South Coast riders were in the thick of the action as Red Bull Sea to Sky came to a drama-filled conclusion in Turkey on Saturday.
Privateer Lars Enöckl (AUT), who turned 28 while in Kemer, placed his KTM on the top of the podium in the main event, the Mountain Race, Extreme Enduro legend Andreas “Letti” Lettenbichler (DEU, KTM) scored an astonishing second place and Harding star Scott Bouverie (KTM) bagged his first European Extreme Enduro podium in third place.
Riders lined up at the beach at the Turkish Riviera for the start of the Mountain Race at 9am local time. A total of 219 riders from 24 countries exposed themselves to one of the greatest challenges in the sport of Extreme Enduro – going from Sea to Sky all the way from 0 to 2,365m.
Almost all of the rising stars gathered in the first start row – to name a few: 20-year-old Wade Young (ZAF, Sherco) who most of the spectators would have put their money on to win the main event.
The 19-year-old super talent Billy Bolt (KTM) from the UK who had bad luck having to quit the Beach Race while leading with a massive gap and who rode uncontrolled during the Forest resulting in a crash and a five minutes’ penalty to miss the podium.
And the 18-year-old reigning SuperEnduro World Champion Manuel Lettenbichler (DEU, KTM) who won the Beach Race on race day one at Red Bull Sea to Sky Edition 7.
It was one of the top candidates for the podium, Paddock superstar Young, who crashed heavily in the riverbed just 2km after the start.
Young, who on the Forest Race on race day two, was taken to the hospital right away but was released after taking the x-rays – most likely nothing too serious. His arm was bandaged and he even made it up to the top of the mountain to the finish – but by cable car and not on the bike.
Fellow South Coast rider Blake Gutzeit (Yamaha) was also consigned to a did not finish.
The next rider whose race didn’t go to plan at all was Bolt, who crashed right after Young. In the rocky canyon his chain once again was the mechanical problem. The physical problem of a sore shoulder originating from his massive crash at the end of the Forest Race and the crash before certainly didn’t help.
His dad had to take the scooter back to the paddock to get a new chain which took about an hour. He decided to hit the track again once the bike was fixed. He managed to get to checkpoint 9 but then had to call it quits due to his shoulder getting worse throughout the race and his clutch quitting the service.
Manuel Lettenbichler from Bavaria was the first to enter the canyon followed closely by his father. Unfortunately, Manuel ate something bad the previous evening which caused diarrhoea so his energy level wasn’t where it could have been after half of the race. He had to take it easy and concentrate on just finishing the race rather than going for the podium.
He said: “Today was a very hard day for me. I had some bad stomach cramps yesterday evening and also this morning and felt really sick. But I wanted to race and give it my best because anything can happen in Hard Enduro. I struggled most of the race. It’s tough to finish fourth after such a good Beach and Forest Race. But fourth was the best I could do today.”
His father Letti however came to Turkey after he retired from racing before the season started. The plan was to support his son as a mentor and mechanic and because he always loved racing Red Bull Sea to Sky.
The lack of training showed throughout the race, especially when the track was getting more and more difficult and demanding after the Silver Finish (CP6). Once again his never-give-up mentality showed and Letti carried his 42 year old body over the finish line in second.
Letti said: “It was an amazing race. I got the holeshot and tried to push hard but the riding was slow and technical. During the middle of the race I got so tired, my body was aching and I had to slow down and settle myself.
“After a while I saw the guys behind beginning to catch me again so I had to put every ounce of energy into holding my position of second behind Lars. For me this was a one off holiday race, I hadn’t raced all year and came out of retirement for it simply because I love racing here. So to be on the podium is fantastic.”
There was another young rider who eventually hit the podium of a European Extreme Enduro race – Harding’s Bouverie, who had scored a podium finish at the Roof of Africa.
He was overwhelmed by reaching the Red Bull finish arch at the top of the Tahtali Mountain at 2,365m. He battled with the other three riders at the top for most of the race before one out of the four riders pulled a big gap on them.
Bouverie said: “In the beginning of the race we had a good pace going and I think most of us led at least once. It was anyone’s race to win really. Towards the end Lars broke away and I had a very tough battle with Andreas. He just got me at the end but third is a huge result for me. It’s my first time on the podium at a Red Bull Hard Enduro; I’m a happy man!”
Paddock rider Kyle Flanagan (Sherco) capped off three days of top-class racing with a well-deserved seventh place.
Enöckl came prepared, physically and mentally probably as strong as never before. Earlier in the season he made a clear mark by scoring a third position on the podium of the ever gnarly Hell’s Gate in Italy and his results throughout the year were promising.
His performance in the Forest Race was good enough for another third place and there was an impression on his face right before the start of the Mountain Race that he was all in. In addition to his physical strength and his riding skills he had the luck you need to succeed.
This is his first ever first place in an Extreme Enduro race and reaching the finish line he wasn’t shy to show emotions. Years of work, training and believing in his skills resulted in this one moment he was striving for.
Enöckl said: “It feels amazing to get my first Hard Enduro win. It was such a good day and such a cool race. I’ve felt fast at most of the races this year but until now it just didn’t come together. But today was the day. Today was my day.
“I tried to ride my own race and everything went well. One of the toughest sections was the early river canyon. It was very hard this year as there was no real line to follow. I was also the first rider into the Dark Canyon so it felt like I was opening the track too. Near the end there was a really gnarly uphill, the Alcatraz section. It was a real killer. It felt like it was never ending. There was no grip and so many loose rocks. I was bloody tired by that point too.
“Luckily I knew I had a few minutes in hand on Lettenbichler to make it over the final mountain mile first. Finally a massive thanks to everyone who supports me and believe in me. This win is as much from them as myself.”
A total of 25 Gold Medals have been earned – one of which went to South Africa’s unbelievable Kirsten Landman (KTM). Last year she was the only ever lady to finish Red Bull Sea to Sky Mountain Race and thus an Extreme Enduro race of international format in rank #58. This year she scored an astonishing 24th place.
108 Silver Medals were given to the riders at the prize giving ceremony in Kemer and 48 Bronze Medals will be a great souvenir for the riders from all over the world! Due to the ever increasing quality of the riders from all over the world, the organisers decided to make the Gold track more demanding, so about half of the Gold medals will be given away compared with last year.
Main photo by Nuri Yilmazer/Red Bull Content Pool