In the most extraordinary finish ever seen at the Erzbergrodeo, Alfredo Gómez, Jonny Walker, Graham Jarvis and Andreas Lettenbichler were declared joint winners of the 2015 Red Bull Hare Scramble.
Amid amazing scenes on the Iron Giant, the four riders were all declared winners of the 21st and toughest ever edition of the Erzbergrodeo after being forced to abandon a heated head-to-head race for outright victory and work together to drag their bikes out the near-impossible new forest section christened ‘Downtown’ that all but defeated the world’s best hard enduro riders.
Mario Roman also beat the odds, riding through the pain barrier of an injured knee, to complete the race just seconds before the four-hour deadline.
In an incredible show of sportsmanship and camaraderie, the foursome and Wade Young, who was subesquently DSQ’d for missing a checkpoint earlier in the race, teamed up after getting stuck on the sheer, gripless virgin climb almost two hours into the race, pulling each bike to the top and then riding the final 15 minutes of the race side-by-side to cross the finish together, with just two minutes of the four-hour time limit to spare.
Following Jonny Walker’s sprint to victory in just 1h 37m last year, Erzbergrodeo boss Karl Katoch set about making the 2015 course more challenging. The newly uncovered ‘Downtown’ proved to be a step too far as the decisive few 100 metres of the section turned what had been a perfectly-poised battle between Jarvis, Gómez and Walker into a battle for survival that resulted in the extraordinary finish.
Walker had led from the very first climb out of the start after emerging unscathed from a tangle of bars with five-time Erzberg winner Taddy Blazusiak which ended the Pole’s attempt for a sixth win before it eve started. Both rider and bike crashing back down the hill, sustaining race-ending damage.
The defending Red Bull Hare Scramble champ made the break as his rivals took evasive action around the stricken Blazusiak and had stretched his lead out to as much as 4m 30s before a fall punched a hole in his radiator and Jarvis and Gómez closed the gap down to under a minute as they reached the infamous Carl’s Dinner.
As the riders exited the woods following the iconic boulder field and entered the new section, Jarvis and Gómez had passed Walker and his overheating KTM, setting up a thrilling finish. However, no-one had counted on Downtown – which was quickly renamed ‘Green Hell’ – from stopping the race dead in its tracks.
As pathfinder Jarvis ground to a halt, Gómez, Walker and latterly Lettenbichler and Young formed a traffic jam behind him, all unable to make forward momentum.
It would take an incredible 90 minutes for the fivesome to pull themselves clear of the treacherous section and, with just 30 minutes of the four-hour time limit left to run, it guaranteed that the smallest number of finishers in Red Bull Hare Scramble history would cross the line – five.
With Young agonisingly pulled over just yards from the finish line, that fifth finisher was actually Spain’s gritty Mario Roman, who overcame a serious knee injury and having to scale Downtown without the support of fellow riders to reach home with just over 60 seconds to spare.