Competitions in marginalized sports rely on sponsor money and voluntary help. In Freeride competitions in winter there are numerous people donating their time and strength for a lunch packet and a day pass. Ski retrievers and start guys are standing on top of a mountain for hours, freezing their butts off, calming down nervous competitors and spreading good spirits. If some of you, who I met over the years are reading that: Thank You! You guys are amazing!
Normally I profit from those enthusiasts supporting my sport, this weekend I changed side and was a track marshall with a bright orange bib at the 24h Downhill race on Semmering, a small mountain one hour from Vienna. Okay, it’s not a really a small mountain, it’s just small compared to the rest of the Alps. But is has a great history (might be focusing on that in another post) and also hosts the FIS Women’s Night Slalom. The rules for this race are quite simple: Athletes get up the mountain (300 vertical meters) with a gondola and ride down an especially prepared downhill track. Who achieves the most laps in 24h, 12 mid-day to 12 mid-day, wins. If there are more athletes equal in laps, the average of the downhill time determines the result. Single riders and different sized teams shared the trail.
The trail was not especially technical, concerning mandatory jumps, but there where some vicious passages over grass and rocks and over the course of the race the underground deteriorated. Everything was covered in dust. Rocks accumulated at the bottom of the berms and the riders could concentrate less and less as they got tired. Big respect for every rider who competed.
For all together eight hours I looked after “my” piece of the trail, checking that everybody stays on track, renewing the fence and clearing out big rocks. I watched riders crash badly and get up again, I saw some crazy overtaking maneuvers and was fascinated how the riders were communicating with each other during the race and how much solidarity(in most cases) there was between them.
What the athletes achieved, can’t be valued high enough. The trail was a bit too try and dusty, it was far too hot for any sports at all and they changed 24 hours between a gondola and a vibrating bike. Riding on a trail were one constantly has to work. And, I want to point that out: Same as in freeride competitions, most of the riders are professional, but not earning their income with the sport.
Thanks riders for all the inspiring moments, I hope to be back there next year.