Paul Bolton is the working class hero of the Hard Enduro scene. Monday to Friday he’s a key part of his family’s road sweeping business, at the weekends a truly world class Hard Enduro racer.

Paul Bolton recovers after Red Bull Romaniacs
© Jonty Edmunds

It’s not until it’s all over that you realise how much the Red Bull Romaniacs wears you down. I’m at home now, over a week since the race ended, and I can still feel the tiredness in my bones and muscles. You spend all week totally focused on the race – jacked up on energy bars, protein shakes and boxes of painkillers. It’s only when you stop that your body tries to regroup from the self-inflicted torture you put it through.

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Paul Bolton Erzberg Red Bull Hare Scramble 2013
© Jonty Edmunds

I’ve never been better prepared for a race, and then had everything fall apart so spectacularly, than at this year’s Red Bull Hare Scramble at Erzberg. To say that the race was a disaster for me doesn’t even come close. Hell, I didn’t even get past the first bloody corner!

Going into the race, I felt like I had done my homework. I’d trained hard – probably harder than I’ve ever done for a race. I swapped bikes and moved back to my trusted Eurotek KTM 300 EXC. Even during the bitterly cold Iron Road Prologue things went to plan. With the snow playing havoc with qualifying I knew a front row start was essential. Qualifying fourteenth was more than enough for that.

The quarry floor submerged in a foot of water was like a scene from the Apocalypse

But despite all my best efforts there was nothing I could do to prepare for what Mother Nature threw at us on race day. Waking up to see the quarry floor submerged in a foot of water was like a scene from the Apocalypse. It was like the end of the world was about to begin and it had chosen Erzberg as the starting place.

Bracing myself on the start line for the carnage that awaited us, I somehow managed to get a decent jump off the line. I rounded the first corner thinking, ‘Bloody hell, I’m nearly leading’ – and that’s where it all went horribly wrong. On my inside, a bow wave of water pounded me in the face and then another tidal wave hit me on the left side, just as a rider tagged my handlebars with his. Suddenly, I was heading for a swim and at that exact moment, I realised there was nothing I could do to stop it.

My bike had died a painful, and very watery, death

Literally swimming back to the surface, I found the tail end of my bike poking out of the water. But it was too late to do anything about it – she’d died a painful, and very watery, death. Water submerged the crankcases and broke the reed valve. Despite her best efforts to fire back into life, the only place she was going was back into the van. Sitting in the van as the race carried on was soul destroying. I knew I should have been out there fighting for a podium result.

Hopefully, along with drowning my bike, I’ve also drowned any remaining bad luck, which has been taunting me this year. Red Bull Romaniacs is just around the corner so it’s time to focus on that. It’s time to redeem myself.

Romania is a stunning place to ride

I love racing in Romania. It a place like no other. For four days we battle our way through the Romanian wilderness, following goat trails and shepherd paths across the mountaintops. It’s a stunning place to ride and one of my all time favourites.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the race and they’re bringing back the legendary city prologue. The first year I rode there, I almost beat Cyril Despres on a beaten up old Honda CR250. I made it all the way into the final, led for a bit but he just beat me in the last corner. It must have ruffled him because he was quick to say, ‘Why are there no lights on your motorcycle?’.

Unfortunately I crashed out of the race the next day with broken ribs and it took another two years to finish it. Here’s hoping this year I can finally end it on the podium.

Bolts

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Paul Bolton looking forward to Erzberg
© Jonty Edmunds

The clock is counting down ahead of this year’s Erzbergrodeo. It won’t be long until 1800 bike-crazed Hard Enduro fanatics set-up camp in the massive iron-ore quarry in the middle of Austria.

I love Erzberg. It’s one of the highlights of my year - both in terms of racing and socialising. Obviously the riding is ace, and it’s the serious bit too. However, up until Sunday morning things are a bit more chilled out, just the way I like it. I’ve been coming to this race since 2007 and over the year’s I’ve seen a lot of crazy things. But the one that stands out most was probably the first night I was ever there.

Yeah, the Erzberg beer tent. It’s a legendary place. If you’ve ever been there you’ll know exactly what I mean, if not, well, let’s just say it’s a pretty full on party place. It’s probably the biggest beer tent you’ll ever see. It must be the size of a football pitch – the thing is huge.

I love Erzberg. It’s one of the highlights of my year.

Anyway, we landed into the Iron Giant late. Dropped anchor somewhere on the mountain and headed down for a quite pint. Little did we know that pint would turn into about twenty, which were then washed down with a box of Jagermeister. But it’s not until you get a tent full of pissed-up dirt bikers in the middle of a quarry when the messing usually begins.

I’m not sure who’s idea it was, maybe Daryl Curtis, but we got a game of table sliding going on. Lining up the tables from one end of the tent to the other, and pouring pints of beer down them to keep things slippery, we started having a competition to see who could slide the furthest. It was a crazy night, one of the best I can remember, even though some bits are still a blur.

Little did we know that one pint would turn into about twenty, which were then washed down with a box of Jagermeister.

Thankfully my run up the prologue wasn’t until late the following afternoon. I managed to sober up enough by then to qualify onto the front row. After that the rest is sort of history. I finished seventh overall in the Red Bull Hare Scramble on a stock Honda CR250 and have become addicted to the Iron Giant ever since.

This year I feel like I’ve prepared the best I possibly can for the race. I’ve been working and training hard to be ready. The biggest change I’ve made has been moving back onto a KTM 300 EXC for the race. The 250f is a great bike but it doesn’t have the speed to match the bigger bikes off the start. And I need to be in the hunt straight away.

My goal is a top three result. I don’t mind which step of the podium I’m on as along as it’s one of them. If I manage that you can buy me a drink in the beer tent afterwards.

Bolts

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Paul Bolton British Enduro Championship
© Jonty Edmunds

I’m really buzzing at the minute. After being a little bit miffed in my last blog about being ‘Mr Fourth Place’ I’ve finally bagged a win – and it’s come in the place I least expected it. I just won a race in the British Enduro Championship.

This year I’m conscious about improving my race speed. I know my technical ability is up to scratch but I feel like I’ve got more to give when it comes to just going fast. With that in mind, I packed my van and headed to one of the most northerly points in Britain for the opening round of the British Enduro Championship. Lossiemouth in Scotland is a little gem of a riding spot. But because it’s literally on the coast, the deep sandy terrain makes it a man’s track to ride. It’s a proper work out to ride, let alone crack the throttle wide open. But I figured that racing in those conditions – against some seriously fast competition – would push the limits of my comfort zone and test my fitness.

The police ambushed us with a checkpoint and tried to hit everyone with a £60 fine

Unfortunately, within ten minutes of leaving the start line on Saturday morning the event hit a major roadblock. The police ambushed us with a checkpoint and tried to hit everyone with a £60 fine for not having a legally sized number plates on their bikes. Luckily, the organisers acted fast to resolve the situation and following a slight delay, they got the show back on the road – well, technically off it!

That night – over two pints of Guinness and a steak – I thought about how to go faster

It had been a while since I rode sand, so I spent most of day one getting myself reacquainted. It’s weird, but riding sand is the one thing that reminds me of hitting fresh pow on my snowboard. What you need to do is just lean back and pin it. The faster you go, the easier it is. And if you hit a spot of trouble, you tell your brain to let your right hand give it more gas. By the end of the day, I found my stride and finished 11th overall but third in E1. However, that night – over two pints of Guinness and a steak – I thought about how to go faster.

I woke up the next morning feeling fit and ready. Riding the liaisons sections between the checks, I was confident of improving on my previous day’s result. I pushed hard on the first test and set a mega time, which set me up for the rest of the day. I made no mistakes and felt strong, even at the end of the final lap, which after two days of riding bottomless sand made me smile.

Timecard enduros aren’t supposed to be my thing – I’m the old guy that rides slow-paced hard enduro races

Winning the E1 class was awesome. It was the first BEC race I’ve ever won. Timecard enduros aren’t supposed to be my thing – I’m the old guy that rides slow-paced hard enduro races! So to be able to win at that level has been a massive personal victory. Hopefully if things work out, I’ll squeeze in some more rounds of the series.

This weekend I’m clicking back into hard enduro mode and competing in the King of the Hill tournament in Romania. I’ve honestly no idea what the race involves. All I know is that it will be three tough days riding in Romania against some strong competition. Graham Jarvis, Chris Birch, Wade Young and a few other guys are making the trip, so it’s shaping up to a good race.

Fingers crossed I can keep this winning streak alive…

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Paul Bolton is set for Enduro success in 2013
© Philip Platzer/Red Bull Content Pool

I’ve just realised that I’m absolutely rubbish at jumping an enduro bike. I might be decent at dealing with whatever’s put in front of me when it comes to Hard Enduro events, but when it comes to heading skyward on a motocross track my brain refuses to keep my throttle hand cranked wide open.

After finally blaggin’ a day off work to go riding on my birthday, with my motocross buddy Nez Parker, I spent most of it getting schooled on jumping… and watching in amazement at his ability to whip a bike flat. There’s no cooler sight than that of a motocross bike laid flat over an 80ft gap as the four-stroke motor bangs off the rev limiter.

Whenever I do hit the rev limiter in mid air my balls have usually shrivelled up in fright!

But I admit defeat when it comes to throwing down whips. It’ll be a while until I grow a set big enough to enjoy serious airtime, in fact whenever I do hit the rev limiter in mid air my balls have usually shrivelled up in fright! So for the moment I’m just sticking within the limits of my capabilities, and dreaming of ‘going big’ on a bike some time soon.

This past month has been a lot of fun. We’ve just finished up the British Extreme Enduro Championship and I have to say I’ve had a blast racing it. But with only two rounds to contest, it didn’t leave a whole lot of room for error. And at round one I didn’t feel like I preformed at my best.

It’s not often you get to play about in snowdrifts on a quad!

After spending the day with my buddy taking full advantage of the snowy weather by blasting around the countryside on quads, I never took the opportunity to walk the course before the race began. It resulted in me completely missing the shorter, but more extreme, route for the first half of the race.

I only noticed it towards the end of the race and by then it was too late to gain any time. When I did ride it I had no trouble with that section so I was annoyed with myself for only finishing in sixth. I can only blame myself for that cock-up, but then again it’s not often you get to play about in snowdrifts on a quad!

At round two I rocked up to the venue with my race face on. I wanted to make up for my previous blunder and get into the mix of things. After a slightly average start I quickly got into a good rhythm and started to haul. I loved the track and picked off a few riders to get into fourth place. Unfortunately, the top three guys were too far in front to catch, but I was happy with how I rode.

Erzberg is our biggest race of the season.

After a busy start to the season there’s about a three-month gap until the ‘Daddy’ of them all begins in June. Erzberg is our biggest race of the season and it’s the one everyone wants to do well at.

Last year I had some rotten luck but still managed to finish in fourth place, so I’m making a big push to go at least one position better this year. I don’t want to finish fourth anymore. My plan is to focus on my fitness and get as much riding time in as possible to improve my speed. I want to be ready when organiser Karl Katoch drops that starting flag!

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