A story about racing abroad by Gille Leenknegt

"For the end of the season of @dustandfun I was invited by @deusportal to race with them in Ravenna Italy, a really beautiful 250m short track. 

It took me a full day with plains/trains/taxi’s to get to the location but going to races in different countries really triggers me. It’s really inspiring how everyone races together sharing a passion and having a complete different life story.

Racing abroad gets you out of your comfort zone. It makes you work with what’s available with limited preparation by yourself, working with the unpredictable and still be prepared and ready for it. 

Those who know me well know I’m usually prepped with loads of gear and tools for race weekends, I try to bring everything I, or someone else, might need. This weekend I raced in Italy on a bike that wasn't mine, wrenching with other people’s tools and had one of my best races ever. I had the honour to ride @nikosorbo‘s Husqvarna 450. It was my first time racing that bike and I love it!

Saturday was a full day of training finished with a really nice bbq, everyone was tired from riding all day and I've  arrived just in time to grab a plate  a beer and join them. After dinner we all enjoyed 2 short films on a "handmade" outdoor cinema. of Of course also the movies were about racing and pilots: the story of Gary Birtwistle (UK flat track champion PRO and Hooligan class) and his Royal Enfield factory ride. And the story about Shana Texter, the first female rider to race and win in AFT (American flat track). How she grew up racing with her brother and father, racing and getting to know her husband Briar Bauman. The feeling you have looking at these films underneath a sky full of stars and the comfort of being at a place you love to be, the race track. Magical.

Sunday, race day, two practice runs and heat 1.
During practice the track was a mix of dry and wet making it very unpredictable. The dry stuff is like running on marbles, the wet stuff very grippy. I’m still getting to know the bike and I’m getting a little nervous for the races.

As Heat 1 starts, the track was well prepped, looking and feeling like a fresh morning slope. The riders are fast and I’m running 3rd trying to squeeze low and overtake, there’s not enough room and after tree or four tries I’m going all in and choose the outside and manage to overtake both of them in one try. Awesome! 

The track was prepped so well that you could run multiple lines making it very interesting for racing and overtaking. This is what I love most, high line or low line everything works and creating very competitive racing.
After this we have a lunch break with obviously Italian Pasta, this is one of the reasons we love Italy so much!

It’s 30 degrees and they prep the track between every run of heats managing to keep it this good all day, this is a big challenge meaning these guys know what they are doing. I’m running the open class which has 3 groups of riders mixed with rookie class, they mix the riders between all heats so you get to race against all riders during the day.

In between heats I’m running around the pits chatting with new and old friends. I’ve rode Deus Swank Rally di Sardegna many times so I know a bunch of Italian riders, and I've pitted together with the Deus riders admiring their awesome bikes: Circle F Rotax, Wood Rotax and CRF450’s.

Semi-final result decides if you run final, I’m having first pick of starting position and end up with the win giving me first pick starting position in final. 

In final we are 8 fast riders all wanting to win. This is the season final so for most of the riders this is moment they’ve been waiting for. I’m having a good start running first and manage to keep my spot ending with the win. I’m super stoked as I coudn't expect this result with someone else bike and so little training on it. But whatever the position on the podium would have been, it always worth traveling to see good friends, cool bikes and ride a few laps in a new place.

So, at the end of any race, the same question pops up: when’s the next race?"


Words: @gilleee from @theroadshow.enduro


Images: @chrifussi