teeming down with rain and looks to have been doing the same throughout the night. As I made my way to the pits, I quickly walked across the road to the ATM but unbeknownst to me, I had jaywalked and a Romanian police car caught me in the act and was most certainly not impressed. At one point through the process of them screaming at me in Romanian, I honestly thought I was going to be at the police station to start my day, not the start line of Romaniacs and all of this at 5:30 am! Definitely a heart-starter.

This is where my good luck would both begin and finish for my 2018 Romaniacs venture, as the rest of the day was not going to go as plan…
Early on in the day, we were pointed up and down some super slimy climbs and descents, along with some fast-flowing rivers, which we had to attack front-on; heading upstream against raging torrents and mobile sticks and logs. Unfortunately, and not to my knowledge, something within this time-frame had sheared off my oil filler cap on the engine, allowing the engine oil to escape and for water and mud to be consumed. And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out what all of that spells: disaster!

To make things worse, I hadn’t noticed the problem until the engine started to slightly malfunction, and on inspection I discovered the above problem. So in a frantic effort to try and salvage the day’s efforts, I putty-sealed up the gaping hole and soldiered on to try and reach the service point, where all of the above could be rectified.

But this was not meant to be, and the bike came to a stop just on the other side of the hill before the service point. I was so determined to get there, I pulled my toolkit out and began to pull the engine apart on the side of the road whilst making phone calls to organise for parts to be brought to me in the mountains.

After about 15 minutes, some friendly villagers offered assistance and it turns out they were mechanics – but I’m 100% sure not for KTM. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers in a situation like this. Many phone calls later filled with broken English and German language, it was deemed impossible to solve the issue in the mountains and I had no choice but to bitterly abandon the race and head for the overnight bivouac in Straja, some two hours’ drive away.

Straja bivouac

When driving into Straja, you can’t help but notice all the abandoned buildings and infrastructure; it really did look like something out of a war movie or even dare I say, Chernobyl.

To add to this, we passed giant abandoned mining centres and what looked like old nuclear powerplants. I was assured they were just power plants, but my imagination and mind couldn’t help but wonder what really went on in this dilapidated village that was haunting me. It’s situations like this and places I go to that really makes me appreciate living in Australia, a country that’s so clean, safe and healthy. It’s something so many Aussies take for granted.

Off-road day 2

With the engine being fixed overnight with limited resources, it was unsure whether Day 2 would even be possible. But I am not one to give up easily and started Day 2 fully knowing that it may not turn out the way I wanted it to, as there was a high chance the damage caused from Day 1 was terminal. Not far into the race, it was clear to me the bike was not 100%, but I had nothing to lose and figured I would give it my all and try to make the most of the situation and continue to learn the hard enduro game, something we simply do not have in Australia.

Despite starting at the back of the pack and on a malfunctioning bike, I was having a blast and posting some good times whilst battling through crazy traffic on a track that had been flogged by bikes and rain. I was smiling away inside the helmet without any pressure. I was just literally out there ripping around having a great time. Amalgamated problems from Day 1 reoccurred heavily late in the day and I was forced to concede defeat and make my way to a road and miss the last 10-15km of the track . I took a huge time penalty in the process, but still made it to the finish.

Day 2 wouldn’t be complete without its own set of dramas, both triggered by the first day’s saga and a new one of its own, viral illness.

Sick as a dog

After cleaning the bike at the end of Day 2, I could feel something deep down was not agreeing with my body. I thought, ‘Surely not; haven’t I been dealt all of the bad luck already?’

Sure enough, I’d gotten some crazy Romanian viral bug along with a bunch of other people. This was the nail in the coffin as even if my bike was 100%, it wasn’t going to be possible to race in my current condition. So for the remainder of my Romaniacs campaign, I found my way onto the media bus through some Aussie charm and slept almost all day every day – apart from stopping at spectator points, where I slept in the forest or field until a rider came along. Trust me, I am not a good spectator – let alone a sick and frustrated one!

Reflection

In hindsight, I feel there was nothing I could have done better myself apart from maybe getting a little too excited in my prologue run and biting the ground (literally). I was figuratively just dealt the cruel cards of motorsport, combined with travelling to parts of the world with lower health standards – resulting in my sickness, which I am still trying to recover from now back in Australia, some two weeks after being infected.

One thing I can speak for, though, is the overall strength of the KTM 300EXC TPI. I can guarantee no other bike on the market could have withstood the damage internally from the outside elements and still be even running, let alone able to be ridden the distance it went in those conditions. A testament to the orange brigade!

So from here, I am certainly down but far from out as I get prepared for some Transmoto races here in Australia before I head back overseas to tackle Sea to Sky, a race that has brought me great memories and good results in the past two years.
There’s got to be some sort of darkness to see the stars, right?


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