Kiwi riders are once again proving themselves among the world best motorcycle racers, with two New Zealanders finishing among the top 10 at the world’s toughest enduro event in Austria on Sunday.
New Zealand’s Rory Mead was a surprise last-minute entry at this year’s 15th running of the world’s toughest one-day extreme enduro – the mighty Erzberg Enduro in Austria – but what a debut he made.
Yamaha’s Mead only considered riding the event after he earned an all expenses-paid trip to Erzberg, including an entry into the great race, as the prize for his winning the recent inaugural Red Bull City Scramble in downtown Auckland city.
Prior to that, Mead (Yamaha YZ250) had been well satisfied with his domestic season after winning his first national enduro title in May, remarkably only three years after taking up the sport.
Now the 22-year-old from Whitby, just north of Wellington, is not only New Zealand’s No.1 enduro rider, he’s now also ranked among the world’s elite after finishing an incredible sixth overall at the mountainous Austrian event on Sunday.
This is an event which typically attracts more than 1500 of the world’s elite off-road dirt bike racers – with riders this year entered from 31 nations — and only a handful ever survive to finish the brutal race.
Mead wasn’t the only Kiwi success story at Erzberg either, with Auckland’s Chris Birch (KTM), one of Mead’s main rivals in New Zealand and the runner-up at the Red Bull City Scramble in Auckland a fortnight ago, finishing eighth overall on Sunday.
Birch also finished a remarkable eighth at the event on his debut ride at Erzberg last season.
The unbelievably tough competition at this year’s Erzberg Enduro saw only 20 of the 500 riders who qualified for the final complete the 20 check points with no mistakes.
Two-time former winner Taddy Blazusiak, of Poland, made it a hat-trick of victories when he again won the event outright on Sunday, becoming the only rider to win it three times consecutively.
Britain’s Graham Jarvis was second and Germany’s Andreas Lettenbichler was third.
Kiwi fans may remember Lettenbichler as the rider who placed third overall at the Auckland event last month.
It has been a golden season for Mead — he also won his class at the Australian Four-Day Enduro Championships in Orange, New South Wales, in April.
Bay of Plenty freestyle motocrosser Nicky Franklin also shone in Austria at the weekend, contesting the pre-event Rocket Ride Superfinals on the Friday.
A total of 300 riders challenged the mighty, three story uphill-section on the event’s opening day, with Birch finishing third and Franklin fifth at the Rocket Ride Superfinals, the warm-up hill-climb race staged specifically to suit spectators.
Results Erzberg Enduro 2009:
1. Taddy Blazusiak (POL, KTM)
2. Graham Jarvis (UK, Sherco)
3. Andreas Lettenbichler (D, BMW)
4. Ben Hemingway (UK, Gas Gas)
5. Cory Graffunder (CAN, KTM)
6. Rory Mead (NZL, Yamaha)
7. Dan Hemingway (UK, KTM)
8. Chris Birch (NZL, KTM)
9. Gerhard Forster (D, BMW)
10. Kyle Redmond (USA, Yamaha)
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com