Travis Teasdale. (Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Content Pool)
Four of South Africa’s elite enduro riders put an exclamation point behind their respective Red Bull Romaniacs performances when they conquered the menacing multi-day race in style in Sibiu, Romania on Saturday.
Travis Teasdale (KTM) finished as the top-placed South African in a terrific fifth place after 34 hours 38 minutes and 53 seconds of riding over four days.
Brett Swanepoel (Husqvarna) was also rewarded with a place in the top 10, a strong final push landing him fourth for the day and seventh overall.
“Some ups and downs, but that’s racing. Thanks to the guys who make it happen,” said Swanepoel.
Dwayne Kleynhans (KTM) and Altus de Wet (Bet) also finished the job in the gruelling Gold Class.
Kleynhans crossed in 18th place, while De Wet finished 20th.
De Wet said: “We did it!!! Another gold finish. [I] Couldn’t have done it with this guy, David Thomas. This year was the craziest Romaniacs ever! To finish is like a win!
“Thanks to everyone that made this possible [and] thanks to all [the] SA supporters.”
The first Gold Class rider to arrive was “Mini Letti” Manuel Lettenbichler, who nailed the infamous uphill on the first attempt.
He might not be called “Mini” for much longer. In a career lifting move, he continued his performance from Friday, unleashing mayhem and left many of the established top-guns eating his dust.
Coached by his father (Andreas Lettenbichler) and teaming up with Paul Bolton in some of the sections, Mini Letti won the day and secured himself an overall fourth place in the race. After two unsuccessful attempts at the rally, this was his first finish – with an absolutely breath-taking result!
His riding buddy for the last two days, Bolton, seemed to be as excited about Mini Letti`s performance as he was about his own. Like Mini Letti, Bolton delivered one of the best performances of his life. He rode best-times from day one, scored a second place on Saturday and landed himself in third place on the Red Bull Romaniacs podium for the first time in ten years.
The highlight of this year`s Red Bull Romaniacs was Graham Jarvis. Riding in a league of his own, winning the first three and hardest days of the race, Jarvis played it safe on Off-Road Day Four.
Knowing that he had almost half an hour leeway to secure his overall win, he left the open tracks and the spotlight to the “young wild ones”. During the four days, Jarvis was seen using every spare minute to either rest or focus on preparing the next day. And winning his race, which he did…by a long shot. It was the sixth time that Jarvis did it – he is now officially a legend.
“Well I can’t believe it, I’ve won it six times, that’s more than I could ever have dreamt of. Obviously every year it gets harder and harder and everyone`s upping the pace, I can’t believe it really, it`s just an incredible experience. I was just happy to get to the finish.
“This last day I’ve really struggled, I don’t mind admitting that at 42 years old four days on the trot gets harder. There’s no secrets about it, you just have to use your experience and stay out of trouble, knowing when to go fast and when to play safe. You go through a lot of emotions during the four days and I’m so tired I can’t feel anything, I just want to get a beer and sit down and relax,” said Jarvis.
Lettenbichler said: “It was a tough week, but still good, I was pretty stoked today, it was fast and you had to push from the start to the finish. I managed it! I’m so happy to finish, for sure ideally you want to podium but it’s still amazing because the last two years I crashed and had to quit but this year I made it through to the hill climb and Andy`s surprise and it’s a really amazing feeling.”
Bolton said: “I’ve had an awesome week, no major hiccups or anything like that, I’ve been positive all week, just trying to ride my own race. I’m more mentally and physically prepared than ever before and it has really paid off. It’s my tenth year, so it was all or nothing, it had to happen this year!
“I rode well from the beginning and consistency was key. My bike and kit have all been amazing. It`s all down to having a lot of awesome people around me, Patch and everyone in the pits and I’d like to dedicate it to everybody who helped me out and so that’s it..third place Red Bull Romaniacs 2017!”
Roman remarked: “I’m feeling so good right now, I’ve been working so hard the last couple of years, I’ve had good results but this is pretty much the best for me, I can’t complain, I’m really happy with Sherco and my team. Today was a perfect day, I didn’t take any risks and I didn’t think about any of the other riders, I had a good gap and just did my best. I feel at home in the finish with the hillclimb because I have lots of these at home and have ridden them all my life so I had a lot of fun in the finish.
“I’m young but I have a lot of experience and I know that it’s never over until you get to the end, when I got to the hillclimb I realized that I was second overall. With so many hours riding the bike and navigating the trails you have to be 100% focused and it’s not always possible to be 100% focused and that’s when we might crash which is what happened to me on Off-Road Day One and I need to learn from this and will be better for next year. It is by far the toughest race, I’m really happy.”
South African legend Alfie Cox added: “The Red Bull Romaniacs is an emotional rollercoaster for most of the riders who come in destroyed, that’s just what it is. You don’t come here for a haircut, you come here to really fight your life away.
“I’ve even heard the best of the best moaning that it was tough but we all know Martin and that’s his style, it’s gotta be tough and that’s what it’s about. You don’t just come here and think it’s going to be easy.
“Martin has definitively lived up to his name. The difficulty has always been here in the rally and now the speed is fast too, all the guys have really upped their game.”