IF YOU GO
The Trials Training Center is in Sequatchie, Tenn., about six miles northwest of Jasper off Valley View Highway. Gates open at 7 a.m. CDT today and Sunday and spectator admission is $20 for both days, which includes the gate fee and primitive camping. Children 10 and under get in free. The first race starts at 10 a.m. CDT. Take Interstate 24 to exit 155 and turn north on state Route 28. Get off at the first exit for Jasper and U.S. Highway 41 North and continue into town until you reach the courthouse square and turn right onto Betsy Pack Drive. Continue north on Betsy Pack Drive/Highway 41 North, take a right at the fork onto Valley View Highway and continue through the town of Sequatchie. Watch for signs to the center and turn left on Coppinger Cove Road, continue to Woodland Road, and the entrance to the center is at the end. For more information, visit tennesseeknockoutenduro.com or call 423-942-8688.
SEQUATCHIE, Tenn. — The course for this weekend's extreme enduro motorcycle competition at the Trials Training Center in Marion County looks like a nightmare off-road vehicle trail designed by filmmaker Tim Burton.
Riders competing in today's Kenda Tennessee Knockout trials event, now in its second year, will careen at top speed through the rough terrain of the western Sequatchie Valley on a course littered with giant boulders, logs, fallen trees and manmade concrete slabs jutting from the ground, and that's just the part before they get to the nearly sheer rock faces and dry waterfall obstacles.
The two-day "fueled by Monster Energy" event will draw riders from all over the world to Sequatchie, according to officials at the center.
Eric Peronnard -- founder of "EnduroCross," an extreme off-road motorcycle style of stadium racing that falls somewhere between technical trials riding and motocross and is now an X-Games event -- says this weekend's event takes place on a world-class course designed for the best enduro riders on the planet.
Peronnard, TTC owner Dan Brown and the center's local staff designed the course a couple of years ago and started organizing events.
The idea was to offer enduro riders the most difficult course in the U.S., and one of the world's best, Peronnard said Friday as he was getting ready to mark off parts of the course.
He said EnduroCross is "getting more popular by the day" and gaining global popularity.
This weekend's event is more spectator-friendly than most outdoor venues for off-road motorcycle racing, he said.
"This is the most extreme/spectator-friendly event in the world. And I know the world; I'm there all the time," he said with a laugh.
Unlike trials events that take place at the center and are based on technical riding and a points system, EnduroCross is all about the finish line, Peronnard said.
And a $10,000 purse for Sunday's best performers is a big draw for the world's best riders.
"It's not just 'another race;' it's the race in the U.S. for extreme enduro," he said.
The Sequatchie facility offers a unique riding experience, according to Kyle Redmond, factory rider for KTM motorcycles and a multitime top American finisher at Erzberg Extreme Enduro who also placed second at the 2012 King of the Motos Extreme Enduro.
"The terrain here is really, really tough, and this is considered an extreme event. This is some of the hardest terrain you can ride," said Redmond, who's from Lake Hughes in Southern California.
Redmond said the fact that riders are truly racing for the finish line creates plenty of excitement for spectators.
While Redmond and other well-known pros will ride Sunday, there's a whole day of racing today when some of the best amateurs around will vie for a Sunday spot.
"Saturday is amateur day, and the top qualifiers will have the chance to compete with the experts in Sunday's race," said the center's Ashley Jackson.
Jackson said the Sunday race will start with an "electrifying hot lap" on the short course.
Promoters expect as many as 10,000 spectators to descend on the tiny valley town this weekend.
TTC technical manager Charlie Roberts, also a riding instructor, said the Tennessee Knockout event is so named for its "knockout" elimination style of racing and is one of more than a dozen events the center hosts each year.
The center also is going after some other big events, like the 2013 World Championships, said Roberts. Roberts, at 65, has been competing for 42 years and last year rode in 25 events and promoted 11 others.
He still gets a thrill from watching the world's best ride.
"Last year, when the top guys went by me out there, I just got goose bumps," he said with a grin.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...