History of the Erzberg Rodeo
By Midwest Traction on September 7, 2018
Every year, Erzberg, Austria hosts one of the biggest dirt bike racing events in the world. The terrain, better known as “The Iron Mountain,” invites more than 1,500 riders participate in the ultimate dirt bike race. It goes by many names, including the Enduro at Erzberg, the Erzberg Rodeo, and the Red Bull Hare Scramble, and it's the "toughest one-day enduro in the world."
The race originated from a single goal: creating the world’s toughest Enduro competition ever. Rules, regulations and red tape don't guide the founders. Although others were involved, Karl Katoch led the evolution of the Erzberg Rodeo from small endurance race to the King of Extreme Racing. The 35km course has 20 required checkpoints and bikers have only 4 hours to complete the race. The Erzberg Enduro Rodeo is the best simply because it is the toughest. It’s not a ride for the faint of heart. Over hundreds of years of mining left the Iron Mountain littered in scars, snaking routes, and treacherous pits, and riders have wrecked their bikes and their bodies in pursuit of success.
As founder of the reputed motorsport association, the ASKO (MSA), he envisioned and created the “Iron Road Prologue.” This preliminary phase separated the wheat from the chaff; only the first 500 to the checkpoint may advance to the Red Bull Hare Scramble.
Globally acknowledged as the “toughest challenge in enduro,” the scramble plucks bikers in droves until only a handful remain. The clip below illustrates just how cutthroat this race is: at 2:09, a man falls into a mountain cleft.
When asked about the idea, head organizer, Karl Katoch, said, “We wanted to bring all the world’s best off-road riders from all disciplines and present them with an unsolvable task.”
In 1995, the first race hosted a mere 120 hardcore dirt racers. Within one year, more than 250 bikers lined up for the second event.
When it comes to the Iron Road Prologue, anything resembling motorcycle is allowed. The rules are bare minimum, giving riders the chance to make the race their own. The prologue admits quads, sidecars, motocross bikes, trail bikes, Harleys, Buells, street bikes, scooters, and every other kind of motorcycle. The Red Bull Hare Scramble is more selective; only Iron Road Prologue motorbikes are allowed. Over the years, many accomplished riders have been unable to finish this challenging race simply because they chose the wrong bike. Once the first round is cleared, the fun begins for the remaining courageous 500.
The Hare Scramble
Preliminaries span two days to cut the weaker riders so the strongest can compete in the final event on the third day, known as the Red Bull Hare Scramble.
Dirt bikers must conquer the intimidating terrain and the endless obstacles it presents. Hard-edged, jagged rock outcroppings prevent passing while destroying bikes. Boulder-riddled wasteland stretches on before a desert patch that seems to have no end. Footpegs are frequently shorn off, spokes and rims are bent beyond recognition, and radiators find themselves resembling watering cans. The elements are designed to work against racers, trying to break their spirits every wheel rotation of the way.
The summit sits 1,466m above sea level. Riders start at intervals of mere 20 seconds apart with 2 opportunities to reach the top. The sacred finish line is the Holy Grail reserved for few.
A Zen State of Mind
For a race this challenging, mastery is attained through strength of mind and body. Fitting is the phrase: no guts, no glory. The terrain is highly deceptive, and the four hours from start-to-finish are the most dangerous and exhilarating of any rider's life. To succeed, riders must maintain composure. Exhaustion will set in, which can lead to tragic mistakes in logic. There are no second chances; the smallest mistakes can cost you your place or lead to serious injury.
Completing the Race
20+ checkpoints must be reached to qualify for the trophy. In the heat of the race, many skilled riders have missed these checkpoints, costing them the victory. Winners must have reached all checkpoints in the least amount of time. Bikers say the Iron Road Prologue is a critical part of the race. Though it can't compete with the madness that is the scramble, a Prologue victory offers a slot in the first 200, an enviable position that lends you a head start over the competition.
In 1995, rider Alfie Cox from the Republic of South Africa became the first winner of the Erzberg Rodeo. He rode his beloved KTM all the way to the summit of the mountain to prove himself victorious over the other 120 or so participants.
German-born professional rider Chris Pfeiffer, also known simply as CP, made a name for himself through motorbike stunt riding. He has won the Red Bull Hare Scramble four times! He claimed the rock trophy in 1996, 1997, 2000 and 2004. Pfeiffer is among the most well-known professional riders in the world due to this race.
Tadeusz “Taddy” Blazusiak is famous in enduro; addicted to riding since the age of 5, Taddy burst into the spotlight in 2007 for winning the race with a calm demeanor. He borrowed a bike from a friend, though he's known for his love of KTM.
Andreas Werth and Karl Katoch are amazed at the popularity of the race they created. Though there are winners, this race is not for everyone; most riders do not even complete the race. Danger lurks, and even if you leave Austria unscathed, your bike may not. The Erzberg is a challenge like no other for racers of all backgrounds, desires, and dreams. Do you have what it takes?