In its highly anticipated X Games debut, “Enduro X” Racing kicked off the AMA EnduroCross series in the STAPLES Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first off-roaders to receive X Games medals were Taddy Blazusiak, Mike Brown and Justin Soule who got on the podium at the prestigious event.
The night was packed full of passes, crashes, take-outs and surprises that thrilled the STAPLES Center crowd, and audiences watching the live coverage on ESPN. Plenty of first-time spectators weren’t quite sure what they were watching, but were exhilarated nonetheless with all the spectacular action going on.
All three heats and both LCQ races had some noteworthy highlights, and in most cases there was a pileup in the first turn due to the hairball start. The starting gate was at the top of a giant wooden ramp, and riders funneled down into a sharp right-hand turn at the bottom. In most cases, at least a few riders ended up on the ground, which mixed things up in qualifying.
The first heat saw Cody Webb, Colton Haaker and Ricky Dietrich all down off the start. Webb was quite remarkable in his comeback, and clawed his way through the field to third, but only the top two would qualify, and the first transfers spots went to Geoff Aaron and Jusitn Soule. In the second heat, Destry Abbott received the business end of the first-turn pileup and found himself on his back with his Kawasaki on top of him. Meanwhile it was Kevin Rookstool who took the win with Taylor Robert in second.
The third heat of the night might have been the craziest action of the night. Taddy Blazusiak gunned for the start, but Ryan Hughes came barreling up the inside and slammed them both to the ground. Blazusiak ended up using Hughes for traction as he got back going, but was a bit flustered and crashed several times in the opening lap. Brown got out to a big lead and held it to the finish with Sweden’s Joakim Ljundgren taking second.
Blazusiak, Webb, Abbott and Kurt Caselli earned qualifying position in the LCQ.
Before the men lined up for the Enduro X main event, the ladies took to the course. A seven-rider field of top off-road and motocross riders battled it out through a rough six-lap main event. Tarah Gieger – who already earned a silver medal that weekend in the Women’s Moto X – took a spectacular header off the start, and got going in last place. But the Troy Lee Designs Honda rider was able to rally back to a second-place finish. Off-road heavy hitters Kacey Martinez and Maria Forsberg battled it out early in the race but the rider able to most effectively keep herself out of trouble was Forsberg, who took the gold. Martinez held on to take the bronze medal behind Gieger.
In the main event, Rookstool had the holeshot and the early lead, but Aaron and Blazusiak quickly shot to the front of the pack to challenge him. Aaron eventually got into the lead, and it looked as though he was going to stay there, but as the track got wetter and sandier, things proved to be quite difficult, even for a ten-time national trials champion. Aaron went over the bars, letting Blazusiak take over the lead. Brown also slipped by, securing second place, while Soule and Ljundgren battled it out for second. Soule was able to fight off the Swede to recapture third just before the end, giving him the bronze medal.
Men’s Enduro X Main Event Results
1. Taddy Blazusiak (KTM)
2. Mike Brown (KTM)
3. Justin Soule (Kaw)
4. Joakim Ljungren (Hus)
5. Geoff Aaron (Hon)
6. Destry Abbott (Kaw)
7. Kurt Caselli (KTM)
8. Cody Webb (Bet)
9. Taylor Robert (Kaw)
10. Kevin Rookstool (KTM)