photos by Jonty Edmunds/ktm
Graham Jarvis has become the most successful rider ever at the infamous Hell’s Gate Hard Enduro event. Delivering a dominant performance to secure victory at the 10th running of the race, Jarvis notched up a third consecutive win finishing comfortably ahead of Jonny Walker with Cody Webb third.
For the first time in the 10-year history of the event the Italian mountains were covered in deep snow, something that provided riders with additional challenges. With the course eased a little due to the adverse conditions the four lap main race ended with Husaberg the only manufacturer to see two of its riders make it to the top of Hell’s Peak – the arduous final climb of the race.
Placing second in the morning’s qualifying event Jarvis finished just 15 seconds behind winner Jonny Walker, ensuring a front row position for the all-important main event. Doing his best to preserve his energy, Jarvis managed to post the fastest time on the third and final special test. With thick snow covering much of the course the morning race proved to be anything but easy.
Intent on remaining behind Walker during the opening lap of the main event Jarvis found himself leading the race a little sooner than he’d hoped. Forced to carve a line through the snow in numerous sections of the course, Jarvis was nevertheless able to power his way up the many rocky river beds and in doing so instantly started to pull away from his rivals.
“I was happy to follow Jonny from the start of the main race,” explained Graham shortly after his podium celebrations. “I was riding behind him ok and in no hurry to pass him, but he made a mistake and I went to the front of the race. It was hard because I was putting in the line in the snow. The rivers were surprisingly grippy, which is where I think I managed to make my time. In the snow you just had to try and keep things in a straight line, you couldn’t push hard at all.”
Initially a five-lap race the organiser’s decision to reduce it to four laps was met by relief from the competitors. Continuing to push hard Jarvis held a commanding lead at the end of the second lap, stopping briefly to refuel before once again attacking the course. Crashing just once, Jarvis, who earlier this year topped The Tough One, maintained his relentless pace to start the final lap all but assured of the win.
With darkness beginning to fall as Graham arrived at the base of the final climb it took two attempts for the Husaberg TE 300 mounted rider to get close to the half way point of the climb. Pushed, pulled, and dragged upwards by the enthusiastic group of spectators gathered close to the finish, Jarvis finally reached the end of the race 12 minutes ahead of second placed Walker and clearly overjoyed to have claimed yet another Hell’s Gate win.
“It’s an incredible feeling to have won at Hell’s Gate for the third time. I really wasn’t expecting it and because of the conditions I didn’t know how things would work out, or how the other riders would do. Once I got into the lead everything went really well. The morning race was quite hard. The snow meant that some of the easier sections of the track from previous years were really tough, it also meant that I used a bit more energy than I hoped to. Jonny Walker was fast, like I expected him to be, but finishing second and not too far behind was good. “
I had two goes at the final hill and didn’t even get anywhere near half way. I was screaming to the spectators to start pulling me because I’ve lost the race on the last hill before. It seemed to take forever to get to the top but once I got a rope on my bike I knew I was safe. It’s a great achievement to have three wins, but I hope I can add to that. I’ve really enjoyed the race this year and will be back next year.”
Joining Graham as one of only five riders to reach the finish having completed four laps was Alfredo Gomez. Failing to qualify for the main event in 2012, Alfredo delivered a highly impressive performance on his second visit to the event. Despite being the least experienced rider of all the finishers the young Spaniard quickly adapted to the conditions, yet placed a disappointing 13th in the morning’s qualifying race.
Crashing heavily Gomez ended the qualifying race more than a little de-tuned, and knowing that he would have his work cut out during the main event. Struggling to pass riders on the largely one-lined track following a good start Alfredo kept pushing as hard as he could in the main event, steadily working his way up the leader board.
Crashing once more, and in doing so bending his front brake disk, Gomez continued to charge. Passing Ben Hemingway during the closing stages of the race Alfredo then set about catching Cody Webb. Reducing the deficit to the US rider by more than three minutes on the final lap Alfredo simply ran out of time to challenge for a possible podium result, arriving at the finish at the top of Hell’s Peak a little over four minutes adrift of third.
“I didn’t have a good morning race, but I am really pleased that I was able to finish fourth in the main event,” commented Gomez at the finish. “I crashed heavily on the second test and didn’t have a good feeling after that. I finished 13th, which meant I didn’t have a good position for the start of the main race. “
“It was so hard to overtake the riders that were ahead of me in the main race. There was one line around the track and on both sides there was snow. I had a stupid crash as I was passing Andreas Lettenbichler and bent my front brake – some times it worked, some times it didn’t. But I kept pushing as hard as I could. “
“When I passed Ben Hemmingway I was 11-and-a-half minutes behind Cody Webb but at the finish I had reduced that by more than three minutes. I was very pleased about that. I am happy with my result, apart from the morning race. Last year I didn’t qualify for the main race so this year, despite not racing in snow before, I am very happy.”
The Husaberg Extreme Team’s third member Xavi Galindo endured a tough main event, completing two laps. Placing 13th overall in the morning’s qualifying race having placed 22nd, 16th and 13th on each of the three timed special tests, Xavi battled his way around the opening lap of the main event but simply ran out of strength. “I was destroyed at the end of the first lap of the final race,” acknowledged Xavi. “I knew that this race would be difficult for me, but as a team it’s been great. With Graham winning and Alfredo coming very close to the podium it’s been fantastic.”
Jonny Walker has claimed a hard fought runner-up result at the 10th running of the Hell’s Gate Hard Enduro event in Italy, despite sickness prior to the race resulting in the KTM rider reaching the finish of the four-lap main event exhausted and barely able to stand. Winning the morning’s qualifying enduro, Jonny went on to lead the main event during the early stages before eventually securing a second consecutive runner-up result.
With heavy snow falling during the lead up to the race, the 10th running of the Italian classic was in many ways the most challenging. Despite the course being eased slightly the deep snow that covered the tracks and trails ensured few riders made it to the end of the morning’s qualifying race without falling. For Jonny the morning race went extremely well, as the KTM mounted rider secured the win ahead of Graham Jarvis and Cody Webb.
Leading from the start of the main race a crash half way around the opening lap dropped Jonny to third. Soon back in the runner-up position it wasn’t long before his pre-event sickness started to take its toll as he began to struggle during the third and fourth laps. Falling on numerous occasions Jonny finally found his rhythm on the penultimate lap, going on to claim a well-deserved runner-up result.
Jonny Walker (KTM 300 EXC): “It’s been a tough race for me, but I’m really pleased to have finished as runner-up. I was sick this week and half way through the final lap I hit the wall. I had absolutely no energy left and started seeing double at times. I knew Cody wasn’t too far behind me so I couldn’t ease off – I can’t believe I managed to hold on the second. The morning race went well for me. It wasn’t too hard, despite the deep snow, and was quite high-speed. I enjoyed it and topped the results, which was good as it gave me the first starting spot for the main race. I got the holeshot and led for a while but then made a mistake in one of the river beds. Graham and Cody both came passed me, I crashed so many times after that. It seemed that I was off the bike more than I was on it during the first two laps. I just couldn’t get into any rhythm, but on the third lap I pushed hard and started to ride well. About a quarter of the way around the last lap I was done, my eyes started going funny and I had no strength. But I knew Cody was close behind so I just kept pushing. The final hill was crazy – I didn’t really know what was going on. But I managed to get to the top and get the runner-up result. I was exhausted when I got to the top of the last hill, but considering I was ill before the race I’m really happy to have got another podium result.”