Photo Credit: Shan Moore
Am Pro Yamaha’s Josh Toth beat 50 of America’s top extreme racers in one of the toughest off-road races in the country to claim an impressive victory this weekend at the third annual Kenda Tough Like RORR Intense Off-road Race held near Tamaqua, Pennsylvania.
Held in an active mining pit south of Tamaqua, Tough Like RORR is designed to test the skills of the best off-road racers on the planet. And, after two days of intense racing, Toth came away with not only a remarkable victory but a also a check for $4000 after outdistancing KR4 Husqvarna’s Grant Baylor by four minutes and eighteen seconds in Sunday’s nearly three-hour finale.
Two races on Saturday and one race on Sunday morning serve as a prelude to the $12,000 Tough Like RORR finale held on Sunday afternoon where only the 50 fastest riders from the morning race qualify to participate on the 12-mile course that features numerous rock fields, vertical climbs, and treacherous downhills with names like “Sickness”, “Stairway to Heaven”, “Cruella da Hill”, and “Land of Confusion”.
Organized by the Reading Off Road Riders, Tough Like RORR is unique in that each of the four races represents a different format. One race has an enduro start with five riders starting every minute, two of the races are hare scrambles format, while the Tough Like RORR race features a GNCC-style dead-engine start leading into a two-and-a-half-lap race over the most intense terrain eastern Pennsylvania has to offer.
Jesse Groemm grabbed the lead to start of the Tough Like RORR finale, leading the field into the first brutal lap. However, the Specialized Performance KTM rider made a mistake about two miles into the first lap, which allowed Toth the take control of the race. From there, the Connecticut rider slowly began stretching his lead.
“Jesse got hung up and I was able to take advantage of it and get into the lead,” said Toth, who made a mistake of his own a short time later, though he didn’t lose a position. “There was a big valley with cliffs on both sides that I got stuck on during the first lap and that was a struggle.”
Photo Credit: Shan Moore
After the first lap Toth had built a two-minute ahead of Baylor and Beta USA’s Jordan Ashburn, who were battling over second. Toth continued to keep a fast but smooth pace in the rocks, ultimately crossing the finish line with over four minutes to spare.
“It’s awesome to get the win,” said Toth. “It means a lot to win it just because it’s such a tough race. I’ve been riding really well lately and I’m really happy about that.
“There was a section that was just relentless, with ups and downs and loose shale rock, and that was probably the toughest part of the race. Any time you got off line it just took so much energy to get back on line that it sucked all the energy right out of you.”
Baylor came out on top of a race-long battle with Ashburn to grab the runner-up slot. After passing back and forth for most of the race, Baylor finally took control of second place for good when Ashburn made a mistake on the hill called Stairway to Heaven.
“Jordan got hung up on the big hill and I was able to get by him, although there wasn’t much room to squeeze by,” said Baylor. “This is probably the toughest race I’ve ever done – it was brutal. It was gnarly and hot and humid and in some places you were riding along the tops of bluffs and you just couldn’t afford to make a mistake.”
Ashburn was happy to take the final step of the podium, considering he didn’t get off to the best of starts.
“I was fifth or sixth heading into the woods and then I hit a rock and it threw me into a tree, so I was probably last among the Pros heading into the first lap,” said Ashburn. “I was able to make a few passes and I finally got in behind Grant. He had a good gap on me but I was able to catch him in the tougher stuff and finally got by him. Me and Grant swapped back and forth on the second lap, but then I messed up the hill and he got around me for second.”
Ashburn’s Beta USA teammate Nick Davis passed Groemm on the final lap to secure fourth.
“The RORR guys did an awesome job on this race,” said Davis. “It was all rideable, but it was tough and you just had to pick your way through all the sections. I think I only had to get off once and push.”
Despite letting Davis by on the final lap, Groemm still managed to round out the top five.
“I would say this is one of the toughest races I’ve ever done,” said Groemm. “It’s super technical. I got out front early but I just couldn’t hang with those guys, they were riding smooth and I just couldn’t keep the pace. I got stuck a couple of times and didn’t make it up a hill once and it just zapped my energy.”
Last year’s Tough Like RORR winner, Ben Kelley, suffered an unfortunate mishap on the opening lap when he bent a front brake rotor and had to ride the first lap without a front brake. The Trail Jesters KTM rider swapped out his front wheel between laps and was able to salvage sixth overall.
Seventh went to local ace Jarrett Mohn on a KTM, while Ohio’s Nick Fahringer brought his Sherco in for eighth.
SRT Racing Cory Buttrick and fellow KTM rider Stephen Edmondson rounded out the top 10.
One hundred and two riders started the Tough Like RORR weekend, and even though the race was the toughest so far, there were a lot of smiling faces, confirming a job well done by the Reading Off Road Riders.
1. Josh Toth (Yam) 2:43:22
2. Grant Baylor (Hsq) 2:47:40
3. Jordan Ashburn (Bet) 2:47:48
4. Nick Davis (Bet) 2:55:22
5. Jesse Groemm (KTM) 2:56:22
6. Ben Kelley (KTM) 3:00:21
7. Jarrett Mohn (KTM) 3:15:18
8. Nick Fahringer (Shr) 3:21:24
9. Corey Buttrick (KTM) 3:24:57
10. Stephen Edmondson (KTM) 3:31:43
Shan MooreUS Contributor