Within the next few days there weren’t a very large number of tasks, but we ended up being very busy regardless. At the time, it was just the four of us, but within the week nine more Germans flew in to join our crew. One of the first things we did was look around town to find some kind of hotspot device so our team here would be able to download & upload all their various videos and photos. This took longer than we thought, but was eventually managed. We had to stock up on food and especially beer before the rest of the Germans would come and clean it all out. Once we got some chores done, we registered everyone for the race and headed back to the RV. We finalized the night with getting some work done on our laptops, gathering outside the RV under the stars, like good German cowboys.
We were working and chatting outside past 10:30 p.m. when the park manager appeared and scolded us for being noisy. We didn’t even realize that we were bad boys. But the park manager wanted us to leave come sunrise. This here RV park wasn’t big enough for the both of us.
We avoided a showdown and managed to ask for one more night to be safe in these wild western Rockies. We thought to ourselves that if he got mad at three of us sitting outside, it would be impossible to host a dozen Germans here tomorrow, who inevitably turn a campground into an Oktoberfest!
Two more Germans came early in the morning, who were friends of the others and simply came as a vacation. That morning Thilo, Sascha, and Sven went to the technical inspections for the officials to check out the bike. I went with the newcomers to attempt and find a new RV park to stay at, and everything within 50 miles was completely sold out. This meant we had to be on our best behavior of course, with no room for error. Within a few days, there was a total of 10 of us, most with Wunderlich, but some also came simply for the adventure in the US and to help out. Luckily only a few of them had to stay in the RV with us, it seemed filled the way it was already with 4.
Training started Tuesday morning bright and early, with us being at the gates at 3 am. The training sessions were split into three different sections due to the many vehicles. The Motorcycles were put into one group, and Thilo practiced on the middle section of the course. Since there are more cars than bikes in the race, cars practiced on the bottom and top sections of the course for that day. Many different motorcycles were there with unique modifications, and everyone we met there was very friendly and highly respected the fact that the Wunderlich team came all the way from Germany for this race. It would start as soon as the sun came up, with everyone as a group riding the section first, followed by each one individually. The training went until about 8 am, which is when tourist traffic begins to come in. It’s safe to say our sleep cycles would become very affected, and we all knew it. Throughout the morning some of us would take turns getting a little shut eye in the warm sprinter, luckily, we had a big enough crew to pull this off. Surprisingly we didn’t have any more problems with the man at the RV park that evening, aside from maybe going a little fast in the lot. We ended up keeping it down and sometimes going into nearby Manitou springs. We didn’t have any crazy late nights, because we would be up at 2am in the morning for the training schedule, regardless.
The second day of training was at the same location, and was not much different from the first day. It was simply a cold early morning, but the motorcycles, the race, and coffee kept us motivated. Both days Thilo did very well, all things considered. Thilo had several aspects going against him, one aspect is that many of the riders have done this race at least a handful of times, and know the track very well, when this was Thilo’s first time. With such a difficult road with many twists and turns, track knowledge is vital. The other bikes in the class also had a bit extra horsepower than our R1200R. The KTM’s had roughly an extra 50 hp on the RaceR, despite this Thilo held his own and improved with each training session.
The next day we were in the upper section, where it starts at about 12,000 feet and goes to the summit of over 14,000. It was a very cold morning as expected, but the views from our spot were incredible. We all witnessed an amazing sunrise and a view to die for. We would also see the cars coming up from the middle section, and had a good view of them charging up the mountain. Thilo found this section much better than the prior one, and placed in one of the top spots with each of the trials. It was a successful run, but still more practice was needed for Thilo to succeed on Sunday. It was Thursday evening, and our final guests arrived for the weekend. William Plam of Wunderlich America and Erich Wunderlich himself both flew in to partake in the festivities. A good friend of the Germans and an excellent journalist also came in to make clips of the weekend as well. He is the creator of the videos you will see posted on social media. The grand total of the crew came to a dozen, tripling in size from what it had started with. The greater size made it a lot more interesting, with three times as many jokes flowing around. Even when we were all back at the RV, we luckily did not get scolded by the park manager again, which positively surprised us.
Friday was the last day of training, and this time it consisted of the lower section of track. As we have all week, we were out of bed by 1.30 am and at the track by three with the entire crew there. It was a much colder morning than the past few days, even with layers it was still a frigid time. I couldn’t imagine how cold it was at the upper section. Once the sun came up it was time for the entire group to do the training run. At this time fog began to come in, but the conditions still seemed to be manageable. By the time all the riders did their individual trials the fog began to come in with full force. During the end of Thilo’s first run he recalled to only be able to see 10 meters in front of him. This could lead to serious problems with the fact the riders go upwards of 100 mph followed by drastic sharp turns. After everyone did their first run the officials delayed the next run until conditions improved. Unfortunately, the conditions only got worse, with the fog turning into a hard rain all across the mountain. This meant that the officials had to call the rest of the trials off. This put Thilo at a severe disadvantage because of his status as a rookie, the other riders have already had lots of practice from prior years.
There was nothing anyone could do about it, all we could do is hope the weather plays in our favor on Sunday. That evening was the so called “Fan Fest,” which is an annual festival they have in downtown Colorado Springs in celebration of the Hillclimb. Downtown was completely closed off just for the event, which was something the Germans claimed would never happen there. Many companies and riders had a booth set up for display, and turned out to be a huge gathering of cars, motorcycles, and fun times. We had set up a booth as well, with the race bike displayed and Thilo signing autographs. It was estimated 80,000 people were downtown, many of them car and bike enthusiasts, but most just general population looking for a good time. We had lots of excitement come into our booth appreciating the bike and the effort of people from Germany coming all that way for the race. Everyone on the crew enjoyed the appreciation and the event itself, and it served as one of the highlights of the trip.
Saturday served as a bit of a rest day for everyone, we were all able to sleep in for the first time this week. However, since everyone’s sleep schedules were blown apart none of us slept passed 7, it was still much better than 1.30 am. That day a few of us went up Pikes Peak for some photo shooting and videos. Sascha made some great photos and Jens made some great videos including a scenic interview with Thilo. That evening a total of seven of us went on a little outing to go go-karting. The place had a great facility and the carts were fast. Most of the guys I was with have been racers in the past, and defiantly put me in my place on the track, especially with me being the young and inexperienced one. The outing lasted a bit longer than expected since it was very busy. We were done around ten, had dinner and by the time we got back it was a little after 11. Since the next day was race day, we had to be at the track by 2 am. This meant very little sleep for those that went. Luckily Thilo went to bed early, he woke up 12.30 rather refreshed and ready to excel, which we were all happy about. The adrenaline was getting us all up quickly, – RACE DAY WAS HERE!