Lettenbichler claims his first Red Bull Erzbergrodeo title seven years after his father Andreas achieved the same feat. The duo are now the only father/son combo to have won the revered Austrian hard enduro race.
Manuel Lettenbichler of Germany has beaten 1,200 competitors and a mountain called the Iron Giant to triumph at the 26th edition of Austria’s iconic Red Bull Erzbergrodeo. Of the 500 riders who qualified for Sunday’s main event, just eight mastered the 35.2km course within the four-hour time limit, with Lettenbichler leading the whole way. In second place was Spanish rider Mario Roman, with Canada’s Trystan Hart third.
Held in the Austrian mining town of Eisenerz and first launched in 1995, the Red Bull Erzbergrodeo is a holy grail for hard enduro riders and takes place around the gravity-defying Erzberg mountain, a functioning mine producing more than two million tons of iron ore per year.
The Iron Giant is also the world’s largest human-made pyramid, creating an unrivalled challenge in offroad motorsport. After a three-year wait since the last edition in 2019, thousands of riders – a mix of amateurs and professionals – made the pilgrimage back to the Red Bull Erzbergrodeo to try and master the race, which is the centerpiece of a four-day hard enduro festival that draws tens of thousands of fans.
In one of the toughest editions ever, Lettenbichler battled against the mountain and runner up Roman for two hours, 58 minutes, the only rider to finish under three-hours. Riders had a total of four-hours to complete the course, made up of 27 arduous checkpoints. Lettenbichler described the “unbelievable” feeling he had at checkpoint 26 out of 27, knowing that victory was his.
“When I cleared Lazy Noon, I was like ‘oh man, how sick is this’, Lettenbichler said.
“Literally the last push wasn’t too difficult, and it was an unbelievable feeling. I’ve been on the go for a couple of years and now to win it, I’m over the moon.
“It means so much that both my dad and I have won this race. Probably for the next couple of years not many people will do that, it’s such a cool story.”
Lettenbichler’s win wasn’t without challenges, as he struggled through checkpoint 22, named ‘Highway’, paving the way for his rivals, and allowing Roman to draw close.
“The Highway almost killed me. I was the first guy in there and there were literally no lines [to ride], I had to dig some lines and put some trees up, because it was really difficult, and I made it a little bit easier for the rest. The race almost killed me in this point, I was so done afterwards,” Lettenbichler concluded.
In comparison to Lettenbichler’s start to finish win, second placed Roman produced a fightback after falling backward at the mass start, which saw the first 50 riders released into the race at once. The Spaniard drew within meters of Lettenbichler in the closing stages but couldn’t overhaul his rival in a race he described as the “hardest edition ever”.
“It was super tough, I had a miss at the start with crazy dust and I started to lose a lot of positions, about 20 or so. Then I tried to take it easy and do my own pace and I started to over-pass one-by-one. Then I was watching the leader, who was maybe 20-meters away, but second place was all I could do,” Roman conceded.
“The toughest thing today was finding surprises because we walked the track, we thought that we knew all the sections, but then when we were riding, we didn’t recognize some new sections. That was hard because we couldn’t find the good lines and that was difficult for the first riders.
“I think for sure this was the hardest edition ever, even if only one year there were only five people that finished, I would say that today not many people will get to the finish in time.”
This year’s race marked the first time that the famed event was part of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship. Of the 1,200 contenders that lined up for the qualifying prologue, only a small portion were professionals chasing the world championship, the rest amateurs. The prologue narrowed the field to 500 qualifiers for the start of Sunday’s main race. In 2022 just eight riders saw the finish line, all of them professional.
Among the finishers was Michael Walkner, who was the only Austrian to finish his home event. South Africa’s Matthew Green was the final rider across the line, the 20-year-old was the only FIM Junior Championship rider to see the chequered flag.
The hard luck story of the day was five-time Red Bull Erzbergrodeo winner Graham Jarvis (GBR), who encountered mechanical problems that saw him stranded on the start line for an hour. Despite the 47-year-old veteran making his way through 21 of the 27 checkpoints in the time he had left, he was unable to finish within the time limit.
The FIM Hard Enduro World Championship now moves to Italy for Red Bull Abestone from July 9-10.
2022 Red Bull Erzbergrodeo finishers:
1. Manuel Lettenbichler (GER) – 2:58:51
2. Mario Roman (ESP) – 3:02:17
3. Trystan Hart (CAN) – 3:11:53
4. Billy Bolt (GBR) – 3:18:25
5. Alfredo Gomez (ESP) – 3:20:30
6. Michael Walkner (AUT) – 3:40:32
7. Wade Young (ZAF) – 3:55:13
8. Matthew Green (ZAF) – 3:55:54
Watch the replay of Red Bull Erzbergrodeo, on demand, on Red Bull TV.
Red Bull Erzbergrodeo Press/Media-Service