No run-up, steep, loose wall to ride up. A rider revs his engine at the base, puts it in gear, psyches himself up and accelerates. A few dozen spectators cheer him on from the top of this monster “Last Man Standing” replica hill climb. He makes it 90% of the way before being kicked sideways on the rocky ledge at the top. Dilemma. Does he pull the bike up or ride down and try again. He tries the super-human attempt at dragging the bike up. Spectators aren’t allowed to help, just watch him struggle, his heart beat through the roof, sweating, and beat up. Finally, he wisely decides to try the hill again to the relief of now six or seven competitors waiting their turn at the monster.
After much deliberation in the morning on Sunday August 22, 2010 waking up to the ever-so-common rain this summer, I groggily pack the truck, the “Polish Nightmare” (my dog) in the back, and leave Calgary at 7am heading for Patricia, AB. I’m trying to catch the qualifying round of the first-ever Extreme Hard Enduro held in Canada, the Xtinction. Two and a half hours later, I arrive at the private land gate, pay the $10 entry fee, which is the least I can do to help the landowners who allow this race to take place on their private almost “sacred” land. Bound by the Dinosaur Provincial Park on one side and separated by the Red Deer River from the UNESCO Heritage Site on another, it’s a privilege to be allowed to walk on these ancient Jurassic aged delta deposits of the Horseshoe Formation, never mind riding a dirtbike on it.
The rain is coming down, hard. I can’t imagine how these guys are riding in these conditions. To illustrate my point, while running from the parking lot to catch the action and carnage, I eat sh*t at least three times on the slippery clay-topped sand and silt. This stuff is so slick when wet, its used in oil and gas drilling as a lubricant. Its worst than walking on flat ice, never mind crazy steep hill climbs. The top riders make the climbs on their first try, but most take multiple attempts.
Qualifying is over. Only 30 riders make the cutoff including RMDR members Moose, Brent, W.F.O., Jack Sawatzky, Sargeant-D, Kevin Pelletier (Wildman) and sign up for another two-three hours of pain in the Main Event. Some other riders qualify but choose not to race due to the nearly impossible and dangerous conditions (their words, not mine). However, the rain lets up, and the course starts to dry. I bump into “Moose” after qualifying but he seems distracted. I can see he is stressed. It can’t be easy trying to organize a world-class event and race at the same time. “Fry” is running around like chicken with its head cut off, trying to round up the volunteers and making sure the course is in good order.
Amazing scenery and blue skies welcomed the spectators and competitors in the Main Event.
With the sun shining, the clay is drying up, air getting muggy and hot. I miss the Main Event start as on-foot action-chasing is proving a little difficult. Instead, I’m positioned on a vantage point that allows me a panorama of carnage. First major obstacle is a ledge where the riders jump from one concretion onto another while missing a washed out section. It looks easy from far but multiple bikes and bodies littering below the ledge prove otherwise. There is also no easy way out. Few make it, most don’t, or walk across. And these are top pros in Canada! This is shaping up to be gnarly and awesome.
Cory Graffunder is in the lead from the start. He’s pulling away. But a strange combination of Kawasaki-green clad rider on a Pumpkin is close on his tail. Kyle Redmond flew in for this event from the U.S. and a local dealer hooked him up with a KTM for the event even though he rides a Geico Powersports Kawi in the AMA Endurocross series. He’s keeping Cory honest. After five or six laps, they are neck and neck; passing each other on hills others are taking multiple attempts at. Behind the two leaders, none other than Alberta’s own Jason Schrage is staying in the hunt three minutes behind. Not much further back, “Brent” is holding his own on the new GasGas EC300 Nambotin replica and “Moose” on the Husaberg.
After a few laps, the conditions are primo and I’m actually wondering if I would make any of those hills. Then I see “Moose”, Wildman, Schrage and others, off their bikes pushing up a hill I thought I would have a chance of making. Well, that clears my idiotic day-dreaming up pretty quick.
The final laps, the running order doesn’t change, Cory Graffunder takes the win in front of Kyle Redmond and Jason Schrage. The event was an amazing success and it was very nice to see our own RMDR members rip it up with the some of the best the Extreme Enduro world has to offer. The organizing team put on an amazing race and you can bet, I’ll be back next year to witness the carnage once again. I hope the rave reviews of the event will attract some Euros and convince them to jump across the pond in 2011 and more spectators show up to support this monumental movement in Canadian enduro world.
For the 2011 report, click here.
For more photos from the event, check out the gallery below: