Every enduro rider the world over has heard of the Iron Giant in Austria! In 2017 it once again provided the setting for the world’s hardest one-day hard enduro race.
Amateurs lined up alongside pros to fight for places, all with the same fervent desire for that finish flag to come into view! Sixteen-hundred starters lined up on Friday and Saturday, revving their machines up mightily in an attempt to secure one of the 500 highly coveted qualifying positions for the Red Bull Hare Scramble.
Needless to say, I was one of those riders who resolved to line up at the start of the prolog to the Erzbergrodeo. With Austria playing host to an event like this, taking part is an absolute MUST!
For me, the weekend started off with registration and the technical acceptance process. I was allocated starting number 112. For the prolog this was certainly a good starting position that gave me a chance of being towards the front of the field for the Ladies’ Cup. When I competed in the Erzberg Rodeo for the first time in 2016 I learned an important lesson: the best way to reconnoiter the prolog course is by mountain bike! This gives you sufficient time to take a good look at each individual section without riding round in a cloud of dust with other riders.
I had the good fortune and honor of recceing the prolog course with a rider who was not only a pro but who also just happened to be my absolute favorite enduro rider: Philipp Scholz, who was the only rider in 2016 and again in 2017 to conquer the Erzberg course on a KTM 350 EXC-F, a 4-stroke machine. That earns him my utmost respect! It has already become inconceivable for him to start anywhere other than on the front row in the Red Bull Hare Scramble. He knows precisely how to get the best from his bike through the high-speed as well as the technical sections. I was really able to reap the benefit of his experience. I tried to fully assimilate the tips he gave me so that I would be able to put them into practice in the prolog. THANK YOU, Philipp, for your time and patience! I felt well prepared.
The first round on the Friday started at 8 am. One at a time the riders were called up onto the starting ramp. They set off the instant the light turned green. I must admit that the final seconds before the start are extremely tense. I could hear my heart pounding and was feeling a mixture of anticipation and nerves. I knew that it was a matter of riding absolutely flat out for the next 10 minutes and getting the absolute maximum from my 300 cc rocket. In comparison with the previous year, the prolog really was extremely fast. Just a few chicanes and only two steep slopes, the first of which was so extreme that it forced several riders to turn around. The start went OK; after the first few bends I got the feel for the gravelly surface and started to ride to the best of my ability. I knew that if I rode to the max or beyond on such a fast, rock-strewn course, my ride could end in calamity, so I tried to ride at 80% and use my brain to find a good compromise. “If I crash out I will never be able to make up the time it will cost me. Ride clever Larissa!”, I thought to myself. In every bend I tried to recall Philipp’s wise words, and in almost every bend I managed to do just that. On the long, straight sections I moved up through the gears snappily without using the clutch. I have certainly never ridden this 300 cc bike so fast before. The power of the bike is utter madness! To this day I can still hear the way that engine howled. When I crossed the finish line I was well and truly pleased with myself.
For the first time ever, women were included in the Mitas One-on-One riders’ showcase. Alongside Christine Wiesner and Sandra Gomez I was allowed to ride a lap of the EnduroCross course in the Interwetten sports arena, after which I was asked to do an interview. It was an honor for me to stand there alongside Christine. This was already the tenth time she had competed in the Erzberg Rodeo, and from an Austrian perspective she was one of the favorites to win the Ladies’ Cup competition in the prolog. I simply couldn’t believe that I was included in this group of favorites! Whether or not I had lived up to this status as one of the favorites in the final analysis was made public on Saturday evening at the winners’ ceremony.
The second day of the prolog went OK without being sensational. I certainly didn’t manage to lap any faster than the day before. Soon after the first steep incline I suffered a little “setback”: I was going fast, perhaps a bit too fast, and I failed to spot a stone in my path. The handlebar wobbled and the next thing I knew I was parting company from my bike in the most inelegant way. I was fortunate and was able to rescue the situation and ride on, albeit a bit more slowly. That won’t stop me tearing around like a maniac, but all the same my physical wellbeing is my primary concern and I try my best to avoid any unnecessary risks. For 2017 I have another, far bigger project planned – you will be able to read about that in my next blog post!
And what was the final outcome of my Prolog ride? I find it almost impossible to believe, but just the second time I took part in the Erzberg Rodeo I managed to win my first medal to take back home! I finished third in the Ladies’ Cup competition, behind Christine Wiesner and Sandra Gomez. It still feels a bit unreal to have achieved a podium position on such a fast course. Speed is not exactly my strong point, so having a trophy to take home with me in the face of such strong competition feels extremely special to me.
For the Red Bull Hare Scramble on the Sunday I swapped my bike for a camera; this is my very favorite event to photograph, and I wanted to be ready to do it justice. When people ask me why I didn’t compete in the Red Bull Hare Scramble, this is what I tell them: That competition is most definitely on my bucket list, but this year is too soon for me. In the meantime, why not take a look at some of my best photos of the 2017 Red Bull Hare Scramble?
The winner can be summed up in one single word: Alfredo! I celebrate your win with all my heart. You are quite simply the most worthy of winners.
Get to know more about Larissa on the KTM BLOG – Collecting Moments #1: Passion for motorcycles, Collecting moments #2: The search for the perfect motorcycle – or check out her website!
Photos: Klaus Listl | Philip Platzer | GEPA