Wednesday, June 30


An early start amidst fog and rain the weather conditions were looking very omniscient of Off-Road Day 1 two days ago. Thankfully the weather was starting to clear and with sun blazing through the clouds around mid morning the drama began to unfold.

With most competitors successfully reaching the days only service point just before midday they all learn that the infamously hard and heavy ‘no-help-zone’ labelled the “Long Walk” had been scratched from the days racing because of the mornings atrocious conditions. Once Andreas Lettenbichler had come and gone from Service Point it wasn’t for another 15mins that Chris Birch, Jade Gutzeit and Joakim Lunggren made it to Service Point. Lunggren was the only competitor out of the top contention to not leave Service Point suffering from a violent stomach bug and subsequently made the decision to withdraw from the days racing.

Having pushed hard for 10km out of Service Point Birch encountered some serious engine electrical problems and was left hanging like a fly in the Carpathian Mountains. Armed with his mobile phone, mandatory for racing competitors, he calmly called up service (only as Birch could in a situation like that) and instructed them to load up Darryl Curtis with much needed parts.

Curtis shot off in search of Birch but it took several back tracks and agonizing minutes to locate Birch to off-load the goods. Knowing full well Lettenbichler was flying up ahead and Birch’s 50min lead buffer was fast diminishing, Birch worked quickly to get his KTM300EXC up and running armed with little more than a few spanners and screwdrivers. Over an hour and half later Andreas Lettenbichler and Bolton miraculously turn up back at Service Point after spending over an hour looking for the next check point. Bolton also had some front brake problems.

Hard charging Brit Graham Jarvis, after yesterdays shocking engine problems, was making up excellent time on the front runners until he too got caught out by the tricky to navigate check point after the Service Point and subsequently also surprised the Lettenbichler and Bolton when he fronted up to Service Point as they were leaving.

A touch on 2.30pm and Lettenbichler crosses the finish for Off-Road Day 3. Bolton trundles in a mere 4sec behind Lettenbichler, with a much destroyed looking South African Gutzeit finishing shortly after Bolton. However, it was Jarvis on top punching his Sherco home first, 25mins ahead of the competition.
At roughly 2.53pm Birch crosses the finish line. As Birch rolls under the Red Bull finishing platform he is quoted as saying “Man, I have nearly changed every part of my bike today! I have been riding for KTM for 6 years now, and I NEVER EVER had one single problem with electrics!”

Birch is estimated to have lost 27mins of his lead to Lettenbichler in the overall standings, which reduces Birch’s buffer as he heads into Off-Road Day 4 by under 30mins.

After having ridden for nearly 10 hours through the Carpathian wilderness, Darryl Curtis arrives at the finish line at 4:08pm. "I slipped sideways from the track and buried myself in a deep and really steep ditch. It took me nearly 25mins and all my energy to get myself back on track, only to discover that there were some more cruelties waiting for me."

Disturbingly late in the afternoon at 4pm only 55 riders have reached the finish and it is noted that heavy rain has set in making it increasingly harder for the remaining competitors still stuck out in the wilderness to make it the final kilometres home. Around 4.30pm only 8 riders from the Pro-Class have made it to the finish line they are Jarvis, Lettenbichler, Bolton, Gutzeit, Birch, Forster, Van Niekerk and Darryl Curtis.

Off-Road Day 4, the final day of the Red Bull Romaniacs 2010 is set to get underway around 3pm out time this afternoon. Birch has a rough 30min lead in the overall standings but there are some notoriously hard sections still left to come. Lets keep our fingers crossed that Birch can stay upright and claim the Red Bull Romaniacs crown!

Check out this cool video from Off-Road Day 3

Images courtesy of Red Bull Romaniacs