Red Bull KTM factory rider Alfredo Gomez of Spain wrapped up a tough four-day Red Bull Romaniacs in overall second, finishing behind British veteran Graham Jarvis. Wade Young of South Africa completed the Gold Class podium.

Riders, including Alfredo Gomez agreed this Hard Enduro was even more challenging than previous editions, involving four days of extreme riding on trails that took seven hours a day even for the world elite Gold Class riders. It was not, however a good event for Gomez’s factory teammate, Jonny Walker who had to retire injured on the opening offroad day.

Speaking at the finish line after a massive hill climb on soft and slippery sand, Gomez, who was the winner earlier this year at the Red Bull Minas Riders Hard Enduro in Brazil, commented:“This year was my third Romaniacs and it really develops a lot. Last year we had one very difficult day but this year all the days were difficult. The level of the riders is improving but the race is also adapting to all levels. We took almost seven hours every day to finish the first three days, but in the past I remember we were finished in five hours 20 minutes.”

The fact that there was nine and a half hours difference between the winner and eighth place Gold Class finisher David Cyprian of the Czech Republic was a good illustration of the difficulty of the race.

Competitors from 43 nations traveled over 800km of selected trails through the Carpathian Mountains and action kicked off on Tuesday with the traditional and very spectacular prologue in the streets of Sibiu. This year it was more technical than fast, and it was Gomez who came out on top of the leader board on his new  KTM 300 EXC, followed by Jarvis and Walker.

Also making a good start were ambitious young KTM riders Billy Bolt, Paul Bolton and Manuel Lettenbichler who occupied places 4-6. For Walker it was a welcome return to racing after breaking his leg at the end of the FIM SuperEnduro season, but his pleasure on being back on his KTM was sadly short lived.

Offroad Day 1
The situation took a dramatic turn for the worst for Walker early on Offroad Day 1: “I was riding through long grass in 3rd or 4th gear, so quite fast and I clipped my toe on a hidden tree stump which pulled my leg off the bike. It was about 20 minutes from the service point. There were a few of us riding together. When my leg ripped off the bike I fell forward and landed on my ‘crown jewels’ which winded me and I whiskey throttled and the bike just shot off.” Riding with one leg, Walker managed to make his way slowly to the checkpoint and ultimately to the local hospital for x-rays. But it was already clear to him that the 2016 edition was now a done deal. He had disturbed the previous fracture and was on his way home as soon as the team could organize it.

Bolton also went out between CP2 and the service point after banging his head and suffering blurry vision and severe neck pain. The medical center diagnosed a trapped nerve that also ended Bolton’s Romaniacs. Then Bolt lost control on a mountain track and crashed off the side, landing way below in the valley with few options to get out. His crew finally located him and they struggled back to base at 7.00p.m. with plenty of work to do to repair the bike for day two.

The good news was that Gomez finished second on Day 1 retained a narrow lead, saying: “With my prologue win I was able to start third today and that gave me something to chase. I knew I made good time when I caught Graham (Jarvis), but Wade (Young) caught us all so he had the advantage. I tried to make a run for it at the end but after almost eight hours racing, there wasn’t much energy left in me to give.” Young Travis Teasdale of South Africa was another KTM success story to be third in the stage and third overall.

Offroad Day 2
Gomez admitted he had made a lot of mistakes and had his share of crashes on the second day of the competition and wrapped up the ride in fourth place, trailing Jarvis by some 24 minutes. Teasdale continued to hold up well at fifth and Bolt made an excellent recovery to be sixth at the end of the day. By now Jarvis had consolidated his lead to 14 minutes over Gomez and had moved into contention for the 2016 win.

Offroad Day 3
Things became trickier for riders on the third day with a number of gnarly hill climbs and wet and slippery conditions. High in the Carpathians some riders even had to deal with sections of poor visibility because of low-lying clouds.

Gomez again finished second behind Jarvis and said he was happy with his rhythm and his riding. He also did well in the difficult sections before the service point to cut the deficit to Jarvis, but still crashed twice on the wet grass. It was also tough for Bolt, who had an impressive time at the third check point but had problems in a very selective section that followed. When the day results came in he had lost over an hour on the Gold Class leaders.

Day three was the end of the road for young Lettenbichler, who retired with a painful injured thumb after the first checkpoint.

Offroad Day 4
Day 4 was by the standards of the other days, fast and easy, but ended with a dramatic hill climb that sapped remaining energy from the riders before finally tracking through a mud section to pass under the Red Bull arch to the finish.

Red Bull Romaniacs in 2016 celebrated its 13th edition. It is more than one of the most challenging Hard Enduro on the calendar; it is also a festival for riders all over the world, including 105 from the UK, 38 from Australia and 37 from far off New Zealand. Increasingly, riders of all ages and all degrees of skills want to test themselves at this popular event. John Trevor, 69, of the UK was the oldest competitor in 2016 and 13-year-old Tomer Shemesh of Aruba was the youngest.

Results Gold Class Red Bull Romaniacs 2016
1. Graham Jarvis (GBR), Husqvarna, 27:04:55 h
2. Alfredo Gomez (ESP), KTM, +35.28 min
3. Wade Young (RSA), Sherco, +40.34
4. Mario Roman (ESP), Husqvarna, +1:02:53 h
5. Scott Bouverie (RSA), KTM, +3:37:50