Denver’s Western Events Center was witness to a spectacular EnduroCross battle as Husqvarna’s Colton Haaker took a tough-fought victory over series rival Cody Webb with a second-to-last-lap pass on a long, technical and demanding course. KTM’s Cody Webb led nearly every lap up to the point of the deciding pass and the duo was so fast they lapped third-place finisher, Beta’s Max Gerston before the checkers. The podium was Gerston’s first of the year.
Haaker was the only racer in the top three who won his heat race earlier in the evening, giving him an additional bonus point on the championship. The other heat race victories went to Haaker’s Husqvarna teammate Mike Brown and RPM KTM’s Ty Tremaine—the first heat race win of his career.
Haaker backed up his early evening win with a blistering time in the evening hot lap—a one-lap sprint against the clock for an additional bonus point and first gate pick for the main.
Cody Webb’s night didn’t start as smoothly. The two-time defending champ hit the deck, hard, in the first few feet of his heat race. He was bruised but not broken and managed to fight his way into second to get into the main. Gerston finished second in his heat race behind Tremaine.
When the main event gate dropped, Haaker took his momentum straight to the first corner and the $500 Nexen Tire Holeshot award and an early lead. The speedy points leader looked like he wanted to run away. Close behind was Brown with Webb following in third. By the time the group was finishing the first lap, the treacherous matrix showed its teeth and grabbed Haaker, allowing Webb to move into the lead with Brown coming out in third.
In the first few laps it became clear Webb was clearing the track’s obstacles more cleanly and consistently than the rest of the field. Haaker was fast, as usual, but the nasty matrix was his nemesis and slowed him numerous times as he fought to gain ground on the defending champion. At one point, Webb made a mistake on the large tractor tires, hitting his kill switch with his hip and actually going backwards down the tires to make another attempt. Haaker closed the gap and was poised to make a move only to have the matrix stop him again.
During laps two through fourteen, Webb and Haaker held their one-two position and simply decimated the rest of the field, lapping third place in the process. It wasn’t until the second-to-last lap that Haaker was once again in position to make a move and Webb left the door wide open. After the firewood pile, Webb wasn’t cleanly jumping into a corner where Haaker was. On lap 14, Webb went extra wide into the corner after getting off-line through the firewood. The stumble and extra room in the corner was all Haaker needed to put a wheel in and secure the first-place position. From there, the 2016 points leader raced to the finish Webb would give it all he had to finish a close second with Gerston a lap down in third.
“This one was hard,” Haaker said. “I kept messing up the matrix and Cody was nailing it. Soon, I got over making mistakes in the beginning and started racing smoother and kept on it through lappers. Then, Webb had a mistake after the firewood and I got in there. I just needed to get in front on the last lap and I’m glad I made it happen.”
“It was a great race here in Denver,” Webb said. “Honestly, it was a rough day for me after going down really hard in the heat race and had to ice both my wrists, my shoulder and tailbone and take some advil to get out here. I got an ok start in the main and knew I was nailing the matrix so when Brown and Haaker had trouble in there I made it to the front. It was really crucial to jump out of the firewood tonight and I just couldn’t quite commit while I was in the lead. I knew right away Haaker jumped it and had a line on me for the lead. I was riding at the top of my game and know I could have had it tonight. After the two-week break I know I’ll be ready to be back.”
“I am super stoked,” Gerston said. “I got off to a rough start but I was able to find some cool lines through the firewood pit and get by some guys. At that point I was in fifth and had to battle through fourth and then had to battle my teammate Kyle Redmond to get into third. We had some fun block passes and I’m just stoked to be up here at the end of the night even though I was lapped by the top two guys. I honestly don’t know how I could go any faster than I was and I was still lapped.”
Ty Tremaine had a consistent race to finish third, battling from sixth, to eighth, back up to fifth and finally making the pass for fourth on lap 12. Kyle Redmond, who raced most of the main event in third, ended up fifth. Mike Brown struggled with the matrix all night but still kept in the mix with a sixth place finish. Noah Kepple finished a strong seventh after a tough LCQ race full of crashes. Nick Thompson recovered from an up-and-down day to finish eighth. Trystan Hart broke into the top ten again with a ninth place result and GasGas’ Geoff Aaron rounded out the top ten after missing track walks and all practices due to a tight travel schedule.
Wyatt Hart, Cory Graffunder and Ty Cullins finished eleventh through thirteenth respectively.
Five-time EnduroCross Champion Taddy Blazusiak missed the Denver round due to his nagging thumb injury from round two. His team reported he would be racing the upcoming Everett, Washington round in two weeks.
2016 Denver AMA EnduroCross Main Event Results Colton Haaker, Husqvarna Cody Webb, KTM Max Gerston, Beta Ty Tremaine, KTM Kyle Redmond, Beta Mike Brown, Husqvarna Noah Kepple, KTM Nick Thompson, KTM Trystan Hart, Husqvarna Geoff Aaron, GasGas Wyatt Hart, Husqvarna Cory Graffunder, KTM Ty Cullins, Beta
Haaker’s point lead over Cody Webb grew to 12 in the championship, with 128 and 116 respectively. Brown still sits in third with 93 points.
Canada’s Shelby Turner took her fourth win in five races this weekend in the Women’s main event riding a KTM. The Canadian is taking the two-week EnduroCross break to compete at the ISDE. Morgan Tanke finished second on her Beta and those two are now separated by an 11-point gap, with 122 and 111, respectively. Rachel Gutish took her KTM to third and also sits in third place in the championship.
EnduroCross events also include two support classes for Amateurs and Vet riders 35 and older. Steven Stultz took the win in the amateur class with a good battle over third-place finisher Spenser Wilton early in the race. Wilton would find trouble in the rocks and Kevin Dupuis moved in to take a well-earned second place.
In the Vet class, Kurt Nicoll came to Denver looking to back up his first-ever electric bike win. But Vet class stalwart Stephen Foord and his Beta had other plans. Foord took the win, with Nicoll coming in second and Jack Sawatzky coming in third on his KTM. Both Foord and Sawatzky are Canadian.
Photos: Ian Ried