The 2017 Hard Enduro World Series kicked off in earnest with the opening day of competition at Red Bull Minas Riders treating riders to a wet and wild start in Ouro Preto near Belo Horizonte.
Ready to defend his Minas Rider’s crown, Spaniard Alfredo Gómez was first to make his mark on the week long race, pulling off the victory in what proved to be extremely challenging conditions.
With persistent rain making the cobbled streets of Ouro Preto treacherous, Gómez held his nerve in the night time race to get the job done.
“It feels great to come back to Brazil and start Red Bull Minas Riders off with a win in the prologue,” Gómez said. “I don’t think anyone was really expecting that kind of weather here in Brazil.
“I knew the race was going to be tough and it would come down to the guy who made the fewest mistakes. I pushed hard in the beginning to build enough of a safety gap over the guys behind me.
“I had the chance to win and took it. Although there’s still a long way to go, winning the prologue allows me to start the opening off-road day third on the road, which could prove very important.”
Behind Gómez, it was Graham Jarvis who rode to a steady runner-up result. A rider with winning intentions of his own having lost out to Gómez in Brazil in 2016, Jarvis delivered a clinical performance in downtown Ouro Preto to bring his Husqvarna home in second.
“Conditions were tough out there,” admitted Jarvis. “The rain just added to the difficulty. It was a situation where riding steady was the fastest way around the course as the obstacles and cobbled streets were so slippery.”
Making his debut in Red Bull Minas Riders and a Hard Enduro Rallye, Cody Webb had a mixed start to his week in Brazil. Not expecting such demanding conditions in the prologue, Webb suffered numerous falls that ultimately robbed the two-time American EnduroCross champion any chance of battling with Gómez for the win. Forced to settle for third, Webb will also become the first rider to open the hard enduro tracks of Brazil on day one in the mountains.
“That was quite a baptism of fire to Brazilian hard enduro,” joked Webb. “I think I pushed a little too much for the conditions. I had two big crashes. Each time after I picked the bike up I gained a bit of ground of the leaders and then crashed again.”
With the 2017 Red Bull Minas Riders officially up and running, the major talking point in Brazil was the weather. With the forecast bringing persistent rain, all eyes were looking to the sky to see what the first off road day will deliver.
“The rain will be a challenge,” confirmed Gómez. “It’s not a lot but it’s more than enough to make the tracks slippery. Further rain will mean tough conditions in the mountains. But it’s the same for everyone, so I just got to keep fighting.”
“This is my first Hard Enduro Rallye, first time navigating and I’m not looking forward to opening wet tracks in the mountains,” said Webb. “I was expecting beach weather in Brazil!”
One man hoping the weather plays into his hands is Jarvis. No stranger to mud, the 42-year-old veteran of the field is ready to roll up his sleeves.
“I like a bit of rain, it suits me so I’m ready for it,” smiled Jarvis. “Mud is a leveller. Rain can change the outcome of the whole race and it’s about knowing how to survive the conditions, eliminating mistakes — that’s my kind of race.”
With the prologue played out, competitors now face four off-road days days in the mountains to decide this year’s Red Bull Minas Riders champion.
Red Bull Minas Riders prologue results
1. Alfredo Gómez (KTM) 19 laps
2. Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna) 18 laps
3. Cody Webb (KTM) 18 laps
4. Paul Bolton (KTM) 16 laps
5. Pol Tarres (Beta) 16 laps
6. Philipp Scholz (KTM) 13 laps
7. Gustavo Pellin (KTM) 10 laps
8. Rigo Rico (KTM) 6 laps
9. Sandra Gomez (Husqvarna) 5 laps
10. Bruno Crivilin (KTM) 5 laps