The second-annual Maxxis EnduroCross may not have been any wilder than the debut event last year, but it probably seemed that way since a whole lot more people came out to see it. Last year’s event generated a lot of buzz, but this year’s did that and also attracted ticket buyers, as the Orleans Arena sold out on Saturday night. And the race treated everyone to an awesome show jammed with the wildest motorcycle action you’ll see anywhere.
You can call EnduroCross off-road racing in a microwave, just as people say about motocross as to arenacross. Promoters Tim Clark and Eric Peronnard checked out some of these indoor off-road races in Europe and brought the concept to Vegas, importing rocks, trees and water where an arenacross track would have jumps, whoops and berms. And they made the track tough. Very tough. The idea here is that all of the riders would have trouble just getting around the track at all, let alone trying to go fast on it, which leads to non-stop action. And that’s what the fans got, as every lap of every race was 50 percent chaos and 50 percent racing.
Still, a few riders stood out. Last year Ryan Hughes won the event, and El Ryno was back sporting a number-one plate for the first time in his career. His main challenger last year was big Brit David Knight, who has hit the afterburners over the last twelve months. When KTM dispatched Juha Salminen to race the GNCCs in the U.S., they gave Knight Juha’s top spot in Europe, and he went on a rampage. Knighter won the World Enduro Championship, the overall at the ISDE, the Erzburg Enduro (that crazy mountain race that Travis Pastrana competes in) and last week’s Red Bull Last Man Standing in Texas.
John Dowd would be an EnduroCross contender as well. Dowd had never raced off-road before, but when he posted one of the fastest laps in timed qualifying Saturday afternoon, the Junkyard had the fans believing.
The rest of the cast was an off-road racing who’s who: Mike Lafferty, Barry Hawk, Ty Davis, Destry Abbott, Russ Pearson, Randy Hawkins, Nate Woods, Geoff Aaron, Brian Garrahan, Nate Kanney and about a half-dozen really fast guys from Europe.
Saturday afternoon’s timed qualifying really set the scene. Like in most off-road races, the riders would not get any practice. Instead, they did one sight lap and then opened it up for a timed qualifying lap. Those two laps would be all the riders would get before their heat races at night. It was awesome seeing all the big off-road names playing a game of can-you-top-this with their timed lap.
Hughes and Dowd battled in the first heat race, with Hughes getting the win. Spainard Ivan Cervantes won another heat while Lafferty and Caselli waged a fight to the death for second, with Lafferty getting the edge. Hot and cold WORCS racer Ricky Dietrich rode amazingly well to win his heat.
The main event only takes 10 riders, so the sword of elimination struck fast and deep on the field. In the LCQ, Nate Kanney was trying to hold off Ryan Dudek for the final transfer spot. Dudek, who has moved from pro motocrosser to become Cycle World magazine’s off-road editor, had ironically $1000 from Dirt Rider magazine as the fastest qualifier on Friday. Dudek and Dietrich were not on the invite list, so they had to qualify on Friday just to make Sunday’s show. Dietrich won his heat, and then Dudek fought past Kanney for the final spot in the main.
In the main, Dietrich grabbed the holeshot. Starts don’t matter too much in a race where everyone crashes, stalls and falls, but lo and behold Dietrich, who barely registers as a blip on the pro off-road radar, was riding the race of his life and holding off Hughes and Knight. About halfway into the 10-lap main, most of the riders were sucking wind and suffering from the worst arm pump of their lives, as the field was basically pushing and shoving their bikes over the huge obstacles. These riders are the best in the world at what they do, but this track is a whole lot worse than anything nature could through at you, and it was humbling the best.
Ryno wasn’t making up much time on Dietrich, and it looked like he tried to step up his pace a bit. Then he crashed on the huge rock pile known as the Motorex Mountain, handing second to Knight. Then Ryno crashed again. And again. He was visibly frustrated and ultimately ended up a lap down. This place is tough.
Finally Dietrich made a mistake and Knight sailed past him to take the lead and the win. Everything this guy touches right now turns to gold. Better yet, this is what Knight said on the podium “Yeah, this was bloody awesome!”
The Isle of Man resident collected $10,000 for his considerable effort.
On the last lap, Dowd was still going strong, and just like he does on the motocross track, he saved his best for last and battled Dietrich for second. Dowdy made the pass and the Orleans Arena went nuts.
No doubt those fans will be back next year.