Words by Angie Hohenwarter
, photos by Tommy Bause
One of the nicest events in Austria is definitely the Trailmaster Challenge in Wildkogel, which is organized by Rob J. I already heard a lot of great things about this event, which is packed with a lot of action, riding, nice trails and awesome people in a relaxed atmosphere. So I came to Neukirchen, which is a small comfy village in the middle of the Alps, to check out the Trailmaster Challenge. As soon as you arrive the organizers and locals welcome you with open arms.
Mr. Trailmaster himself - Rob J
Just some quick words about the format: there are 3 stages, the Forest Pump Track at Night, the Oakley Channel, and the main stage is the Rob J Supertrail. Your rankings from those 3 stages are added together, the rider with the lowest score is the new “Trailmaster”.
1st Stage - Chainless Forest Pumptrack
Angie practicing for the chainless forest pumptrack
Everyone knows how a pump track is to handle, but this is definitely a new challenge for a lot of the riders. The duration of this technical very challenging course is around 1:50 min, you're always on the search for a good line because of the tight corners and slippery roots.
It's already difficult to ride this track during the day, but imagine doing this in the dark with just a lamp on the head.
And no chain on your bike either!
Unfortunately it started to rain cats and dogs right at the beginning, so the organizers decided to delay the event until the next day, just before the start of the second Stage.
The next day everything worked out well, it was much easier to ride down the track when you have daylight. It was still quite slippery and difficult to ride, but it was very important to finish with a good result so you could start in front of the pack at the next stage.
2nd Stage - Oakley Channel
This one reminded me of a Dual Slopestyle Fourcross course. Dual 'cause 2 riders start on the comfy seats, then they have to sprint to their bike (which lies about 10 meter behind them) as soon as the start signal goes. After you jump on your bike you first ride through drops, then over wallrides, doubles and fast berms to the finish. The winner steps up to the next round in a K.O. System. The pressure was on from the get go, cause if you messed up the start it was very hard to overtake on the course. A great crowd provided an awesome atmosphere for this stage.
After that the riders had a little time to relax, in the meantime the kids competed in the “Servus-line” race, which was organized by Milka. All the kiddies ripped down the track, pedaling out the berms, jump the tables, so the eyes of the people in the crowd got bigger and bigger, cause they where not expecting that kind of great effort. Valentina “Vali” Höll was the only girl in a race dominated by boys. I love to see the girls battle against the boys, Vali did very well and ended up in the on 8th place out of 16 Boys!
After a nice evening it was time to go to bed early to be ready for the final stage.
Rob J flying through the air on the Oakley Channel course.
A large crowd of spectators on the course helped to motivate the riders
a sketchy gap jump on the course...
Flo Gottschlich - only half way down and already lost his "partner" in this run - just too fast!
ladies winner Birgit Braumann channeling...
Flo Gottschlich again - wallriding and trying to gain speed for the following berms
Ana Raecke & Angie Hohenwarter going for a cooling drink
3rd Stage - Rob J Supertrail Mass start Downhill
local hero Vali Hoell, 9 years old and killing the boys!
This was definitely the hardest stage for everyone! The start was on the top of the Wildkogel and ended down in the heart of the village. Nine kilometers long and with a drop of 1300 meters, it's a rough trail with a long gravel road at the beginning, so that the starter field dispersed a little bit before you came to the single track. The roots in the forest trail let your fingers burn, but you had time to rest on the next uphill section… well, not really. One more step section down, then into the Oakley Channel and one last burst to the finish. The quickest woman, Birgit Braumann, was dominating on that day and finished with a time around 25 min. In the Men´s Lukas Anrig from Switzerland just killed it, down the mountain he had the longest breath and won with a time more than 1 min in front of the others. His time 20:09!
Riders meeting at the start with an amazing view onto the glaciers around Neukirchen
Flo Gottschlich & Geoff Gulevich kidding around right before the men's start
Men's start - 9 rows, each with ten riders, and every single one of them wants to be first
Rue Jahnel leading the pack, he was 4th in the downhill, and second overall!
After more than 25 minutes of downhill racing riders reached the finish. Done!
Geoff Gulevich made it down too, but still feeling the partybones from the night before.
after-race-chillout in the sun...
Full results are here.
Overall it was a really nice Event which is not only for Pro Riders, everybody is invited to join and enjoy the chilly atmosphere, the great trails, sun and the lovely people.
THUMBS UP for Rob J, Hotel Hubertus, Neukirchen and of course to all the helpers/workers/riders who helped making this Event possible!
I certainly will come back for the 2012 Trailmaster Challenge!