2017 Kenda Tennessee Knockout Hard Enduro
The seventh annual Kenda Tennessee Knock Out Hard Enduro is, as you’d expect from a Hard Enduro, an utterly grueling test of man and machine that takes place at the Trials Training Center in Sequatchie, TN. The race was created by the owner of Trials Training Center, Dan Brown. The TKO, much like the other Hard Enduros, has its own unique twist. It’s set up as a multi-day, multi-heat race where the top riders in each heat advance on to the next round of racing. The rounds vary in length and in configuration. Racers compete against the clock in some rounds and race head to head in others. The courses are all extremely technical and are designed to find each rider’s weak point. Saturday, amateur racers compete for a chance to move on to the pro races on Sunday.
Last year, the trials and hard enduro champion, Graham Jarvis, didn’t compete in the Knockout. This year, however, the 42-year-old off-road riding legend came out swinging, letting Cody Webb, the four-time defending TKO champion, know he’d have his work cut out for him. Jarvis’s riding, like the other pros, was a treat to watch. The lead riders made the technical obstacles and rough sections appear simple, hardly kicking up any roost when traversing chest-height obstacles and ascending steep hill climbs. In the end, the race for first was between Webb and Jarvis. Jarvis pushed Webb hard all day, and momentarily took the lead a few times but couldn’t quite hold off Webb’s consistently blistering pace. By the end of the race, Webb had established a substantial lead. Webb even lapped the third-place rider, Mario Roman, in the final heat before finishing strong to secure his fifth consecutive win of the Tennessee Knock out.
Obviously, the pre-qualified professional riders are astonishing to watch – Similar to attending an air show and seeing the talent seemingly ooze out of the aircraft as the pilots execute close to impossible maneuvers. However, the amateur riders who show up without factory sponsorships and give it their all, deserve an honorary mention. The top amateur riders that made it all the way to the finish on Sunday had ridden six different extremely difficult races and had demonstrated amazing physical and mental fortitude. Riders could be seen on the side of the course, stopping to take breaks, temporarily surrendering to the utter physical exhaustion induced by two days of extremely technical race-paced riding in the humid August heat. A few of the riders were lucky enough to stop next to spectators willing to empty water bottles on them.
One of the greatest aspects of Hard Enduro, aside from the intoxicating smell of two-stroke exhaust and epic display of endurance, is that amateurs have a chance to race alongside professional riders. This is a feature that’s very rare in any competitive sport and even more so in motorsport. The TKO is no different. Of the over two hundred amateur riders that race on Saturday, the top twenty-five riders earn the opportunity to move on to the pro Sunday races where they test their skill against some of the best off-road riders in the world. This, combined with the fact that the courses are designed so spectators can easily access difficult sections, explains why the event’s fanbase seems to be experiencing consistent growth from year to year. If you can make it to the 2018 installment of the TKO, I encourage you to do so. Come out and support this amazing sport and its world-class athletes – you’ll be glad you did!