Well that was a long time coming! After ten Red Bull Romaniacs rallies I’m finally on the podium! For a number of years I’ve been ‘almost’ there, narrowly missing the mark by a few minutes after 30-40 hours of racing. In some other years, I’ve been taken out with injuries sustained through the brutal challenges of the Romaniacs course. But this year I’m at my fittest, having concentrated more on training schools for work (so getting more time on the bike) and dedicating time to training my body and mind. With all the years of experience and let’s be honest, disappointment, for me at this race, I knew I had to use my head to keep focused and push hard whilst also keeping myself safe. My aim was to find my rhythm and ride consistently and that’s what I did.
Red Bull Romaniacs is a race like no other. As the prologue begins, you know it’s the start of an intense week of technically demanding riding, long distances and sleep deprivation. Repeated 4am get-ups and late evening briefings ensure that riders and support crews are drained, with less than 5 hours sleep per day…that’s if you can switch off and actually sleep! It’s weirdly addictive with people coming back year-on-year to take on the challenge and improve on the year before. That’s certainly what I wanted to do… I didn’t want this race to defeat me.
So the event starts with the city centre prologue course to determine positions for off-road day 1. The course was as varied as ever, including many wooden obstacles and a wall-ride. All was well…until the rain poured just in time for the finals! I rode a safe race and placed 6th, my goal being the overall rally result and not the prologue podium. This worked to my advantage on off-road day 1, chasing the pack and achieving some of the fastest checkpoint to checkpoint times. I knew I was on the pace! Unfortunately, I narrowly missed a checkpoint which landed me with a penalty and brought me from a top spot to 6th on the first day. Onwards and upwards, I of all people know that dramatic changes can happen over the course of the rally. I just wanted to just ride my own race. I rode within my capabilities each day, striking a balance between managing risk and pushing the limits. I was pleased with my consistent performance, trying to keep enough in the tank for a final push on the last day. I will admit that I did feel the nerves on that day, which is unusual for me. I think I just knew that I’d been in this close position twice before and I had missed out. I wanted to be there so badly. All being well, things were on track to comfortably reach the podium. However, over 130km of racing stood between me and the finish line and I could see that Manuel Lettenbichler was hungry for a podium. I knew if I slacked off he would take his chance and pick up the pieces if he could. I just needed to make sure that day 4 went without mistakes. Little Letti put on an awesome performance winning the final day. Gladly I came in closely behind him in 2nd for the day, keeping my lead over him. Needless to say, the superbly talented Graham Jarvis left us all in awe, winning the overall rally for a 6th time!
Hard Enduro is such a progressive sport. The skill level is growing at a rapid rate with new young blood coming up the ranks from countries worldwide. And of course, G-force Jarvis showing that he is as competitive as ever at 42 years old! With this, race directors are pushing boundaries, challenging riders like never before.
The sport has evolved so much since I first dipped my toe into it in 2007. I was ready for a new challenge having competed in trials from being a youth and then moving into hare and hounds and enduro racing. I’d love just mucking about with friends seeing if we could ride enduro bikes like trial bikes! We didn’t even know hard enduro existed until seeing a video of Travis Pastrana at Erzberg in 2006! The year after, I arrived in Sibiu, Romania to have a laugh with my friends, riding together as a Hobby Class team at Red Bull Romaniacs. When I came 2nd in the prologue to Cyril Depres, Martin Freinadametz refused to let me ride in the Hobby Class and I ended up in the Pro Class. That’s where my 10 year battle to reach the podium at Red Bull Romaniacs began. But at last…I’m there!!!
I am proud to have got there on a stock KTM 300 exc with standard forks and shock (tuned by RSS), mikuni carb and some stronger parts bolted on for protection. With the support of my friends, family and private sponsors I have a strong team around me which is the best motivator! Thanks guys and girls, you know who you are!
Report: Lisa Bolton Photo Credit: Red Bull Contnent Pool