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Don Boespflug’s 2011 Erzberg Rodeo Experience
A couple of weeks ago when I was looking at the results from Erzberg, I started looking to see where the American riders finished. Don was the top placing rider, but I had never heard of him, so I sent out a call to see if we could get in touch with Don. Here is his story – Chilly
Racing the 2011 Erzberg Rodeo
By Ben Baucum
In 2010, Don Boespflug competed in his first Erzberg Rodeo. The Washington native has only been riding off-road for a couple years but has raced pro motocross since the late 1980’s. He caught extreme fever a few years ago and dedicated himself to making the event. His blistering prologue pace during the last year’s qualifying earned him a seat on the front row, a coveted position reserved for the top 50 out of some 1,800 competitors. Sadly, his race ended when a large rock took out his clutch cover in the brutal section know as “Carl’s Diner”.
Since his ride at Erzberg last year, he has raced Baja and several regional events to keep his competitive edge. With one more year of wisdom in the bag, Don’s 2011 Erzberg was quite a different experience. I got the chance to talk with Don a little about his race:
Leading up to the 2010 Erzberg Rodeo you worked out a lot, but were exhausted at the end of the race. How did your modify your training?
“I worked on cardio more than I did strength. Last year I worked on muscle building and getting as strong as I could. This year I focused on being in the best overall shape”.
You rode a KTM 300 last year. What did you ride in 2011 and how did you set it up?
“I stuck with the KTM 300 this year. My bike setup was pretty much the same. I added a bit more protective stuff. I put on a carbon fiber clutch cover protector. Last year I put a hole through that side and lost all the transmission oil and I didn’t want that to happen this year. I ran a little bit different setup on tires and tubes as well. GoldenTyre rubber with a moose in the rear and a HD tube in the front. I also ran a Rekluse this year, same as last year”.
The “Rocket Ride” is a series of three rocky hill climbs. It has no influence on where you start during the hare scrambles, but is more of a side attraction and a pretty good way to practice. After two runs, the top 50 get to race up the three-tiered rock hill in a moto format (gate drop and all).
How was your Rocket Ride?
“The Rocket Ride went well. There was, if I recall correctly, 500 spots available and I only made one pass, one qualifying run. I took 13th on the first run and didn’t do the second qualifier or the race. I was out doing other stuff that I thought was more important to prepare for the hare scrambles. The year before I was the first one up, and I really wanted to see someone else do it before me. I decided to go slow over the jump at the base of the last hill and it screwed me up at the top. This year I held it open and jumped into the face of the uphill. My suspension totally bottomed out and I was a little out of control, but it was faster than rolling it”.
The Prologue is a timed event that determines where you line up during the hare scrambles (or if you qualify at all). How did you feel about your Prologue ride?
“The Prologue was a little tougher this year than last year. There was I think 1,040 people this year and I qualified 46th on my first run. I had a couple corners that I missed and cost me about 15 seconds between the two of them, which would have put me in the top 20. That is what it looked like on the score sheet. But other than that, I didn’t crash and I didn’t get hurt. As long as I qualified front row that’s all I was looking for”.
Last year’s Prologue was roughly 9 miles. How long (distance) was it this year compared to last?
“It was the same as last time. It took a little longer. It was rougher with a lot more rocks. They took a lot of the long straightaways out and put piles of rocks in the way to where you had to weave in and out of them. That was a little frustrating, because I like more of the high speed stuff”.
How was your second run?
“It was raining for my second run and very wet and extremely rough. I rode harder, but actually lost 8 seconds compared to my first run. You get to keep the best of the two runs and that’s where you’re ranked”.
The weather didn’t cooperate as well as it did last year. When did it start raining?
“Well, it was raining off and on the entire time. I was there for a week. We’d go out riding a couple hours and it would be nice then it would dump. But when it stops, it dries up pretty fast. It’s all rock and gravel so when it stops raining for an hour it evaporates or drains away”.
What was your strategy on race day?
“My strategy was to save my energy and not go in with the mentality of blitzing the sections and going for broke. I was going to try to finesse each section and get through it with the least amount of complications”.
How did that work out?
“It went well, other than getting stuck behind some people that jammed us up. Then more people came up crammed things up even more. But the bike survived with very little damage at the end of the race this year compared to last year. So I’m learning things every year”.
What was the biggest trouble spot for you?
“Definitely the woods, when we got to the woods it was raining. Under the trees is dirt, not rock, so it was extremely slick and the sections are just not rideable. You have to have some assistance in areas. If you don’t have help then other people start catching up to you from the rows behind and it becomes a huge traffic jam”.
How many sections were like that?
“In the woods there were three areas that I can remember that were really tough. You probably wouldn’t need as much help if people weren’t stuck all over the trails. I couldn’t get up these areas because of the jam, so you’d try to go up side hills around them, which was a mess. Then there was one more section right before the 12th checkpoint called Machine. I was making it up myself on that one this year. Last year I needed help. This year I was about 30 feet from the top when we ran out of time. I could have cleared that one had I had more time and that was the last “help” section of the race”.
What worked well for you?
“My fitness level was great. By the end, I wasn’t even tired. The bike held up too”.
What is your strategy for competing in the 2012 Erzberg Rodeo?
“I plan on stepping up my aggression. I was lining up behind the guys in front of me where there was a jam, sort of waiting my turn, then the next wave of guys would push in and mess things up even worse. Then there were no runs at anything. It was very frustrating just sitting there. So next year… no waiting, just go! Also, I would like to get more help in the woods.
Don was in 78th place when race time expired. He finished as the highest ranked US rider. His day ended 30 feet before the 12th checkpoint on the last help section of the day. Don is not at all content with his performance and is highly motivated to improve next year. He is a man on a mission to conquer Erzberg.