The last time Sherco Factory Racing’s Mario Roman raced at Extreme XL Lagares, he won! At the time, the experienced Spaniard’s victory came as a bit of a surprise to many, but in reality, it shouldn’t have.
With one of the most developed skill sets of all top Hard Enduro racers, Mario’s mix of Motocross, Enduro and Trial techniques is impressive. Above all, his ability to adapt and master the notoriously slippery, rocky Portuguese riverbeds that Lagares is famous for is arguably his biggest asset. His victory back in 2019 was ultimately a masterclass in technique, patience and above all confidence.
Among the first to sign up for the newly formed FIM Hard Enduro World Championship, Mario is refreshed, focused and ready to rock at Extreme XL Lagares again…
Mario, you’ve been waiting a long time for a FIM Hard Enduro World Championship. What are your initial thoughts on the championship and races ahead this year?
Mario Roman: “It’s great news to have a world championship this year. I’ve been racing Hard Enduro since 2014 and have missed having a series like we do in classic enduro. Bringing it in line with the FIM puts us on the same level as MotoGP and MXGP with a world title to race for. I won the 125 Enduro world title in 2010, so if I could do it in Hard Enduro after so many years, that would be incredible!”
You travel the world with your training schools. At a grassroots level, how do you see the sport of Hard Enduro growing and will a world championship help it grow further?
“I love the training and coaching schools I do. It helps me to travel to so many places around the world, like South America, Israel, and when travel restrictions ease, Australia. Getting to spend 1-on-1 time with amateur riders and pass on my experience is cool. In the beginning we mostly did Classic Enduro techniques, but now it’s changed. They want to know how to climb, ride boulders, to push and how to ride the Hard Enduro way. So, I see the sport developing a lot. Hopefully with a world championship behind it now it will bring opportunities and investment to young riders in these countries so they can come race with us too.”
You never got to defend your 2019 Extreme XL Lagares win last year. You must be looking forward to getting back on the start line for 2021?
“Yes! Extreme XL Lagares is a special race for me. It’s only five hours from my home in Madrid and in the past many close family and friends came to support me. I’d been trying for a few years to win and finally it happened in 2019. Unfortunately, we didn’t race last year, but as the first round of the world championship it’s extra motivation to fight for the win again. Although we’ve had a long offseason, I feel like I’ve done my homework. I’m in tune with my Sherco and feel like my riding is in a good place. I’ll stay focused, make own race and hope that’s enough to deliver a big result.”
The region of Lagares has become like a second home to you. But what makes the terrain and technical river beds there so difficult to master?
“What makes it so difficult is the rocks – they are always super slippery. If it’s dry it is much easier to ride – but it’s never dry at Lagares! If it rains during the night and then stops before the race then we’re in trouble because they become so greasy. The best situation is when it continues to rain, this way the rocks are washed clean all the time.”
For amateur riders, what top tips can you share to help them survive the main event on Sunday?
“The three keys are fitness, bike setup and tyres. You need a good level of fitness to survive riding these mountains for five hours. But bike setup can help a lot. I set my Sherco low in the rear so I can put both feet down in the riverbeds at any time. This helps in deep water and prevents crashing. If you crash there and need to change a spark plug, you will lose a lot of time. Tyres and a good mousse are crucial too. I use a super soft compound to find that extra traction when I need it most.”
Along with Extreme XL Lagares, what races are you looking forward to most in the Hard Enduro World Championship, and why?
“Honestly, the calendar looks great. Red Bull Erzbergrodeo, Hixpania Hard Enduro and Red Bull Romaniacs are my other favourites, but I’m keen to see what the race in Italy is like also. I think it’s the variety of racing I love. The Red Bull TKO final is 30 minutes, but Red Bull Romaniacs is like 40 hours in one week. And when I can spend time like that on my bike, I’m happy!”
The opening round of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship takes place at Extreme XL Lagares in Portugal on May 7-9.
2021 FIM Hard Enduro World Championship calendar
Round 1: Extreme XL Lagares – Portugal, May 7/8/9
Round 2: Red Bull Erzbergrodeo – Austria, June 3/4/5/6
Round 3: Abestone Hard Enduro – Italy, July 10/11
Round 4: Red Bull Romaniacs – Romania, July 27/28/29/30/31
Round 5: Red Bull TKO – USA, August 13/14/15
Round 6: HERO Challenge – Poland, September 11/12
Round 7: Hixpania Hard Enduro – Spain, October 1/2/3
Round 8: GetzenRodeo – Germany, October 29/30