This week’s Red Bull Erzbergrodeo in Austria sees 500 of the world’s best Hard Enduro riders ultimately take on a daunting 40km mountain course in a working iron-ore quarry with German Manuel Lettenbichler looking to win again live on Red Bull TV fresh off victory in the 2023 FIM Hard Enduro World Championship opener in Serbia. Here is all you need to know:
Tranquil Eisenerz, the town that hosts the four-day event, swells tenfold as 40,000 fans flock to the tiny Styrian mining town to see 1,500 hopefuls take on the ‘Iron Giant’ with this year also doubling up as the second stop of the 2023 FIM Hard Enduro World Championship.
Legendary riders such as Germany‘s Chris Pfeiffer, Frenchman Cyril Despres, Briton David Knight, Poland‘s Taddy Blazusiak and Briton Graham Jarvis have all been victorious around the fearsome course multiple times.
Lettenbichler is already the youngest finisher in the event’s history at just 16 in 2014 and he cruised to his maiden victory in 2022 from Spaniard Mario Roman and Canadian Trystan Hart en route to claiming the 2022 FIM Hard Enduro World Championship title by seven points from Roman.
The iconic event format starts on Thursday with the Rocket Ride where 300 riders look to conquer the notorious hill climb, while the action continues on Friday as each of the 1,500 riders take on their first of two Iron Road Prologue runs as the FIM Hard Enduro regulars get serious.
The fastest 500 riders qualify for the main Red Bull Erzbergrodeo event on Sunday, so speed is essential with the top 50 fastest times banking a front-row place for the furious start and ensuing 23 check points.
Lettenbichler leads the field again on his KTM 300 EXC with Roman and Hart as Briton Billy Bolt (Husqvarna) looks to gain crucial championship points following his mixed week at round one in Serbia.
Third at Xross, Todor Kabakchiev (KTM) will be out to shine with Michael Walkner (GASGAS), Alfredo Gomez (Rieju), David Cyprian (KTM), Wade Young (Sherco) and legend Blazusiak (GASGAS) also competing.
Meanwhile former winner Jonny Walker (Beta) returns to the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship alongside veteran compatriot Jarvis, who will be keen to make it a sixth victory over the arduous course.
South African Matt Green will be the rider to beat at the second round of the FIM Hard Enduro Junior World Championship, while Spaniard Sandra Gomez will star in the female line-up this week.
Organiser Karl Katoch‘s course will see the riders tackle steep climbs like Wasserleitung (Waterpipe) and Zentrum am Berg (which translates to the Tolkienian Heart of the Mountain) before heading down Carl‘s Dinner – an energy-sapping technical over boulders – followed by the descent and escape from Ludwig’s Land and more climbs at Dynamite and Lazy Noon.
In 2015, when Ludwig’s Land was introduced, the riders couldn’t find enough grip to climb out the slippery section with Jarvis, Walker, Alfredo Gomez and Andreas Lettenbichler working together to haul their bikes out before sharing exhausted top honours on the top step of the podium.
In fact only five out of 500 bikers made it to the 2015 finish – exactly one percent – while in 1999, the mountain was slightly kinder to the racers and 51 crossed the finish line, and a 10 percent success rate.
The final race duration is limited to four hours, and only a handful of riders make it to the top thanks to a 630m ascent on ever-changing terrain, tricky boulder gardens, forested climbs and steep faces.
Weather plays a huge part with heavy rain forecast throughout for this year’s race after previous editions saw soaring heat, thick fog, snow, torrential rain and even hailstones the size of ping-pong balls.
Racing around a huge deposit of iron with its own magnetic field can also play havoc on navigation and broadcast equipment, while it is a superb conduct lightning conductor into the bargain.
Watch the 2023 Red Bull Erzbergrodeo live HERE.