Red Bull KTM’s hard enduro whiz kid Taddy Blazusiak scored his third consecutive win at the Erzberg Rodeo in as many tries – the first-ever to score a hat trick in the “Tougher than Iron” event. Blazusiak topped both the prologue event and the hare scrambles despite a bought of food poisoning during the week.
Out of nearly 1600 racers entered in the Erzberg Rodeo prologue, 500 earned qualifying positions for Sunday’s hard enduro race through the treacherous Austrian Alps, where less than 20 would finish. Despite heavy rains and temperatures down in the 50’s only days earlier, race day saw sunny skies and “sweltering heat” in the high 80’s which taxed riders even further. Behind Blazusiak, Graham Jarvis of Great Britain finished second (from a third-row start) ahead of BMW’s Andreas Lettenbichler who rounded out the podium.
“I can’t explain how hard this year’s event was,” Blazusiak said. “It was much harder than the last two years. But I’m thrilled to have claimed a third consecutive victory.”
Factory KTM rally racer Cyril Despres finished second in the prologue riding his twin-cylinder race bike. Although that qualified him for the second gate pick, the Frenchman opted not to race Sunday’s hare scrambles on his full rally bike. Other top qualifiers included Lettenbichler, Chris Birch of New Zealand and Mexican enduro champion Homero Diaz.
Blazusiak didn’t make it easy for himself to take his third Erzberg victory as the Polack went over the bars on one of the first downhills after hitting a downed rider. KTM’s Chris Birch was off and running with the early lead, but pushed too hard too early as he would soon find out. Blazusiak slipped back to 12th and had to work his way back up, but was back into the lead by the half-way point.
Dougie LampkinBritish trials legend Doug Lampkin was running third and challenging Jarvis for second near the end of the race, but in the last canyon – and probably the toughest part of the course – his day took a horrifying turn for the worse. As Lampkin attempted to climb the steep nearly vertical hillside, he began to show signs of exhaustion. Then, after breaking two fingers while trying to get his Beta unstuck, Lampkin collapsed, appearing to fight to stay conscious while ragdolling down the hillside. He came to a stop and lied in the fetal position alongside the trail where his father removed his helmet to help him cool off. Meanwhile Lettenbichler was attempting the hill only a few feet away, and the rear wheel of his 450 showered Lampkin with grapefruit-sized rocks, one of which struck him in the head. Medics were called to the scene, but with no feasible way to get him out of the canyon on a stretcher, the race was halted while Lampkin was airlifted out. It was later reported that Lampkin suffered two broken fingers, a concussion, exhaustion and heat stroke, but was recovering in a nearby hospital.
The top three got through before officials halted the race, but the rest of the field had an hour-long impromptu break at the scene. Officials re-started the race letting the riders take to the course in timed intervals in the order they arrived at the canyon.
After a hard-fought first half of the race, Blazusiak managed to open up a commanding lead over Sherco-mounted Jarvis in second.
Taddy Blasuziak”I spent the first half of the race playing catch-up,” Blazusiak said. “All the way up the mountain I pushed as hard as I could. After I took the lead, I tried to just manage it and not do anything stupid. I opened up a comfortable lead and although I wasn’t pushing as hard as I was at the start, by the time I got to the finish I was 42 minutes ahead.”
Graham Jarvis’ second-place finish was impressive nonetheless. Riding the all-new Sherco 250cc four-stroke, the Brit didn’t qualify well in the prologue and consequently had to start from the third row (four minutes behind the leaders), but the trials rider made steady progress, earning his first podium at Erzberg.
Am Pro Yamaha’s Kyle Redmond of Lake Hughes, California – the lone American – was looking to improve on his fifth-place finish from last year, but had a hard time doing so with very limited support for his overseas race effort. Riding a borrowed ’07 YZ250 two-stroke, Redmond managed to qualify well and get off to a strong start, and was running as high as third early in the race. But after getting lost once, and then getting stuck in a tree on steep downhill, he lost nearly ten positions. Despite the setback, and nursing a fading clutch, Redmond clawed his way back into the top-ten in the last few miles of the race to finish tenth (results not yet official)