The Erzberg Rodeo, the world’s toughest Hard Enduro, drew to a close on Sunday with the notorious Red Bull Hare Scramble, the event that anchors the tiny Austrian town of Eisenerz in the hearts and minds of motorcycle enthusiasts all over the world.
This year event organizers not only laid down a torturous route up the mountain; the weather also delivered rain, snow, wind and standing water that reduced even the toughest of riders to near tears.
The Hare Scramble’s 500 starters lined up in rows at the bottom of the mountain in what was a lake of standing water so deep it reached near the top of their boots. Only 14 made it to the top inside the four-hour limit and each experienced almost every human emotion on the way up. To even finish the Red Bull Hare Scramble is a massive plus for any competitive rider.
Winner in 2013 was Graham Jarvis, the Husaberg veteran that has this year dominated other Hard Enduro events. A potential winner who was in the past three times disqualified for missing checkpoints, this was a popular victory for the UK rider. Andreas Lettenbichler, another veteran was second while young Spanish rider Alfredo Gomez took the third podium place.
KTM factory rider Jonny Walker, winner in 2012 was bitterly disappointed to finish one minute after Gomez in fourth place. The 22-year old was a pre-race favorite and secured a front row start but his bike was swamped with water in the chaos at the start. The time he lost certainly cost him a shot at the podium, given that he fought his way back to a stellar fourth at the finish. “If I had to describe my race in one word, I wouldn’t be able to do it,” Walker said. “Last year every fine detail went my way but this year luck wasn’t on my side. I’m not satisfied with my fourth place and I will try again next year. Luckily the next the Red Bull Romaniacs is just around the corner and I’ll try to do better there.”
Other KTM riders who made it into the Honor Role of Hare Scramble finishers were Taichi Tanaka of Japan at seventh and KTM Enduro factory rider Ivan Cervantes, riding Erzberg for the first time at eighth. Both Tanaka and Cervantes said it had been the hardest race of their careers. Tanaka: “It was much hard than last year. I had a great fight with Dougie Lampkin in the forest and we were passing each other all the time. There was a new section on the mountain that was not possible without some help. Last year I didn’t need any assistance but this year Dougie and I helped each other, otherwise it would have been the end for me. Because of this I’m happy with my result.”
Cervantes also paid tribute to five-times winner and KTM teammate Taddy Blazusiak. “I have even more respect for him having won here five times, that’s practically unbelievable. I am satisfied that I finished, but not with my place. I should have been in the top five. I want to come back and try again if I can fit it into my race calendar. If I manage it then I want to be on the podium.”
Undoubtedly the unluckiest rider in this year’s event was Red Bull Hare Scramble pole sitter and local favorite Lars Enöckl. The Austrian and KTM test rider was brilliant in the prologue and as fastest qualifier had the prime position on the front row. His bike was so flooded with water in the start mayhem that it ended his race before it began.
This year five-times winner, KTM factory rider Taddy Blazusiak was only present as a spectator. He said it was a new experience for him to be at Erzberg and not compete. “I injured by wrist at the Barcelona X-Games and I had a lot pain in training this week. It doesn’t make any sense to start at Erzberg if you’re not 100% fit. I’d rather wait to see if my race calendar allows me to start next year,” he said. Taddy now returns to the US for the next round of the US EnduroCross Championship in Sacramento”.
The Erzberg Rodeo draws riders from all over the world. Thousands try, few succeed and after this weekend, thousands more will have it down in their mental diaries as a must do during their racing careers. And while this year the weather showed itself with its nastiest side, the event still went off smoothly, certainly also a tribute to the man behind the competition, Austrian Karl Katoch and his team.
KTM Factory Racing Extreme Enduro Team Manager Alex Doringer paid tribute to the winner Jarvis and to the organizers. “The day before yesterday we had 20 cm of snow and today conditions were more extreme than any other in the 19 years of the event. It was a worthy victory for Graham Jarvis. He is a difficult man to beat in such unusual conditions. This time luck was not on our side. Johnny Walker was a hot favorite to defend his title. He was briefly in the lead at the start but there was too much water in his engine, which was a big disappointment at the beginning of the race. He really showed his class by making up so much ground and it certainly cost him plenty of energy to fight back to fourth place. It was also a sensational result for Taichi Tanka who finished for the third time in a row and the greatest respect for Ivan Cervantes who finished eighth for time out.”
1, Graham Jarvis, UK, 2:01.06
2, Andres Lettenbichler, Germany 2:19.46
3, Alfredo Gomez, Spain, 2:27.26
4, Jonny Walker, UK, KTM, 2:28.20
5, Ben Hemingway, UK 2:37.10
6, Dougie Lampkin, UK 2:56.18
7, Taichi Tanaka, Japan, KTM, 3:05.40
8, Ivan Cervantes, Spain, KTM, 3:07.2
9, A. van de Broek, Netherlands, KTM 2:41.59
10, Pierre Pallut, France, KTM 3:43.24
Images courtesy KTM Racing