Romania just had its first international downhill event, and we simply can’t wait for the next one.
“How about Transylvania?” read the message that I found in my inbox after coming back from Bigmountainskate’s Alpenrauschen freeride. I hadn’t heard anything about the event yet, but a quick look at the website told me enough; a fun looking track leading up to a ski resort, complete with a gondola and accommodation in the resort’s hotels.
Two weeks later I stepped off a plane in Cluj-Napoca, a city in the heart of Romania from where I hitched a ride to Straja for the very first edition of Transylvania Downhill.
The riders got set up in three hotels directly at the top of the track, next to the gondola’s top station. The hotels were well-equipped, with on suite bathrooms for every room and both breakfast and dinner included in the riders package. Noise was also not a problem, as the party area was a bit down the track, in the first corner.
On my first run, it became clear to me pretty quickly that I had been wrong about the track. ‘Fun looking’ is definitely not the way to describe this 7 kilometers long monster, while the race was held on it’s most challenging section stretching down to 4.5 kilometers.
The straights launch you into some seriously tight sweepers, of which some are followed by hairpins that drop up to 2 meters to spit you out with a load of exit speed for the next straight.
It seems to never end, and when it does, you’re back up within 15 minutes because the gondola is just a short walk through the woods away. Ludwig Forss apparently managed to hammer down 16 runs in one day, a number any organizer can be proud of, especially when the track is as long as this one.
The track is probably the best closed road I’ve ever skated, with a perfect balance between fast- and technical sections leaving you wanting more as soon as you arrive at the bottom.
Racing on this track was definitely a challenge. The race was held on a 4.5 kilometers long section of the track which, although shorter, is still more than long enough to make your legs hurt after tucking through it. The sweepers also get really tight when racing gets close, which makes it important to make your overtakes at the right moment.
Sebastian Hertler, Andreas Mangold, Ludwig Forss, and Anders Inde rode a tight final, with Hertler taking first, Inde second, Forss third and Mangold fourth.
After the race, the boys from Astronaut Soundsystem threw an amazing rave-like party with a huge soundsystem. People partied till sunrise, fueled by the locals’ homemade palinka schnapps and stoke that had accumulated over the last two days.
It’s amazing to see how a close-knit group of friends all pull together to make an event like this happen. Over 30 volunteers helped to make everything run smoothly, and although there were some minor hiccups, I have an endless amount of respect for the crew.
There haven’t been any Events in Romania on this scale, and none of the organizers have been to an event this size. To run your first event without having any examples of how things should be done is a big gamble, but it paid off. I had a great event and will definitely be coming back next year.
See you all next year! ~Robert Cornelis