PREPARING FOR BATTLE
|It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle. - Norman Schwarzkopf|
This morning was reminiscent of Apocalypse Now as we drove along the rutted and beat down dirt road that winds into the canyon, the filming heli rose up from behind the ridge and ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ rattled in the back of our minds. The basecamp was quiet as racer awaited news about whether or not they would be heading into battle this morning; winds threatened to ruin the show as decisions that balanced risk and investment were made.
The draft is complete; those who have not been carried off the mountain will compete. Yesterday waged a war with only personal victories and personal defeats. Throngs of spectators stood atop the cliffs and watched in awe as riders threw themselves down impossible steep and loose lines into the canyon on what seemed like endless kamikaze missions. As they dropped out of site behind ridges the crowd’s reaction across the canyon was all that indicated successes and failures. All of our hearts beat a little faster when riders did not reappear as expected and when spectators turned away or covered their eyes our hearts would sink collectively until we heard cheers to signify that the fallen were on their feet and dusting off. At times the pauses were long, the canyon was quiet, and medical teams charged in from every direction. With the chopper flying over top of the army tents providing shade for the riders, the scene often looked like the opening credits to MASH. The show must go on and riders continued to drop in as others were attended to.
Sitting on top of the cliff, radios crackle in and out shouting about logistical challenges. With an event of this magnitude there is an integral frame work being run by a camouflage and Red Bull clad team ripping around on motos and ATVs, putting out fire after fire and occasionally landing themselves in the medical tent for exhaustion and dehydration. From the event team, to the builders, athletes and media, this entire production is run on hard work and passion, sunburns and war wounds.
With the preparation, the expectations, the pressure and the hope, when disappointment comes it can be harsh. Not making the qualifiers by one spot to missing your first Rampage ever due to injury, today holds an emotional place for those watching from the sidelines. From Tom Van Steenbergen who was practicing in the high winds this morning in preparation for being called to duty, should anyone back out he will fill the bottom slot in qualifiers, to Thomas Vanderham who will miss his first Rampage ever due to injury after a viscous cliff tumble during practice yesterday. There is a depth and soul to this show, beyond web casts and big air.
With the chopper circling overhead, we stand and wait in the pitted out canyon, holding our breath and waiting for all our boys to finish safely. The speakers, colorful spectators and marketing flags have transformed this once tranquil area to a true circus, but without the white Tigers. Gusts of wind kick dust off the ridges periodically like small explosions, not only threatening to ruin the show, but also compromise the safety of these riders. As Semenuk got hung up on his first run and hiked back to the start, the medical stood calmly by and under the direction of Brad Ewin’s booming voice the crowd cheered encouragement; we are all in this together. No matter how close the friendships are or are not, we all feel a responsibility to these athletes who are putting it all on the line for us. Risking life and limb, these men are the gladiators of our Rome.
|Truly the world has united here in the Zion desert for this special day. - Brad Ewin|