Oslo Beach star Blake Gutzeit (Hill Climb Grenzgaenger Neubert Racing) and fellow South African Gold Class competitor Travis Teasdale (Beta Factory Racing) also continued their good form, finishing eighth and 12th respectively.
The rally left the beautiful ski resort of Straja and headed back towards Sibiu. With clear skies and world-class tracks ahead of them, competitors were sent off in good spirits.
Had they known what was awaiting them “out there…” spirits might have been slightly dampened. And despite the favourable weather, the track was still soaked and provided little grip.
Halfway through the morning, competitors arrived in an area, that track director Teo Isac called the “Loop of Insanity”. This loop contains the sections “Galindo ridge”, “Babysitter” and “Long walk”. These are some of the toughest challenges the Epic Edition 15 of the Red Bull Romaniacs has to offer. It was going to separate the wolves from the sheep.
The area became the perfect playground for the “Wolf pack”, consisting of Young, Manuel Lettenbichler and Jonny Walker. The day was a step towards finding the world’s best Extreme Enduro rider and to score valuable WESS points.
Young started the day on fire and kept pushing hard – trying to establish his lead position early in the day. Lettenbichler and Walker were chasing him into the “Loop of Insanity”, battling it out, neither one wanting Young to get away from them. Young however flew through the sections and made lots of time. The next best performer in this loop, Manuel Lettenbichler, lost about 10 minutes on Young.
Walker, riding with Billy Bolt hot on his heels, lost about 20 minutes on Young. Although Lettenbichler lost some time, he continued to chase like a bat out of hell through the tough sections, which didn’t appear to have any effect on his energy resources and he continued to gain time on the leader.
However, all of them arrived completely shattered in the Service Point, which was situated in the middle of this “battlefield” – and were barely able to speak. After the Service Point, some well appreciated help was at hand: lots of spectators had made it out into Romanian wilderness to watch the world-elite in action.
Noticing the suffering “out there…”, they started offering bananas, food and water at the sections “Galindo ridge” and “Long walk”. A welcome offering for Alfredo Gomez, who had raced without drinking water for a long time today. For him, it was the hardest day and the most technical one. Billy Bolt had stepped up his game and joined the “Wolf pack” for the ride. He rode together with Lettenbichler for a while, until he got stuck on an uphill.
Young finished the day first, with Lettenbichler just seconds behind him (2nd). Walker (3rd) arrived 17 minutes after Young, followed by Gomez (4th) and Bolt (5th).
Out with the old, in with the new: Are we currently witnessing a new generation of extreme enduro riders surfacing? The “Wolf pack” have dominated the first three days and have not shown any signs of tiring, as they should be.
In contrast, this year’s Epic Edition 15 has really taken its toll on some of our known veterans. There were two surprises at the start of the day: Taddy Blazusiak wasn’t able to start, despite his good outing the previous day, due to sickness.
Graham Jarvis also had to pull out early in the day due to dehydration and exhaustion. Both hope to be at the start again for Off-Road Day Four. Mario Roman, despite having hurt his hand during the prologue, kept pushing bravely through the pain. He finished the day sixth.
Young said: “It was a really long day. The hard stuff at the beginning took it out of us all. I didn’t really push and took it easy – to save a bit for tomorrow. Despite the ultimate goal in sight, I am not nervous, I’m just riding. If you push too hard you blow – so I’m focusing not to do that.”
Lettenbichler commented: “I feel pretty good, but it was really hard! Around the Service Point it took a lot of energy to proceed. Two gnarly sections after the Service Point were insane. After “Long Walk” I tried to cruise a bit and regain some energy, but the day was a killer. Still I didn’t expect to do so good this year. I’m just having fun and loving the job! Hopefully tomorrow will be a good day and I’ll be able to bring myself and my bike to the finish.”
Walker remarked: “Pretty tired, I spent all my energy in the really technical sections before the Service Point. This afternoon I was just going through the motions. I had to lie down at the Service Point. I’ll be glad when it’s all over! I feel good but struggling on the wet hills once the leaves are gone it’s so slick, the other riders will really struggle. Wade and Letti are riding really awesome.”
The race will reach an epic conclusion on Off-Road Day Four on Saturday.