Spain’s Mario Roman has taken an early lead in the battle to become this year’s ultimate enduro champion, claiming the overall victory at round one in Portugal. Putting in a determined display of riding, the Sherco Factory Racing star produced a terrific late race charge to top the podium ahead of teammate Wade Young, with early race leader Manuel Lettenbichler third.
Friday Qualification & Semi-Finals
Back with a vengeance, Jonny Walker took the win on the opening day of competition at round one of the World Enduro Super Series at the Extreme XL Lagares.
Round one of the 2019 World Enduro Super Series got off to a spectacular start with a night of tightly-fought Endurocross racing in Lagares, Portugal, and among the entry of almost 300 competitors, over 50 Pro riders went head-to-head during a series of qualification heats and semi-finals to reach the final race.
Showing their best during the evening, Jonny Walker, Taddy Blazusiak, Manuel Lettenbichler, Graham Jarvis, Josep Garcia, Alfredo Gomez, Wade Young, plus home favourite Diogo Vieira took to the start line of the six-minute plus two lap race as favourites.
Lettenbichler was fastest out of the starting gate, but with Garcia, Blazusiak and Walker in hot pursuit the pressure was on. Blazusiak made a dive for the lead at the end of lap one and took over proceedings. However, a mistake in the slippery rock garden on lap two allowed Walker to jump past both Blazusiak and Lettenbichler and into the lead.
Comfortable out front, Walker commanded the rest of the race, resisting to any late attacks Blazusiak could offer to claim victory on day one in Portugal. The win also marked Walker’s first major win since crashing out of the World Enduro Super Series in Poland in September of last year. Behind Walker, Blazusiak chased his teammate across the line for second, while Lettenbichler took third. Gomez pushed hard to place fourth, while Garcia impressed with a strong fifth.
Jonny Walker (KTM – GB) 7 laps, 1:11.823
Taddy Blazusiak (KTM – POL) 8:44.299
Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM – GER) 8:46.859
Alfredo Gomez (Husqvarna – ESP) 8:46.604
Josep Garcia (KTM – ESP) 9;05.133
Saturday Porto Prologue
Spain’s Alfredo Gomez showed himself to be the rider to beat on day two of the World Enduro Super Series opener. Proving to be the Urban Enduro master, the rider claimed victory in the spectacular Porto Prologue, in the all-out battle for supremacy on the cobbled streets of Porto.
Gomez led home a stacked field of over 50 Pro riders, with Taddy Blazusiak and Billy Bolt joining him on the podium in second and third respectively.
In the heart of the world heritage city’s bustling tourist district, the world’s best Enduro riders were treated to a tough and technical Endurocross arena that was linked to the city’s narrow cobbled streets. Thousands of spectators lined the sides of the race course adding to the incredible atmosphere in Porto.
With the Hobby, Veteran and Expert riders first to tackle a shortened version of the track, it was the Pro class riders who turned up the heat around the narrow, cobbled streets. Already a multi-time winner of the prologue, Gomez once again showed his rivals who’s the boss by topping the qualification.
With pole position secured for the final, Gomez didn’t disappoint and immediately put his Husqvarna out front. Commanding the cobbled climbs, he eased away from the chasing pack to take the win. Behind him the battle for the remainder of the podium was played out between Blazusiak, Bolt, Walker and Manuel Lettenbichler. Holding firm despite a few mistakes, Blazusiak grabbed second.
In a showdown for third, Bolt held off a late attack from Walker to complete the top three. In his bid for the podium, Walker misjudged the floating bridge and ended up in the river. With Walker taking an unplanned bath, Lettenbichler capitalised to take fourth, with Wade Young fifth.
“The start was key to winning the prologue final. I managed to get into the lead and was able to control the pace. I’m not sure why but I always enjoy riding it – I think it’s because you are so close to the spectators on the track. Tomorrow will be the real test. I’d really like to come away with the win – I feel like I can do it, we’ll just see how things go.”
Pro Class Qualification
Alfredo Gomez (Husqvarna – ESP) 4:38.75
Taddy Blazusiak (KTM – POL) 4:49.88
Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM – GER) 4:50.99
Wade Young (Sherco – RSA) 4:52.24
Billy Bolt (Husqvarna – GB) 4:53.52
Jonny Walker (KTM – GB) 4:54.58
Diogo Vieira (Yamaha – PRT) 4:57.00
Mario Roman (Sherco – ESP) 5:00.51
Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna – GB) 5:03.71
Travis Teasdale (KTM – RSA) 5:04.71
Pro Class Final
Alfredo Gomez (Husqvarna – ESP)
Taddy Blazusiak (KTM – POL)
Billy Bolt (Husqvarna – GB)
Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM – GER)
Wade Young (Sherco – RSA)
Sunday Extreme XL Lagares
Following two days of action-packed Endurocross and City Prologue racing, the stage was set for Sunday’s Hard Enduro feature race. Among the 300 competitors entered, over 50 Pro riders took to the start line of the demanding two-hour long course, which was to be completed twice. Notoriously difficult, the addition of blisteringly hot sunshine ensured a punishing start to the 2019 WESS championship.
Fastest seeded Alfredo Gomez led the field away, with Taddy Blazusiak following suit 15 seconds later. At the first major riverbed rock step, Blazusiak had reeled Gomez in and led from the front, with Lettenbichler hot on his heels having also caught and overtaken the Spaniard.
Midway through lap one the running order changed. Setting an insanely fast pace, Lettenbichler moved into the lead and opened up a five-minute advantage over Young with Billy Bolt, Jonny Walker and Graham Jarvis all in tow. Just behind them sat Roman.
Heading out for lap two, Lettenbichler was now six minutes clear and looking strong. But Roman and Young had other ideas and impressively upped their pace in the deteriorating conditions. The duo reeled in the young German, who appeared to have run out of steam at the crucial moment.
Breaking both Young and Lettenbichler, Roman put his Sherco in front and, in charging all the way to the finish, claimed a memorable victory and the opening win of the WESS season. Young finished four minutes behind as runner-up.
Jarvis initially looked to have snatched third from Lettenbichler on corrected time, but the German was awarded time he lost on lap one due to a track marking error and finished on the podium. With Jarvis content in fourth, Bolt completed the top five, while Walker rounded out the top six.
In the one-lap Expert class race, Carlos Ordoa secured a commanding victory beating nearest rival Nuno Pereira by 31 minutes. Alberto Aramburu completed the top three.
Jose Ferreira was the winner of the Hobby class. Finishing 17 minutes behind, Ricardo Cerqueira was second with Tiago Oliveira third.
The World Enduro Super Series continues with round two, the Trèfle Lozérien AMV in France, next weekend, May 17-19.
Mario Roman – P1
“I feel amazing, it’s so good to get the win. In 2016 I finished about a minute behind Alfredo and then two years in a row I had mechanical issues with my bike, but I always believed in myself and knew I could do it this year. On the first lap I was lying fifth or sixth and I couldn’t see the top two guys, but as the race went on, I started to feel stronger and was able to push 100% and pass the others one-by-one. The track was so much more difficult on the second lap and I knew I would be able to make up time on those tricky sections.”
Wade Young – P2
“It feels great to get second today. At one point I was down in sixth and I was lacking some confidence after struggling in one of the rivers – that spent a lot of my energy. I came back strong though and towards the end people were starting to get tired and I was able to dig a little deeper and keep going.”
Manuel Lettenbichler – P3
“I am so happy with my result and overall I had a really good race. I didn’t realise at first the gap to the others was so big. I tried to stick to the same pace on the second lap, but Mario and Wade must have been flying. I think they probably pushed each other on the difficult stuff and were able to maintain a good speed when it got really tough. Graham also caught me at a few places, but I was able to stay ahead. I had to stop to move a bridge on the first lap so that cost me some time, but thankfully they have awarded that back to me and I have come away with third. It would have been nice to get the win, especially after leading for over half of the race. But whatever the result, I am happy with my riding and it’s been a good start to this year’s WESS championship.”
Graham Jarvis – P4
“I’m really happy with how things went today, especially as I haven’t really been on the bike for the past two weeks due to some niggling little injuries. I was feeling a bit tense on the first lap but loosened up on the second and was able to up my pace a little. The bike felt great today and I was really able to attack the gnarly stuff – some of it I was able to get up in one go. The course was as challenging as ever – there was even a new gully for this year that was about half a mile long. I had fun though and it feels good to get a top result, even if I did just miss out on the podium. I’m looking forward to my next race now and hopefully I can get a similar result, or better.”
Billy Bolt – P5
“I’m so happy with my result, it’s been a long three days, but I got to the finish. I didn’t really have a plan coming into today’s race, I just wanted to try and stick with the other guys for as long as I could. My pace on the first lap was good, I just didn’t quite have the energy to keep up when we got back into the technical stuff on the second lap. I gritted my teeth and kept going, but it was quite a lonely second lap to be honest. I’m over the moon with the result – it feels like a win. Six weeks ago, it didn’t look like I would be ready to ride here after my injury, so to be able to finish with such a strong result feels amazing.”
Jonny Walker – P6
“That was seriously tough out there. I had a crash really early on and that didn’t help. I’m still struggling with my grip strength and even though my speed is there, I’m not able to push quite as hard as I would like. I was able to stay with the front runners on the first lap but then coming around on the second lap I got stuck in one of the rivers and lost some time. I had some good battles out there and I have to be happy with sixth, but I know I still have some work to do before I’m back at 100%. Next week we’ve got the classic enduro in France, I had a good ride there last year so I’m hoping for the same again.”
Alfredo Gomez – P7
“It was very tricky out there, one of the toughest day’s riding I have had for a long time. It was so slippery, and I had quite a few crashes. I set off first and unfortunately lost sometime early on when I made a mistake. I think three riders passed me and then we got into the first river and I struggled to stay with them. It’s a shame because yesterday my pace was so good and to come away with the Prologue win felt great. Today I just couldn’t get comfortable with things. We have a week until the next race so I will try to recover as best as I can and get prepared for France.”
Taddy Blazusiak – P8
“Overall, I’m happy with my ride today, it was really tough and very long. I got a rock in my eye when trying to pass a lapper and that put me off for a bit. It was just one of those tough days, but this is WESS and it’s all about collecting points when things don’t quite go your way. I led the race a little early on, which was fine, but I struggled a little when we got to the rivers. It was so slippery and the second time through was even more tricky. I got to the finish in one piece, which is the main thing. Soon we’ll be straight into classic enduro at Le Trefle. It means I’ll be back on the 350, which should suit me as it’s what I have been riding all SuperEnduro season.”
Josep Garcia – P13
“The event started off really well on Friday with the Superenduro. I felt really good and was able to battle with the top guys. I finished fifth, which I was really happy with. On Saturday I had a couple of crashes in the streets of Porto, so I didn’t post such a great time but managed to qualify 12th for the main race. My first lap today didn’t go so well, the track was a lot more slippery than last year and there were a lot of tricky climbs we had to make. On the second lap I started to feel more comfortable and was able to keep a good speed. I am really happy to make it to the finish because here that is a big achievement after over four hours. I have earned some good points and that’s really important for the championship.”
Results – Round 1: Extreme XL Lagares
Mario Roman (Sherco – ESP) 4:01:43.21
Wade Young (Sherco – RSA) 4:05:59.04 +4:15.83
Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM – GER) 4:07:09.68 +5:26.47
Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna – GB) 4:07:16.12 +5:32.91
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