After 571 km spread out over four Off-road Days and a total riding time of 20 hours 39 minutes and 20 seconds, 21-year-old Manuel Lettenbichler (Flatsching Fast Factory Team), from Germany, took the top step of the podium for the first time in his young career and scored a remarkable win at the Red Bull Romaniacs "Sweet 16" Edition in Sibiu. Ten years after his father Andreas "Letti" Lettenbichler won the 6th Edition of the "World's Toughest Hard Enduro Rallye," Manuel fought an exciting battle with Alfredo Gomez (ESP, Husqvarna) who finished second, and Graham Jarvis (UK, Husqvarna) third overall.
“I’m over the moon right now, I really can’t believe it, it means everything for me to win Red Bull Romaniacs,” said Manuel Lettenbichler, who's dad also conquered the event a decade ago.
"Due to the extreme weather conditions that had previously been forecast prior to the fourth and final Off-road Day, the organizers knew it was going to be a challenging day to manage. 'Antifreeze' was planned to be the most difficult loop in the Gold Class track today and our team had spent a lot of hours preparing the track as well as building platforms for the Live TV show. Based on the actual conditions out there and the feedback from our experienced team of Track Managers the tough decision was already made yesterday to cut this section out today. In the end, it was a good decision for the race itself because the conditions turned out to be even worse than we expected."
The Off-road start was kicked off by Manuel Lettenbichler at 07:00 AM while it was already raining. The riders had to climb a good 10,000 meters throughout the entire day which had a total riding distance of 124 km within the vicinity of Sibiu. They faced the following signature sections: Ass Slide, Snooze, Momentum, Too Many Zicky Zacky, Extreme Miorita, Flying Ford, Hug the Tree, The Rock. It was a classic Romaniacs mix of forest and alpine riding in the deep valleys around Sibiu and Paltinis.
The Ventilator section, which had also been featured during the live transmission on Red Bull TV has to be mentioned, it’s located in the forest and the soil is getting very slippery when wet. The riders had to do a lot of zig-zag here trying to find some traction. Manuel was able to pull a good gap on Alfredo in this section.
Throughout almost the entire day it was a very close battle between Alfredo and Manuel, who switched between first and second position in their overall progress several times. Graham Jarvis was catching up in the first part of the race but had a crash after the Service Point where he lost his GPS devices. So the Silent Assassin had to rely on other riders for the remainder of the race which prevented him from attacking Manuel and Alfredo.
“This race is really something special and to win here feels amazing. The event is so long and so hard and anything can happen so I’m so pumped to take the win. It’s been an incredible five days and so gnarly, especially with all the rain we’ve had today and the day before. Some of the uphills that would have been tricky anyway have become near impossible today. One of the highlights has to be passing Alfredo on the final hill of Day 3, that felt great and gave me such a big confidence boost going into the final day. It’s 10 years since my dad won Romaniacs so it’s great to be able to match his achievement, it’s a family affair now. The Lettenbichlers will definitely be celebrating tonight!” added Lettenbichler.
It was so close that the infamous hillclimb could have been a game-changer if Manuel had made a mistake being as he was only about 40 seconds ahead of Alfredo in the overall progress of the race at that point in time. But the young man from Bavaria, who was the youngest finisher of the Erzbergrodeo at the age of 16, did not. He mastered all of the difficult uphills including the notorious hillclimb at the finish in Gusterita without any major mistake. After the checkered flag was waived Manuel was still anxious as to when Alfredo would actually arrive and if he had eventually made it in the overall standings. 2 minutes and 42 seconds separated Manuel from Alfredo, and 12 minutes and 21 seconds from Graham Jarvis, who had won the Romaniacs 6 times before.
Anybody who was able to see the very moment when Manuel met his father Andreas in the finish area noticed that this was a very emotional moment. One of the true role models in Hard Enduro saw his son winning this very close to the heart race.
This win means Manuel is not only the event’s youngest winner ever, at 21 years three months and four days, beating the record set by Wade Young in 2018, it also marks his first win in the World Enduro Super Series (WESS), too. His victory moves him to the top of the championship standings over Graham Jarvis and Alfredo Gomez.
Besides Lettenbichler, Anna Schmölzl from Germany WON the Iron Class of Red Bull Romaniacs "Sweet 16" Editon. This is the first time ever that a woman has won a Red Bull Romaniacs class. She faced 110 competitors to fight against in the Iron Class.
The Red Bull Romaniacs is an enduro off-road motorcycle race run annually in Romania. It was created in 2004 by founder Martin Freinademetz. The Red Bull Romaniacs takes place every year (around July) and attracts riders from more than 40 countries. The race is spread over five days, the first being the inner-city prologue. The four “Offroad race days” takes place on Enduro trails in the region around Sibiu and is considered by many as the hardest enduro race in the world.