Taddy Blazusiak topped the Enduro-X in Brazil. Photography by Jose Mario Diasi/ESPN Images
Taddy Blazusiak secured the X-Games Gold Medal in the Enduro-X Men’s Final in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, April 18. Fending off some of the world’s best endurocross racers, the KTM Enduro Factory Team rider took the win in the Men’s Enduro X Final, which marked the start of the four-day action sports event.
At the X-Games Brazil - where EnduroCross was for the first time taken outdoors - competitors faced a notably larger and more demanding course than those usually built. With track conditions proving extremely slippery victory certainly didn't come easily for Blazusiak.
Struggling to find grip in his qualifying heat Blazusiak crashed on one of the tricky rock sections and was forced to battle his way from the rear of the field to his eventual finishing position of fifth.
Although faced with a difficult starting position for the Men’s Final, the KTM rider enjoyed a great start and hit the front of the race shortly after the third corner. Taking his time to deal with the extreme conditions, Blazusiak faced a fierce challenge from rival, Beta’s Cody Webb. During the first four laps of the race the leading duo swapped positions numerous times as both riders sought to find the perfect line around the deteriorating course.
"Taddy and I had a great battle for a long time there," Webb said. "I had the fastest line through the rock hairpin and he was better through some of the uphill sections, which kept us bar-to-bar during the first three or four laps. I don't know how many times we swapped the lead."
Knowing any mistake would prove costly Blazusiak maintained a steady rhythm, while Webb eventually crashed out of contention.
The slick racing surface ended up biting Webb in a big way on lap four, when, while in the lead, he came out of an obstacle, hit an especially shiny patch of dirt, lost the rear end of his bike and slid into the Tuff Blocks.
With the laps winding down, Blazusiak, now in the lead, settled his pace, maintaining a comfortable advantage over the chasing field of riders. Continuing to ride a faultless race he secured a well-earned victory.
Webb worked his way back into second for a Silver medal.
“I can’t believe the night I had,” Blazusiak said. “Firstly, getting off a rally bike and back onto my endurocross bike was much, much harder than I was expecting. I can't remember the last time I felt so bad on a bike. Things had been going bad all night but thankfully everything worked out, it’s great to get another X Games gold medal.
“The track was really cool, but it just became so slippery that it was a game of survival. It was a warm night, but it was humid. I was pretty much riding in survival mode from the start. I had the 10th pick of the start, but took the very inside gate and managed to take the lead coming off the first rock section.
“Cody Webb was riding strong, but I knew that pushing too hard wasn’t the way to go. I stuck to a speed I was happy with, and raced the few parts of the track I could. It’s amazing to have won… I just hope things go a little more smoothly at the next X Games event in Spain.”
"It was a pretty insane track tonight," Webb said. "I was in the first heat and the track really wasn't all that bad. But by the time we got around to the main event there were spots on the track that felt like we were riding on ice.
"I had a nice gap on Taddy and then got the rug pulled out from under me," Webb said. "He got a big lead after that and didn't make any big mistakes. I was gaining back on him but ran out of time. If the race were a lap or two longer I think I might have tracked him down."
Rounding out the podium was Honda rider David Knight who finished about 10 seconds behind Webb.
The next-best American finisher was Rockstar Energy/JCR Honda’s Colton Haaker who finished about 15 seconds behind Knight.
Fifth place went to Kawasaki’s Taylor Robert, followed by KTM’s Mike Brown, Husqvarna’s Cory Graffunder, KTM rider Kyle Redmond, Husaberg-mounted Alfredo Gomez and Max Gerston.
Maria Forsberg enjoyed an early lead in the women's race, but she got hung up on a downhill obstacle, which allowed Spanish upstart Laia Sanz to pass her and take the win.
"I was trying to push my bike over the bottom log, which was hard because everything was wet and footing was difficult," she said. "I felt like I was close to getting going again, but another rider got stuck next to me, then fell on top of me. It killed my momentum and gave Sanz time to get away."
Forsberg fell as far back as fourth before recovering and working her way back into silver medal position.
"It breaks my run of gold medals at X Games," said Forsberg, who won the last two X Games. "Thankfully, with the Global X Games now, it's not my only chance at gold this year."
Men’s Enduro-X Final
1. Taddy Blazusiak (KTM); 2. Cody Webb (Beta); 3. David Knight (Honda); 4. Colton Haaker (Honda); 5. Taylor Robert (Kawasaki); 6. Mike Brown (KTM); 7. Cory Graffunder (Husqvarna); 8. Kyle Redmond (KTM); 9. Alfredo Gomez (Husaberg); 10. Max Gerston.
Women’s Enduro-X Final
1. Laia Sanz; 2. Maria Forsberg; 3. Tarah Gieger; 4. Kacy Martinez; 5. Rachel Gutish; 6. Chantelle Bykerk; 7. Jolene Van Vugt; 8. Mariana Balbi; 9. Marcella Goncalves; 10. Stefany Serrao.