Eagle’s Schulte to compete at challenging, dangerous Red Bull Romaniacs bike race
VAIL — When Eagle enduro rider Jamie Schulte revs her engine at the starting line of the Red Bull Romaniacs — the self-proclaimed “world’s toughest hard enduro-rallye” — on July 26, she’ll carry some inherent confidence. This is, after all, a woman who skateboarded from Santa Barbara to Mexico, a “pretty impressive, gnarly 16-day trip,” just because.
She’s fearlessly broken down gender barriers in her sport — first as a trailblazing racer who beat the boys and now with her Ovary Motorcycle Gang (OMG), a contingent of area riders working to make dirt biking as accessible to females as possible.
She’ll also pull a wheel to the starting line with a hint of justified fear.
“The miracle isn’t that you finished, it’s that you have the courage to start,” is what friend, OMG co-founder, and Eagle-based veteran of the prestigious International Six-Days Enduro and Scottish Six-Days Trial events Nicole Bradford has reminded Schulte.
Schulte’s commitment to the Romanian five-day race certainly is evidence of her courage — from a fitness and financial standpoint. In addition to raising funds for the international event, there is of course the reality that her adventure could end 10-minutes in if she crashes on the notoriously steep and sketchy European ledges.
“No, I try not to think about that,” she said of the risk.
“This is a race where every finisher gets a finisher’s pin because it’s meant to break you before you finish.”
Peeling back the fascinating layers of the 42-year-old rider, who only picked up enduro seven years ago, reveals why the risk — and any amount of fear — is totally worth it.
A perfect birthday present
Schulte is perhaps most known locally for owning and operating Wrap Colorado with her husband, Matt. A former Beaver Creek snowboard instructor, she grew up in Breckenridge dreaming of being a professional snowboarder.
“Kind of totally thought that was going to be my way of life, and then it just wasn’t,” she said. A brief detour brought her to Kansas City before she moved back to the valley 10 years ago.
“I was chasing winter all the time and I hated summer and I was like, ‘Alright, I need to figure this out; what am I going to do to stay busy in the summer?’”
For her 35th birthday, she bought herself a dirt bike.
“And it’s taken over my life,” she said in a the-rest-is-history type tone.
Her first year, she just rode. Her second year, she started racing. “When I decide I like something, I’m all-or-nothing,” she said.
Schultz hopped into the Rocky Mountain Enduro Circuit, a local (Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona) race series featuring one to two events per month, each ranging from 60-120 miles. Similar to cycling gran fondos, timed test sections placed throughout the course determine placing while intermittent “transfer” sections are simply about getting from A to B. There is a season-long points standings for various ability classes as well.
Her rookie season in women’s C — “the bottom class” as she described it — went well and she claimed the season title in her second year. She moved up to men’s B class, since at the time, there was no women’s B option. She won again.
“I beat all the guys and I was like, “Oh!, OK!” she remembered of winning another overall crown.
Once active on the RMEC board, Schultz immediately advocated for more advanced women’s divisions.
“I was like, ‘Hey guys, we’re out here, we’re getting good, we’re getting fast,’” said Schulte, who successfully formed Ladies A and B divisions.
This year, she and Bradford are duking it out at the top of the A division for the second straight season.
“She’s the fastest female rider in the area,” Schulte said of her friend, a seven-time ISDE gold medalist, who has taken her under her wing throughout her seven-year career. “It’s awesome because we just feed off each other.”
The pair recognized the barriers for females wanting to try dirt biking and decided to do something.
“I’d say I’m kind of a rare breed as far as just tom-boy, you can just throw me in with 50 guys and I’m comfortable, whereas a lot of girls coming into the sport need a lot of girl camaraderie,” Schulte said about forming OMG, a group that organizes ladies-only ride days.
“There are tons of girls on dirt bikes in Eagle; I don’t know where they are hiding, but as soon as we put something on our Facebook page, they pop out of nowhere,” she said to Blake Conner, who wrote a feature on OMG for Mountain Lifestyle Magazine this spring.
According to Conner’s story, as many as 38 women showed up to ride on Bradford’s endurocross track and receive help with gear, bikes, skills and even race entry fees.
Their efforts are paying off.
“I didn’t realize that the community surrounding dirt bikes, and particular these women, was so awesome,” Heather Mathews, who got into dirt biking because of her 18-year-old son, told Conner.
“I never expected that. They are so supportive and giving. There is so much angst and negativity in the world right now, but when I’m with this group of women, it’s all about cheering each other on.”
Not waiting for life to happen
For Schulte, looking for another challenge around the corner is more than just a way of life — it’s the surest way to get the most out of life.
“I am now two years sober. So, dirt biking is kind of like chasing … the adrenaline. I’m an addict. So, it’s almost like chasing an addiction of adrenaline, maybe. I don’t know. But that is part of it. I’m addicted, honestly,” she said, searching for the words to explain how the sport has both a positive replacement for past habits and also a way to fill a hole that can never go away.
“Anyone who’s kind of been there will get it,” she said.
“In the beginning, honestly, riding a dirt bike took so much brain power because it was all so new. It was like, I couldn’t think about other things, which was really helpful mental health-wise, because along with addiction comes anxiety and depression.”
The satisfaction of returning from a long ride exhausted keeps her safe, she said, and provides a better alternative to altering her mind another way.
“I’d rather get up in the morning and ride a bike than be hungover any day,” she said.
Schulte has lost her mom, step-dad and brother in the past few years, two other motivating factors.
“My family is gone and I’m not waiting around for life to happen to me,” she commented, seemingly answering the “is it worth it?” question regarding the challenging Red Bull-sponsored summer race in the process.
“I’m going to make the best of what I’ve got, because I’ve just had a lot of loss and things go away quick and I’m just trying to live. One-hundred percent, that’s where I’m at. YOLO.”
The five-day, 600-kilometer hard enduro starts July 26 and will take contestants, who have to navigate by GPS, through Sibiu, Romania and the Southern Carpathian Mountains.
“Sometimes, even over here I’ll go an hour without seeing someone in the woods and it will be a little eerie,” Schulte stated in regards to the route-finding component. “So, doing that in a different country, navigating by GPS, sounds pretty scary.”
The terrain is her other concern.
“The Romanian mountains are massive,” she pronounced, her voice firm.
“They climb super steep up and down. I’ll go up anything, and then I’m terrified to go down. So, that will be the biggest hurdle, and it’s mental, so I’ll get through it. But I am a bit nervous for a super exposed downhill.”
Her goal is to finish — and anything less will leave her wanting a bit more.
“There’s not a doubt in my mind, I know I’m capable of it,” she pondered. “Honestly, that’s what it’s going to take to make me happy.”
The words of her friend — that having the courage to start is the true miracle — have been replaying in her head.
“That’s kind of stuck with me because a lot of time, racing or doing something scary for the first time, you’re super amped up, and then you start and I don’t know, a couple pedal strokes into it, you’re like, ‘Oh, this is cool, this is what I do,’” Schulte said, almost inadvertently processing the other facets of her existence where she has faced things head-on and preserved to success.
“This is the world’s hardest hard enduro. People are basically like, ‘You’re crazy,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I know,’” she summarized.
“It’s just getting yourself to line up and do it.”