In only his second ever visit to what is regarded as the toughest extreme race in the world, the 21-year old British rider Jonny Walker topped the 500-strong field of riders to win the Erzberg Rodeo. Captilising on a fast start the KTM rider worked his way into the top five during the early part of the race. Finding the fast paced hill climbs to his liking, Walker quickly slotted into first place and began to stretch an early lead. Entering checkpoint 13 at Karl's Diner he was over five minutes clear of his nearest rival Husaberg's Graham Jarvis.
For Jarvis his race started badly but would later end in further disappointment. Involved in a multi-rider pile up just moments from the start line, the event favourite found himself buried deep in the pack. Determined to make amends for his crash, the Husaberg rider began to carve his way through the traffic.
Jarvis battled hard but to no avail ©Enduro21.com
However it was during one of the fast gravel road sections of the course that Jarvis would ultimately loose the race. Battling through the heavy fog at the top of the mountain, he unknowingly veered off course and missed a substantial section of the course. Although not missing any checkpoint, organisers deemed him to have gained an unfair advantage and were forced to disqualify him.
Unaware of his costly error, Jarvis continued his race and set about closing the gap on Walker. Catching Walker on one of the difficult forestry climbs, he took over the race lead until the end but it was the KTM rider that would ultimately win the race.
Walker chews up Karl's Diner ©Enduro21.com
“I'm so chuffed to have won. I've trained so hard for this race over the last few months that it's fantastic to have actually won it. My start was good and I was running top five on the first few hills. After that I just pushed my way to the front and rode as hard as I could to build a lead,” confirmed race winner Walker.
Although disappointed at losing the race, Jarvis was upbeat about his riding. “It wasn't until the flag that I found out I hadn't won. After working so hard I was gutted to have lost the race but looking at the positives of it all I'm pleased with how I rode.”
With Walker securing victory, Gas Gas' Dougie Lampkin followed him home for second. Making a strong start to the race, Lampkin had achieved his objective of running inside the top five during the early hi-speed hill climbs. As the terrain became increasingly difficult, he soon found his stride and was able to work his way into second position – matching his result from 2011.
Heningway fights his way to third ©Enduro21.com
Securing his best ever result at the Iron Giant, an elated Hemingway crossed the finish line in third.
“I'm absolutely delighted to have crossed the finish line in third. It's a result I set out for but I knew it would be a real test of my ability to achieve it,” said an emotional Hemingway.
For KTM's Paul Bolton, finishing fourth was a positive end to a difficult race. Setting a fast pace during the early stages of the event, the British rider found himself in second position at checkpoint 12. However, a sizable crash almost ruled him out of contention. Saving his bike from the point of seizing, Bolton battled on to claim fourth.
Tanaka takes fifth ©Enduro21.com
With Britain claiming the top four positions, it was Japan's Taichi Tanaka (KTM) that completed the top five to earn his best ever result in the race.
“I'm happy with fifth,” smiled Tanaka. “This is my third finish at Erzberg but my best one to date. The result has given me a lot of confidence so maybe next year I can look towards reaching the podium. I'm a short guy so it takes a lot of work to make it through the rocks but I kept pushing and worked my way to the finish line – it's a great feeling to be stood here.”
With Tanaka placing fifth, early pace setter Lars Enockl (KTM) secured a strong result in front of his home crowd with sixth.
Sneaking inside the allotted finishing time, Britain's Dan Hemingway (KTM) became the seventh and final competitor to finish the race.
1. Jonny Walker (KTM); 2. Dougie Lampkin (Gas Gas); 3. Ben Hemingway (KTM); 4. Paul Bolton (KTM); 5. Taichi Tanaka (KTM); 6. Lars Enockl (KTM); 7. Dan Hemingway (KTM)