South Africa’s top enduro rider Wade Young claimed the final step on the podium after a dramatic finish to the Red Bull Sea to Sky in Kemer, Turkey on Saturday.
The Sherco Factory rider from Paddock built on the momentum of his Forest Race win the previous day to ride out in front for most of Saturday’s Mountain Race finale.
However, a wily Graham Jarvis (UK, Husqvarna Factory rider) showed his experience as he shot past Young on the final hill to take his fifth title in the eighth edition of the Red Bull Sea to Sky. Mario Roman (ESP, Sherco) stole second place from teammate Young just before the finish line.
“I’ve had a good start and was leading most of the race after I caught Mario. I just kept it smooth, was really fast in the single tracks pushing hard and took it a bit easier in the technical sections to pull away again if the other riders close in. I didn’t really set the pace, I was just riding my own race,” said Young.
“Towards the end I messed it up a little bit, I probably should have slowed down a little to save some energy for the last uphills. Mario passed me at the same spot as Letti two years ago – I was really tired. But at the end of the day I’m still on the podium and this is a good feeling since I’ve had some bad luck at the other races lately,” he added.
The main event of the Red Bull Sea to Sky kicked off at the beach of Kemer with a total of 180 riders lined up in 18 starting rows with 10 riders each.
The ten fastest riders of the Forest Race the day before had all the big names in it: Young, Red Bull Sea to Sky 2016 winner Lars Enöckl (AUT, KTM), Jarvis, Jonny Walker (UK, KTM), Erzbergrodeo 2017 winner Alfredo Gomez (ESP, KTM), Manuel Roman (ESP, Sherco), Billy Bolt (UK, Husqvarna) and Paul Bolton (UK, KTM) to mention a few. With a 2-minute gap the second row followed and the battle at the Turkish Riviera began.
11 checkpoints spread over 72km were waiting for the riders from 23 countries. The organisers made the decision already a while ago to take out the long riverbed which used to be the first challenge for the riders in the past years.
This year the riders had to do parts of the Beach Race track with some manmade obstacles before leaving the beach to ride through some streets and gardens in the city of Kemer. Outside of the city limits the first more technical sections were waiting.
The Bronze Finish, checkpoint 3, was positioned at the valley station of the Olympos Teleferik, the cable car that’s going all the way up to the top of the Olympos Mountain at an altitude of 2.365m and the Gold Finish of Red Bull Sea to Sky. A total of 98 riders took away the Bronze Medal having reached the third checkpoint 19km after the start.
Most certainly the riders were not supposed to make a shortcut using the cable car but they had to master a section that had been given the same name: “Cable Car” – because that section stretches for a very long distance and you wish you could take a cable car to get over it.
The Silver Finish was located at an altitude of 1,285m and 48km after the start and to get there, a number of sections stood in their way: “Canyon-Fun” or “Silver Slope”, a long and steep climb up on a field with tons of rocks and heavy challenges especially for the silver class riders. Heavy rain started to turn the track into a true challenge for most of the riders but still 47 heroes will be decorated with the Silver Medal and truly deserve this gratification!
Roman had a good start on his Factory Sherco and was leading the race after the start but his teammate Young closed in on him and eventually passed him. From then on, the South African pushed very hard and was able to put a gap on Roman.
Walker had a bad day at the office: “It was really tough today. I’m so tired, it hit me half way through the race. I kept crashing and just couldn’t keep up with the rest. Ending up in sixth position certainly is not what I wanted but sooner or later we all have those moments.”
Jarvis however caught a bad start and left the beach in 10th position finding himself in dense dust and pretty much stuck behind the other riders for quite some time. The “Silent Assassin” played it like we’ve seen it many times before: Safe and steady at the beginning and then started to add more and more pressure once the sections got more technical.
However, he broke his clutch perch and housing mid-way through the race and had to tape it to the handlebars, having no clutch in some places. Did this hold him back? No way!
One rider after the other had to let him pass and the 42-year-old Husqvarna Factory rider eventually caught the two Shercos in the last third of the race. In a section called “Stoned and starving” – another uphill garnished with, yes, stones – not even 10 minutes before the finish line Jarvis’ experience, skills and endurance made the difference: The old man spotted better lines faster and got more traction so he pulled away and secured his fifth victory at Red Bull Sea to Sky – having participating in six of the eight editions.
The best Turkish rider was Bayram Uysal (Husqvarna) scoring a very good 31st place and thus earning a Gold Medal! His fellow countryman Yunus Mor (KTM) finished Silver on 32nd and Muhammet Ali Yüksel on 47th place.
31 riders made it all the way up to the peak of the Olympos Mountain at an altitude of 2.365m and were rewarded with the treasured Gold Medal.
“This is definitely the best win ever! I’m 42 years old and the other riders are getting faster so this might have been the last chance to win this race. I can’t believe I won it five times now,” said Jarvis.
“I got a good start but then Jonny fell in front of me and a few riders passed me so I spent about 30 minutes in the dust. But I was quite happy with the pace of the guys ahead of me to get into the race and play it safe a bit.
“I had a stupid crash around tank point two and broke the clutch perch. I was in third position for quite a while but I picked some better lines in the last sections and found some traction.”
Roman remarked: “I had a really good start, was leading for a while and then had a really good fight with my teammate Wade. In the last half hour of the race Graham caught us and the three of us had a battle, passing each other about three times back and forth. But then Graham just pulled away in the last 10 minutes.
“In the last step-up, right before the finish I passed Wade and am really happy with my second place. The Sherco team has made great efforts, my bike was running very well and hopefully I will win one of the next races!”
Gomez said: “Well, I didn’t have a good start, ending up ninth leaving the beach. I was with Graham for about half of the race and didn’t want to take too much of a risk at that time. After the last tank point I pushed as hard as I could but the mousse became so weak, I obviously killed the tire. I’m not happy because I wanted to win or at least be on the podium. But this is racing – these things can happen. Next year I’ll get the job done!”
Bolt commented: “I had a good start but made a mistake in the first section on beach ending up being the last to get off the beach into the track. For the first hour of the race the dust was so bad and it was impossible to pass anyone. I just had to be patient and pick the riders off one by one and they really pushed hard towards the closing stages.
“I managed to pass Alfredo and was fourth putting some pressure on the riders ahead of me but made a mistake near the top and lost quite a bit of time there. It’s been a good week, two podiums and a fifth in the main event – so I can’t really complain, especially compared with last year here in Turkey where I’ve had a different problem in each race. I’m definitely moving in the right direction.”