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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
FMF KTM Factory Racing-backed Cody Webb (@codywebb2) won his sixth straight Kenda Tennessee Knockout despite a recent injury and stacked field of talented riders from around the world. After four rounds of racing that added up to nearly three hours, Germany’s Manuel “Manni” Lettenbichler (@m_letti304) finished second on a KTM and Spain’s Mario Roman (@marioroman74) rounded out the podium on his Sherco.
The multi-round Tennessee Knockout started with 262 Amateur entries competing on Saturday in a two-race format that allowed the top thirty riders to move forward to compete in the four round Sunday competition that included thirty-one pre-qualified pro riders. That pre-qualified list included the top North American and International Extreme Enduro racers. Hawaii’s Kekoa Estrella took the Amateur win to earn the AMA Amateur Extreme Enduro Grand National Championship and move forward to Sunday.
The Sunday morning program started with a Hot Lap on a mile long “short course” and Webb started the day off with a 4:33 lap to earn the first starting position for the next Knockout round. Wade Young, the 2018 Red Bull Romaniacs winner, set the second fastest time at 4:43. Lettenbichler got off to a good start with the third fastest time at 5:12. Roman had the fourth fastest time at 5:26. Husqvarna’s Colton Haaker was rounded the time five with a 6:06 lap.
The second round sent the riders out on a fourteen-mile loop in thirty second intervals, based on the hot lap times. Young and Lettenbichler erased their gaps to Webb and the three riders battled closely for several miles before Young finally opened the gap in the last few miles. Young set the fastest time at 1:08:54. Lettenbichler was second fastest at 1:09:30 and Webb was third at 1:10:20. Roman set the fourth fastest time at 1:15:47 and Austria’s Lars Enockl was fifth at 1:19:57. Only the fastest twenty-six riders moved on to round three and the remaining riders were knocked out of the competition.
Round three switched from the riders racing the track against the clock to a multi-rider head-to-head format. The fastest twenty-five riders were split into five groups of five and a 26th rider was added to group six as the LCQ alternate. The straight-line LCQ competition was not held due to race one taking longer than expected due to the difficult course. Haaker, Lettenbichler, Webb, Roman and Enockl won their respective groups to earn front row starting positions. The second and third place finishers in each group also moved on to the fifteen-rider main event.
The main event moved back to the short course and would be a 30-minute plus one lap battle, which ended up taking 41 minutes and 31 seconds for Webb to complete. Haaker jumped into the lead off the start and led the field into the woods and held that spot until he struggled to make it up a tough climb exiting the water fall that would prove to be one of the most challenging obstacles for all the riders. Webb capitalized on Haaker’s mistake to take the lead and quickly opened a small gap on the field. Roman and Young were not far behind as they completed the first lap while Haaker and Lettenbichler were another 20 plus seconds back in fourth and fifth. On lap two, Young and Haaker struggled again on the same hill allowing Lettenbichler to pass both of them and Young also passed Haaker in the melee.
The top five remained the same for several laps with Roman closing in on Webb. At the halfway point, Roman began to fall back from Webb and Lettenbichler ended up passing him for second on lap five of seven. This ended up setting the final top five results, with Webb finishing 1:28 ahead of Lettenbichler. Roman was 2:15 behind the leader and Young ended up finishing fourth, 5:17 back. Haaker went a lap down on the final lap but held fifth.
Webb broke his foot at Erzberg in June, so he had limited preparation for this event. “I was definitely worried, especially with all the competition coming over from Europe,” Webb said. “Some of Hard Enduro’s biggest hitters came over here and I had eight weeks of couch surfing and only eight days on the bike since my injury so I was happy to get another win. I kind of conserved some energy in those early races and I think that helped me for the main, but I still felt like I was going to die out there.”
Lettenbichler, the twenty-year-old German who has had great season, including podium finishes at Erzberg and Romaniacs was impressive in his first TKO visit. “It was a nice event, I really enjoyed it, the main event was super gnarly with the slippery rocks and humidity, it is not like this in Germany,” Lettenbichler said. “I am super proud of second place and I passed Mario a few laps from the end, so I am stoked about that.”
Roman finished third at the TKO for the second consecutive year. “I came here with more preparation because last year I suffered a lot, so I prepared more for the short, sprint main event,” Roman said. “I have to thank Sherco USA and the friends I met last year for helping me for this event.”
Team SRT-Husqvarna backed Trystan Hart had a pretty quiet day to finish sixth in his first ever TKO. Enockl finished seventh on his GasGas. Tennessee’s Jordan Ashburn finished eighth on his Beta. Ben Kelley took ninth on his Trail Jesters KTM and Chris Satterfield rounded out the top ten on his KTM.
Benjamin Herrera Ried, from Chile finished eleventh on a Beta. Casey Satterfield (Chris’s brother), finished twelfth on a KTM. Quinn Wentzel rode a Husqvarna to finish thirteenth. Grayson Gonsalves rode another Husqvarna to fourteenth and Chuck DeLullo, a former GNCC ATV Champion rounded out the top fifteen.
Beta’s Rachel Gutish (@rachel_gutfish) took the Saturday Women’s class win ahead of Nikki Russell and Allie Dorsey. The women put on an exciting race for the fans as the technical obstacles challenged the riders, but they proved to be incredibly resilient.
2018 Kenda Tennessee Knockout Main Event Results:
Cody Webb, KTM
Manuel Lettenbichler, KTM
Mario Roman, Sherco
Wade Young, Sherco
Colton Haaker, Husqvarna
Trystan Hart, Husqvarna
Lars Enockl, GasGas
Jordan Ashburn, Beta
Ben Kelley, KTM
Chris Satterfield, KTM
Benjamin Herrera Ried, Beta
Casey Satterfield, Husqvarna
Quinn Wentzel, Husqvarna
Grayson Gonsalves, Husqvarna
Chuck DeLullo, Husqvarna
Keep an eye here on the TKO blog for a video recap within a few days.
Sherco has confirmed that both Wade Young (@wadeyoung55) and Mario Roman (@marioroman74) will be competing at the 2018 Kenda Tennessee Knockout on August 19th. Both riders are past podium finishers at the TKO and will be a serious threat to take the win.
Young just won the 2018 Red Bull Romaniacs event, arguably one of the toughest Extreme Enduro events in the world. The South African, who is still just twenty-two years old, has previously won the Hells Gate Enduro in Italy and has won the tough multi-day Roof of Africa in his home country two times. Young finished second to Cody Webb at the 2016 TKO and will be gunning for the top step this time around.
Roman transitioned from traditional Enduro to Extreme Enduro racing a few years ago and already has a few major wins to his credit including Ales’Trem and Hells Gate. The Spanish rider made a last-minute decision to compete at the TKO last year and joined Cody Webb and Graham Jarvis on the podium with a third-place finish. He too will be back looking to apply what he learned last year to earn the win.
Look for more top riders to be confirmed in the coming weeks.