Toughest Erzberg Red Bull Hare Scramble yet sees four riders declared winners
Karl Katoch, the man behind the concept of the Erzbergrodeo, and the very difficult Red Bull Hare Scramble promised at the outset that the twenty-first edition of this Extreme Hard Enduro that it would be the toughest ever.
Some 500 starters lined up to contest the toughest one-day Hard Enduro on the sporting calendar and of the five finishers, four were declared joint winners in an event that was marked by high drama from start to finish. KTM riders Jonny Walker (GBR) and Andreas Lettenbichler (GER), and Husqvarna riders Graham Jarvis (GBR) and Alfredo Gomez (ESP) rode together up onto the Red Bull winner’s arch and each took their turn in holding up the famed trophy – a piece of rock from the Iron Mountain.
Drama unfolded right from the start of the first wave of 50 riders, the fastest qualifiers from the Iron Road Prologue. Riding alongside each other were Red Bull KTM’s five-times Hare Scramble winner, Taddy Blazusiak of Poland and his factory teammate and 2014 winner Jonny Walker. They charged together up the steep gravel slope that launches the race and just before the summit, their bikes touched. Walker got away unscathed but Blazusiak went down and was struck on the head by the bike. He was taken to hospital with concussion.
Walker then took the lead and 27 minutes into the race had a 4 minute 27 advantage over Jarvis, Lettenbichler Gomez and Mario Roman, the only other finisher who crossed the line just 32 seconds inside the four-hour time limit.
But when riders reached the section called Carl’s Diner, a bolder strewn passage that had to be crossed twice, it was clear that this was going to be no walk in the park. Then all four lead riders were together when they reached a new section called “Downtown” an uphill slope that finally proved to be impossible to ride.
Jarvis was the first to get stuck and very soon the other three were backed up behind him. After close consultation, they decided to pool their resources and help each other up the hill, a process that took more than an hour.By the time they got to the top, organizers had decided to remove one of the checkpoints near the end and the four riders opted to ride together to the finish.
Walker’s winning ride in 2014 was just under two hours. On Sunday, the four joint winners reached the finish in just a shade under four hours. Speaking after the race, Walker said: “ I made a good start and early on I pushed really hard. I got a five-minute lead then I made a stupid mistake on one of the hills and I lost maybe 3-4 minutes. That allowed Graham (Jarvis) to catch me. I tried to push but I had a small crash and dented the radiator and it was letting water out. Graham and Gomez passed me, and then we all got stuck on this hill. We talked and decided to pull each other up and ride to the finish. It was by far the hardest Erzberg I have ever done.”
Andreas Lettenbichler agreed. “ It was a really tough one. This is my tenth edition and today was the hardest. This one “Downtown’ section was impossible to ride and we had to help each other. Everyone was completely exhausted after this section and it was too dangerous to have a restart. It was an incredible race, difficult but I’m happy.”
Graham Jarvis: “It’s been a bit of a strange Red Bull Hare Scramble. What can I say really – four winners. I finally got a decent start and was riding well. I knew Jonny would charge in the early sections so I didn’t panic, as I knew the race was going to be a hard one. He had a problem and when we got to Carl’s Diner the gap was two minutes. I could see him. I took another few seconds from him there and shortly after Carl’s Diner he had stopped to fix his radiator and I got into the lead. But then we arrived to this secret new section called Downtown. It was an impossible hill climb with virgin terrain. I tried 10 times to get up it but it was impossible. Alfredo arrived second and we talked about what to do, we decided to team up but ended up needing Jonny, Letti and Wade Young to get up the hill. For me the race ended there as we all rode together back to the finish. It’s an odd way to win a race but I’m happy to make it back to the finish in one piece.”
Alfredo Gomez: “Days don’t come much harder than this. It’s nice to win but of course I’d prefer to win on my own. Overall I can take away the fact that I was riding well despite some early mistakes. My start wasn’t great and I really had to play catch up because of it. I didn’t make it up the first climb and needed a second try. And the final quarry climb also took two goes so I lost a lot of time early on. I thought to myself I’ve got to push hard. Up until Carl’s Diner I was riding well and making the time back. As I dropped into it I could see Graham wasn’t too far ahead and when we exited it, I closed up a little bit more. Afterwards I saw Jonny stopped and I’m thinking I can win. But Downtown killed the race for me. Graham was there and there was no way up alone. We talked about what to do, so Graham, Jonny, Letti and myself all teamed up and got through it. After that we rode to the finish as four winners. I’m happy to win, pleased with how I rode, but disappointed with how the race changed at the end.”
KTM Factory Team Manager Alex Doringer: “Sunday’s race was very special and it was more difficult with this extreme temperature. I didn’t see it, but I heard that Taddy and Jonny came together on the first uphill and I am sorry about what happened to Taddy when he crashed. This is racing and it happens, but he’s a five-time winner and he’s the king here at this event. The last part where they got stuck was really difficult but I am happy that we made an agreement with our riders that they would help each other to finish. I also want to give a big thanks to Carl (Katoch), his wife, Martin Kettner and everyone involved. The organization was fantastic.”
Heinz Kinigadner, (KTM Factory Racing Motorsport consultant) said Erzberg had once again lived up to its reputation as the toughest extreme enduro. He added that it was on also good to see that fairness emerged above sporting ambition and that four winners were declared. “ Too bad it didn’t come to a duel with Taddy,” he added. “But except for headache and neck pain he is okay and is already on his way to Munich for the flight back home to Spain. I am especially happy for Letti (Lettenbichler), who has his long deserved victory after many podiums.”
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.