I can barely believe it’s been twelve years of my participation as a head photographer in this awesome and unique event! As one of the most difficult enduro races in the world, with incredibly difficult race conditions that are sometimes inhuman and present a tough challenge for all riders and all the support crew alike, this year’s trial was the most demanding one yet!
From the photographer’s eye, the Red Bull Romaniacs event contains everything that any photographer would ever want. Possibilities of photoshooting an event like this are so numerous that sometimes one suffers from the choice overload, what part of the track to take, from which angle to shoot… there are so many options and opportunities, and that in itself presents an excitment in and of itself!
The Red Bull Romaniacs Hard Enduro Rallye was created in 2004 by founder Martin Freinademetz. Over the past years it has become the world’s toughest Hard Enduro Rallye and attracts competitors from about 50 countries each and every year.
The race is spread over five days – five days of pure hard enduro racing action: The event is kicked off with the legendary Prolog – a time trial in downtown Sibiu with thousands of enthusiastic fans and followed by four Off-road Days. The competitors are taken on some of the world’s most beautiful hard enduro tracks in the region around Sibiu, in the Southern Carpathian Mountains of Romania. They’ll have to master the art of navigating with GPS devices.
The breathtaking wilderness, incredible uphill and downhill sections in a stunning landscape and the professional as well as experienced organization result in the toughest and at the same time most memorable experience for all participants.
The Gold Class track on the first day was a shorter one with 102 km but supposed to be quite intense. However, most of the pro riders admitted that they are now beginning to understand why the tagline of the Red Bull Romaniacs 2019 Edition is “Sweet 16”: Challenging, but rideable and just a bit less demanding compared with the last two editions.
The course of the second day, August 1, 2019 will be one with some historical flavors. Decebal was the last King of Dacia – a historic region in Romania and he is famous for fighting the Romans, also in the region the racers got to ride tomorrow. However, the riders would fight against the track, especially on the 151 km of the Gold Class: The second day would again start with a proper Red Bull Romaniacs style Gold Loop before it turned into a very fast race track covering a lot of kilometres. Thus, the riders with fearless high speed skills have had an advantage tomorrow. At the end of the race there is a new section – Brother of K2 – where riders had to demonstrate excellent uphill skills if they didn’t want to lose too much time there. The remaining section between the Brother of K2 and the finish was a fast track again.
For day three, after the start the riders faced a faster, endurocross like section right beside the river, and then they were led into the real deal: slow, tough technical riding before hitting the Spectator Point “Black Slope”. At the end of Black Slope there were a couple of steeper uphills before the track took them to the “Birthday Downhill” which when first discovered, it took mastermind Martin Freinademetz, Teo Isac (Track Director) and Mike Skinner (Track Manager) a very long time to get to the bottom of. Having set out at about 06:00 PM they didn’t arrive back until 01:00 AM the next day which was in fact Mike Skinner’s birthday, hence the name! After the “Birthday Downhill” had been prepared and cleaned for the race it took the top riders only about 25 minutes to make it.
The section “Grinder Man” had to be done by both Gold and Silver Class: Not a big deal for the Gold Class but it turned out to be slightly bigger of a deal for the Silver Class, who spent quite a while with their bikes in that section. “Man Ridge” was another pretty technical uphill which some riders like Manuel, Billy and Jonny managed to go up without help, the rest had to rely on some spectators to give them a helping hand. A liaison between checkpoint 6 and 7 took about 1h 20m before the last kilometres and the final uphill had to be mastered.
After 124km on the Gold Class track the Offroad Day 4 will end at the infamous hill climb in Gusterita however, the track right before the finish line will be different and have some added spice compared to the 2018 Epic Edition.
The riders had to climb a good 10,000 metres (!) throughout the entire day within the vicinity of Sibiu. They faced the following signature sections: Ass Slide, Snooze, Momentum, Too Many Zicky Zacky, Extreme Miorita, Flying Ford, Hug the Tree, White Enduro, The Rock. All in all it was a classic mix of forest and alpine riding in the deep valleys around Sibiu and Paltinis.
Due to the extreme weather conditions that had previously been forecast prior to the fourth and final Off-road Day, the organizers knew it was going to be a challenging day to manage. “Antifreeze” was planned to be the most difficult loop in the Gold Class track today and our team had spent a lot of hours preparing the track as well as building platforms for the Live TV show. Based on the actual conditions out there and the feedback from our experienced team of Track Managers the tough decision was already made yesterday to cut this section out today. In the end it was a good decision for the race itself because the conditions turned out to be even worse than we expected.