Rnd 1, 2018 World Enduro Super Series – Extreme XL Lagares, Portugal
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jonny Walker has taken second position at the 2018 Extreme XL Lagares Hard Enduro – round one of the World Enduro Super Series. KTM rider Manni Lettenbichler claimed an excellent third place with Taddy Blazusiak less than a minute behind in fourth.
Extreme XL Lagares is one of the toughest hard enduros in the world and for 2018 it was selected as the first round of the inaugural World Enduro Super Series. 252 riders from 20 different nations would do battle over three days of racing, all aiming to be crowned the winner.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jonny Walker started off strongly by placing as runner-up on Friday’s tough endurocross event. On a rain-soaked course, Walker fought with fellow Brit Billy Bolt for the entire seven-lap final. A small mistake on the rock section cost him the win, but Jonny was happy with second with two more days of racing to go.
On day two of the event, the excitement moved to Porto for the urban-styled Prologue. In front of thousands of spectators, the riders picked their way over a selection of man-made obstacles before heading deeper into the town itself where they were faced with steep flights of steps and narrow passageways through the historic Portuguese town.
Using his experience, Jonny Walker took an early lead on the tight Prologue and with the track offering very few places to overtake, the former Erzberg winner held on to ultimately take the chequered flag come the finish. With the qualifying times deciding the start order for Sunday’s main event, it was Walker who would set off first on the two-lap hard enduro race.
The main event course was as tricky as expected, featuring fast open areas with tight, technical river sections that would test both fitness and skill. Walker lead for the majority of the two laps but would eventually lose time when lapping backmarkers on his second lap. At the finish Jonny missed out on the win by just over one-minute, his runner-up position awarding him valuable championship points in the World Enduro Super Series standings.
Jonny Walker: “The race was really good today. I had an awesome first lap and managed to hold onto a good lead going into lap two. There were quite a lot of lappers to pass and I think that cost me some time on Billy. At one point I was about six minutes up and I think I lost all that in one river with a couple of guys stuck in front of me. I have to be happy with second though, it’s a good strong start to the season. There are a lot more races to come and some will be more difficult than others so it’s important to take these results where I can. I have enjoyed every day here at Lagares, but now it’s time to focus on Erzberg.”
Following a difficult endurocross, Taddy Blazusiak was always going to be on the back foot having to start down the order on Sunday’s main event. Despite the disadvantage and the 40 or so riders ahead of him, Taddy skilfully picked his way through the pack to finish in a very creditable fourth place, less than a minute from the podium.
Taddy Blazusiak: “That was never going to be easy for me today. Some decisions were made earlier in the event which meant I had to start today’s main event from 43rd position. It was always going to be tough to make up the time and to be honest, I took quite a lot of risks today. Despite the difficulties, for the main event I just had to get my head down and push. I started 11 minutes behind the top guys so it meant I had to pass a lot of riders to even have a chance of finishing on the podium. “On a positive note, my pace today was really good and so I am confident for the rest of the championship. Things could have gone a lot worse today too, so I’m happy with fourth overall. The bike has been incredible – I am so happy with how the TPI has performed all weekend and that in itself is great as we look forward now to Erzberg. Again, it would have been nice to have been able to get away near the front and really take it to those guys but fourth is ok and it keeps my championship alive.”
2017 Endurocross Champion Cody Webb enjoyed his first time competing at Extreme XL lagares. The American, despite having never experienced a race quite like it, put in a superb performance to finish sixth overall, earning himself 570 championship points.
Cody Webb: “I really enjoyed myself today. It’s my first time here so I am happy with my result. On the first lap we hit the water section and I soaked myself straight away – that cost me some time. I rode with Billy for a good distance, but I made a couple of silly mistakes that took me right off the course. It was so slippery and that took me by surprise a little, I have ridden in mud before but these rivers are something else. Things clicked a little better on the second lap and I made some time up on Graham. I have learnt so much and I know that next year when I come back I will have a better idea of when to conserve energy and when to push. As far as the championship is concerned, I am happy with where I finished – good consistent results are going to be more important than ever this year.”
Following a winter of specialist training, Josep Garcia put in a strong performance on his first ever hard enduro. The young Spaniard, gelling well with his KTM 300 TPI, placed 13th overall. The Enduro2 World Champion was pleased with his riding and now looks forward to the next round at Erzberg.
Josep Garcia: “I really enjoyed the race today. I am still learning so I set off this morning aiming to keep to a good pace and not make any mistakes. Going into the second lap I enjoyed it a lot more because I was starting to feel a lot more comfortable and was able to push a little harder. To be honest, my result today is even better than I had hoped so it has given me some good points for the championship.”
A fall on Friday’s endurocross, which resulted in a twisted ankle and a DNF, cost Nathan Watson the good start position needed to excel on Sunday’s main event. Despite the disadvantage, the Brit pushed on over difficult terrain and managed to finish in 26th position. With his background in motocross, Watson will be looking forward to the faster, less technical events on the calendar.
Nathan Watson: “Lagares has been tough for me but it’s good to get the experience in my first proper hard enduro. I had a bad endurocross race because I came off the bike in the water and twisted my ankle. The DNF from there basically meant I had to start from the back today and ended up having to wait for a lot of riders. I was one of the last riders to make it through to the second lap and found myself pretty much riding on my own for a lot of the time. I started to feel good, but eventually ran out of time and missed the last three checkpoints. I knew it was going to be hard out there, and it’s certainly different to events I have ridden before, but I know I have still got a lot to learn. If I can keep on improving on these hard enduros and make the most of the events where I know I will be stronger, I think I can do ok.”
The next event on the 2018 WESS calendar is the Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble in Austria, May 31 – June 3.
Results – 2018 Extreme XL Lagares
1. Billy Bolt (GBR), Husqvarna, 3:43:56.11
2. Jonny Walker (GBR), KTM, 3:45:00.05
3. Manni Lettenbichler (GER), KTM, 3:52:07.80
4. Taddy Blazusiak (POL), KTM, 3:52:57.83
5. Graham Jarvis (GBR), Husqvarna, 3:57:21.54
6. Cody Webb (USA), KTM, 3:59:07.39
8. Paul Bolton (GBR), KTM, 4:13:40.60
13. Josep Garcia (ESP), KTM, 5:12:01.87
26. Nathan Watson (GBR), KTM, 17 checkpoints 5:38:45.00
World Enduro Super Series Standings (after 1 of 7 rounds)
1. Billy Bolt (GBR), Husqvarna, 1000 points
2. Jonny Walker (GBR), KTM, 850 pts
3. Manni Lettenbichler (GER), KTM, 770 pts
4. Taddy Blazusiak (POL), KTM, 690 pts
5. Graham Jarvis (GBR), Husqvarna, 610 pts
6. Cody Webb (USA), KTM, 570 pts
8. Paul Bolton (GBR), KTM, 490 pts
13. Josep Garcia (ESP), KTM, 360 pts
26. Nathan Watson (GBR), KTM, 244 pts