On the eve of the Red Bull Hare Scramble at the 2008 Erzberg Rodeo, experts predicted that no rider would master the Iron Mountain in less than two hours. KTM factory rider Taddy Blazusiak charged through the checkered flag in 1:20.132.

The Polish rider, who won the event and a factory ride in extreme Enduro events for KTM in 2007, left no doubt about his shooting star role. Taddy not only won the 2008 event, he did it in seemingly effortless style and passed through the victory arch on the top of the mountain almost 15 minutes in front of his nearest rival, BMW rider Andreas Lettenbichler of Germany.

Blazuziak had warmed up for the challenge on Saturday with a victory in the super final of the Rodeo-X Endurocross. On Sunday, 500 enthusiasts from 32 different countries were on the starting line for the Hare Scramble. BMW's Lettenbichler grabbed the early lead and held on for the first 20 minutes of the race. Blazuziak struggled with a bad start and had to fight his way through the dust and weave through fellow riders on the early climbs. Once Taddy took the lead, however, he never looked back on his way to capturing his second Erzberg win in as many tries.

"It's great to have won at Erzberg again," Blazuziak said. "It was a lot harder for me this year because the track was harder, the other riders were faster and I was expected to win. Last year no one really knew who I was.

"I got a bad start, which made things difficult for me in the early stages of the race. I thought my bike had started but it took several kicks before I was going, by that point I was behind and in the dust of the other riders. I crashed into some trees at the bottom of the first downhill, and was about fourth or fifth at that point. Not long after that I passed Cyril Despres and Juha Salminen and started to close in on the leader [Andreas Lettenbichler]. Andi was riding well so it took me a little while to pass him but once I did I pushed really hard to pull away. Last year I was able to take it easy between the difficult sections but this year I was racing at motocross pace everywhere, which was tiring.

Lettenbichler held on for second place while Honda-mounted Paul Bolton of the UK completed the podium with a third place finish just over two minutes behind Lettenbichler.

Only seconds behind Bolton was Dakar winner and KTM factory rider Cyril Despres of France, who finished fourth. Behind him were the American Christini KTM riders Kyle Redmond and Geoff Aaron finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.

Redmond returned to Erzberg after finishing ninth last year and is now top American for the second year in a row. The 19-year-old from Lake Hughes, California made a late-race attempt to pass Bolton for third place, but lost his drive on the uphill, allowing Bolton to slip away, and Despres to get by for fourth.

Ten-time National Trials Champion, Geoff Aaron should be awarded the "Hard Charger" title, as he worked his way up from a second row start (five minutes behind) to break into the top ten. Aaron struggled with qualifying in the Pike's Peak-style Prologue and was forced to pass nearly 50 other riders on his way to finishing sixth.

Results Red Bull Hare Scramble

1. Taddy Blazusiak, Poland, KTM 1:20:13

2. Andreas Lettenbichler, Germany, BMW, 1:35:58

3. Paul Bolton, UK, Honda, 1:38:03

4. Cyril Despres, France, KTM, 1:38:22

5. Kyle Redmond, USA, KTM, 1:42:19

6. Geoff Aaron USA, KTM, 1:45:32

7. Gerhard Forster, Germany, BMW, 1:46:15

8. Chris Birch, New Zealand, KTM, 1:47:35

9. Juha Salminen, Finland, KTM, 1:51:19

10. Mark Jackson, UK, KTM, 2:04:45

Off-Road Racing News

Jean Turner

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