Perfect sunny weather welcomed around 15,000 eager fans for the 11th edition of the world’s toughest Extreme Enduro race, Red Bull Romaniacs in the hospitable city of Sibiu, Romania.
Traffic and every-day business came to a screeching halt, when 350 riders from 35 nations invaded the city centre. The Enduro mayhem had already started to unfolded on Sunday, when one of the city’s main boulevards was blocked off and converted into an inner-city enduro course.
The task of managing the construction was again assigned to Red Bull Romaniacs prologue-master Andy Fazekas, who is known for his cruel creations in the past.
This year, after having promised to go slightly more easy on the riders, Andy took 120 tons of rock, 130 tons of wood, around three km of fences, some barriers, concrete blocks, pipes and barriers – and built another work of art.
The three km-long course, shaped as a loop along the four-lane inner city boulevard “Coposu” in Sibiu provided the perfect playground for the Red Bull Romaniacs kick-off! The sections include several railroads and a trailer crossing, the inevitable cable-reels, wall-rides, a city forest, the anti-jump, a spiral wall ride, crazy jumps and the “guillotine”, a moving log…
Once the race took off with the time trials qualification, only the top 35 riders of each class qualified for the finals. Later in the finals, all 35 riders were unleashed onto the course at the same time.
For the finals, the spectators were awarded with heated battles especially in the Gold-Class. The tension started to rise slowly over the heats of the different classes: there some heavy bike lifting and struggles could be seen in the heats of the Iron-, Bronze-, and even in the Silver Class but riders were supported by enthusiastic cheers from the crowd.
Once the Gold Class hit the course, the race developed into a world-class Enduro-Cross battle. Cory Graffunder (CAN) who brought tons of experience to the table, was fighting a winning battle for the podium, until his engine died briefly before the finish – due to a faulty spark plug. Bad Luck. Local matador Dani Otil (ROU) faced the same fate and had to drop out because of technical problems.
Britain’s Jonny Walker was clearly dominating and leading the race for the first third, but seemed to start remembering his strategy and went easier on the throttle in the last part, giving way to fellow Brit Graham Jarvis.
Jarvis had raced the prologue in his usual unspectacular style and no-one expected to see him on the podium. But he is not called “the silent assassin” without a reason and proved again, that the Carpathians are his kingdom and that he means business to keep the crown.
Despite a little wipe-out, Jarvis finished the race second. The biggest show was delivered by another British pilot, last year’s prologue winner Paul Bolton who rode like a shark in a fish tank and combined technique with top-shape and aggressiveness.
Bolton said after the prologue: “I had to win, I needed the money!”
Another stunning performance was delivered by David Cyprian, a 16-year-old teenager from the Czech Republic. He won the Silver Class and became the youngest rider ever to win a Red Bull Romaniacs prologue.
One case of even worse luck than Cory Graffunder struck Wiik Joar Resaland (NOR) who rode a spectacular race during the qualifying. But after the race, totally exhausted and thirsty, he grabbed the wrong bottle (cooling liquid) and ended up in the hospital. He is on dialysis now and will hopefully be able to continue the race.
Two highly anticipated top-riders did not even make it to Romania: Alfredo Gomez (SPA), last year’s overall second, got involved in an accident and ended up with a broken foot just days before the Red Bull Romaniacs. David Knight, who was expected to bring some fresh wind into the established podium contenders, lost his Sherco-factory contract and had to cancel as well.
Overall, the 2014 Red Bull Romaniacs prologue passed smoothly and without major accidents. Heinz Kinigadner, motorsports legend, experienced race organizer and founder of “Wings for Life” congratulated Martin (Frein) Freinademetz on the successful kick-off: “You have created something unique and amazing here – I am happy that we finally managed to come and see it!”