the first ever woman to do so!
The Red Bull ‘Sea to Sky’ endurance motorbike race takes place along the Turkish Riviera and is a challenge for even the top riders in the world! South African woman earns gold – the first ever woman to do so!
The Red Bull Sea to Sky is unique – three days of racing through the beautiful terrain along the shore of the Turkish Riviera. Each day riders face a different a different format, as well as different terrain – making this one of the hardest and most enjoyable races for top enduro riders.
2015 saw the first opportunity for Brother Leader Tread KTM rider Kirsten Landman to attend the Red Bull Sea to Sky event, so we caught up with her upon her return to SA.
Q: “The Red Bull Sea to Sky is quite a new event in the grand scheme of things and the 2015 race was the sixth edition. In six years of this race being around, you are the first lady in the world to receive a gold finisher’s medal. How does that make you feel?”
Kirst: “Wow, after all the trials and tribulations over the last few years and the bad luck I had at Romanics this year, it was finally good to have a strong result and especially on an international scale. Which couldn’t have come at a better time for me personally and also of course for the sponsors that have supported my efforts thus far. It’s a good feeling to know the hard work and dedication is paying off in the form of such a result. I still can’t explain exactly how I feel in words. It really feels like a dream. I must say though that the support from South African fans has been amazing and I would like to thank everyone for the messages of support, it’s truly humbling knowing your country is firstly following your progress but more importantly sharing in your success.”
Q: “So we can safely say that this is your career high point so far. What has lead you to this? What made you want to ride dirt bikes? Did you realise as a little girl you wanted to be a dirt biker or did a family member steer you towards the sport?”
Kirst: “Well first off you have to be a little bit of a tom boy to want to enter into such a male dominated sport. But my dad grew up with dirt bikes and my uncle and cousin rode. My cousin and I are close in age so obviously I wanted a go too. At the time I was very into my swimming and was trying out for the provincial team so my dad said if I made the team, he would buy me a dirt bike. At the time I was 8. Well long story short I got into the team and I was given a peewee 80 and ever since then I have been motorbike gaga! The progression went from there to ATVs and then finally I got and RM85, then an RM125, my first real dirt bikes and I started entering the local club hare-scrambles. Like most I didn’t go fast at first but with more riding I started placing well against the boys. I will never forget how good it felt to place 4th, then 3rd, then I actually started to beat them. When my father saw I had a talent, his effort levels into the sport increased with us going to practise mid-week and then race or practise on the weekend. I never ever looked at it as a career path, it was mostly a passion that I shared with my dad and all I wanted to do was ride my bike at every opportunity possible. Once my schooling was complete, in fact the next year, I took a gap year from studies and my parents said I must do what makes me happy for a year and having a car and my independence, I chose dirt bikes. I got picked up by a team and started competing on a National level doing Enduros. Then in 2012, what a terrible year, that was the year I DNF-ed at the Roof at my first attempt and I had loads of stupid injuries that just slowed my development down, I really thought at the time, “well this is as far as I go with racing because I hadn’t shaped at all. That was when the legend of SA Off Road and Enduro racing, Daryl Curtis introduced me to my now team manager, Franziska Brandl of KTM SA. Having lost my ride, KTM were looking for a lady rider and I was put in touch with these great people who helped me when no one else wanted to. It was like a fairy tale actually, I met the boss and within days was signing a contract to be in the most envied team in South African dirt bike competitions, I knew then 2013 was going to be a very different year for me.”
Q: “Tell us about that year. The unlucky number 13 reared its ugly head.”
Kirst: “Well I was having a good year until halfway through the season where I had a high speed crash at the Desert Race and well let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. I had to be medevac’d and had some bad injuries. I don’t regret the crash as it made me hungrier than ever to succeed and I feel I grew as a person and as a racer. I learnt to live in the now as you never know when it will all be taken away from you. The bulk of the remainder of that year was spent mending.”
Q: “And last year (2014), it was a good one wasn’t it?”
Kirst:” Yes it so was! I got my first taste of Hard Enduro when I went to Romanics. What a challenge and what an honour it was. Then after that was the Roof at the end of the year which I finished, the whole year felt like every time I raced I improved and became more wise and consistent. Obviously the National Enduros were also great.”
Q: “Okay so back to Sea to Sky. Tell us about the experience.”
Kirst: “Well I had no expectations. Obviously I had sponsors that I had to please with a strong result but I just wanted to go and have fun and most importantly finish. My expectation was only to get as far as silver, and I would have been happy with that result. Then on the second day my best friend and helper on the trip, Dan, said to me that I can finish gold. Until that point it hadn’t crossed my mind really. Straight away I started thinking that no woman had ever done it before and I really had a shot. When I reached the finish I thought oh well at least I got gold and was so blown away when the media, organisers and all the public at the finish went so wild about the fact that I was the first lady rider to achieve gold. The reaction was so overwhelming and I literally had to pinch myself because it was surreal. It really was and still is a great feeling.”
Q: “So tell us, what’s next?”
Kirst: “Well the National Enduro champs are done so its Roof of Africa time! We will take the race step by step, I don’t want to create too much expectation and pressure as Roof is after all the mother of all hard enduros and anything can happen. I’m currently taking a week off to catch my breath and then we start with final prep and training for the Roof. My goal as always is just to finish. Anything can happen in this race, the weather, fitness, bike damage, navigation and long hours make for a race where to finish, the stars have to align for you from a luck point of view but the prep is key of course. I have entered Silver again this year so the plan is to finish and finish well up in the order.”
Q: “Would you make a switch in the national enduros to possibly E2 or E1 going forward after your hard enduro successes?”
Kirst: “Well the standard in SA Enduro is really high, my team mates Bouverie, Teasdale and Young are testament to this. These guys can run top ten in most races on the world stage and in Wade’s case, top 3. I am have no delusions that I’m as quick as those guys. Speed is not my strong side, I prefer technical stuff and the endurance side of hard enduro. So for now, I haven’t really decided. Silver would be my immediate choice but maybe a stint on the 250F is on the cards. But with that said, I have tasted success on the 250 Freeride and that’s going to be my first choice for hard enduro.”
Q: “There are some rumours that there will be a hard endure championship in SA in 2016. Is this something you’d be interested in?”
Kirst: “Definitely. I want to do as much hard enduro as I can and my goal would be to finish all the rounds and again pave the way for woman in our sport as the first lady finisher.”
Q: “Who would you say has been your role model or hero in your sport?”
Kirst: “I have always looked up to Laia Sainz. She is hard as nails and is as fast as some of the fastest men in motorcycle racing. She demands equal treatment and I like that and want the same. I’ve always liked the prospect of breaking the mould and being different, an individual, Laia for me embodies that.”
Q: “You have mentioned you have quite a big following of fans and supporters. What message would you give to young riders and young girls specifically that are starting out?”
Kirst: “I would just say to them, and it sounds like a cliché, but live your dreams, don’t let go of them, they can be achieved. Doubt is part of life, but when you fall down and things are tough, never give up. Always push for what you want. Don’t let anything hold you back ever. You’re on this planet once, make it count.”
Q: “Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?”
Kirst: “Well being a sport of attrition and your health and fitness being key to your success, I plan to do as many extreme races as I can. Erzberg for now is not on that list as I find the prospect very daunting. There is a possibility of me doing some World Championship Woman’s Super Enduro races and I am going to see where that takes me. Away from racing, I have just started to get the ball rolling on doing my private pilot’s licence and hopefully this will lead to a career after my racing.”
Q: “Anything you’d like to say to your fans and followers out there?”
Kirst: “Well all I want to say is thank you, each and every one of you for your social media posts and calls and emails and every message I got, each and every one of them touched my heart. I don’t plan on letting anyone of you down soon. To my sponsors, thank you. None of this would be possible without your belief in me and my abilities. To my family. You guys are my rock and I love you guys.”