KEEPING LIFE FUN, MANUEL LETTENBICHLER STYLE
Life’s good if you’re Manuel (Mani) Lettenbichler. Relaxed, looking fit, happy and healthy, he’s sat bathed in late afternoon sunshine following a busy day at the KTM pre-season photo-shoot. The fun-loving Red Bull KTM Factory Racing enduro racer is uber-chatty (as always), full of the joys of Spring! With just a handful of weeks to go before the opening round of the 2021 FIM Hard Enduro World Championship, even to the untrained eye, Mani looks very much like a rider that’s ready to race…
“I feel a little bit like an Italian,” jokes the jovial 23-year-old, leaning forward in his chair. “I’ve spent so much time in Italy since January for training, it’s kinda become a temporary second home for me. I love it!”
Since packing away his skis and bringing to an end his well-earned winter break, Mani’s steadily been working away at returning to full fitness, enjoying life (more on that later), and generally getting ready for what he hopes will be a ‘much more normal year’ behind the ‘bars of his KTM 300 EXC TPI.
“This year’s going to be great, I can feel it,” he jokes when asked about the year ahead. “I’m certainly hungry for it. You know, last year was horrible for so many people, so we can’t get too worried about some cancelled races. But it was hard to constantly be ready, only to have races postponed and often cancelled. I guess we at least had one race, but this year will be better.”
That ‘one race’ was Red Bull Romaniacs, which Mani won. His first major victory as a factory KTM racer and his one and only major outing in 2020.
“I was super nervous going into Romaniacs last year because like everyone I didn’t know where I was at regards my speed, my fitness, my general preparation. To win that race was pretty huge for me really.”
But that was then, and this is now. A new season and a new opportunity for Mani to show the world why he’s widely regarded as one of the best Hard Enduro riders on the planet. Only in 2021 Mani gets to show off his talents in the newly formed FIM Hard Enduro World Championship – an eight round Hard Enduro series that offers a truly diverse mix of super challenging one and multi-day events, which has evolved from the former WESS Championship.
“I think the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship gives all the riders a little bit more motivation, a little bit more fire. It’s going to be cool. There’re some new races, some old favorites, so it’s looking like it will be a really good series. Of course, I want to win, and I believe I can, but before the first race I’m not going to make wild predictions. I’m just looking forward to getting back to racing, having some fun with the rest of the guys and all being well, everything will work out like I want it to.”
With events dotted all across Europe, and one race taking Mani and the series to North America, the road to the title will be anything but easy. From the super slippery rocks at Lagares in Portugal, to the best known Hard Enduro of them all – Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble – to events in Italy, Romania, Poland and Spain there is plenty for Mani to get stuck into. But it’s the series finale – GetzenRodeo – that Mani is chomping at the bit to compete in again.
“Of course, racing in front of a home crowd is special, really special,” he admits with a cheeky smile. “GetzenRodeo is the final race of the series, so I’m looking forward to that so much. Winning there in 2019 was incredible, it’ll be an amazing end to the series again this year, but it’s a long way away. One race at a time, but I hope that by then I’ll be in a position to fight for the title.”
While all rounds will present unique challenges, specific to the terrain and style of competition at each stop of the tour, it’s Mani’s ability to adapt and excel that’s seen him rise to the very top in recent years. His ability to take on the new, step well outside of his comfort zone if needed, and embrace whatever comes his way is not only one of his biggest attributes, but also something that he truly enjoys.
“It’s all about being a good all-rounder,” he explains. “In Enduro you need to enjoy all kinds of riding – technical stuff, faster, motocross stuff, all of it. I’m still working to improve certain areas of my riding, and I’m enjoying trying to be better. My background is trial and hard enduro riding, so that’s what comes most naturally to me. Improving my speed, becoming better at motocross, is really fun. To be good at enduro you have to be an all-rounder, that’s what makes it enjoyable for me.”
So, if being good at enduro is all about being a good all-rounder, are there any secrets to Mani’s success? Obviously, being on the best bike helps, as does having the support and guidance of the most experienced team in the paddock. But is there any one ingredient that Mani himself places above all others when it comes to his magic recipe for success?
“Keeping things fun. I like to keep things fun. I think I have a really good program going. It’s about a good mix of training, racing and enjoying life. Not getting too serious and only focusing on one thing. I love to get out on my mountain bike, or spend time with my friends, but generally just having fun with whatever it is we are doing. Of course, I work hard to be at the best level I can with my Hard Enduro racing, but to do that you have to enjoy life, stay relaxed, and enjoy it all.”
Mani will be keeping things fun, and aiming for the top step of the podium, at this year’s FIM Hard Enduro World Championship, which begins in Porto, Portugal on May 8-9.
Watch the video below to find out more about how Mani prepared for the upcoming season.