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Team orders play pivotal role in Haaker’s third SuperEnduro World Title | News

Alfredo Gomez played to team orders and allowed Colton Haaker to pass him for third on the final corner, handing him the Maxxis FIM SuperEnduro World Championship title

Coming into the season finale in the Bizkaia Arena, Bilbao, there were three riders all mathematically capable of becoming Maxxis FIM World SuperEnduro Champion. The show lived up to all expectations, and rewarded fans with thrilling drama from start to finish.

California’s Colton HAAKER (USA-Husqvarna) took the 3rd World Champion title of his career, although the factory Husqvarna rider had to wait for the last race until he could grab the title which he felt belonged to him.

The road to the crown was full of pitfalls. From the first race, the American found himself in difficulty, hitting one of the first obstacles on the Basque track. Making mistake after mistake, HAAKER appeared to have crumbled under the pressure. However, he was handed a life line when this first race was red-flagged due to track conditions. Whilst the organisers tried to repair the damage caused by the passage of so many bikes, Colton had time to try and gather his thoughts and calm down. However, in the race one restart he failed to keep up with his compatriot, Cody WEBB (USA-KTM) who seemed unbeatable out of the gate – the factory KTM rider winning ahead of Taddy BLAZUSIAK (POL-KTM) and HAAKER. After this dramatic opening race just 6 points separated HAAKER from WEBB.

The second race was to play a significant role in the outcome of the evening, especially with its traditional ‘reverse grid’ start. Colton HAAKER wasn’t hanging around and he took the lead after 3 laps, he then managed to control the chasing pack for the entire race. Meanwhile, Cody WEBB made a small mistake which saw him lose contact with the Husqvarna rider. With this latest victory HAAKER took a tiny three point advantage over his biggest rival, WEBB. 3rd in the second race of the night was SuperEnduro showman, Taddy BLAZUSIAK, who was forced to accept that a 7th World SuperEnduro title had now slipped from his grasp. It was going to be between HAAKER and WEBB to fight it out for the 2019 crown.

Once again the Maxxis FIM SuperEnduro World Champion was to be decided in the final seconds of the final race, making for a super exciting end to the 2019 season. Cody WEBB was fastest out of the gate, snatching the holeshot from BLAZUSIAK and leading the first laps of the race. HAAKER momentarily lost his concentration and made a small mistake in the rock garden. The Husqvarna rider nevertheless managed to maintain good pace and he focused on the title again. In second position Taddy BLAZUSIAK had a strong race but the Pole couldn’t quite keep up with his KTM teammate, WEBB.

A few corners from the end of the race, with WEBB on course to win his second race of the night, HAAKER made another mistake and lost some positions. WEBB would therefore have enough points to win the 2019 title. But it turned out that Alfredo GOMEZ (ESP-Husqvarna), the teammate of HAAKER, was going to play a considerable role in the outcome of this season. The Spanish rider, playing to team orders allowed Colton HAAKER to finish third in the final by stopping before the finish line and blocking fourth place rider, Pol TARRES. Allowing him to snatch the Maxxis FIM SuperEnduro World Championship title. GOMEZ was later disqualified for this action, although it was not explicitly against the rules. In a final shocking twist, HAAKER suffered a huge crash over the finish line and lost consciousness, waking up to find his team around him, congratulating him. This somewhat controversial end to the evening does not bring into question the impressive season put together by HAAKER, who has been performing well and riding consistently since the start of the season. Colton HAAKER was therefore crowned 2019 Champion by a small but crucial gap of 4 points in front of WEBB and BLAZUSIAK.

Colton Haaker: “I’m a little bit lost for words right now, it’s been an eventful night but to end it as the world champion is an incredible feeling. I can’t thank the guys at Husqvarna enough for the support they’ve given me, not just tonight but throughout the entire series. This title is very much a team effort as it is mine. Tonight was tough. I’m not quite sure yet what it was but it certainly wasn’t my best night on a bike. The track wasn’t good and I had some serious arm pump issues, which is something I never really get. I made so many mistakes in race one and was riding too tight. Then I got it together in race two and felt more like I should. It was all on the line for the final and I did what I needed to do on the first few laps. But then the arm pump kicked in again and I stalled my bike so many times. With about a lap to go I got things together again and put everything I had left into that lap and won the title. It wasn’t pretty, but it doesn’t matter, we’re world champions and it feels awesome.”

Alfredo Gomez: “I wanted to put in a good performance for my home fans tonight, but we had a really difficult track to deal with and it was so easy to make a mistake. I had two good rides in the first races and was pleased with things. Race three was a bit chaotic and I could also see that my teammate Colton was struggling, so I did my best to protect him and keep his title hopes alive. In the end he is world champion and I’m happy for him and the team. For myself I’m pleased with certain elements of my championship. A race win in Poland was fantastic. Of course my elbow injury in Germany was tough to deal with but I came back to finish on the podium in Madrid and I’m delighted about that. I feel like after the injuries of the past 12 months I’m out of the woods now and can focus on making a fit and healthy start for the World Enduro Super Series. My target is to try and win the hard enduro races, starting with round one at Extreme Lagares next month.”

Cody Webb: “Obviously I’m disappointed with the final championship result tonight, I felt I rode really good out there today and deserved the title. The night started off well with a good time in superpole and then in the restarted first final I took my time, rode smooth and took the win by a good margin. I am kicking myself now for the mistakes I made in the second final, I got caught up in traffic a few times, but still got second – I knew then I would have to really go for it in the last one. I got off the line well in the third final and set about catching Colton. After I got past him, I just stayed smooth and could see he was struggling. I’m happy because I did my best, won that third final and believe the championship should have been mine. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but I’ll learn from it, and come back even stronger next time.”

Taddy BLAZUSIAK: “I’m not the champion but I’m still smiling. This season has been a weird one, probably the strangest I’ve experienced in my life. I’m going to be back next year but I really feel like I have another title in me. I wouldn’t stay that I’ll hope for less bad luck next year… but some more good luck would be nice!”