Redbull sponsors some of the coolest events in action sports and one of which I’ve stumbled across lately called the Erzbergrodeo, also known as the Hare Scramble. Taking place in Austria since 1995, this hardcore enduro motorcycle race has just about every obstacle you would want in a race like this. Massive rock piles and super steep hills are just a taste of the 21.7 mile course that literally starts at the bottom of a huge Iron Mine.
As many as 1500 riders show up for the 4 day event, but by the time Sunday’s main event comes around only 500 of the fastest riders will compete. The event starts on a Thursday with a side competition called the “Rocket Ride” and it uses a incredibly steep 3 part hill that also happens to be the start of Sundays Hare Scramble. 300 riders compete to see who can make it to the top with the fastest time. The top 48 riders compete 6 at a time in a knockout type race where the top 3 advance to the next round eventually crowning a Rocket Ride Champion.
Friday and Saturday is when things start to get serious as it’s the qualifying for Sunday. Riders get one run of the 8-mile gravel path to the summit of the mine, also referred to as the “Iron Road Prologue”. There are multiple different classes competing at the same time but it’s the top 500 that get to race the Hare Scramble on Sunday. Starting at around 9 am riders are set of in 20-40 second intervals and that continues for a solid 8hrs, both days, before all 1500 get their turn.
Starting Sunday at noon, waves of 50 riders take off up the steep hill used for Thursday’s Rocket Ride to thin the heard straight out of the gate. With that many bikes attempting to climb the same hill all at once, the dust that’s kicked up is going to be immense therefore drastically increasing your odds of running into the guy ahead of you. Especially when the hill is so steep it requires a perfect run to make it to the top. Needless to say it turns into a traffic jam real quick. There are 20 different checkpoints along the way that each rider much go through in order to advance. Some sections that are so steep or rocky require outside help from either spectators or sometimes other riders, but interestingly on some of obstacles are in a “no help zone” meaning that the riders are on their own. These are usually the sections you will see riders literally launching their bike up the hill.
The weather can play a major factor in this event, maybe more so than any other. If it’s sunny and dry the dust is usually so bad that its virtually impossible to see anything in front of you making it very difficult as well as even more dangerous. However, if there even the slightest bit of rain it creates almost mudslide type conditions that make climbing any of the hills an adventure to say the least. Each year the course changes but there are usually some of the main sections that remain the same. One of the more difficult stages is checkpoint 14, also known as “Carl’s Diner,” and although it’s only about the length of a football field, it has been known to claim more bikes than any other. Its essentially a boulder field, but they happen to be sharp so they can puncture and break things very easily.
Here is an amateur video shot at Carl’s Diner to show you just how difficult the terrain is.
Riders only have four hours to complete the course and of the 500 that start, rarely more than 30 finish in the allotted time. All other riders are scored off their most recent checkpoint reached. British riders Johnny Walker and Graham Jarvis have been the front runners since 2012 each claiming two victories and in an interesting turn of events in 2015, had a four way tie for the win with Alfredo Gomez and Andreas Lettenbichler. Due to an exceptionally difficult course and terrible weather, all four riders eventually had to start working together to get past the obstacles. Just 20 minutes before the four hour time period the riders crossed the finish line.
For the 2016 running Graham Jarvis was able to make up a ton of ground starting from the second wave to come from behind to claim first place. He had a blistering pace which enabled him to finish in just under 2 hrs 20 min, a full 30 minutes faster than second place. That second place rider happened to be American Cody Webb who is the first American to finish on the podium at the event. He was able to pass Spanish rider Alfredo Gomez on checkpoint 25, known as Lazy Noon, to pick up second place. Be sure to check out next years race that should take place May or June. It was absolutely entertaining to watch and the level of skill and determination it must require to finish the race is pretty impressive.