This was my third EnduroCross, and if you live near where one of these things are held, I suggest you beg, borrow, or steal a ticket because they are really cool. I’m a moto guy, not really into any other forms of motorcycling, and I don’t follow off-road that closely, but that doesn’t matter. The EnduroCrosses are exciting, and things like crashes and passes happen fast and often.
It’s always good to go to one of these because if nothing else, they educate you on the fact that there are other motorcycle brands out there besides the big four and KTM (is Suzuki even bringing new bikes into the country? They haven’t participated in the magazine shootouts, so maybe it’s the big three now). They have a trials class, so there are all those types of machines, but there’s also, like, legitimate dirt bikes such as Husqvarna, Husaberg, TM, and Sherco. Yes, I said Sherco. It’s quite an experience to see all these different types of bikes, and a lot of them run up front. If you add up my German GP trip with this one, I saw approximately 726 different kinds of bikes this past year, and that’s pretty cool.
All the EnduroCross tracks I’ve seen have been cool, and this one was no exception. It had a couple of cars that the guys would go over, a water pit that the moto guys would double in and out of, some tractor tires that were trickier than they looked, and the usual rock piles. They had two of these, and by far, these were the hardest things on the course. The one pile was huge and off-camber to boot. It wasn’t something I would wish on my worst enemy. The promoters must have felt sorry, because the second pile had a “cheater” line around the outside where you could avoid all the rocks. Most guys took this line, and I kind of wished they hadn’t allowed this, as dudes falling over onto sharp rocks is something I like to see.
The James Stewart of EnduroCross is KTM’s Polish import Taddy Blazusiak, who had won every previous round except one. He rides a KTM 250 two-stroke and basically kills it. You could see how he charges through difficult rock sections like he’s got a hairy gorilla on fire chasing him. He just dives in aggressively and gets out as quick as he can. Taddy had won the previous two events, and if he won Vegas, he would be the recipient of a $50,000 bonus from GEICO. That’s big money for an off-road dude. Hell, that’s big money for anyone outside of the top ten in supercross.
The heat didn’t start well for Taddy, as he had the holeshot until he clipped a potted plant (?!?) in the first turn and went down. He then proceeded to get up in last and pass 800 guys in the first rock section. It was an amazing display of his talent, and he made it into the main, coming from last to win.
The main event started off much like the heat when Taddy went down in the third turn. Ricky Dietrich center-punched him by accident and the 50 Gs went bye-bye just like that. And just to add insult to injury, the entire pack of riders seemed to run over him at the same time. Blazusiak took a long time to get going and eventually finished in the middle of the pack. I’m sure David Knight was smiling somewhere, as Knighter had this same opportunity last year and a teammate named Taddy Blazusiak won the last round with a last-corner pass to rob David of the cash.
Ricky Dietrich was the defending champion of the series but got hurt early on and missed some rounds. RD proved he was still a force in the series by grabbing the lead from trails god Geoff Aaron (who was on a two-wheel-drive KTM. I think the slogan of EX should be “EnduroCross: Where people ride weird crap”) early on in the main and checked out for the win. It was a dominating performance, and you could see that Ricky’s moto skills helped him out as he jumped in and out of the water pit and attacked the course the best he could. Well, except for the rock section, which no one was really attacking. It was a sign that in 2010 Dietrich will be a factor in the championship once again.
Guess who showed up in Vegas to try his luck: “Downtown” Mike Brown (also known as the Muddy Creek Assassin, with a nod to Randy Richardson), that’s who. The former 125 national motocross champion is now settling into his second career as an off-roader, and he’s picking up on it pretty fast, judging by his recent championship in the WORCS series. Brownie came to Vegas and was almost two seconds faster than anyone else in practice. He then went out in the heat and had a great battle with Aaron. He took the win there and looked to be a favorite for the win in the main.
I watched Brownie when the card went sideways and he got an absolutely horrid start and went into the first turn in last. That was it for him in the main, and I think he went down in the first rock-pile section along with just about everyone else. There was just chaos on the opening laps in the main event, with Taddy’s crash and then a rock-pile jam-up. These were the best riders in the Orleans that night, so you can imagine the other dudes and all of their races. EnduroCross is just nuts, I tells ya.
There was a rider there named Jamie Lanza who didn’t make the main event, but he sure came close in all his races. He seriously looks about the size of a 10-year-old. He’s one small dude for sure, and I think he probably couldn’t even have raced the main if he’d made it because it was past his bedtime.
Dusty Klatt couldn’t get us to the top in moto, but there are a couple of Canadians who are pretty damn good in the off-road world. Cory Graffunder and Bobby Prochnau are both doing well in the American off-road stuff. Graffunder even picked up a Husky ride with Zip-Ty Racing! Add these two in with Dean Wilson and, slowly but surely, Canadians are coming. Brace yourselves. These two ended up dicing in the main event for a while as Graffunder came back from last, and they eventually ended up seventh and eighth.
I had to laugh at the differences between off-roaders and moto guys when Dietrich threw a chain in his heat while in qualifying position. He tried for a while to get it back on, even though he was long out of qualifying before finally giving up. I remember Chad Reed throwing a chain at RedBud back in the day and leaving his bike by a tree and walking back. It’s just funny, that’s all.
Damon Huffman has been really enjoying his transition to the off-road world. The two-time 125 supercross champion is a regular participant in the EX and WORCS races and ended the series third in the points. He also secured third in Vegas and mentioned on the podium that he didn’t know if he’d be back or not next year. He said this might be his last race ever. Let’s hope not, because Huff Diddy is a cool guy.
Guess who else was in Vegas. Jerry Bernardo! I didn’t know Jerry, the old wacky Motoworld/supercross pit reporter, was still around and in the industry, but there he was, the on-the-floor announcer for the night. He hasn’t changed, let me tell you that.
I’m no promoter or anything like that, but can I just throw in that the opening ceremonies didn’t exactly go as planned? The cues were off, the announcers seemed confused, and things really didn’t work. We all have off nights, I suppose, and I hope this was a Vegas-only thing (out too late at the Wayne Newton concert?) and the other rounds went smoothly, because this wasn’t good.
Besides the normal pro classes, there is a vet race, a trials race, and there’s one race where the arena lights get turned off and the guys strap lights to the front of their bikes. There’s also a cheetah race and one where the guys are strapped to the back of a ryno. I might have made those last two up.
One the funniest things all night was a foot race around the outside of the track where the participants had to hold on to a set of Pro Taper handlebars while navigating the obstacles. It was heartbreak as the dude who led the whole race went down hard with about ten feet to go. He then attempted to hurl himself across the line and by the guy who passed him. He didn’t make it, and I’m sure the tumble down the logs didn’t feel good. First prize was probably a T-shirt or something like that, and the commitment this guy gave was incredible.