Quintin van Jaarsveld
It was a case of déjà vu for Wade Young (Sherco Factory) in the Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble in Eisenerz, Austria on Sunday as the South African superstar finished fourth for the second year in a row.
The Paddock prodigy’s strength, fitness and heart were on full display in the 24th edition of the world’s toughest dirt bike race as he finished behind Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna), who claimed his fourth win, runner-up Jonny Walker (KTM) and third-placed Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM).
Oslo Beach-based Gutzeit, South Africa’s first-ever superenduro world champion, recorded a 13th place finish.
Fellow South African Travis Teasdale (Beta), meanwhile, joined Young in the top 10 after finishing sixth behind Billy Bolt (Husqvarna).
Only 23 riders managed to finish, such was the gruelling nature of the race.
No less than 1530 competitors from all corners of the globe blasted their way up the Iron Giant’s maze of gravel roads, all hoping to set a time fast enough to earn one of the 500 qualifying spots for the Red Bull Hare Scramble.
At the end of two long and tough qualification days, the South Coast trio were all among the 50 fastest riders, securing their places in the first row of the Red Bull Hare Scramble. Young qualified sixth, Gutzeit 13th and Flanagan 43rd.
They were faced with the world’s toughest enduro course. Approximately 35km long, they had four hours to complete 20 checkpoints that were strategically placed around the Iron Giant.
Standing in the way of the finish line were signature sections like Carl’s Dinner, Cuckoo’s Nest, Dynamite, Devil’s Kitchen and The Cage.
These sections were a mixture of punishing near-vertical climbs and descents, boulder gardens and treacherous forestry designed to destroy both man and machine.
Gutzeit got off the line brilliantly to sit in fourth early on with Young making his move roughly around the first checkpoint. At Three Kings, Young was fifth and Gutzeit seventh.
The event’s most successful rider, five-time champion Taddy Blazusiak (KTM), led up to this point before being overtaken by Lettenbichler roughly half-an-hour in.
Just short of the hour mark, the race leaders reached Cuckoo’s Nest. At this stage, Young had moved up to fourth while Gutzeit had dropped out of the top 10.
The lead changed hands momentarily at Carl’s Dinner an hour-and-a-half in when Bolt, who won the first round of the World Enduro Super Series – Portugal’s Extreme XL Lagares – passed Lettenbichler, only for the latter to regain the lead minutes later.
The race was turned on its head at Die Grune Holle where high drama saw Jarvis leapfrog a stranded Bolt and Lettenbichler, followed by Walker.
The 43-year-old Jarvis took control of the race from there to take the win in 2:05:59 with Walker a close second, Lettenbichler taking the final step on the podium and Young finishing in fourth position.
“I’m happy with fourth…I really gave it my all,” Young said at the finish.
“I struggled a little bit at Carl’s Dinner today; I didn’t feel comfortable there. I think I lost most of my time there, but I’m super happy with the finish.
“Thanks to everyone for giving me words of encouragement to get through. You sit in Carl’s Dinner, so hot, knowing you still have so far to go and think ‘how am I going to do it?’ with the spectators edging us on and getting us through.
“Thanks to all the South Africans back home, my family, girlfriend and great sponsors for supporting me. I’m happy to be at the finish.”
South African legend Alfie Cox, the first-ever winner of the event, put it to Young that he must be disappointed to have missed out on the podium, to which he responded, “Everyone’s riding so good…we all got that mindset we want to be at the top. It’s really good to finish fourth, but it’s not where we want to be.”
- Graham Jarvis 2hrs:5m:59s
- Jonny Walker 2hrs:6m:40s
- Manuel Lettenbichler 2hrs:9m:02s
- Wade Young 2hrs:21m:44s
- Billy Bolt 2hrs:30m:03s
- Travis Teasdale 2hrs:38m:49s
- Paul Bolton 2hrs:39m:40s
- Taddy Blazusiak 2hrs:41m:51s
- Pol Tarres 2hrs:54m:40s
- Mario Roman 2hrs:58m:57s
- Dieter Rudolf 2hrs:59m:16s
- Colton Haaker 2hrs:59m:33s
- Blake Gutzeit 3hrs:00m:13s
- Philipp Scholz 3hrs:11m:28s
- Lars Enockl 3hrs:18m:17s
- Jozsa Norbert Levente 3hrs:24m:02s
- Josep Garcia Montana 3hrs:24m:11s
- Daniel Oliveras 3hrs:31m:23s
- Kevin Gallas 3hrs:31m:36s
- Joakim Ljunggren 3hrs:49m:04s
- Xavier Leon Sole 3hrs:50m:22s
- David Cyprian 3hrs:57m:50s
- Leon Hentschel 3hrs:59m:46s