SA's De Wet tackles the Erzberg Rodeo

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IOL mot pic jun11 Altus De Wet Erzberg 1

Andreea Aleandru

A very happy Altus de Wet at the finish line with route director Karl Katoch.

Eisenerz, Austria - Altus de Wet from Montagu, northeast of Cape Town, has tried three times before to beat the 'Iron Giant' - the Erzberg Rodeo, arguably the toughest one-day extreme enduro race on the planet - without success.

Let's put that in perspective: each year 1500 entrants are allowed to start the Prologue; the first 500 to finish qualify for the four-hour Harescramble.

In 2014 - which was apparently an 'easy' year - 31 of those 500 made the finish. The previous year, when it snowed the night before the main event, just 11 riders completed the course within the time limit.

Each of the 1500 entrants had two chances to post their best time during the Prologue and each was trying for one of just 50 front-row spots for the start of the Harescramble.

De Wet picked up not one but two flat tyres on his first run and qualified 58th - not good enough for a front-row start, but he knew that it was almost impossible to post a better time on Day 2 because the short (about 13 kilometres this year) Prologue course would have deteriorated badly due to so many motorcycles and quads having ridden it.

So he tried a different approach and qualified 22nd, nailing down a place on the front row, along with Husqvarna team-mate Blake Gutzeit.

THE RACE

De Wet said afterwards: "The first 10 kays were probably the most difficult - a mad dash up the first steep hill, fighting your way open all the time.

"You almost forgot how to race properly. Only when it opened up and you could apply your own riding style, did it get a bit better.

“But by then I had water leaking from the gasket; I had to stop quite a few times to fill it up - and each time many riders would pass me again.

"That," he recalled with studied understatement, "was quite frustrating."

Eventually he stopped and repaired the leak properly, and didn't pick up any more problems other than an extremely rocky section called Carl's Diner.

"The sections in the plantations at the beginning and end of the race were extremely difficult," De Wet explained, "because the course was wet and slippery, with lots of logs and tree roots.

"I was thankful for each pair of hands that helped me along the way," he added, admitting that no rider can complete this race without help.

Gutzeit and De Wet came home 16th and 24th respectively out of 31 finishers - which still places them among the top two percent of the world's extreme enduro riders.

WITHOUT WHOM…

De Wet said: "A special thank-you to Alex and Doris Schmidt of Eisenerz, who have became our friends and supporters over the past four years - and my friend and mechanic, Shaun Duckham, who took time away from his family to crew for me at Erzberg."

Next up will be the aptly-named Romaniacs - a five-day torture test of man and machine in the Carpathian mountains of Romania. De Wet will tackle this event for the third time


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