Triple MX2 world champion Jeffrey Herlings scored a thumping great victory on the beaches of Holland, beating Brit Nathan Watson and 1000 other riders to win Red Bull Knock Out 2016. You can watch all the racing HERE!
Having won the qualifying race in the morning in style, Herlings was absolutely unstoppable in the final, blasting through the field to victory on a testing 5km track laid out on the beach at The Hague in Holland.
Already hailed as the best sand rider in the world, Herlings brought his championship year to a spectacular end with a masterclass in sand racing. It was a popular home victory for the fans, as Herlings became the first Dutchman to win the Knock Out since Marc De Reuver in 2006.
But while Herlings led the way, behind him a dramatic race unfolded in the sands. The opening lap saw Herlings take the lead from defening champion, Axel van de Sande, and his KTM Factory Racing team-mate Glenn Coldenhoff, with Steve Ramon in close attention. After less than 10 minutes of racing, Herlings had already opened up a 19-second lead.
Fellow Dutchman Coldenhoff passed van de Sande on the following lap, with the Belgian veteran Ramon, himself a winner here in 2008, taking third place and defying his 36 years to keep in touch with the two Dutchmen.
While Herlings scythed his way through the field to maintain a convincing lead, the battle for second and third heated up.
After Coldenhoff’s pitstop at middle distance, Ramon took over second place and started to dig deep trying to open a gap. As the course claimed Van De Sande and Jamie McCanney, Coldenhoff closed in, but Britain’s Nathan Watson suddenly loomed large in his rearview mirrors, taking third place briefly before pitting for more fuel.
Ramon pitted too, returning second place to Coldenhoff. The question was, what was going to happen after 60 minutes of racing, when the X-Loop opened?
New for 2016, the X-Loop is a super tough and technical section that came into play in the final 45 minutes of the race. It included the rollers: hefty logs that threatened to break the spirits – and bikes – of the exhausted riders.
While it changed the course to suit Enduro World Championship racer Watson’s skills, by the time it opened, Herlings already had a lead of two minutes.
10 minutes after the X-Loop opened, Watson passed Coldenhoff for second place. He refused to give up though, opening up the throttle to keep in touch with the Brit and trading places again and again; Watson leading on the straight, but Coldenhoff quicker through the whoops.
It was thrilling stuff but Coldenhoff had to relent and take on more fuel, leaving Watson to chase Herlings.
Herlings, meanwhile, had enough of an advantage that he could make his second pitstop and still come out in the lead.
“The track was pretty flat first, which made it easier for everyone,” said Herlings. “When it got rougher, it became more like an MXGP track, I felt more at home and could overtake.
“Other riders here are really specialists at this. I showed them I can do it as well. This was a great race and I had a great lead. It went really well and that is just amazing.
“I think this is the hardest beach race in the world. I know when I see my bed tonight, I’ll fall asleep immediately.”
Red Bull Knock Out is also a race against the elements, as the riders compete against freezing winds, the rising tide and a sandy 5km track that gets tougher and rougher with every passing bike.
For 2016, the riders were faced with a completely new track, beginning with a 2.5km sprint along the shores of the freezing North Sea, before turning into a tight, technical section with more than 57 jumps. After 60 minutes of racing, a bruising new section was added to the track, the X-Loop, featuring an additional 30 jumps and a log section to test the exhausted riders to breaking point in the final 45 minutes of racing.