Print and Go Back ESPN.com: FMX [Print without images]

Thursday, November 15, 2012
EnduroCross season finale Saturday

By Colin Bane
ESPN.com

The 2012 GEICO AMA EnduroCross series concludes Saturday at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, wrapping up an eight-round tour that, for the second year, included men's and women's competition at X Games Los Angeles.

Taddy Blazusiak
Taddy Blazusiak "is without any question the best EnduroCross rider in the world," says EnduroCross promoter Eric Peronnard.

Tadeusz "Taddy" Blazusiak, the 2011 X Games gold medalist, is the far-and-away favorite for the men's title -- just three points shy of the championship before racing even gets started this weekend. Blazusiak has won six of seven rounds so far and leads his closest competitor, Taylor Robert, 189-132 in the overall standings. In the women's competition, two-time X Games gold medalist Maria Forsberg has a less commanding 111-101 lead over her closest competitor, Louise Forsley.

ESPN.com caught up with EnduroCross promoter and X Games sports organizer Eric Peronnard for more on the series and what to watch for in Las Vegas [the event will be webcast live at EnduroCross.com].

ESPN.com: I know the AMA EnduroCross series in the United States predates X Games and that European EnduroCross events have been going strong for more than a decade, but I'm curious if you have any perspective on how much it's grown since becoming a part of X Games.
Peronnard:
The EnduroCross championship has been going on for many years, and as part of X Games for the last two, and the partnership with X Games has been absolutely fantastic. The event in Los Angeles was sold out both years as the final event of X Games and just had tremendous audience response in the arena and on TV. That was a big factor in being invited to be part of the new Global X events next year.

It's been unbelievable to see how much the riders have been learning as the competition has stepped up. Three or four years ago a log that was one foot in diameter was basically stopping the field, and now a log that is three feet in diameter barely slows them down. It's been extremely impressive, and we've seen the courses get increasingly difficult to keep pace with what the riders are capable of. The challenge for us is always to build something harder but not more dangerous, and to make sure we do everything we can to create a challenging race and an exciting event.

For folks who haven't been following the whole season, can you bring everybody up to speed about where things stand as the 2012 series heads into Las Vegas?
Polish rider Taddy Blazusiak, the guy who won X Games the first year, is without any question the best EnduroCross rider in the world. Other than a bad X Games result this year -- he finished fourth, behind Mike Brown, Cody Webb and Cory Graffunder -- he has been dominating the series this year just like he did the last three years.

He basically just has to qualify for the main event in Vegas to be the champion. He'd have to have a really bad day not to be the champion by the time the gate drops. But I think you'll still see a very good race, and a lot of riders looking to get in his way.

Maria Forsberg
Maria Forsberg holds a 10-point lead going into this weekend's season finale of the EnduroCross season.

What do you think sets him apart and has made him such a dominating force?
Taddy's really one of a kind, and he's kind of a hybrid champion because he grew up riding trials bikes and became one of the top 10 trials riders in the world. Then he discovered riding a full-size enduro bike and became, very, very quickly, the best rider in the world. He's the 2012 SuperEnduro World Champion and the 2011 AMA EnduroCross Champion, and he won the Erzberg Rodeo every year from 2007 to 2011. Short of Supercross he's been pretty much winning everything there is. Nobody else has done what he's done. I'm pretty sure with time and training he could be a top Supercross rider pretty quickly, too. He's one of the strongest all-around riders I've ever seen.

Maria Forsberg has been similarly dominant in the women's competition, and also has great all-around chops: she completed a perfect season this year in the Grand National Cross Country series and is well on her way to another EnduroCross championship title.
She won X Games two years in a row, and she's arriving in Vegas with a substantial lead. She's definitely the favorite, always, but she's been challenged this season by Louise Forsley and it's become a very exciting rivalry. It's very cordial, but they're racing each other very hard. These are two exceptional athletes with different strengths, different talents. Maria's always been a motocross and enduro racer, while Louise is a six-time trials champion and she's learning the enduro racing style and increasing her speed at every event. It's very exciting to have these racers going head-to-head at every event, and to see the rest of the women's field rising to the challenge. Maria's been winning more than the others, but it's always a big challenge and a tough race.

What else are you looking forward to in Vegas as the series winds down?
It's always very exciting to finish the season, and we have a junior championship at stake as well. For me it's always good to look to who is going to be the next rider, below 21, that is going to be successful. Right now we have two or three young guys who are extremely talented, and who I think you'll be hearing a lot more from next year.

Why do you think EnduroCross has caught on as much as it has?
It's very entertaining and very simple to understand. It's obviously a challenging, grueling event, but the rules are very basic: the first guy to cross the finish line wins. People like the simple format, and all the obstacles and elements on the track make it very exciting, even when somebody like Taddy or Maria is dominating. A lot of other racing is not so exciting once the leader is pulling away, but in EnduroCross there are always thrills and spills and there's always a good show going on.

Enduro X at X Games 2011
Simple rules and obstacles that create unpredictable results have helped the growth of EnduroCross.