Officially there were 32 names on the gold-starter list of ‘Red Bull Romaniacs’. But in fact 33 riders tackled the most difficult variant of the Carpathian classic. The Dane Peter Weiss was not even five years old when his father set in front of him a little Kawasaki without an engine. Very quickly it became clear that this would probably be a lifelong love. The two-wheeled career of Peter Weiss has many chapters. He is now a busy route scout and designer for Hard-Enduro events in Central and South America. Before the ‘Red Bull Romaniacs’ he was first hired this year as track manager. During the rally he rode in the gold class out of competition for route evaluation under racing conditions.
Q: Peter, in the official booklet of the ‘Red Bull Romaniacs’ one could read this year of up to 600 kilometers of race tracks, depending on the class. But the individual classes were often on widely separated tracks, and you created your own tracks for the various helpers in advance. How many kilometres did you prepare in total for ‘Red Bull Romaniacs 2015’?
Peter Weiss: (Laughs) Definitely more than 600! If a race day for a class, for example, is 100 kilometres long, then some 500 have been scouted. But it’s not just about the routes for the four racing classes. The best routes for the camera crews must be scouted. Add to that the live reporter for the Blogger crew, the race doctors and all the people who make up the checkpoints and the refuelling points. If you add up all this, there is a total of nearly 6,000 kilometres of different tracks at ‘Red Bull Romaniacs’. The majority is scouted and fixed by my friend Klaus Sørensen as Track Director of the rally.
Q: You’ve been working before the rally this year as track manager. What is the specific task in this context?
Peter Weiss: Basically Martin Freinademetz and Klaus Sørensen defined the routes of four off-road days already last year in the autumn. As track manager you are then responsible for one day in the weeks and months before the rally. For me this year it was day 1. My first task is to see if and how the track has changed in the winter. Whole streams may have changed course, trees and rocks may have blocked or destroyed the track. It’s our job either to eliminate new obstacles or to find a way around them. In addition, we also need to test the track in bad weather. Sometimes you have to offer alternative routes if it rains. That’s an important part of the concept of ‘Red Bull Romaniacs’ – we want to make sure each class finds a quality route. They should be challenging but manageable. And no one should get lost.
Q: You are yourself a very busy track designer for some events in Central and South America. You look for and develop Hard Enduro legs in Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil. What is important about this? Must a route planner be able to master the most difficult legs himself?
Peter Weiss: Yes, I would say so. If you want to build a good track, then you have to try it out well in full. Only then do you know if that’s feasible for the respective class. If you do not have the skill or the courage to ride on a technically difficult yet unknown route yourself, then you cannot offer a quality product. That was the thinking behind the idea that I participated this year in the gold class. This also gives a signal to the drivers that we know exactly what we are doing. It is also about confidence – the riders rely on the fact that we have set the path wisely. They can rest assured that it is feasible. This applies to all classes.
Q: What did you learn that was new in your new task as extraordinary gold starter?
Peter Weiss: There are like two very different sides of the same coin. When scouting one is really on the bike for a long time, you push a lot, struggling through unpleasant terrain which is then often not suitable for racing. This is sometimes really tough and exhausting. And also dangerous because one really has to depend only on oneself. But the race is a completely different burden. The racing stress, fatigue, time pressure – the track looks really different through the eyes of those racing. And when you build the course you are often surprised by the riders. For example, we once had an ascent where we were sure they would work their way up by zig-zagging. But without batting an eyelid they rode straight up. At another point, we had estimated a good 50 minutes when planning the route for a descent and ascent. From the GPS data we saw that Jonny and the others needed only 14 minutes for this section. They simply ride differently and the level of performance gets higher and higher. We need to get used to new things each year.
Q: Can one make a mistake when scouting and setting the route? What can go wrong?
Peter Weiss: Various things can go wrong. Especially if you have sections in the route which have not been previously tested; on which none of the route planners has ridden. This is problematic. Especially if it’s a gold section. The greater the degree of difficulty, all the more important it is to test these sections. For one is exposing the best riders in the world to this route. That means that there is a lot of public attention.