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Race Report from Enduro Star Paul Bolton!

We have received an update from Enduro star Paul Bolton. You can follow his adventures on Facebook .

"Here is a little update for you….

Round 4 of the World Enduro Super Series (WESS) took us to Red Bull Romaniacs in the final week of July. In its 15th year it was coined ‘the EPIC one’ and it certainly lived up to its name. In a nutshell, Paul was chasing for another podium position to follow-up on last year’s 3rd place, however he was pleased to come out with 6th overall.  This year’s race conditions (after 2 months of rain in Romania) meant that physical upper body strength and the ability to push the bike up steep climbs time and time again, was a clinching factor in who made it to the podium. He felt he gave it his all and had nothing more left to give. This elevated him to 5th place in the WESS standings after 4 races, with 4 more to go.

Next stop in the WESS is Poland in September for Red Bull Megawatt 111. This is followed by Hawkstone Park, England later in September, then Gotland Grand National, Sweden in October and finally Red Bull Knockout in The Netherlands in November. Please do let us know if you want to come along to any of the rounds. Not to forget this coming weekend it’s the final round of the British Extreme Enduro Championship in Wales."

The EPIC one indeed by Lisa Bolton

15 years of Red Bull Romaniacs and this has been the toughest yet. Some may roll their eyes, as competitors are sure to want to claim they have tackled the toughest yet. Moreover, with the aches, pains and tales of adventure fresh in the mind, it’s only natural to claim it to be tougher than the last. However, this fifteenth edition did warrant the ‘toughest Romaniacs yet’ stamp of approval. But why?

Firstly, the growth in popularity of hard enduro has given rise to
young, eager blood joining the sport and the establishment of an official
championship World Enduro Super Series has seen strong contenders from World Enduro wanting a piece of the action. Red Bull Romaniacs mastermind Martin Freinadametz quantified the rapidly escalating level of skill perfectly, “in 2009 the infamous section ‘long walk’ took 35 minutes to pass, last year it took just 7 minutes”.

Then there is the progression in components and machinery which has become somewhat of a science. Take tyres and mousses for example, with so many brands and possible combinations, pro riders and teams spend essential time testing in different conditions. It’s crucial to make the right decision for the terrain, as it can make such a difference when conditions are tough.

In addition to this, the network of support for riders is increasing year on year, making the whole experience more manageable. Factory teams rock-up with an impressive set up, multiple mechanics, physiotherapists and racing managers. Many privateers and amateurs have a taste of this great support, choosing one of the many service packages available.

Considering all of this, it provokes race directors to increase the challenge and move with the times. After all, the sport is Hard Enduro. But this year an extra factor came into play. Unprecedented amounts of rain fell in Romania, which made the whole event a very different ball game. Nobody could predict the intensity of this edition of Red Bull Romaniacs!

As always, the event opener is a city-centre qualifier known as the prologue.
Qualification runs were brought forward by 30 minutes to reduce the impact of the forecasted torrential rain. However, as Iron and Bronze class riders took to the course, the heavens opened. 12 technical obstacles, many made from wood, meant that braking potential was unfortunately minimised. With the damage limitation plan back-firing, it left the more pleasant afternoon conditions for the more skilful riders in Silver and Gold classes.

Despite this, the obstacles remained slippery and it was a balance of pushing hard and staying on the bike! A Le Mans style start opened the head-to-head finals in the spectator lined streets of Sibiu. Top spots in the Gold class were taken by Billy Bolt in 1st, Wade Young in 2nd and Taddy Blazusiac who rounded off the podium.

4 off-road days loomed ahead. With a year of planning in the pipeline literally washing down the drain, organisers were forced to resort to not plan B (wet), nor plan C (very wet) but plan D (extremely f’ing wet). This meant changes to the track almost every day for all classes. With over 500 competitors, from 53 countries, the level of deterioration as more riders passed meant that organisers could not easily predict what may occur. If they made it too easy, then they had failed in delivering the world’s most difficult hard enduro rally. Sticking to the Romaniacs tradition of
making day one a shock to the system, modifications were minimised to ‘see how it went’.

Indeed, the first off-road day was a wet weather day in the slick, steep terrain of Transylvania. Nothing could prepare competitors for what they were about to endure. For riders who felt well-prepared in their fitness and their bike training, it was still a massive wake-up call! The Iron class had the biggest of all morning challenges, sharing a long, steep, muddy descent worthy of the Gold class categorisation. In the riders briefing, competitors were advised to seriously consider sliding not riding their bikes down. This very much set the scene for the week ahead. Romania is like no other place to ride, even on a dry day! Off-road day one left riders with no acclimatisation period. It was the longest day of them all. By the finish, stories of exhaustion, faces of disbelief and calls of it being the most difficult day ever rang through the mountains. Organisers realised that the rain had made for more treacherous conditions than they had ever imagined, but it was a necessity to reach the bivouac in the high mountains of Straja ski resort.

Off-road day 2 was significantly re-hashed into a much more realistic day to spur riders on. ‘Challenging but achievable’ was the phrase of the day. Plenty of variety in the tracks meant that riders raced through meadows, negotiated mountain ridges and entered derelict industrial mines. By the finish, smiles of riders were returning in the hope that the week would continue in this spirit. Competitors who yesterday vowed not to fight another day, were glad they had mustered up the courage to get
back on the bike.

Lulled into a false sense of security, competitors new to Romaniacs were optimistic about what off-road day 3 would bring. However, those accustomed to Freinadametz and his team of sinister track managers, could not be deceived!

Off-road day 3 is always a notoriously difficult day. It’s also known to the pros as ‘moving day’. It’s where those who want to claim the top spots have a final opportunity to push the limits, if they can breach the boundaries of tiredness! Red Bull Romaniacs puts competitors under intense mental and physical stress during the riding, added to that, repeated late nights and 4am get-ups. Tiredness becomes entrenched. It’s a battle to manage the body’s reaction to such unusual conditions. Unfortunately the race favourite, 6-time Red Bull Romaniacs winner Graham Jarvis, was forced to withdraw part way into the day. Extreme fatigue had taken its toll. The
hard enduro master was concerned that his lack of energy would cause him
irretrievable and potentially dangerous mistakes. Added to this, Polish Hard enduro legend Taddy Blazusiak retired with illness. Despite this, two strong young riders, were engaging in a battle for the top spot. Sherco’s Wade Young and KTM’s Manuel Lettinbichler were in a league of their own. Even Jonny Walker could not pose a threat to the daring duo. “I can’t wait until it’s over. It’s the most demanding round of the WESS and you just need to get through it,” said Walker.

Off-road day 3 lived up to it’s notorious reputation, with riders pushing their bikes up many unrideable steep sections. “You are just searching for traction all the time and when there is none, you’ve just got to push,” said Wade.

Having covered around 500km of insanely difficult terrain already, off-road day 4 is traditionally a faster day between the technical parts. The overall gap between Young and Lettenbichler was just 4 minutes as the final hurdle began. With Young in the top spot, he was in a good position to take the win. But ‘Little Letti’ was not going to take it lying down. Coached by his father, enduro guru Andreas, Mani shortened the gap to 2 minutes, but it was not enough. Wade Young emerged victorious as the youngest ever winner of Red Bull Romaniacs. A tremendous achievement for the South African.

So why did the two youngest, most inexperienced riders dominate this year? With the rain playing a big part in changing the terrain, it required a unique set of skills, precisely executed, to pull off the win. It came down to who had the best combination of technical ability, speed, concentration, stamina, hunger to win and perhaps the clincher….sheer strength to push the bike relentlessly, climb after climb after climb. Whether a rider, support crew member or spectator, if you were there for this year’s edition, it was certainly an epic one to remember!