For Dougie Lampkin, extreme enduro takes on new meaning at the Red Bull Hare Scramble: the Briton has experienced it all: Joy, pain, success and everything in between.
After finishing runner-up in last year's event, the Gas Gas rider is back for more at the Iron Mountain in 2012 and is delighted to see the competition continue to go from strength to strength.
Speaking to redbull.com the 12 times trials world champion discoursed on how impressed he was with the overall atmosphere, how it compared to his other riding experiences, and who he fancies (apart from himself!) for victory on Sunday...
How different is the experience of riding at the Red Bull Erzberg Rodeo for you?
“For me this is a great event because after so many championships and so many years of riding under pressure and expectation for results I can really enjoy this. It's not just about results for me any more, although that competitiveness will never leave me! I'll always be like a bull out of a gate when I get off that start line, I can't help that, but riding without the pressure – I enjoy it loads.”
How does the atmosphere and spirit of the event compare to others you've ridden at?
“When you get into the no help zone people are shouting you along even though they can't help you, and that means a lot. Random people are passing you water bottles, and that's what Erzberg is all about, they appreciate what you are doing and if they can help you in any way they will, that's why the event is so massive. It's more than an event, it's a festival.
“You have so many people here who have no chance of qualifying for Sunday, if they do they'll destroy their bikes, it'll cost them a fortune, but they still come! How does that work?! I'm not sure, but it does, and there's over 1000 on the waiting list and 1800 entries!”
Tell us about the race and its demands, particularly on someone like yourself who is more used to riding trials...
“This is a slog. It takes just over two hours but feels like six or eight hours, you just cannot believe it. You need to push it for the whole time, that's why it feels so tough. They say it's easier this year, but there's no way it is!
“I'm not a racing enduro rider, I don't have the speed to compete anywhere near these top lads. But come Sunday when it's time to really dig deep and I've got that first 20 minutes out of the way... Once it gets in that mud it really separates the men from the boys!
“My favourite bit is after 20 minutes of the main event, once you're out of that quarry and away from the majority of the other riders and you get onto the hillside where it all slows down, and that's where you really roll your sleeves up and dig in. That's where it really starts for me.”
Have you done anything in particular to set yourself set up for the demands of Erzberg?
“I haven't! I've been doing a lot of filming and advertising for the Olympics, doing television stuff, different commitments with Red Bull. I enjoy it all. I'm supposed to have semi-retired but have actually gotten a lot busier! It's all good.
“I've not really prepared for this event, but to be honest I didn't really prepare for it last year. It's getting harder and harder and the riders are getting more and more professional and concentrating on this as its own discipline, whereas two or three years ago it was something the factories sent their best trials rider to have a go at it. Now they're treating it as a proper championship. I'm really pleased because it deserves it, it's a fantastic discipline and I'm glad it's getting this type of support.”
Looking around at some of the talent on display, who are you tipping to be the frontrunners alongside yourself?
“There are some very strong riders this year so it will be a very tough one. I'm talking especially about [Jonny] Walker and [Graham] Jarvis, that will be a scrap right to the end if they get a good start and aren't held up at all, that will be an amazing battle.
“There are a lot of other talented riders too, like Taichi Tanaka from Japan. He came here last year and started from the fourth row after crashing on the prologue, and finished seventh in the race. You can't discount anybody who finished here last year from winning it this time around.”
You can watch Red Bull Hare Scramble: the final and most dramatic act of the Erzberg Rodeo live on Sunday and chat live special guest expert summariser Chris Birch