Courtesy of KTM Racing
The four-man Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team of Jonny Walker, Taddy Blazusiak, Josep Garcia and Nathan Watson have enjoyed a solid start to their 2019 World Enduro Super Series campaign with strong results in the three races that made up round one of the championship – the Toyota Porto Extreme XL Lagares.
The 15th edition of Extreme XL Lagares was bigger and tougher than ever, with close to 300 competitors fighting it out over three days of competition. Starting with the now traditional Friday night Endurocross race, the event then moved to the cobbled streets and walkways of Porto for Saturday’s Prologue. Sunday’s gruelling main hard enduro event took competitors up into the mountains above Quintandona, covering a variety of challenging terrain including technical river sections and tight, twisting forest tracks.
Returning to the WESS following the crash that ruled him out of the 2018 series, Jonny Walker immediately threw down the gauntlet to his rivals by winning the Friday night Endurocross in Lagares. With 50 pro riders fighting it out on the technical, floodlit track it was Walker who battled his way to the front and ultimately came out on top. Second place went to Taddy Blazusiak who pushed his teammate all the way to the finish. Manuel Lettenbichler made it a KTM one-two-three in third.
Saturday dawned sunny as the riders headed to the city of Porto for the urban-style prologue. With the combined times from Friday and Saturday’s races deciding the start order for Sunday’s main event, a good result on the tight, city course was key. Once again Blazusiak showed his form by finishing as runner-up and claiming the second start position for Sunday’s race.
2019’s main event was the longest in the 15-year history of Extreme XL Lagares with pro riders facing two laps of the hard enduro course. Uphill river sections became even more tricky following the passing of multiple bikes, with the addition of backmarkers littering the course on the second lap only adding to the challenge. Successfully completing the gruelling course, despite not being back to full fitness, Jonny Walker placed an impressive sixth with a total time of close to four-and-a-half hours.
Jonny Walker:“That was seriously tough out there. I had a crash really early on and that didn’t help. I’m still struggling with my grip strength and even though my speed is there, I’m not able to push quite as hard as I would like. I was able to stay with the front runners on the first lap but then coming around on the second lap I got stuck in one of the rivers and lost some time. I had some good battles out there and I have to be happy with sixth, but I know I still have some work to do before I’m back at 100%. Next week we’ve got the classic enduro in France, I had a good ride there last year so I’m hoping for the same again.”
Charging hard right from the start of the main event, Taddy moved into an early lead on the first lap. Unfortunately, he lost time when climbing up through the rivers and passing other riders, but the Polish rider maintained a strong pace to post the eighth fastest time.
Taddy Blazusiak:“Overall, I’m happy with my ride today, it was really tough and very long. I got a rock in my eye when trying to pass a lapper and that put me off for a bit. It was just one of those tough days, but this is WESS and it’s all about collecting points when things don’t quite go your way. I led the race a little early on, which was fine, but I struggled a little when we got to the rivers. It was so slippery and the second time through was even more tricky. I got to the finish in one piece, which is the main thing. Soon we’ll be straight into classic enduro at Le Trefle. It means I’ll be back on the 350, which should suit me as it’s what I have been riding all SuperEnduro season.”
Competing in just their second Extreme XL Lagares, Josep Garcia and Nathan Watson both made good use of the experience gained throughout the 2018 WESS season. Garcia was especially impressive on Friday’s Endurocross where he successfully challenged the regular front-runners to finish fifth. Despite both being out of their comfort zones, the KTM pair put in strong performances in the main event with Garcia completing the course in 13th place. Watson, after suffering several falls during the afternoon, unfortunately timed out. Both riders will be keen to turn the tables on the hard enduro experts at round two – the Trefle Lozerien classic enduro in France next weekend.
Josep Garcia:“The event started off really well on Friday with the Superenduro. I felt really good and was able to battle with the top guys. I finished fifth, which I was really happy with. On Saturday I had a couple of crashes in the streets of Porto, so I didn’t post such a great time but managed to qualify 12th for the main race. My first lap today didn’t go so well, the track was a lot more slippery than last year and there were a lot of tricky climbs we had to make. On the second lap I started to feel more comfortable and was able to keep a good speed. I am really happy to make it to the finish because here that is a big achievement after over four hours. I have earned some good points and that’s really important for the championship.”
Nathan Watson:“That was really hard. My first lap went well, but coming around on the second lap, the conditions were far worse and I struggled a little on the river sections. I ended up dropping the bike a few times and damaged it a little, which made things even tougher. I’m pleased to say I gave it my all, but now I’m looking forward to Le Trefle and hopefully improve on last year’s position with a podium.”
The next event on the 2019 WESS calendar is the Trèfle Lozérien AMV classic enduro held in France on May 17-19.
Results – 2019 Toyota Porto Extreme XL Lagares
1. Mario Roman (ESP), Sherco, 4:01:43.21
2. Wade Young (RSA), Sherco, 4:05:59.04 +4:15.83
3. Manuel Lettenbichler (GER), KTM, 4:07:09.68 +5:26.47
4. Graham Jarvis (GBR), Husqvarna, 4:07:16.12 +5:32.91
5. Billy Bolt (GBR), Husqvarna, 4:15:19.68 +13:36.47
6. Jonny Walker (GBR), KTM, 4:29:26.58 +27:43.37
8. Taddy Blazusiak (POL), KTM, 4:53:58.02 +52:14.81
9. Travis Teasdale (RSA), KTM, 5:01:43.91 +1:00:00.70
13. Josep Garcia (ESP), KTM, 6:07:54.27 +2:06:11.06
2019 World Enduro Super Series Standings (after 1 of 8 rounds)
1. Mario Roman (ESP), Sherco, 1000 points
2. Wade Young (RSA), Sherco, 850 pts
3. Manuel Lettenbichler (GER), KTM, 770 pts
4. Graham Jarvis (GBR), Husqvarna, 690 pts
5. Billy Bolt (GBR), Husqvarna, 610 pts
6. Jonny Walker (GBR), KTM, 570 pts
8. Taddy Blazusiak (POL), KTM, 490 pts
9. Travis Teasdale (RSA), KTM, 460 pts
13. Josep Garcia (ESP), KTM, 360 pts