The extreme-enduro elite gathered for five days of the Red Bull Romaniacs in Carpathian Mountains to attempt one of the most brutal races in the world. Riders race across stones, trees, cars and variations of artificial obstacles in the Prolugue (qualifying event), and then into the backyard of the legendary Lord Vlad Dracula. Endless rain and an unforgiving terrain continuously tested the mental and physical strength of the field for the next four days.
The course eventually turned into a muddy and slippery mess beyond imagination.
In the fourth and last stage of the enduro race, New Zealand's Chris Birch started his day with a 23-minute margin on Graham Jarvis. Even though this cushion should have been comfortable enough, Birch charged hard from the very beginning and made six more minutes on his main rival. The 29-year-old was all smiles at the finish line.
"Considering all my technical woes during the past few days, I really didn't even think that I would finish the race - let alone win it. I'm really happy," Birch said.
British trials expert Graham Jarvis had major engine troubles on the second offroad-stage, but Graham unfolded his characteristic never-give-up attitude, which put him on the podium. He missed out on the top spot on the podium by a mere 29 minutes in the end.
Photo by Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Photofiles
Chris Birch leaps through the finish line first in the Pro class after 28 hours, 17 minutes and 31 seconds of Romaniac racing.
Team BMW's Lettenbichler finishes a very respectable third, despite having a hard crash that results in some cracked ribs.
"Pretty much everyone went battered and bruised into the second day," Lettenbichler described. "I´m no crybaby, for sure, but this was no fun. Most sections might have been rideable in the dry, but there was no way to make them in the wet.
The organizers should have skipped some of the most gnarly up- and downhills. Altogether, I´m quite satisfied, though. The bike worked well in these conditions and finishing on the podium isn´t too bad.
"There was definitely no chance for me to push harder," he added. "The conditions this year were more than extreme due to the heavy downpours and my whole body kept hurting me more and more each day. Therefore, I'm absolutely satisfied with my podium finish."
Less than half of the 165 competitors who entered the race even finished it. In the Pro-Class, only 10 riders from 7 nations out of 21 crossed the finish line at the center of the idyllic town of Sibiu, Transylvania.