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History of the Erzberg Rodeo - Pt 1


erzberg rodeo

Photo from RedBull.com

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 35 km course has 20 required checkpoints, and bikers have only 4 hours to complete the race. Only 500 made it past the preliminaries this year, with only 14 reaching the finish line. The Erzberg Enduro Rodeo is the best simply because it is the toughest. It is 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. 

Best One-Day Enduro Ever

Until 1995, the only exciting thing about the little mining town located in the Styrian Mountain was its rich deposits of iron ore. Meanwhile, suffered from a lack of patronage and mainstream exposure. In any off-road event, the venue holds the cards. If the venue is not right, interest dissipates. The first people who took to The Iron Giant with their dirt bikes unanimously proclaimed they had stumbled upon a perfect location for off-road events, and perhaps even an ultimate dirt bike race. 

The race originated from a single thought: the desire to create the world’s toughest Enduro competition ever. When asked about the idea behind the Erzberg Rodeo in 2011, 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.” 

Bikers were already craving a challenge like this, which caused the event popularity to explode. 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. 2011 saw the largest number of amateur and professional bikers, at around 1,800. Only about 500 of those bikers cleared the preliminaries to reach the actual Red Bull Hare Scramble fight to the summit. 

Iron Road Prologue

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.

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.

Men Behind the Race

Organizers pay little attention to biker pain and discomfort because the Iron Mountain requires iron bikers. This attitude has been the standard from the race's inception.

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. 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 advance to the Red Bull Hare Scramble. To qualify, it's a literal scramble to the top of the mountain. 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. 

Red Bull Hare Scramble

The ultimate 4-hour ride to the heavens requiring travel through Hell culminates in a near-vertical ride to the finish line. Instinct, knowledge, and skill must guide you to victory.

karls diner boulder wasteland

Karls Diner is a boulder wasteland (also from Redbull.com)

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. Foot pegs are frequently shorn off, spokes and rims are bent beyond recognition, and radiators find themselves resembling watering cans. Disappointed, woeful riders can be seen all along the course next to their broken bikes. The elements are designed to work against racers, trying to break their spirits every wheel rotation of the way. 

dragging their bikes uphill

As if to taunt, each section of the race has a whimsical name: Fairytale Forest, Rolling Stones, Karl's Diner, and Bathtub, are just a few illustrating the cruel humor of the race creators. 

Winner

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. Graham Jarvis won this year's “King of the Mountain," though it's not his first time crossing the finish line before others; in previous years, penalties prevented him from receiving the coveted trophy: a piece of rock taken from the Iron Mountain. 

A Race for the Ages

Over the last 20 years, smaller events have been added to the main scramble, boosting the fame and popularity of the event in Erzberg. 

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.

Read Part 2

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