Endurocross found a new home at the Rally Ready Driving School in Dale, Texas with the Red Bull Override, but the results were the same with Mario Roman easily outpacing the competition.
For the past two years, the event was run at Rocky Ridge Ranch in Decatur, Texas. With the change of venues came a new layout and challenges. Instead of a six-hour enduro, the riders took to the facility with a daytime qualifier on Saturday, where both amateur and professional riders rode into the forest in intervals, a six-lap night race on an internal course and an hour-long finale on Sunday. Also on Sunday, amateurs had a 45-minute race.
In total, 73 riders raced the course when the professional and amateur divisions were combined. Professionals were required to go through the difficult “Override Routes” that the amateurs could choose to skip. Each lap took the riders about 10 minutes to complete. The top three completed six laps on Sunday’s final hour-long race. As a point of comparison, Supercross and Motocross races last 15 – 20 minutes without natural obstacles.
The sport is known as hard enduro for a reason. The natural terrain comes into play and course designers spend several days walking the property to find the most challenging sections available that include steep hills, fallen trees and brambles.
Most riders hit the ground several times during an event.
That was not the case for Sherco Racing factory rider Mario Roman. He took the course by fire, easily finding his path through the Central Texas terrain and neutralizing the hazards with a high degree of trail IQ learned in his time in the sport. He swept the three Red Bull Override races.
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“It’s not only about riding, you have to look at where to go,” Roman told NBC Sports after the race. “Choose the line and be smart; it’s one of the best strategies in this sport.”
While some riders struggled with the course, returning to the pits mud-caked with ripped sleeves, the top riders rode shoulders above. Roman fared much better in the woods and had some choice words for the setup.
“Last year was six hours, nonstop, in a very technical place and this year is like in a flat property with some muddy roots and across some rivers – deep lines, but still not as hard as we are used to racing in other events,” Roman said. “Anyway, I tried my best.
“I had fun in the two-hour qualifying race.”
The course served its purpose, leaving some riders wanting more and many struggling to keep up. At the end of the day, the cream rose to the top. Ryder LeBlond, 21, was able to run the closest to Roman throughout the weekend. He swept the second-position in all three events.
“Overall the weekend went really well,” LeBlond said from the podium. “I was able to battle with Mario a little bit yesterday. Today I just really didn’t have anything for him, he was just a little bit faster than me.”
After the first day, the direction of the course was switched to add variance for the rider and spectators.
Roman picked up on the nuances of the course change faster than the other riders, finding his rhythm and pulling away from fellow front-runners LeBlond and third-place Pat Smage a couple laps in. Quinn Wentzel was in the hunt for a podium spot pressuring the winner circle until falling off pace on lap five to finish fourth.
Red Bull rider Didier Goirand rounded out the top five. Ryan Sipes finished seventh.