Notebook digest of how yet another dramatic Spanish round of the SuperEnduro World Championship unfolded. Thrills and spills doesn’t half cover an evening’s entertainment packed with big jumps, tangles, twists and turns inside a tight Caja Magica stadium in Madrid.
When the dust had settled, and it took a while, the net result was Colton Haaker bursting free of the fast threesome of leading riders this season to establish a clear lead in the championship with two rounds remaining. How he ended up in that position makes for a pretty epic story...
Haaker Steps Up
The American took his second Akrapovic SuperPole win in a row this season with a rapid 38.073s lap time, showing how tight and short the track was in Madrid. Cody Webb was just 0.305s behind and Taddy Blazusiak 0.498s – the next best was Blake Gutzeit fourth and three seconds behind with a 41.171s lap.
SuperEnduro organisers called what followed in the races “madness!” but in reality, compared to what was to come later, Prestige heat race one more or less followed the rule book Haaker had laid down in qualifying.
After the gate dropped on the first heat, Haaker snatched the holeshot and set about pulling a gap to finish seven seconds ahead of Blazusiak with Webb 21 seconds back and the rest of the field being lapped – at this point it felt like a three-horse race in Spain.
Reverse grid shenanigans
Ahead of the second Prestige heat you’d be excused for thinking the evening would settle in to a pattern, not on your life! A huge pile-up early in race two (the reverse grid race) caused carnage when Kevin Gallas failed to get over an obstacle and several riders collided in a domino effect incident.
Arriving from the back of the field, Haaker and Blazusiak came off worst with Colton going nose in and Taddy right behind. The two were lucky not to get injured here (not for the last time in the evening) and haemorrhaged time untangling each other’s bikes.
Cody Webb, who had narrowly avoided the carnage, went on to steadily pick off riders eventually closing down the early race leader, Pol Tarres for a race win.
Haaker and Blazusiak made up ground impressively to be in the fight for second on the last lap. Colton was ahead of Tarres into the final turn on the rocks when he got caught out, allowing Tarres past and Blazusiak within sniffing distance.
The resulting short shootout for the line saw the pair collide mid-air in a spectacular crash as bikes and riders exploded off the track. Among the drama Haaker’s Husky crossed the line for third but Taddy’s KTM failed to break the timing beam and therefore he was handed a DNF.
Heat three drama
Prestige race three was initially calmer (kinda!), at least ran true to form for Haaker who grabbed another holeshot and flag-to-flag win. Behind him Blazusiak had another nasty moment, his foot finding a hole in the rocks and twisting his knee as he went down. Taddy remounted to finish in 12th but was obviously riding in pain.
Never quite looking his usual fluid self until the final moto, Cody Webb had eyes on Haaker’s lead until his chain came off mid-race. A frantic few minutes ensued as Webb, having to work on his own bike under technical rules, replaced the chain trackside as the race progressed. Cody re-joined the race eventually but just too late to be classified. Still, somehow, Webb managed second overall.
Alfredo Gomez impressed everyone by returning to action just three weeks after dislocating his elbow at round two in Riesa, Germany. The Husqvarna rider took a surprise second place in the final race of the night and third overall after a tie-break with Pol Tarres – a surprise to himself as much as anyone. Other riders putting in impressive performances on the technical Spanish track included Pol Tarres getting his first heat race podium and fourth overall with 7-2-6 (tied on points with Gomez), Portugal’s Diogo Vieira sealed 4-4-8 results and Blake Gutzeit scored 5-6-4 on the night.
Colton Haaker now leads Cody Webb by 13 points in the championship standings with Blazusiak a no doubt disappointed 31 points adrift. Has this formerly three horse race become a two horse battle?
SuperEnduro World Championship points after Spanish GP, Madrid:
What they said:
“The end result is awesome but it was an up and down night for me. It was nice to bring home the first race but in race two I came over the tanks and there were four guys in the valley and I had nowhere to go. I followed Cody into it and he made it through cleanly but me and Taddy didn't and we were tangled together. We seem to find each other together all the time... Probably cos we’re both so aggressive.
“Over the final jump we raced to it and came together, and it was an explosion of bikes and people. It was no-ones fault because we both were racing for the flag.
“It was tough to put that behind me but I tried to be clean in final three and at the start I had someone behind me but then suddenly he wasn't there. It's hard for Cody but chains breaking can happen.”
“That was a crazy night! It's a freak accident for the chain to break and its tough ‘cos I felt good just before the chain broke. I pushed the bike to the outside and the team brought me a chain and I tried to change it as quick as I could to score a point.
“I didn't think any of us would open a double-digit lead but two crashes for Taddy and my chain means that Cody has an edge. We've all been riding super hard this year in every race but now Colton has a lead and it'll be interesting to see if he starts riding defensive. I've only points to gain.”
“I’m very happy to do my comeback with a final podium. Those past few weeks have been really difficult and painful. I’m pleased I took the decision to come back racing here in Madrid. The fans gave me so much strength. I suffered from my elbow, but I held tight to get this result. This is a great satisfaction.”
“Unfortunately tonight turned out to be a rough night and so it’s going to take a little bit of time to assess what’s happened. After placing second in race one, things unravelled quickly in race two. Almost last in the reversed start, I then crashed into a bike pile up I couldn’t see behind a jump. I remounted last and did well to work my way to fourth. However, in a three-way battle to the finish line for second, I collided with Colton Haaker and went down hard.
“I was banged and bruised pretty good, but lucky to walk away from it relatively unscathed and able to focus on the final moto. In race three I got a great start but then stalled in the rocks and accidentally put my left foot down into a hole. As I fell over, with the bike on top of me, my foot became trapped in the hole and twisted my knee.
“As yet I don’t know how serious things are until I see my doctor to get it checked out but I will do my best to be ready for round four in Budapest.”
The SuperEnduro World Championship resumes with round four in Hungary, February 9.
Photo Credit: Future7Media/Andrea Belluschi/Robert Lynn Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.firstname.lastname@example.org