The Sand Hollow recreation area is an incredibly unique place to stage a grand prix event. Parking is situated just above the Sand Hollow water reservoir and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains, giving the event a grander feel. On top of that the terrain is comprised of two of the more challenging types available: deep, dune sand and sharp, slick rocks. It’s definitely a course unlike any other as it leaves little time for rest; you’re either working to keep the bike on top of the sand whoops or fighting to keep the bike pointed straight in the rocks. The two-hour pro race was sure to be a tough one.
One more unique aspect of the race was that WORCS was able to host a just-for-fun sand drag event on Saturday. There were a couple wild entries, one being a small quad with a wheelie bar that just happened to have a 450 motor, which had been bored out to 500cc; yeah he pretty much ruined anyone who tried to race him (including me). It was my first time riding with a paddle tire and, after a couple runs to got the hang of it, I have to say it was a riotously good time. I even got to go head to head with a banshee that had an extended swing arm; I came out on top (fist pump!).
Of course the main reason I was there was to race the pro race on Sunday and my body was finally feeling pretty healthy for the first time this year, which was a bonus. I knew I still wasn’t physically at my best yet, but I really enjoyed this event the previous year and was looking forward to giving it everything once again.
We lined up for the pro race and I prayed to 8 pound, 6 ounce newborn infant Jesus for a first-kick start this time around. As we all killed our motors in anticipation of the green flag wave I kept repeating what my mechanic, Factory Phil, told me, “Just kick the heck out of it!” and as the flag flew, low and behold I got a one-kick start. Of course it’s still pretty tough to beat those KTM’s and their buttons when they time it just right and I headed to the first turn behind Gary Sutherlin and David Broderick.
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As we sped down the second straightaway towards a road crossing I got somewhat locked on to Broderick’s back wheel and suddenly Justin Seeds came flying by my right side, even passing his way into second in the same move. The course then turned up a virgin uphill and I was able to find an alternate line and make my way past Broderick into third.
I was right on the back of Justin as the course hit the top of the hill and made a sharp right hand turn over a rock and then into some soft sand. As he dropped into the sand and grabbed a handful of throttle his roost obscured my vision and I dropped my front end into the sand too heavily, causing me to tip right on over into a bush.
I got up and going pretty quickly, but Justin Jones was able to make his way by me during my tip over. As our lines came together down the following slick-rock downhill, my trajectory was a little straighter and I was able to get back by him and into third place.
From there my mind was telling me to push it and catch back up to Justin, but my body wasn’t quite obliging. I kept making small mistakes, tipping over once more up that not-so-virgin-anymore uphill the following lap and before I knew it, my pit board told me I was a minute behind Justin (Gary was absolutely gone by the way).
Finally around the halfway mark I started to find some rhythm and began closing in on Justin, getting his lead over me down to less than thirty seconds. I was pushing a little harder through a section of sharp rocks, searching for more speed, when my front end clipped one just wrong. My front end immediately took a crazy Ivan to the right and sent me into the bushes. I tried to get back up quickly, but my bike was on little hill and it actually required considerable effort to finally get it upright and get going once more. By the time I had finally got going again, I had lost probably a minute (plus I had one more little tip over that lap; #frustrating). The final two laps passed without much excitement and I crossed the line in third.
I am happy to be back on the podium, but boy is it frustrating to know that I’m just not the same rider right now that I was last year. I feel confident I’ll get back there now that I’m healthy and can start a full training schedule, but I know what I’m capable of, how I expected to perform for all of my sponsors and supporters this year, and I’m just not fulfilling the expectations right now. Having said that, I’m really proud of my teammate, and good friend, Justin Seeds; we’ve known he has the potential to ride like he just did and it’s great to see him performing so well.
I’d like to thank all of my personal sponsors for their continued support this year: Precision Concepts, Alamo Alarm, Kawasaki, MSR, Shoei, Sidi, Spy, THR Motorsports, Focus Apparel, USWE, EVS, FMF, BRP, Ryan Abbatoye Designs, Northland Motorsports, Jan’s Towing, and ATP Mechanix. Also thanks to my mechanic Phil for the amazing work that he does for me. Incidentally he raced his first motorcycle race in ten years at Sand Hollow in the Industry class on his KX 125. It was great to see him (and listen to that sweet, sweet two-stroke motor) ripping through the sand. I know he had a lot of fun (even with the, what was it, eight crashes?) and I’m glad he got to do it.
Now I have a few weeks off to get a good routine going and hopefully build my body and my confidence back up and be able to start giving Gary a run for these wins; he’s riding so well right now.
Thank you to each of the team sponsors: Dunlop, FMF, Renthal, GPR stabilizer, Hinson, VP Race Fuels IMS, BRP, Kalgard lubricants, LA Piston Co., A’ME grips, Braking, RK/Excel, ARC levers, DT1 filters, Acerbis, Zip-Ty, Ryan Abbatoye Designs, Seal Savers, Baja Designs, Northland Motorsports.