(Left to right) Taddy Blazusiak, Mike Brown and Colton Haaker celebrate on the Orleans EnduroCross podium. Photography by Kit Palmer.
At the Las Vegas opener of the GEICO AMA EnduroCross series, KTM’s Mike Brown made a statement so loud it might have been heard all the way down at the strip. The 41-year-old led every lap he raced at the Orleans Arena, both in his heat and in the main event, and grabbed every hot lap of the day, to boot, leaving his Red Bull KTM teammate and defending champion Taddy Blazusiak to collect second place.
According to Brown, his dominant performance is nothing less than what he expected of himself at the AMA series opener. The KTM/FMF rider is gunning for the championship, and his diligent training routine, which has him on a road bike more often than anything, is clearly paying off.
Blazusiak’s second-place was nothing to complain about, but the defending AMA EnduroCross Champion appeared less than thrilled with his runner-up finish. The extreme enduro specialist came to Las Vegas hoping to launch his title defense with a big win, but instead spent much of the day working through setup, and admits he’ll be doing more testing before the next AMA round in Sacramento.
The winner of last year’s Las Vegas opener, Colton Haaker, made a return to the podium with a third-place finish on the night. Newly aboard the JCR Honda, Haaker had his challenges with the big CRF450R on the tight EnduroCross course, but was able to put in solid laps when it counted.
“We’re putting in the work, for sure,” Haaker said of his efforts with the Johnny Campbell Racing Honda team. “The 450 is a big bike; she stalls out here and there but we’re working out the bugs.”
Riders Cory Graffunder and Cody Webb took turns pressuring Haaker for the final podium position, but the Lucas Oil-backed racer remained solid throughout the main event to end the night on the podium.
Factory Beta rider Cody Webb carded a fourth-place finish aboard his 300cc two-stroke machine. After his aggressive battle with Blazusiak at the Brazil X Games only a few weeks prior, many were hoping to see a repeat performance from Webb, but he wasn’t able to battle for the lead as anticipated. KTM-mounted Geoff Aaron rounded out the top-five ahead of Kawasaki’s Taylor Robert, factory Husqvarna’s Cory Graffunder and RPM KTM’s Kyle Redmond. Justin Soule and Max Gerston filled out the top ten on the night.
The Women’s class held some unexpected twists for Las Vegas fans. Dominant rider Maria Forsberg was run wide in a turn on the first lap, losing momentum and crashing on the log double. The factory KTM rider was unable to climb her way back into podium contention, leaving Chantelle Bykerk, Shelby Turner and Morgan Tanke to battle for the lead. It looked to be Bykerk leading the way to the finish, but on the last lap, just before the checkered flag, Turner swooped in to steal the lead and her first AMA EnduroCross win.
The TrialCross class had nearly as much excitement as Ty Tremaine and Jack Field battled side-by-side throughout the last lap. “Freestyle Trials rider” Field quite literally elbowed his way into the lead and celebrated his inaugural EnduroCross win with a jaw-dropping backflip over the finish line. Tremaine, meanwhile, slipped back to third letting youngster Ty Cullins slide into the second-place spot.
The Las Vegas evening program started with the 35+ Vet Main Event, which not surprisingly went to reigning champion Kurt Nicoll. The Nitro Circus rider didn’t get away without some pressure from the field in the form of former Supercross Champion Ty Davis, and Dirt Rider magazine Senior Editor Adam Booth. Davis and Booth swapped some paint in the battle for second, which went to Husqvarna-mounted Davis after Booth had his chain come off on his Abbott-replica Kawasaki.
In the Open Amateur division, Tyler Murray came away with the win by the skin of his teeth. Murray didn’t lead the race up until the very end – the only time it mattered. In the last turn, he was able to swoop in for the class win, leaving David Broderick and Gavin McCarthy to collect second and third, respectively.
With the Las Vegas round now in the books, the EnduroCross crew now gets ready to head to Barcelona for another International X Games Enduro X race. The next points-paying round of the GEICO/AMA EnduroCross Series, however, doesn’t happen until June 8 when the series resumes in Sacramento, Californa.
GEICO/AMA EnduroCross Series
Round 1 – Las Vegas, NV
Main Event Results:
1. Mike Brown – KTM
2. Taddy Blazusiak – KTM
3. Colton Haaker – Hon
4. Cody Webb – Bet
5. Geoff Aaron – KTM
6. Taylor Robert – Kaw
7. Cory Graffunder – Hus
8. Kyle Redmond – KTM
9. Justin Soule – Kaw
10. Max Gerston – Bet
11. Destry Abbott – Kaw
12. Jamie Lanza – Hus
13. Gary Sutherlin – Kaw