In 2008 James Yearley, a club member, entered the Red Bull Romaniacs Extreme Enduro Competition
Red Bull Romaniacs Hard Enduro Rallye
Romaniacs is claimed to be 'the world's toughest enduro rallye'. It's a five day long extreme rallye which puts rider's enduro, trials and GPS navigation skills to the ultimate test. The first day is a 15 minute race over 'man made' course in the centre of the town called Sibui in Romania, this is called The Prologue, this is then followed of 4 days on mainly natural terrain in the Romanian countryside.
James decided to team up with his fellow eastern centre two man partner Julian Harvey to compete in the Expert Team Class. Here's my diary of our adventure . . .
Thursday 11th September
At 4.08am in complete contrast to the boys' preparation I arrive at Heathrow Terminal 5 far too early, in fact the airport isn't even open! This left me plenty of time to plan the 200 mile drive I had to do from Bucharest to Sibiu. Driving in Europe is something I've done on many occasions, however, this time it is different . . . I was on my own. Getting out of Bucharest and onto the right motorway, which incidentally had about three different names, wasn't easy. With a panicky call to James claiming I'd never make it and a bit of good luck I was on my way. The Romanian drivers are a tad crazy . . . their overtaking made me shut my eyes a couple of times, but generally speaking as long as you don't stop they're happy.
Arriving in Sibiu I met 'the boys' James, Julian and their mechanic Nathan Morton, all very happy and fettling with the machines. We all took a stroll into Sibiu where we passed the prologue course. The course consisted of some interesting obstacles . . . wooden rollercoaster / wall of death, rock piles, wooden logs, old tires. Take a look at the pictures . . . After a good meal and a few samples of the local nectar we made our way to bed.
The 'chicken line' was sometimes an option, but not when it means going on the top of the 6 storey 'Crazy Bike Building'!
We decided to have a lay-in, it would be out last for a several days, if 'Romaniacs' was going to be anything like the I.S.D.E. for riders and support teams alike we would be on the go from 5am to not far off midnight. However we soon regretted that when we realized what a task signing on would be . . . If one word could describe today it would be 'queue'! It took a short 6 hours to sign on! However the big event of the day was The Prologue practice, a taste of what was to come on race day tomorrow. Nerves were certainly present as we walked the course once again; however, these were soon put to bed by a very successful practice for both James and Julian.
After such a manic day, the assistance team (a.k.a. Abby and Nathan) still had to sign on . . . fortunately it didn't take us 6 hours! Despite the length of time it took to sign on it was very well organized, with passes, dinner tickets all being issued at the start of the week. Nathan and I soon took responsibility for all the dinner tickets for which we needed to know the whereabouts of all week if we wanted feeding.
Prologue practice . . .
James negotiates the tires and I was too busy holding my breath to take a picture when James and Julian did the 'rollercoaster' so above is a picture of another rider!
Saturday 13th September
We woke to the worst possible scenario . . . rain! The prologue course was going to be like riding on a sheet of ice!
The whole day went in a bit of blur. . . however, there are a few things that I remember vividly . . . We watched the hobby class start and it was like nothing I'd ever seen before, absolute madness, with bodies and bikes everywhere! As I'm sure anyone who watches a loved one race will understand (I know for certain John and Chris do) you can be so nervous at the start, and you must keep your composure for the riders' benefit, this I can normally do with not too much trouble. But on this occasion words cannot describe how I felt thinking James was going to be out there in 30 minutes time, so much so I had to disappear from the boys to get myself together again, no sooner had I rejoined James watching when we saw a rider fall off in a big way, only for him to standup with his arm dangling from the socket, James went green and made a quick dash to the port-a-loo!! There were many riders who didn't even finish the fifteen minute prologue. I remember one quote from one competitor to an English guy who had broken his wrist on The Prologue . . . "You English are crazy; you drive 2000 miles to do a fifteen minute race!"
James and Julian made an excellent start in the Prologue; unfortunately James got stuck behind some fallen riders on his first lap and completed 1 lap. Julian had an amazing race and completed 3 laps! Their combined effort put them in 5th place after The Prologue, and made for an early start the next day. The evening consisted of checking over the bikes, preparing the survival kits and Nathan drying his socks with the hairdryer . . . !
Sunday 14th September
Day one, we started in the dark and finished in the dark, this was going to be how it was all week. Down at the start we went to our pits and the boys rolled the bikes out of the van. I collected the GPS, the Tracker (which was another electronic device all riders running in the top ten of their class had to carry), and an envelope with a map in it. I switched on the GPS and gave James and Julian a quick lesson on how to use them (not that I really new, but I had taken some time to read the instruction booklet). Thankfully James had completed the Taureg Rallye in Morocco earlier in the year with Mark Hughes and he was reasonably comfortable with how to use them.
The puzzled expression on Julian's face when he tried to work out the GPS!
Nathan and I saw the boys off, and here begun our first adventure of the week, finding the service point. When in about 4 hours we would see the boys for their first compulsory 20 minute stop. They arrived to the checkpoint by the steepest downhill I've ever seen an enduro bike go down, but this was nothing compared to what the afternoon had in store for them! However, at the half way point the spirits were and high and I believe they thought that the remainder of the event wasn't going to be too bad for them.
The afternoon turned the event into torture and tested the riders to the extreme. Everyone was running late and I was relieved when I was able to send the text home to let loved ones know they had finished the day safe and sound!
You get 'two lives' at this event, which means two opportunities to mess up on times but still be in the running for a result, as everyone used their first life today the organizers scrapped the penalty and everyone would start tomorrow with the lives still intact.
Monday 15th September I'm sure the boys won't mind me saying that they believed if today was going to be as hard as yesterday they might not finish the week! If you know James and Julian for them not to finish an event is unheard of. Never -the-less we made our way down to the pits in the dark at about 6.30am. The GPS units are handed to the organizers at the end of every day for them to load the next days course on . . . therefore no cheating can occur as no rider or assistance team is able to pre-ride/plan the course. The first drama of the day occurred when I collected their GPS units only to find that they hadn't been charged by the organizers overnight! I suggested they used one GPS at a time, taking it in turns to navigate and hopefully that should see them through to the end of the day. Nathan and I once again made our way to the Service Point, Nathan prepared the tools and I the 'buffet'. The buffet consisted of the usual requirements for James and Julian; every rider has their preferences to their refreshments when they're racing but generally it's salty crisps, bananas, Mars Bars, Haribo's, Jaffa Cakes, Jelly Babies, Water, Capri-Sun and sometimes if it's cold and wet a nice cuppa or hot chocolate is very well received.
Monday 15th September
I'm sure the boys won't mind me saying that they believed if today was going to be as hard as yesterday they might not finish the week! If you know James and Julian for them not to finish an event is unheard of. Never -the-less we made our way down to the pits in the dark at about 6.30am.
The GPS units are handed to the organizers at the end of every day for them to load the next days course on . . . therefore no cheating can occur as no rider or assistance team is able to pre-ride/plan the course. The first drama of the day occurred when I collected their GPS units only to find that they hadn't been charged by the organizers overnight! I suggested they used one GPS at a time, taking it in turns to navigate and hopefully that should see them through to the end of the day.
Nathan and I once again made our way to the Service Point, Nathan prepared the tools and I the 'buffet'. The buffet consisted of the usual requirements for James and Julian; every rider has their preferences to their refreshments when they're racing but generally it's salty crisps, bananas, Mars Bars, Haribo's, Jaffa Cakes, Jelly Babies, Water, Capri-Sun and sometimes if it's cold and wet a nice cuppa or hot chocolate is very well received.
The remainder of the day goes reasonably well, they're running in the top 6.
Tuesday 16th September
For support crew the event hasn't had much to offer, with very little to see at Service Points and a lot of waiting around, today we were treated to 'Martins Revenge' at this Service Point; a 10' vertical climb! This made for some great viewing!
James waits at the top of 'Martins Revenge' for Julian.
Tuesday turned into another 'killer', I ended up pacing the pits for several hours waiting for them to return . . . eventually they did and surprisingly enough with big smiles on their faces, I think it had been so tough the only way to deal with it was to see the funny side of things!! We worked on the bikes into the night and eventually sat down for dinner at 10pm.
Wednesday 17th September
This morning rumor had it that some riders spent the night out in the Romanian hills! Each rider must carry essential equipment incase of this scenario . . . mobile phone, flares, compass, survival blanket, mirror, first-aid kit, torch and 3 liters' of water, spark plug (the mirror's not to check their good looks but reflect light to catch attention).
The final day . . . Julian was eating breakfast rather awkwardly due to a swollen thumb, a few aspirin and red bull would be sure to see him through to the finish.
As Nathan and I made our way to the final Service Point we got stopped by the local Police, we had been warned that the Police are corrupt in Romania and this confirmed it. Nathan jumped out of the van and had to hand his driving license over; he would be allowed it back after paying a €200 fine! Now Nathan deserves a BAFTA for his performance . . . a poor, penniless, English farmer with a wife and several children at home that he needs to get back to feed . . . soon recovered his driving license and we were back on our way.
At this service point they had a broken bridge (which proved to be a lot trickier than it looked) to navigate which once again made to some viewing to help pass the time for us.
This was the last time we would see James and Julian before they finished, they were so close but yet so far away from a 6th place finish.
Nathan and I raced back to the start/finish to try and catch the pros finish on top of the 'Crazy Bike Building', unfortunately we missed it. We then waited patiently for James and Julian; they arrived and fortunately only had one storey to navigate to the finish line!
Amazing, I could send the final text . . . 'they've finished safe and sound'! Despite James' radiator coming off in a crash in the last check, which had to fixed, meaning they missed the last check point by seven minutes we believed that a 6/7th place result was ours!
Now time for the after show party . . . despite our best efforts the party went with a whimper everyone was far too tired and after a couple of pints we felt more like snoring that dancing!
Thursday 18th September
Waking up bright and hangover free we missed breakfast, so we packed, checked out and went to investigate the final results. It wasn't great news, even though they completed the whole course and had been tracking in 6th/7th place all week they didn't qualify for an official result. The race director helped us try and understand what went wrong, both lives had been used! However he did say 'for Romaniacs rookies they'd done extremely well'.
This is where I parted from the boys, my drive back to Bucharest was uneventful and I navigated Bucharest in rush hour without error, where I'd check into a hotel for the night before my flight the next morning. As I write this I am sitting in my hotel room, reflecting on another amazing adventure . . .
This report was written by Abby Stratford
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