Redmond and Graffunder take on Ukupacha in Ecuador

Extreme enduro addicts Kyle Redmond and Cory Graffunder enter Ecuador’s Enduro Ukupacha
Kyle Redmond and Paul Bolton © Logistique
By Jerry Bernardo

No one can hide on social media nowadays, the pictures can easily tell the tale. Whilst creeping all things two wheeled one day I quickly discovered that Kyle Redmond and Cory Graffunder were both up to something epic. After seeing photos of them training together in wasteland boulder fields in California I knew some form of a plan was in motion. After a little bit of research it was unveiled that the two extreme enduro young guns would be competing down in Ecuador at the Enduro Ukupacha.

In case you haven’t heard of these two riders yet here’s a small slice of their moto pie: Graffunder won the 2013 Red Bull Rocks and Logs event in Canada and Redmond has finished as high as 5th O/A at the Erzberg Rodeo [Kyle also recently signed a two year deal to ride for Beta USA]

Knowing the level of skill both of these riders possess only made me that much more curious about what sort of mayhem would unfold at a remote extreme enduro I had never heard of.

Kyle Redmond Training © Redmond Image

Kyle Redmond USA– Husqvarna TE300 - DNF

RB: Why is this event in Ecuador not on our radar? Enduro fans worldwide know all about hard enduros like Hells Gate, the Roof of Africa and the Erzberg Rodeo--is this one a secret?

KR: This event is may not be on your radar because it’s way down in Ecuador, it’s a bit closed off from the usual major motorcycle meccas such as America and Europe--also the Enduro Ukupacha race is just four years old--it’s pretty new on the circuit.

RB: I read that in 2012 only two pro competitors finished this race, is it really that difficult?

KR: It definitely is, this year only four pros finished the entire race and not one of them were local riders. A few years back the top riders down in Ecuador hadn’t seen any races of this kind. I am sure [in time] they’ll get better the more they get used to that type of riding.

RB: There’s plenty of video footage circulating of events such as this, but to a normal off roader most of it looks like a complete suffer-fest. Does it come to a point where someone like you is past that aspect of it or do all the pros just battle on regardless of the pain and suffering?

KR: I guess we do in a way. I believe the A-class riders are working the hardest out on the trail--they seem to suffer a bit more than pros do. I am not saying it wasn’t tough for me; everyone was completely ruined after the race. Earlier in the race Wade Young and I were swapping the lead back and forth until I made a rookie mistake and ended up running out of fuel, I’m still not sure if it was a jetting mishap or what got the best of me on the day. I only rode for 3.5 hours so I wasn’t as destroyed as the others [who finished] were.

This race is around 100 kilometers long and it’s split into three separate levels: bronze, silver and the last section, the gold level. The four riders that did finish were the only ones to make it to the gold level, that’s about twenty more miles of really tough riding--you get to that point after five hours of competition so you’re pretty much spent by then.

[Kyle then calmly asks me if I am going to call Cory Graffunder: “You should interview Cory, he actually finished the race.” Redmond laments]

Cory Graffunder in Action © Logistique

Cory Graffunder CAN - KTM300 XC-W – 4th O/A

RB: You have competed in many of the world’s toughest extreme enduros with great results. This particular one in Ecuador has a pretty unique format; can you tell us about it?

CG: The Enduro Ukupacha ranks right up there with the best of them in my eyes. I spent around seven hours on my bike and used three full tanks of fuel. I can tell you this; by the time I crossed the finish line, I was hammered.

The first stage of the race [the bronze level] was pretty easy until the first fuel stop. Then came the silver stage after that, that’s where things got a little tougher with some tight trail up and down the hills. The gold level was pretty much ‘ride up a mountain, go over to the next ridge, go back to the bottom and head right back up the next mountain’--we did that about three times.

RB: Was the race only tough in the latter stages?

CG: I was pretty surprised at how early on it became difficult. In the bronze stage there was one tough downhill I imagine that no one would have ridden down. The silver section had some really scary spots where you could have ended your race if you made one simple mistake. We rode on the edges of sheer cliffs and navigated short steep uphills, if you messed up there your bike would be gone.

RB: Does the danger factor of a cliff such as that distract you [while racing] or do you just focus on where you need to place the bike and battle on?

CG: I just try to stay focused on what’s ahead. There was one spot in a switch back turn where the next chute we had to go up was a slick rock side hill. If you didn’t make it you would pitch your bike back down off of a 20’ft. drop to where you just came from. I find in those sorts of situations it’s best to just take the extra time needed to make sure you hit your line perfectly in one shot.

RB: Though this event it relatively new do you think it has the makings of a great extreme enduro in order to one day add to the heavy hitters list?

CG: It does for sure, the one thing they have going for themselves is elevation. Elevation is something that is totally new to me personally, it increases the overall difficulty of everything, riding down a simple trail there gets you huffing. The first day I arrived in Ecuador they took me out trail riding at 4000 meters and I got light headed and nauseous, I’ve never experienced that while riding before.

Cory Graffunder 2 © Logistique

RB: What sets this race apart from the others you have competed in

CG: The format they run is pretty unique. The qualifier is held downtown the day before the race and you get all of the townsfolk up close and personal. That’s something missing from our usual extreme enduros--we’re always out in the mountains in the middle of nowhere except for the few die hard fans who come out to see us. On Sunday the scenery was amazing. We were riding high up in the hills and there were volcanoes visible off in the distance. The view back down at the town was beautiful as well.

RB: In theory both you and Kyle ran out of gas in a way; you managed to finish but ended up with severe heat stroke. How wasted were you after the race?

CG: I was at my worst right near the end. I was in view of the finish on the final climb and I had to stop and take off my helmet because I was so exhausted, I knew I really needed to cool off. I took off my helmet and puked. I knew if I could suffer through this last little section I would be home free. I was also cramping up really bad. I’d run out of water at least an hour before that and was in pretty rough shape.

The heat stroke really didn’t kick in until the next day--that [for me] was the true suffer fest.

I am definitely going back next year. KTM of Ecuador was so good to me and I’ve never received that much fan attention at a race anywhere in my whole life. After I won the qualifier on Saturday I couldn’t leave to go prep my bike for the race the next day because I had so many people asking for an autograph!

1. Wade Young - KTM
2. Paul Bolton - Husqvarna
3. Mario Roman - Husqvarna
4. Cory Graffunder - KTM

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