Wozza discovers... The Erzberg Rodeo

Take one mountain, gently sculpt the edges to make them extra steep and dangerous, then attack with a motorcycle.

Pastrana, McGrath, Despres and, er, Pole tackle the world's most bonkers off-road event; The Erzberg Rodeo.

Held in an Austrian mountainside quarry, calls itself the toughest off-road race in the world. Held over two days and with the main race just four hours long you may think they're over-egging the pudding. But to put this into context, of 1200 starters last year, including the cream of the world's off-road
riding elite, just 20 finished. 

Blissfully unaware of what the Erzberg was, I entered having never done a club enduro. As I now know, this is rather like entering MotoGP having just passed your CBT.

The realisation I was in over my head came while getting changed. An American next to me turned out to be Jeremy McGrath (seven times US Supercross champ), while the cheery French bloke opposite was Cyril Despres, winner of the 2005 Paris-Dakar. Trying (and failing) to maintain my poker face, I looked around me and saw Travis Pastrana (multi X-Games gold medallist and inventor of the double backflip), Chris Pfeiffer (European stunt champ and a four-time Erzberg winner) and David Knight (World and British enduro champ). I could go on but I think you get the picture.

Qualifying was two timed blasts up the quarry-scarred mountain. Open and fast, the main limits were your bottle in approaching gravelly blind bends with drop-offs of several hundred feet and nothing to stop you plummeting to your doom should you get it wrong.

First run and I was outside the top 500 cut-off to make the main event. Second run and I was faster but not fast enough. A full 24 hours of rain slowed the course and I didn't have the talent to make the difference.

But before taking my spectator's seat I couldn't resist a crack at the course proper so sneaked to the base of the mountain to face the five gargantuan, near vertical scree slope climbs leading to the first checkpoint. I stalled near the top of the first slope and tumbled back down wrapped in my KTM. Second time I made it, somehow. There were four more to come and even then this was just the beginning.
I thanked God I hadn't qualified for this living hell and staggered to the hospitality tent for a beer. 

It was mayhem as the 500 starters piled into those early slopes. Within seconds these became a sea of
falling riders, spraying rock and screaming bikes. They would stay this way for the next hour as
ambulances occasionally ferried away the more serious casualties. 

Of those who cleared this section, ever more torturous climbs, forests, bogs and rocks awaited. Only 27
riders finished, with the almost supernaturally talented David Knight the winner. "That was easier than last year," he said cheerily before collecting yet another trophy for the mantlepiece. Truly the stuff of legend and an utterly inspirational event everyone should see at least once.