Graham Jarvis took the 2019 Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble victory in Austria for Round 3 of the World Enduro Super Series (WESS), two-minutes ahead of Manual Lettenbichler, with Mario Roman in third, moving Jarvis closer to the standings lead.
Returning to Hard Enduro, the iconic Erzbergrodeo marked the third stop in this year’s race to become the Ultimate Enduro Champion. The world’s best Enduro riders were among an entry of 1702 competitors (including 49 women) from 43 nations that converged to the quiet mining town of Eisenerz for the annual four-day dirt bike festival.
Following two days of the Blakläder Iron Road Prologue qualification, championship leader Josep Garcia proved the fastest of the 500 qualifiers for Sunday’s Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble.
From the depths of the Europe’s largest iron ore quarry, competitors blasted off the start line for the 35-kilometre long race. With four hours to complete the 27 checkpoints dotted around the Iron Giant, it was Lettenbichler who was first to set the pace, taking over from Garcia and Jonny Walker shortly after the start.
Pushing hard, the 21-year-old German tried to break away from the pack, but with 44-year-old Jarvis at his best, Lettenbichler found himself trailing the Husqvarna rider as they entered the notorious Carls Dinner section.
Delivering a master class in the monstrous boulder garden, Jarvis broke clear of Lettenbichler in second, while the Sherco pairing of Roman and Wade Young were locked in a tight battle for third.
However, Lettenbichler – chasing his debut win – was undeterred and worked hard to reel Jarvis back in, drawing level at Green Hell with just four checkpoints to go. But Jarvis had a little energy in reserve to keep the youngster at bay and secure a record-equalling fifth Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble win.
Finishing just over two minutes behind, Lettenbichler’s runner-up result provisionally moves him into the WESS championship lead with three rounds complete. Putting in an impressively strong ride during the second half of the race, round one winner Mario Roman was able to cement his position of third and secure a debut podium result in the race.
Also finding his rhythm after Carls Dinner, Spain’s Alfredo Gomez was able to work his way past Wade Young to eventually finish fourth. Despite holding a podium position at the halfway stage in the race, Young slipped down the leader board to round out the top five.
After a bad start, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Taddy Blazusiak worked his way back into contention to take sixth, while Billy Bolt rounded out the top seven. In total, 16 competitors from seven nations completed this year’s Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble.
Graham Jarvis – P1
“This feel amazing. I think this could be the most important Erzberg victory of my career. A lot of people were talking about my age, and at 44 I did have some doubts about my fitness for the full race. But I just kept my focus and kept pushing. I knew I would have work to do from the start, but the faster sections of the race, early on, never really suit me. Once I got to Carl’s Dinner, I started to make up time. It was different to when I walked it, and I was feeling it physically, but it went really well. I managed to lead going into Green Hell, but it was close there with Manni. I just had to keep pushing after that. It’s amazing to be a five-time Erzberg winner.”
Manuel Lettenbichler – P2
“That was a tough race, but I’m super happy to finish second. I got a great start and was third behind Garcia and Walker and followed those guys into the forest. I made a small mistake, but I arrived first at Carl’s Dinner. I knew Graham was close, so I just ride as hard as I could. It was really tough in there. When Graham passed me, I did all I could to stay with him and got right onto his rear wheel in Green Hell. If I’d have got ahead of him there, well, who knows what might have happened. From there to the finish I gave everything, but I couldn’t catch Graham. I had a great race and to finish second to someone like Graham is amazing. The 25th Erzberg has been incredible, I’m so pleased to be on the podium.”
Mario Roman – P3
“So many riders crashed in front of me on the first climb after the start, so I just tried to be calm and not make any crazy mistakes. After that I started to find my rhythm, passing riders one-by-one. To finish third is a great result, I’m very happy. In Carl’s Dinner I tried to push hard there and passed Billy, Alfredo, Jonny and Wade. I knew there was still a long way to go so I rode as smart as I could. It’s amazing to be on the podium.”
Alfredo Gomez – P4
“I had a really bad start with some riders falling in front of me on the first hill. That wasn’t what I wanted but when I got to the forest sections I was riding in a small group with Graham, Billy and Taddy. We rode together for about 15 minutes but in one small uphill I struggled a lot – it took me three times to make it. That’s where I lost Graham. Carl’s Dinner was really tough for me. I had a little pain in my stomach, but I just couldn’t ride like I wanted. Of course, I wanted a podium result or better, but I have to be pleased with third – this race doesn’t get any easier and more and more riders are really strong here. The last part of the race went really well. It’s been another amazing Erzberg.”
“I feel this is one of those results that doesn’t show how well I rode. I got together with Billy off the start then got stuck with the riders who fell on the first hill, so it was a tough, tough start to the race for me. I felt good after that, and had good speed, but I knew I had a lot of work to do. It’s always hard to get through traffic here, but once you have some clear track ahead of you and are with the faster riders it’s a lot easier – you all ride the same lines and keep moving forwards. I gave my all and considering what happened at the start I’m pleased with sixth. Hat’s off to Graham for equalling the five wins.”
Jonny Walker – P8
“I’m happy to finish today as the race was very tough this year. I got a really good start but maybe pushed a little too hard early on. The faster sections and hill climbs took a lot out of my tyre and that made things a lot trickier later on. Physically I feel good, tired of course because perhaps after struggling a little on some of the hills I had to work a little harder. Eighth place is a good result, but it’s not where I want to be. There are a few things I want to work on before the next round of the WESS in Spain.”
Josep Garcia – P15
“Another year and another dream come true. I arrived at the finish with just three minutes to go – I was absolutely flat out through the closing section. On Green Hell I teamed up with another rider to make the top and then after that I just pushed on as hard as I could for the finish. It’s hard to find words for how this feels, it’s my second year here and my second finish. I have got good points for the championship and I have come out of the race healthy, ready for the next race.”
Nathan Watson – P22
“Erzberg’s been just as hard as I knew it would be. I got a great start, I think I was fifth early on through the first few check points. I faded back a little as things got tougher, but I knew that would happen. It was once I got to Carl’s Dinner that things started to get really tough for me. I went at it at a steady pace and I felt a lot better than I did last year, so I was really pleased with that. It’s just brutal. I worked together with a few riders to get through Green Hell and then onto Dynamite. I got further than I did last year, on a longer course, so I’m pleased with the way things have gone.”
The World Enduro Super Series continues with round four, Spain’s Hixpania Hard Enduro on June 21-23.
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