Since its inception in 1995, the Erzbergrodeo on Austria’s ‘Iron Giant’ has evolved into a must for motorsports enthusiasts far beyond the borders of the country. This year the rodeo celebrates its 22nd edition and the best, brightest and most ambitious of the world of motorcycle sports will be there to test themselves against some of the toughest imaginable physical and mental conditions.
Red Bull sponsors the event and over the past 20 years, victory has been in the hands of KTM riders on 16 occasions, and was shared with Husqvarna riders in last year’s finish when four riders crossed the line together and were declared joint winners.
Among the most renowned KTM riders on the Erzbergrodeo honors list are South African Alfie Cox, Italian Gio Sala, Juha Salminen of Finland, double winners Cyril Despres of France, David Knight and more recently Jonny Walker, both of Britain. But the man who firmly put his stamp on the event was Poland’s Taddy Blazusiak, a five-time winner between 2007-2011.
KTM factory riders will again challenge the Iron Mountain in 2016 under the supervision of team manager Fabio Farioli. Blazusiak will start on the new KTM 250 EXC MY17 and comes fresh from testing the latest machine at the international press launch last week.
“I’ll be racing the new EXC at Erzberg and I can’t wait. I’ve ridden the whole range and it’s crazy to see, I’ve been on the team almost 10 years now and we’ve changed the model a few times, so it’s cool to see how much the bike improves every single time. The new bike feels so much better, corners better, the weight distribution is better and it’s all over a better bike. I can definitely see that the guys behind it are working hard and going in the right direction.”
Factory rider Alfredo Gomez will ride the new KTM 300 EXC MY17 while US KTM factory rider Cody Webb will compete on the KTM 300 EXC MY16 because he has not yet had time to test the new bikes.
Regrettably, Jonny Walker will not be competing at this year’s ErzbergRodeo due to the leg injury he sustained at the penultimate round of the FIM SuperEnduro World Championship.
Working tirelessly in recent weeks to be ready to take on the Iron Giant the three-time Erzberg Red Bull Hare Scramble champion has been forced to following the advice of doctors and not risk possible further set backs to his fractured Fibula. At round five of the SuperEnduro World Championship in Prague a low-speed practice crash resulted in Jonny fracturing his right Fibula.
As leader of the SuperEnduro series at that time Jonny went on to race the following and final round in Madrid in the hope of winning the title should anything untoward happen to his closest championship rivals. Despite doing all he could to be ready for Erzberg recent X-Rays showed that his fractured Fibula isn’t fully healed.
“I really am gutted about not being able to compete at Erzberg this year. Both for myself and all of my sponsors, it’s such an important race – one that despite my leg injury I’ve been looking forward to for months. But I have to listen to the advice I’ve been given by my doctors. The simple fact is that the broken Fibula I sustained at the penultimate round of the SuperEnduro series isn’t fully healed. As disappointing as it is to be missing Erzberg risking possible complications would potentially only set me back further. The really frustrating thing is that I continued my winter SuperEnduro training programme in readiness for Erzberg. I feel fitter and stronger than I think I ever have. I’m still going to Erzberg, just not as a racer. I’ll be there supporting all the KTM guys as well as getting involved with some commentary duties, which I’m really looking forward to. My focus now is to give my leg the little more time it needs before I can start my on-bike training again. Then it’ll be all systems go for Red Bull Romaniacs. It’s been a really tough few weeks so I want to say a huge thanks to all of my sponsors for their understanding. I’ll be back racing soon.”
KTM’s factory rally rider Laia Sanz has trained for the event, but is still recovering fitness after a Rally injury. This year she will concentrate on the Enduro World Championship. Similarly, Austrian rally talent Matthias Walkner is also regaining fitness after a Dakar Rally injury but will be at Erzberg as a visitor.
Manuel Lettenbichler, the 2015-16 Junior SuperEnduro World Champion, injured his cruciate ligament in training a couple of days ago and won’t compete this year too. Joakim Ljunggren (KTM Sweden) will again join the team with KTM factory support.
Bright new British talent Billy Bolt, a rising star in the stable of Walker’s manager Julian Stevens will be one to watch in the strong field of KTM riders. A rider of the same bulky physical dimensions of the David Knight, Bolt is said to have extremely good technical skills. KTM Austria/R&D rider Lars Enöckl will have powerful support as Austria’s strongest national rider.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing trio of Graham Jarvis, Colton Haaker and Mario Roman start the 22nd running of the ErzbergRodeo in Austria as strong favourites for top honours.
Securing victories at Mexico’s AvandaRocks and The Tough One in Great Britain, as well as claiming a hard-fought runner-up result at the recent Minas Riders event in Brazil, Graham Jarvis will be looking for nothing less than a winning result at Erzberg this year.
Sharing the podium with Alfredo Gomez, Jonny Walker and Andreas Lettenbichler in 2015, Jarvis is more eager than ever to put his Rockstar Energy Husqvarna TE 300 on the top step of the podium as he tries to secure an elusive second individual win.
Jarvis will be joined in Austria by his Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing teammate Colton Haaker, who will be battling against the Iron Giant for the first time. Fresh from securing the SuperEnduro World Championship title the American has worked hard to prepare for one of the world’s toughest extreme enduro events and is fired up for his debut assault on the ErzbergRodeo.
The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing squad will be further strengthened by the participation of Spain’s Mario Roman. Taking the world by surprise with his runner-up result last year, the young Spaniard has spent the last few months preparing for the event in the hope of challenging for a podium result.
The 22nd running of the Erzbergrodeo takes place in Eisenerz, Austria this weekend, with the Red Bull Hare Scramble wrapping up three days of action on Sunday, May 29.
“After last year’s event I think everyone is wondering what the organisers have in stall for us this year. Erzberg is always a tough race, but I know what to expect. Getting the best time I can in the prologue is my first goal. Then I’ll just try and get the best start I can and take things from there. The faster, early sections of the Hare Scramble don’t really suit me so much – I just want to be as well placed as I can for the harder sections of the race. There’s a lot of guys wanting to do well this year so the competition is high.”
“It’s going to be the first time I’m racing Erzberg and I’m really looking forward to the challenge. The Red Bull Hare Scramble is probably the biggest and hardest single day event of the year and I’ve always wanted to give it a go. I’ve spent the last couple of months training hard for this event, trying myself in the gnarliest and most extreme stuff. I’ve also spent a decent amount of time getting used to my 300cc two-stroke bike, which for sure is the right tool for the event. I think the key is to learn how to find your way out of the most extreme stuff in one piece and without burning your body out. I know it’s going to be different to anything else I’ve ever done but I’m ready for it.”
“I’ve really been training hard for this race. Last year it was such an important race for me. I learned so much and now I know what to expect. I don’t have so much experience but I believe I can challenge for the podium. No one really knows what the race will be like, so first I want to get a good qualifying time so that I am on the first line of the start. For sure the first hills will be as crazy as always – I just want to do as well as I can before things start to get really difficult and then just keep pushing to the finish.”
The four days of competition feature an extraordinary range of motorcycle events that culminate in the ‘Big One’, the notorious Red Bull Hare Scramble on Sunday.
Some 500 starters, who advance as qualifiers attempt to make it up the slopes of the 1534m (5033ft.) mountain, shaped into tiers by iron ore mining that dates back to the Roman times. Any rider that finishes is a hero. They must pass 20 checkpoints and reach the finish of the staggeringly difficult course in four hours. The start, in waves of 50 riders, is spectacular and many do not make it up the first steep slope of rolling gravel.
Highlights of the three-day event are the Kärcher Rocket Ride on Thursday, the Iron Road Prologue on Friday and Saturday, from which 500 finalists will qualify for the Red Bull Hare Scramble on Sunday.