Red Bull KTM’s Jonny Walker signalled a change at the top of the leader board in the rarified air of Hard Enduro on Saturday. He took victory in the eleventh edition of the Red Bull Romaniacs after four days of intense riding in the Carpathian Mountains to write himself into the record books of this very tough event.
The 23-year-old British rider, also winner of the 2014 Red Bull Hare Scramble at Austria’s Erzbergrodeo, managed to defeat the hard-as-nails Graham Jarvis, who has been both his nemesis and his idol. Walker is an official KTM factory rider and Jarvis is on the new Husqvarna Hard Enduro team.
In what was a near perfect day for KTM, 18-year-old South African Wade Young took the podium third to underline the arrival of the new generation of Hard Endurists while two Romaniac veterans, Paul Bolton (KTM UK) and KTM factory rider Andreas Lettenbichler rounded off the top five.
What Walker and Jarvis had to say at the beginning and the middle of the race, tells most of the story. After Day 1 of the offroad competition Walker, winner on the day said: “Graham is my idol. His experience is second to none.” Meanwhile Jarvis, a four-times Romaniacs winner but with perhaps the hint of what was to come commented: “No matter how fast I go I look around and Jonny is still there.”
Walker started with around five minutes on Jarvis on Day Two in the Carpathians but lost the advantage after he took an early swim with his KTM 300 EXC in a river crossing. It was clear that Jarvis was still determined to have his say in the outcome of this popular event.
The outcome was too close to call at the start of Friday’s Day Three. Walker went out with determination and had Jarvis in his sights right from the start.
By the half way mark he had neutralized Jarvis’s five-minute lead in the morning but after organizers packed them off into new territory in the afternoon, including finishing their ride on the roof of a disused coal mine. Jarvis was first to finish but Walker won the day on adjusted times, leaving the rivals at level pegging and setting up the all-or-nothing final day dash.
At the finish on Day Three Walker remarked that Jarvis had taken the Hard Enduro sport to a whole new level with his amazing skill. At the same time, Walker was not in awe of his rival: “I’m not giving up this one without a fight. No way! It wasn’t my best day’s riding in the world but I rode my heart out to win Day 3. One day left and it all hangs on this. Let’s go!” Jarvis responded: “Jonny is riding a perfect race and it’s going to be difficult to beat him. It will take a miracle for me to turn this race around.”
The two riders battled it out over the final day where they still had to ride some 180 km knowing any mistake would be costly. They also had to face the infamous and near vertical Gusterita hill climb at the end of the day, then sit it out to have GPS times verified before Walker took his well-earned place on the top of the podium.
But while Walker and Jarvis slogged it out at the front, the 18-year-old South African KTM rider Wade Young was also creating his own sensation. Third place on all of the last three days gave this young pretender the podium third and put him squarely in the limelight.
After Day Two’s third place Young said: “Coming here I was just happy to place inside the top 10 – I wasn’t expecting anymore. But something just clicked today and it all came together.” He was first on the start line for Day Three and finishing behind Walker and Jarvis on the last two days left nobody in doubt about his bright future.
KTM UK’s Paul Bolton, fourth overall, made a great recovery on the last two days after a hard crash on Thursday after which KTM’s Lars Enoeckl of Austria generously gave him his GPS equipment to finish the race. Romaniacs veteran and KTM factory rider Andreas Lettenbichler of Germany also had a strong finish, especially considering he was racing with a recent neck injury.
Overall Results: Red Bull Romaniacs 11th Edition (after prologue and four days of offroad competition)
1, Jonny Walker, GBR, KTM
2, Graham Jarvis, GBR, Husqvarna
3, Wade Young, RSA, KTM
4, Paul Bolton, GBR, KTM
5, Andreas Lettenbichler GER, KTM