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.