Hell’s Gate in Italy marks the first major Extreme Enduro race of 2015. As defending champion Bel-Ray Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Graham Jarvis heads to the notoriously difficult Il Ciocco venue aiming to secure a record breaking fifth consecutive victory. Winner of the race since 2011, he’s the most successful rider ever to compete at Hell’s Gate and has his sights set on ensuring 2015 gets off to a winning start…
Hell’s Gate 2014 marked a dominant winning performance from you, were you surprised by how well it went?
Graham: “Last year things went almost perfect for me. It’s rare that happens at Hell’s Gate. I had a good ride in the morning’s qualifying enduro and that set me up well for the main race. Everything just came together perfectly. I started well, managed to open up a good lead early on and kept pushing. Winning by 22 minutes was unexpected, hopefully things will go my way again in 2015.”
What are you expecting from this year’s event?
Graham: “You have to expect everything and anything really. The weather is normally the thing that changes most. Some years it’s warm with a little water in the rivers, other years it’s freezing and there’s snow on the ground. It’s a long, tough race whatever the weather does. The track is normally always the same, with the exception of a few small changes. Generally, the qualifying race isn’t too extreme, but making sure you don’t make any mistakes is what’s most important. The main race is what it is – tough and demanding.”
The event is one of only a handful that sees you race in the dark. Is that difficult to get used to each year?
Graham: “It’s not too bad. The most important thing is not damaging your lights. I did that one year and it makes things so much harder. If you have good lights it’s ok. We don’t race that much in the dark but it can deliver a few surprises right at the end of the race.”
As a four-time winner of the race what does it feel like to become the first rider to scale the final Hell’s Peak climb after almost 10 hours of racing?
Graham: “Hell’s Peak is nothing like you will experience at any other race. The hill is impossible to ride up alone – you need all the support of the spectators to pull you up. I always get a massive rush of adrenaline when I get there. The atmosphere is electric – everyone gets so involved. They literally carry you across the finish line. It gets pretty crazy.”
Last year marked your first win with Husqvarna at Hell’s Gate. Starting as defending champion the goal is obviously for a repeat victory. But who will be your biggest challenge for glory?
Graham: “Every year the competition gets stronger and stronger – right now there are about four riders that can win. Jonny Walker was second last year and he really wants to beat me in Italy. But my teammate Alfredo Gomez is a rider that I’ll need to keep a very close eye on. He missed the race last year due to illness but in September he won the Extreme Lagares, which was very technical and a similar type of terrain to Hell’s Gate. He’s young and hungry to succeed.”
Finally, a fifth win will see you become the most successful rider ever at Hell’s Gate. Is that something that’s important to you?
Graham: “Trying to do my best to win any race is important, but I guess knowing that I can get the most wins at the event is special. Hell’s Gate is a race that I really enjoy, so that always helps. Last year things went perfectly, but I know there will be a number of riders also looking to try and win. I’ll do my best, as I always do, and hopefully things will work out well again.”