The Tennessee Knock Out Hard Enduro 2016
Tennessee is home to several well-known motorcycle locations and events. Roads such as the Cherohala Skyway and the Dragon are nestled in the hills here as well as Loretta Lynn's Ranch, a place utterly steeped in motorcycle motorsports history. The Tennessee Knockout hard enduro race, or TKO, is another one of those events. Some of the most highly skilled and respected riders in off-road racing show up from all over the world in order to give this brutal race a go. The course, complete with boulder gardens, steep hill climbs and gigantic logs, is located in Sequatchie Tennessee at the Trials Training Center. The course is not the only thing that's brutal... The competitors race in three consecutive rounds and a final. Each round riders are knocked out, narrowing the starting grid of fifty-five to just fifteen. The fifteen riders left at the end compete in a half hour sprint over some of the roughest terrain in Tennessee. Naturally, all that is done on Sunday after the riders have to qualify on Saturday.
Cody Webb, who recently took second place at the legendary 2016 Erzberg Rodeo, had a great day and took first place for his fourth consecutive TKO win after lapping the entire group during the final. Wade Young of South Africa, a trials champ but a relative newcomer to hard enduro, took an amazing second. Young broke a clutch perch in a fall during the second lap and was forced to return to the pit area for repairs on his factory Sherco, subsequently falling to the back of the pack. Kyle Redmond took third on his Beta. Redmond was running in second for a short time but could not hold off Young's relentless charge back to the front. Even without the breakage however, Young would not have caught Cody Webb, who had managed to build up a significant lead on his FMF KTM even before Young crashed.
Though it's possibly less known than the roads and races, Tennessee is known by locals for its sporadic mountain weather in certain regions, often saying, "don't like the weather? Hang on little bit and it'll change…" - The weather reinforced this adage on Sunday, with a strong summer shower blowing through during the second knockout round that watered the boulder gardens and turned the loose dirt hill climbs into sloppy mud accents. The shower, that couldn't have lasted half an hour, completely transformed the course. Correct lines through the brutal terrain were suddenly morphed into a cascading mudslides that were impassable to anyone except for the front runners, a few of whom, danced through as though it had never rained. It was fascinating to see how the course changed throughout the day as riders chose different lines during the race. The Tennessee Knock Out definitely earns its classification as an Extreme Enduro. Some of the competitors were so tired it looked as if they could barely hang on to the handlebars as they navigated the brutal terrain.
A high point of the TKO is that the course is planned so that spectators can quickly walk to technical sections to watch the race. Spectators have been watching Cody Webb dominate the TKO for the last four years. So when rumors surfaced that Hard Enduro and trials ridding world champion, Graham Jarvis was going to be in attendance we figured we were in for a real treat by getting to see which of the two trials stars could tackle the Knock Out fastest. However, Jarvis did not end up racing the Knock Out. The TKO was not on his original schedule and he was not able to work out the details with his team in time to race this year. We will have to wait and see if Jarvis competes in the 2017 TKO where Webb will no doubt be gunning for his fifth Knock Out win in a row.