Red Bull's Last Man Standing Competition from the eyes of a spectator - Feature Review - Dirt Rider Magazine

Headlight ablaze and beams of guiding light streamed from the helmet mounted HIDs; the first rider of the night arrived at Joshua Tree Hill. Witnessing his ascent of the hill was like watching an angel ascend into the heavens. It was an image of beauty, evoking feelings of awe and inspiration from everyone gathered on the hill.His line was nearly perfect. Some extra momentum at the base of the hill and four quick blurps of the throttle saw David Knight's KTM bound up the steepest and most technical hillclimb of the day. From the base he was in complete control; his line took him to the left of a rut that nearly every other rider would follow, carving deeper with every pass. Knight's meteoric ascent carried him inches from the fans before he leapt the bike up and over a steep, earthen ramp nearly four vertical feet tall. He landed squarely and burped the bike up between the peak's boulders. Reportedly, he then thanked the course marshalls before disappearing into the night.In the silence of the evening we debated the best route up the hill, but with every approaching rider came a sense of calm. The crowd hushed and we leaned forward in anticipation. Glances were exchanged and grins broadened as lights pierced the bleakness of the night and the wail of a screaming two-stroke or burping torque of a four-stroke announced the arrival of the crowd's next hero. Like beasts prowling for their next meal, competitors tore through the brush before creeping, surveying the obstacle—their prey—seeking the tell-tale weakness that would see them strike at our hearts and rise to the pinnacle on a roost of dirt and rock.Sitting on that hill, we all knew—and spoke openly—of our own inability to accomplish the task at hand. These riders were a breed apart from us and we could only hope to possess a faint shadow of their bravery, skill and determination. And yet, standing on that hill together, witnessing their heroics, we all began to realize that there was something we shared with each of theses riders—fear.We know it is fear; we sense it as they pause and survey the sheer magnitude of Joshua Tree Hill. That slight hesitation, the drop of the revs to a percolating staccato, and the way their head has to tilt back, HID lights blazing, as their eyes search for a plan of attack. Together we breathe deeply to calm the nerves, then we see their shoulders set and we realize nothing will stop them from completing this seemingly impossible climb.It may have only lasted a few seconds each time a competitor approached... perhaps we know only of a sliver of this commonality. With our hearts in our throats we could share something with each of them before they put everything aside and tended to the task at hand. We, of course, clung to this paralyzing emotion as though it bound us to each rider. But from this fear we also derived our energy, and that is what we gave back to each of our heroes as they proved to us that what we stared at in wonder was nothing more than a minor deterrent on their 40-mile loop of the Texas backcountry.I don't know if they could hear us, but we helped them in the only way we knew how. We screamed. We cheered. We applauded. And, above all else, we hoped. Like so many armchair quarterbacks yelling at the television on a Sunday afternoon, we yelled through the trees and urged each rider forward. Upward. We willed traction into their tires and attempted to stabilize the loam as it roared from their wheels in massive roosts of horsepower and desperation. For some, our energy worked and they vaulted to the crest, though not without supreme effort. For others, our pumping fists and rapt yells of "Go! Go! Go!" were not enough. Several riders fell, their bikes tumbling to the base of the hill. Wounded, but not deterred, they would remount, restart and pull more energy from the cheering. To our delight (and their relief) the second attempt was usually successful.In many instances our heroes were assisted to the top by a group of orange vested, selfless, sacrificial lambs who would throw themselves into a rocky roost, on a treacherous incline, in an effort to spare our hero from a painful tumble down the hill. Human chains were formed as course marshalls pulled the bikes upright and stabilized them enough for the rider to... remount the bike?!This is now beyond bravery. Sitting motionless on an incline steep enough to give a billy goat indigestion, our hero decides that the only way to be one of the Last Men Standing is to ride to the top. And more often than not, with help from no less than six marshalls and a wide open throttle, ride he would.Another brazen roar erupts from the gathered fans and we exchange more looks of wonder and wild appreciation. Then we fall silent. We are saving our strength in anticipation of the next shrill scream or throaty burble that announces their arrival. Our hearts race again as the leaves glimmer with the light of another hero.