Category Archives: Pro riders

2021 Red Bull Tennessee Knockout Preview; The world’s best hard enduro riders to compete in Tennessee August 13-15

For the first time ever, all the top hard enduro riders from around the world will compete against the best North American riders on US soil. The Trials Training Center in Sequatchie Tennessee will host round five of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship (HEWC) this coming weekend, August 13-15.

The Red Bull Tennessee Knockout (TKO), now in its eleventh year, has become one of the premier off-road motorcycle races in the US and serves as the AMA Grand Championship for Extreme Off-Road racing. Many of the top international riders have competed in the TKO in the past, but this will be the first time that they will all be competing at the same time and competing for World Championship points.

The TKO has used the same format since the first event in 2011, which pre-qualifies the top riders to a four-round knockout format on Sunday. Saturday will have over 400 riders competing in two rounds of racing with the second race serving as the AMA Amateur Grand Championship for Extreme Off-Road. The top 30 riders from Saturday earn the opportunity to compete with the best riders on Sunday.

“Unlike some extreme or hard enduro events that run for several hours, we chose to use a multi-round format for the TKO to keep the racing tight,” said Eric Peronnard, the co-producer of the TKO. “The pro riders compete four times on Sunday and race for over three hours, but the final results all come down to a final multi-lap race with the top fifteen riders on a challenging course, so it is very intense racing for the riders and exciting for the fans.” Peronnard also added, “We have to thank Winfried Kerschhaggl, the FIM, and AMA for all of their effort to make it possible to make the Red Bull Tennessee Knockout part of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship in very difficult times for international travel.”

Below is a rundown of the long list of riders that have a shot at competing for the podium spots at the 2021 Red Bull Tennessee Knockout.

  • Manuel “Mani” Lettenbichler – Germany – KTM: The 2019 World Enduro Super Series (Now the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship) champion just came off his third straight Red Bull Romaniacs win to take over the points lead. Mani competed finished second at the 2018 TKO and then came back to win it in 2019.
  • Trystan Hart – Canada – KTM: Hart won the 2020 TKO and was promoted to the FMF KTM factory team for the 2020 AMA EnduroCross championship, where he took his first career main event win and finished third in the championship. Hart also won the AMA East Extreme Enduro and combined East/West championship with a win at the final round.
  • Billy Bolt- Great Britain – Husqvarna: Bolt won the 2019 FIM Super Enduro World championship and won the Abestone FIM Hard Enduro round in Italy. He comes into round five second in the championship and his Super Enduro skills could prove useful in the intense TKO main event. This will be the Rockstar Husqvarna rider’s first time competing in the US.
  • Cody Webb – United States – Sherco: Webb is a six-time TKO winner (2013 to 2018), three-time AMA EnduroCross champion, and former FIM Super Enduro World champion. Before that, he was the US Trials champion and knows the Trials Training Center terrain very well. Don’t count him out for a seventh TKO win.
  • Taddy Blazusiak – Poland – GasGas: Taddy burst onto the hard enduro scene by winning the Red Bull Erzberg Rodeo in his first attempt. He was competing in the World Trials championship at the time and transitioned to hard enduro and went on to win five straight AMA EnduroCross championships and six FIM Super Enduro championships to go along with five Erzeberg wins.
  • Ryder LeBlond – United States – Husqvarna: Ryder LeBlond will likely be the rider most of the HEWC riders will be taking notice of. The teenager from Pennsylvania has earned multiple podium finishes in AMA Extreme events over the past couple of seasons and just finished third in the AMA Extreme Championship riding as a Husqvarna support rider on the Dullulo racing team.
  • Wade Young – South Africa – Sherco: Wade Young has won the Roof of Africa hard enduro multiple times and proven himself on the world stage with wins at the Red Bull Romaniacs (2018) among others. He has competed at the TKO three times with two podium finishes.
  • Jonny Walker – Great Britain – Beta: Walker has won most of the major hard enduro events including Erzberg Rodeo wins in 2012, 2013, and 2015. He also won the 2015 Red Bull Romaniacs. He competed at the 2015 TKO and finished a close second. He has joined the factory Beta team for 2021.
  • Mario Roman – Spain – Sherco: Roman has become one of the top hard enduro racers in the world with major wins at Extreme XL Lagares, Roof of Africa, Hells Gate, and more. The Sherco factory rider has also finished on the podium all three times he has competed including a second to Lettenbichler in 2019.
  • Pat Smage – United States – Sherco: Smage is an eleven-time AMA Trials champion that has only competed at a handful of hard enduro events. But with a lot of experience at the Trials Training Center, the Wisconsin native could prove to be a threat for a top result.
  • Max Gerston – United States – GasGas: The Arizona native is a veteran racer that still enjoys riding like a teenager. He is a multi-time AMA East Hare Scrambles champion, former AMA EnduroCross junior champion, and multi-time podium finisher in AMA EnduroCross.
  • Alfredo Gomez – Spain – Husqvarna: A two-time winner of the Red Bull Erzberg Rodeo, Gomez has cemented himself as one of the top extreme riders in the world.
  • Keith Curtis – United States – Sherco: Curtis is a multi-time snowmobile champion that loves to race hard enduro during the summer. A win at the 2019 Stix and Stones hard enduro combined with other top finishes, including a fifth at the 2020 TKO earned him a part-time ride with the FactoryOne Sherco team.
  • Ryan Sipes – United States – GasGas: The former supercross winner has made a name for himself by competing in and winning races in multiple disciplines, including American Flat Track and hill climbing. Sipes will be in the deep end again at the TKO but deserves credit for taking the plunge.
  • Jordan Ashburn – Unites States – Husqvarna: The Tennessee native competed at the first TKO in 2011 and has been back many times since despite being focused on racing the AMA Grand National Cross Country championship (GNCC). He has earned podium finishes at hard enduro events before and earned more fans at the 2020 TKO by competing on his dad’s 1989 KDX 200 and making it to the main event for an eleventh place finish.
  • Nick Fahringer – United States – Sherco: Fahringer is a former top AMA Enduro racer that transitioned to extreme enduro events in recent years. He prefers the longer events but has the skills to get into the TKO main event even in this year’s stacked field.
  • Cooper Abbott – United States – KTM: Abbott has been honing his racing skills under the watchful eye of his multi-time champion father Destry and had a breakout 2020 EnduroCross season, where he earned a moto win and overall podium and finished the season fourth in points.
  • Michael Walkner – Austria – GasGas: Walkner is relatively new to the hard enduro championship but is quickly proving he belongs with a ninth-place finish at the 2021 Red Bull Romaniacs.
  • Teodor Kabakchiev – Bulgaria – Husqvarna: Kabakchiev won the 2019 FIM Super Enduro junior championship and is making a name for himself on the hard enduro tour. He is entering the TKO in tenth place in the Hard Enduro World Championship.

The podium positions will likely come from the above list of riders, but the TKO has been a breakout event for relatively unknown riders to earn a spot in the fifteen-rider main event. That will be more difficult than ever with ten of the top HEWC riders competing, but it will be exciting to see if one of those lesser-known riders can add their name to that list.

New for 2021, Saturday afternoon will include a Prologue Straight Rhythm event for the pro men and pro-women riders. The selected riders will compete in quick out and back head-to-head races in a best two out of three bracket format to earn some extra purse money and determine the Sunday morning hot lap starting positions.

The 2021 TKO will again be featured on Red Bull TV with more details to be announced.

Mani Lettenbichler will come into the TKO as a favorite. He won the 2019 TKO and just won his third consecutive Red Bull Romaniacs. Photo: Future7Media
Trystan Hart is the defending TKO champion but he will have a large field of the best hard-enduro riders in the world to take on for 2021. Photo: Future7Media
Billy Bolt is an exciting rider to watch and the TKO format may fit his style well. Photo: Future7Media
Cody Webb has won six Red Bull Tennessee Knockout events against many of the best riders in the world. He will be aiming to defend his home turf and take TKO win number seven. Photo: Future7Media
Poland’s Taddy Blazusiak is one of the most decorated hard enduro riders in the world and is hungry for another win on US soil. Photo: Future7Media

2019 Tennessee Knockout Video Highlights; Top riders take on the treacherous rocks at the TKO

The ninth annual Kenda Tennessee Knockout took place at the Trials Training Center, in Sequatchie, Tennessee, on the weekend of August 16-18. We have full video highlights from the grueling Sunday pro competition where Germany’s Manuel Lettenbichler  (@m_letti304) earned the TKO title over Spain’s Mario Roman (@marioroman74) and South Africa’s Wade Young (@wadeyoung55). American Colton Haaker (@coltonhaaker) and Canada’s Trystan Hart (@trystanhart_84) rounded out the top five.

Watch the highlights here:

The 2019 Tennessee Knockout had nearly 400 entries and the amateur riders competed in a Friday prologue and had two races on Saturday. The top 30 amateur riders earned the opportunity to compete with the 27 pre-qualified pro riders on Sunday. Sunday uses a four-round Knockout format that starts with a Hot Lap to set starting positions. The first Knockout round, on a 19-mile course, cuts the field of riders down to 25 and an LCQ earns a final transfer spot for one additional rider. Those remaining 26 riders compete for the final 15 spots in the main event with another loop on the 19-mile course with some more difficult sections added. The main event is a 30-minute plus one lap battle on a mile-long course. In total, the fastest rider, Manual Lettenbichler, raced for nearly three hours.

2019 Kenda Tennessee, Knockout Main Event Results

  1. Manuel Lettenbichler, KTM
  2. Mario Roman, Sherco
  3. Wade Young, Sherco
  4. Colton Haaker, Husqvarna
  5. Trystan Hart, KTM
  6. Ben Kelley, KTM
  7. Ricky Russell, Yamaha
  8. Max Gerston, Beta
  9. Grant Baylor, KTM
  10. Ronnie Commo, KTM
  11. Quinn Wentzel, Husqvarna
  12. Nick Fahringer, Sherco
  13. Mitch Carvolth, Sherco
  14. Liam Draper, KTM
  15. Nate Smith, Husqvarna

Detailed results can be found here.

Lettenbichler Takes 2019 Tennessee Knockout; Roman and Young round out international podium

Manuel Lettenbichler (@m_letti304) has had an amazing 2019 season of Extreme Enduro racing. The twenty-one-year-old German dominated the Kenda Tennessee Knockout on his KTM 300 XCW TPI. This was just a few weeks after winning the four-day-long Red Bull Romaniacs, to go along with a runner-up finish at the Erzberg Rodeo. Sherco-backed Mario Roman (@marioroman74), from Spain, put up a good fight but settled for second in his third straight podium finish at the TKO. Fellow Sherco rider, Wade Young (@wadeyoung55), from South Africa, rounded out the podium.

Manuel Lettenbichler (center), won the 2019 Kenda Tennessee Knockout over Mario Roman (left) and Wade Young. Photo: Larry Mayo

The ninth annual Kenda Tennessee Knockout had almost 400 entries that started with a prologue to set the starting positions on Friday, followed by two rounds of racing for Amateur riders on Saturday. The top thirty of those amateur riders earned a spot in Sunday’s racing, which also included twenty-seven pre-qualified pro riders. Nate Smith won the Saturday morning race. Seventeen-year-old Ryder LeBlond took the Amateur win over Smith and Jarrett Mohn to earn the AMA Amateur Extreme Enduro Grand National Championship and move forward to Sunday.

Lettenbichler had a nearly flawless day at the 2019 Kenda Tennessee Knockout. Photo Larry Mayo

Sunday includes four rounds of racing for the fifty-nine riders and starts with a Hot Lap on a mile-long “short course”. Lettenbichler set the fastest time with a 4:26 lap. Roman was second with a 4:32 followed by Rockstar Husqvarna’s Colton Haaker with a 4:43 and Young rounded out the top five with a 4:47 time.

Mario Roman battled with his Sherco teammate to take second at the TKO. Photo: Larry Mayo

Knockout round one takes place on a nineteen-mile long loop with the top twenty-five riders moving on to the next round. The riders take off in thirty-second intervals and race against the clock. Lettenbichler again set the fastest time of 1:01:28. Haaker was second fastest with a time of 1:03:49. Roman was third at 1:04:55. Am-Pro Yamaha’s Ricky Russell showed impressive speed with a fourth-place finish in 1:05:07. Trail Jesters KTM’s Ben Kelley rounded out the top five with a time of 1:05:53.

Wade Young had a solid day to round out the podium at the 2019 Tennessee Knockout. Photo: Larry Mayo

Knockout round two switches from a race against the clock to a head-to-head format with four groups of five riders and one group of six after a twenty-sixth rider earned a spot in the next round after out-dueling three other riders in the last chance qualifier. In this round, those five groups would be competing for the fifteen spots in the final by finishing in the top three in their respective groups. This was back on the nineteen-mile long course with a few more challenging sections added in. Lettenbichler won group one over Trystan Hart and Liam Draper. Haaker won group two over Grant Baylor and Ronnie Commo. Roman won group three over Beta’s Max Gerston and Nick Fahringer. Young won group four over Russell and Quinn Wentzel. Kelley won group five over Nate Smith and Mitch Carvolth. Smith had raced both races on Saturday and still managed to earn one of the coveted spots in the main event. Notably, Young had the fastest time during round two at 1:06:29 to serve notice that he may have the speed to challenge for the win.

The main event moved back to the short course with a 30-minute plus one lap battle, which ended up taking Lettenbichler 37:10 to complete. “Letti” jumped out to the early lead and managed to maintain it for the entire race, which ended up being 8 laps. The battle for second included Young, Haaker, and Roman in the early laps. Roman passed Haaker and then he and Young battled back and forth for a couple of laps before Roman was able to work his way into second. In the end, Roman was unable to make much of an impact on Lettenbichler’s lead and ultimately finished nearly two minutes back. Young dropped back to nearly four minutes behind the winner. Haaker held on for fourth place but went a lap down. Hart recovered from a pretty big crash to round out the top five.

Kelley finished in sixth position on his KTM. Russell finished seventh on a Yamaha YZ250X. Gerston was eighth on a Beta. Baylor finished ninth on a KTM and Commo rounded out the top ten on a KTM.

Lettenbichler had finished a close second to six-time TKO champion Cody Webb at the 2018 event and he used that experience to win in 2019. “It is a completely different kind of format than I normally race. You race four times during the day with high intensity. And the main event is so difficult because the pace is so high. I liked the loops but it is much hotter and more humidity than I am used to from home so it makes it very challenging. I was happy to have a comfy lead at the end of the final race so I could back off a little.”

Roman finished third in the 2017 and 2018 TKO events and improved to second this year. “I think I am getting more experience year by year in this race. This is a special kind of race because you have a couple of hours in the morning just to qualify and then the main one is thirty minutes with high intensity and high humidity. I didn’t have time to prepare much because we just came from Romaniacs. Letti was no mistakes and he was gone after I battle with Colton and Wade in the beginning but I am happy to improve and have a good result with the help of Sherco USA.”

Young had a pretty serious foot injury that forced the defending Romiacs champion to pull out of this year’s event. But he was here in the USA for his third attempt at the TKO. “I didn’t feel so well on the bike this morning since I just got back on the bike when I arrived in the USA. But by the third round, I was starting to feel really good but when the final came around, my fitness was not so good due to my time off the bike. So I was not able to battle for the win but overall, I am happy, I would have liked to battle for first but this was the best I could do with the time off.

The Women’s class had a total of 14 riders that tried to earn a spot in the main event by completing the morning race within the two and a half-hour time limit and ten of those riders moved forward to the main with three of the women finishing within the top forty overall among the 242 riders. Beta’s Rachel Gutish took her third TKO win with a dominant performance. Shelby Turner and Nicole Bradford both had minor mishaps in the first few corners that put them behind but they rebounded to finish second and third respectively.

2019 Kenda Tennessee, Knockout Main Event Results

  1. Manuel Lettenbichler, KTM
  2. Mario Roman, Sherco
  3. Wade Young, Sherco
  4. Colton Haaker, Husqvarna
  5. Trystan Hart, KTM
  6. Ben Kelley, KTM
  7. Ricky Russell, Yamaha
  8. Max Gerston, Beta
  9. Grant Baylor, KTM
  10. Ronnie Commo, KTM
  11. Quinn Wentzel, Husqvarna
  12. Nick Fahringer, Sherco
  13. Mitch Carvolth, Sherco
  14. Liam Draper, KTM
  15. Nate Smith, Husqvarna

Detailed results can be found here.

Keep an eye on this TKO blog for a video recap within a few days.

RPM KTM Confirms Hart and Wilton for 2019 Kenda Tennessee Knockout

The FMF/Maxxis/RPM KTM Racing Team (@rpmracingteam) has confirmed that Trystan Hart (@trystanhart_84) and Spenser Wilton (@spenserwilton17) will be racing at the 2019 Kenda Tennessee Knockout. The two Canadian riders are among the top Extreme racers in North America and will be expected to earn top finishes at the TKO. The ninth annual TKO will take place at the Trials Training Center, in Sequatchie Tennessee on the weekend of August 16-18.

Trystan Hart was the top placed North American rider at the 2019 Erzberg Hare Scramble and is capable of contending for the TKO win. Photo: Drew Ruiz
Trystan Hart. Photo by Drew Ruiz

Hart is the 2018 AMA Western Hare Scrambles champion and has been one of the top EnduroCross riders for the past couple of years. 2017 was Hart’s best season so far as he finished second overall to Cody Webb in the AMA EnduroCross championship and earned the junior class championship for riders twenty-one and under. He started the 2018 EnduroCross season off strong, including a last-lap pass on Cody Webb at the California event to steal second place but unfortunately suffered a wrist injury that took him out of the remainder of the season. Hart was the top North American rider at the 2019 Erzberg Hare Scramble in fourteenth place so don’t be surprised to see him competing for the TKO win.

Spenser Wilton has been climbing the ranks among the top off-road racers in North America and won the WORCS Pro 2 light championship in 2018. Photo: Drew Ruiz
Spenser Wilton. photo by Drew Ruiz

Wilton won the 2018 WORCS Pro 2 lights championship on his RPM KTM. The youngster has several top finishes in major US and Canadian off-road events to his credit already and will be aiming to use the experience gained in his first TKO appearance last year to move further up in the standings.