2019 Tennessee Knockout Race Report

Manuel Lettenbichler knocks ’em out In Tennessee.

Manuel Lettenbichler races at the 2019 Tennessee Knockout Race.
Manuel Lettenbichler dominated this year’s TKO. The German rider won the Hot Lap, Knockout Race 1, his five-rider group in Knockout Race 2, and the 30-minute-plus-one-lap Final Knockout.Shan Moore

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Manuel Lettenbichler topped a strong field of Hard Enduro specialists to win this year's Kenda Tennessee Knockout (TKO), which featured nearly 400 entries, at the Trials Training Center in Sequatchie, Tennessee. Although six-time TKO winner Cody Webb missed the event due to a knee injury, extreme off-road aces Mario Roman of Spain and Wade Young of South Africa, both factory Sherco riders, still gave Lettenbichler all the competition he could handle.

After a Hot Lap, two Knockout rounds, and a 30-minute-plus-one-lap Final Knockout, Lettenbichler emerged as the 2019 TKO champion and in turn also won the 2019 AMA Extreme Off-Road Grand Championship. The win was Lettenbichler’s second major extreme race win in a row having just won the Red Bull Romaniacs two weeks before.

“After winning Romaniacs, it’s super awesome to also win at this race,” Lettenbichler said. “It’s just so intense and so different from what is normally on the schedule. I’m pretty pumped now to have two wins in a row. I got the holeshot and then I pulled away on the second lap a little bit, so it was like the gap was getting bigger every lap. I took it a little bit easy at the end because I was super tired, but I had a good comfort zone just to play with. It’s a completely different race from what I’m used to, so it’s good to have this one in the pocket.”

Mario Roman races at the 2019 Tennessee Knockout Race.
Mario Roman passed Sherco teammate Wade Young at the halfway point of the Final Knockout to finish second.Shan Moore

While Lettenbichler led the way during the final, Young and Roman battled over the remaining podium positions, with Roman eventually settling into second place.

“I was fourth at the start and I struggled a little bit to pass Colton [Haaker] and Wade because the course this year was pretty much one-line,” Roman explained. “I didn’t want to waste energy changing lines, so I followed them until Wade made a mistake. In the middle of the race I was able to pass him and then I pushed hard, but Manny [Lettenbichler] was just too far away.”

Wade Young races at the 2019 Tennessee Knockout Race.
Young battled with Roman for second, but eventually settled into third.Shan Moore

After being passed by his teammate, Young held the third place position all the way to the finish, after holding the runner-up slot for more than half the race.

“Mario and I had quite a good battle going,” Young said. “He was riding good and I didn’t realize he was quite a bit quicker than me. We were battling back and forth and I could feel that I pulled a gap, and then he would close me in. I think it would have been nice maybe if I knew what the outcome would be at the end to have let him go and so he could maybe battle for first place. But at the end of the day, I’m also racing. I gave it everything to try and stay in second, but I just got tired toward the end and dropped to third.”

Colton Haaker races at the 2019 Tennessee Knockout Race.
After the race, Colton Haaker told Dirt Rider that he felt a little flat, but he still managed to come away with fourth.Shan Moore

Colton Haaker ran as high as second on the opening lap of the final, but by midrace the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider dropped back into a battle over fourth, where he would ultimately finish.

“This year was different from past years because it was so dry [with] no rain, which is just different,” Haaker said. “I’ve never really been here when it’s been dry, so it was kind of wild. You weren’t fighting the bike as much as you probably would have if it was slippery and a little bit wet everywhere. I basically got into fourth place in the final and kind of just stayed there. I didn’t really have the pace of the first three guys, but I had a little more pace than the guys behind me, so I kind of rode all by myself. I just didn’t feel amazing today. I didn’t feel like I could put a 100 percent flawless effort in. I felt like I just was kind of off all around.”

Trystan Hart races at the 2019 Tennessee Knockout Race.
Trystan Hart battled with Haaker for fourth during the first few laps of the seven-lap Final Knockout.Shan Moore

FMF/Maxxis/RPM KTM’s Trystan Hart battled with Haaker briefly, but settled for fifth. Trail Jesters KTM’s Ben Kelley led the second half of the top 10, while AmPro Yamaha’s Ricky Russell returned to the event after a two-year absence to finish seventh. Rounding out the top 10 were Beta USA’s Max Gerston, Tely Energy Racing KTM’s Grant Baylor, and Ronnie Commo (KTM), respectively.

Saturday featured the Women’s Final, which was won by Beta USA’s Rachel Gutish, with KTM riders Shelby Turner and Nicole Bradford finishing second and third.

Ben Kelley races at the 2019 Tennessee Knockout Race.
Trail Jesters KTM’s Ben Kelley piloted his KTM 300 XC-W TPI to a sixth place finish.Shan Moore

2019 Tennessee Knockout Results

Position Rider Brand
1 Manuel Lettenbichler KTM
2 Mario Roman Sherco
3 Wade Young Sherco
4 Colton Haaker Husqvarna
5 Trystan Hart KTM
6 Ben Kelley KTM
7 Ricky Russell Yamaha
8 Max Gerston Beta
9 Grant Baylor KTM
10 Ron Commo III KTM
Rachel Gutish races at the 2019 Tennessee Knockout Race.
Beta USA’s Rachel Gutish topped Saturday’s Women’s class ahead of KTM riders Shelby Turner and Nicole Bradford.Shan Moore
Ricky Russell races at the 2019 Tennessee Knockout Race.
Ricky Russell returned to the TKO after a two-year absence to finish seventh.Shan Moore
Max Gerston races at the 2019 Tennessee Knockout Race.
Beta USA’s Max Gerston was especially smooth in the rugged waterfall section of the course.Shan Moore
Grant Baylor races at the 2019 Tennessee Knockout Race.
Grant Baylor made a rare Hard Enduro appearance to finish 10th.Shan Moore