The Battle of the Goats in Taylorsville, North Carolina came back swinging after skipping last year, and it is still regarded as one of the toughest races in North America. The Brushy Mountain Motorsports Park has been the home to this hard enduro race since 2015. The promoter, Tyler Mull, built a near 17-mile course, where the racers were challenged with steep hill climbs, relentless rock gardens, off camber roots, and ultra-slick creeks. This race was the first round of the AMA East Hard Enduro Series, Presented by IRC Tire, and the third round of the IRC US Hard Enduro Premier Championship, Presented by Klim.
The race consisted of two qualifier races on Saturday and a six hour main race on Sunday. The first qualifier on Saturday consisted of mostly amateur classes, while the second qualifier had expert amateur classes and the pro classes. They were both held on the same 4-mile course and had a two lap limit. The hard enduro gods were looking over the Brushy Mountain Motorsports Park on Saturday, dumping about a half inch of rain before the first qualifier, making the course at least twice as hard with hills and rocks being covered in slick mud. B-Class points leader, Braxton Hintze of HTR Gas Gas, won the first qualifier, finishing two laps in 1 hour and 16 minutes. Only 22 amateurs finished two laps of this qualifier, while 64 finished one lap out of the 140 riders who started in this race. The majority of the action of this race for the spectators was on a steep and rocky Chicken Fight Hill, which had dozens of riders pushing up and flipping bikes down. For the second qualifier, the more advanced classes were expecting the dirt to tack up a bit and have increased traction on the course. While they were in staging before the race began, it rained hard for about 15 minutes, making the course even more slick than it was. Cody Webb of FactoryONE Sherco ended up winning the second qualifier, finishing two laps in 40 minutes.
Saturday’s two qualifiers didn’t eliminate anybody from racing on Sunday’s six hour race. It instead placed them in starting rows that were five riders wide that started one minute apart and was not time adjusted. For Sunday’s main, the weather was nice and there was not any rain forecasted, but the trails were still very wet from the rain the day before. For the main, Trystan Hart of FMF KTM Offroad Racing took the holeshot on a stacked first row, followed by at least 40 more rows of pro and amateur racers. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Ryder
LeBlond was following Hart in second place, with Cody Webb not far behind. A unique part of the Battle of the Goats main race is that on the second lap, the course splits off to an added difficult section that adds time to their lap. On the first lap, the Pros did not have to struggle with any lappers and the course was a bit shorter. Hart came in 1 hour and 33 minutes, with LeBlond behind him by six minutes and Webb another five minutes behind LeBlond. Webb and LeBlond were battling back and forth throughout the race, swapping positions several times based on difficult sections or lappers, or both. Behind the lead pack, it was spread out between RPM KTM’s Will Riordan, Logan Bolopue, and Beta USA’s Danny Lewis that held their positions the entire race.
On the second lap, the lappers piled up through difficult sections, which were an added challenge that the pros had to work around. Hart held his lead the entire race, working patiently through the amateurs and limiting his mistakes on the tougher obstacles. On one section named Upper Chicken Fight, LeBlond was fighting his way through a large group of amateurs and took a line that caused some extra struggle for him. Webb was close behind and grabbed the opportunity to pass around him on a different line, taking the second spot. Webb finished lap one 11 minutes behind Hart, but started creeping up on the leader, getting within five minutes from Hart. Webb’s weekend was a lot more special than most, as he and his wife had their second child the Thursday night before the race. He flew out and showed up Saturday morning before the qualifier, with limited sleep and no track walk.
Being that this race was now in April opposed to August, the creeks were a bit more full and slick, and the infamous obstacle Wentzel’s Waterslide made for a popular spectator attraction. The 200 foot rock slab with running water did not stop most of the pro racers, but there were several A-Class racers and bikes that slid most of or all the way down.
Hart ended up finishing his second lap and coming through the finish line first in just over three and a half hours. Webb finished in second place, six minutes behind, and LeBlond fell back a bit but finished in third place in just over four hours. In the Pro Women’s Class, Bailey Lerwill of HTR Gas Gas won her first ever race in that class. Hallie Marks and Georgia Eversole finished in second and third, respectively. The 2023 Battle of the Goats was a success and they returned with a strong showing. Several pro racers said this was the hardest race of the series so far, and nearly everyone who competed left exhausted, but with smiles on their faces. Big thanks to Tyler and the BMMP crew who made this race event happen, and we look forward to returning to BOTG in 2024.
The AMA USHE Series continues on May 6-7 at the Fallen Timbers Hard Enduro, in Little Hocking, Ohio.
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