I’ve never been better prepared for a race, and then had everything fall apart so spectacularly, than at this year’s Red Bull Hare Scramble at Erzberg. To say that the race was a disaster for me doesn’t even come close. Hell, I didn’t even get past the first bloody corner!
Going into the race, I felt like I had done my homework. I’d trained hard – probably harder than I’ve ever done for a race. I swapped bikes and moved back to my trusted Eurotek KTM 300 EXC. Even during the bitterly cold Iron Road Prologue things went to plan. With the snow playing havoc with qualifying I knew a front row start was essential. Qualifying fourteenth was more than enough for that.
The quarry floor submerged in a foot of water was like a scene from the Apocalypse
But despite all my best efforts there was nothing I could do to prepare for what Mother Nature threw at us on race day. Waking up to see the quarry floor submerged in a foot of water was like a scene from the Apocalypse. It was like the end of the world was about to begin and it had chosen Erzberg as the starting place.
Bracing myself on the start line for the carnage that awaited us, I somehow managed to get a decent jump off the line. I rounded the first corner thinking, ‘Bloody hell, I’m nearly leading’ – and that’s where it all went horribly wrong. On my inside, a bow wave of water pounded me in the face and then another tidal wave hit me on the left side, just as a rider tagged my handlebars with his. Suddenly, I was heading for a swim and at that exact moment, I realised there was nothing I could do to stop it.
My bike had died a painful, and very watery, death
Literally swimming back to the surface, I found the tail end of my bike poking out of the water. But it was too late to do anything about it – she’d died a painful, and very watery, death. Water submerged the crankcases and broke the reed valve. Despite her best efforts to fire back into life, the only place she was going was back into the van. Sitting in the van as the race carried on was soul destroying. I knew I should have been out there fighting for a podium result.
Hopefully, along with drowning my bike, I’ve also drowned any remaining bad luck, which has been taunting me this year. Red Bull Romaniacs is just around the corner so it’s time to focus on that. It’s time to redeem myself.
Romania is a stunning place to ride
I love racing in Romania. It a place like no other. For four days we battle our way through the Romanian wilderness, following goat trails and shepherd paths across the mountaintops. It’s a stunning place to ride and one of my all time favourites.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the race and they’re bringing back the legendary city prologue. The first year I rode there, I almost beat Cyril Despres on a beaten up old Honda CR250. I made it all the way into the final, led for a bit but he just beat me in the last corner. It must have ruffled him because he was quick to say, ‘Why are there no lights on your motorcycle?’.
Unfortunately I crashed out of the race the next day with broken ribs and it took another two years to finish it. Here’s hoping this year I can finally end it on the podium.