Red Bull Romaniacs is by far one of the toughest hard enduro race on the planet and you can remember from my previous posts that I have been honored to work on this totally amazing event as an official photographer for the past 9 years in a row. Needless to say that one of my photos is being used for the official poster and that this race is basically 5 days of totally extreme and inhuman conditions that only few can withstand. Huge respect for all the brave and tough riders out there who participated in this great event that holds the title of the toughest Hard-Enduro rallye on earth.
One thing that never changed so far during the Red Bull Romaniacs event is the expression on the faces of all riders (from about 40 world countries) once they realize that hell broke lose in Romania and that extremity in its essence is embracing them during the rallye in Southern Carpathian Mountains.
The race is spread over five days, the first being the inner-city prologue in front of thousands of enthusiastic fans, followed by the four “Offroad race days” on some of the world`s most beautiful Enduro trails in the region around Sibiu, Romania.
The 2016 prologue unfolded with perfect summer weather, blue sky and in front of thousands of enthusiastic fans. For the riders, the prologue defines the starting order and the amount of penalty time added to their first offroad day. Traditionally, all Red Bull Romaniacs participants approach the prologue with nightmares and buterflies in their stomach. This “Gate to Romania” is feared by most of the riders with only a few exceptions.
Offroad Day 1 (Dust Till Dawn) was a boot-camp for most of the participants. Jonny Walker (GBR) arrived at the Service Point riding on one leg. He came bearing bad news that his previous injury from earlier this year had taken a massive hit and potentially refractured. It ended the race for him. Shortly after, more bad news arrived, this time from Paul Bolton (GBR). With blurry vision and severe neck pain, Bolton also opted out between checkpoint 3 and the Service Point.
One of the riders who were quick to recognize the absence of the top-dogs as an opportunity, and turn it to his advantage, was Wade Young (ZAF). He found himself some riding buddies to cross the unwelcoming Romanian wilderness together with and teamed up with Graham Jarvis (GBR) and Alfredo Gomez (ESP).
This earned him the victory for the day, with a better time than Gomez, who was the first to arrive at the finish. Gomez ended up 2nd and Jarvis only finished 4th in that day’s ranking. The third place went to Travis Teasdale, leaving the Offroad Day 1 podium dominated by 2 South Africans.
Graham Jarvis (GBR) stepped up to the challenge on Offroad Day 2. Having kept a low profile during the prologue and Offroad Day 1, he switched to combat mode and took off 4th after Young, Gomez and Teasdale. He dominated the race throughout the day and finished with more than 15 minutes lead over the runner-ups.
The race track, designed under the supervision of track directors Klaus Sorensen (DNK) and Teo Isac (ROU), lived up to the expectations of all classes. For the Gold class, it certainly qualified for the superlative “Toughest Red Bull Romaniacs day ever” – with 130km of extreme terrain to cross in an estimated 6-10 hours. The track was laid out in the region around Sibiu and visited the local ski resort “Arena Platos Paltinis” in the Cindrel mountains (Service Point).
Offroad Day 3 (Single trail heaven) was ruled by Jarvis, had rain showers, no dust and lots of grass, wet grass! Offroad Day 2 had shredded through riders and bikes like a tornado through Kansas, leaving only about 50% of the riders at the start-line on the morning of Offroad Day 3. That morning, rain and a few thunderstorms cleared the dust off the trails, resulting in better grip and more moderate temperatures.
The weather stayed cool during the day, with only a few local rain showers and some fog at the top which also made visibility an issue and many riders were beginning to feel that endurance was one of the hardest factors in this race! The grip, however, went from hero to zero as soon as grass became involved. The wet grass on some of the hills might have been one of the biggest scare factors of the day for all classes.
Weather conditions worsened later in the day, creating mayhem.
Gomez finished in a well earned 2nd place, stealing big chunks of Jarvis`s glory in the tough sectoons before the service point.
Offroad Day 4 was spa treatment for heroes in the mud as the world’s toughest Extreme Enduro riders battled it out. Afer torrents of rain during the previous day, the final day of the Red Bull Romaniacs greeted riders with blue skies in the morning. However, it was too late for the mild, sunny weather to dry out the mud-baths that had developed over night.
The riders were in for a “health-spa” treatment with a mix of water, mud and sheep muck! Not exactly comfortable “resting areas” were waiting for them in the steep uphills. The last hours of the 2016 Red Bull Romaniacs were all about pulling through and staying on the bike, despite worlds of pain, cramps and exhaustion.
Jarvis nailed his 5th Red Bull Romaniacs and Young won the day. To most of the riders, Jarvis’ technical skills, endurance and his speed are considered to be in a different league, somewhat superhuman: they believe “he can fly”. Gomez, who finished the day 3rd, placed 2nd overall. He had delivered a consistent top-performance over all five days, and fortified his place among the top-dogs of Extreme Enduro, commenting that this was his toughest Red Bull Romaniacs so far.
Wade Young finished the day ahead of Gomez, with a convincing start to finish victory, snatching the overall 3rd place from Mario Roman. Young had been seen unleashing a frenzy of fast riding all day, ripping through the countryside in MotoCross style.
An elated Kirsten Landman (ZAF) reached her ultimate goal on the final day and became the first ever female rider to complete the Red Bull Romaniacs Silver Class. After not finishing in 2015, Landman was training all year for this. Despite surviving the toughest day of riding ever for her on Day 3, she showed consistent results throughout all four Offroad days and the prologue.
ABOUT RED BULL ROMANIACS
When the Red Bull Romaniacs launched in 2004, it was a small event organized by enthusiastic friends and family. Preparations were completed within a few weeks and the riders did not know what they got themselves into. At the time, the words “Extreme Enduro” neither meant anything to anyone, nor were they associated to a special kind of motor sport.
Today the Red Bull Romaniacs have become a legend and international demand for Extreme Enduro racing is huge, thus the project team went on – drawing the bigger picture around the event and laying a foundation for further growth of the sport: They created the “Red Bull Hard Enduro Series”, a new event series that will assure quality and constant growth to the sport, while making it easier for riders to compete and compare their results.
The participating events are: Red Bull Minas Riders (Brazil), Erzberg Rodeo (Austria), Red Bull Romaniacs (Romania), Red Bull Megawatt (Poland), Red Bull Sea to Sky (Turkey), Roof of Africa (South Africa).