It was a tough day to wake up to for the riders, who had a long gruelling Off-Road Day One – wet, cold and muddy. The weather conditions had transformed the race track from tough to “beyond extreme”.
Despite that, the majority of competitors had fought bravely and made it through the day – rendering organizer Martin Freinademetz quite proud and impressed with their passion, determination and skills.
Not only was it the longest day from hell taking its toll on their bodies: once the competitors had made it safely back to the headquarters, their bikes were in desperate need for attention. But…that’s the name of the game. On Thursday it was back on the bike at 6.30 in the morning, something nobody looks forward to after a day like that.
A powerplay by Paddock prodigy Young saw him take the win for the day and move into first place overall heading into the final two days.
Oslo Beach star Blake Gutzeit (Hill Climb Grenzgaenger Neubert Racing) came to the fore as well, a great day in the saddle landing him 10th place, while fellow South African Gold Class competitor Travis Teasdale (Beta Factory Racing) placed 11th.
The saving grace for all the riders was lining up at the starting arch to a sunrise over a cloud inversion in the valley below and not a drop of rain.
The trails were not likely to be dry but rain and fog were not on the cards. Also, as announced in the previous night`s riders briefing, the track had been changed from the “Bad weather version” to the “Worst weather version”.
The tracks were still technical and demanded good riding skills for the Bronze and Iron class. For the Gold and Silver class, “insanity” was not reduced, just the time they had to endure it. With the mostly blue sky and the drier conditions, the majority of riders got their spirits lifted.
The track layout, terrain and weather conditions appeared to be favourable for Manuel Lettenbichler, Young and Jonny Walker. Walker is a two time winner (2014 & 2015) and was the youngest winner in the history of the Red Bull Romaniacs at the age of 23.
Young was the youngest rider ever on the podium (third in 2014 and 2016) and Lettenbichler scored a fourth place in 2016 and 2017. The trio ploughed through the morning’s toughest sections at motocross speeds, taking turns in who was arriving at the checkpoints first and breathing down each other’s necks.
After the service point, the “young guns” Letti and Young were able to distance themselves slightly from Walker, and kept duelling for every second. Sections like “Dragon spike”, “Straja rock garden” and “Bikini hill” became the battlegrounds for them to fight it out. “America’s cup”, just before the service point, was the toughest signature section of the day.
The chase secured Young the win of the day, Walker, just a few seconds behind, the second place and Lettenbichler the third place. Overall position in the race reads: 1. Wade Young, 2. Manuel Lettenbichler, 3. Jonny Walker.
Young said: “I like the long days because I am strong but made some mistakes during the day. Mani is unreal on uphills, he just pulls. I made a lot of time on one hill, trying different ways to find traction. The tires I used were not the optimum”.
Walker commented: “This morning was really good – I struggled a bit with traction. We had fierce battles with Wade and Manuel – but I fell back on one hill and took a log in the ankle at one point which hurt. Two more days here at the Red Bull Romaniacs and then I’ll be super tired”.
Manuel Lettenbichler remarked: “I didn’t expect it to be so long. We got hit more than I had expected – with gnarly bits, tricky rocks and slippery slopes. I’m heading straight to bed and into recovery mode.”
Riders head out for Off-Road Day Three on Friday.