Champions Crowned At The BlueWater
Story by Trevor Hunter, Photos by Harlen Foley
Coming into the final round of the Best In The Desert championship, Hayden Hintz and I held the points lead, but still needed to have a good ride to secure the Open Pro championship. The BlueWater Desert Challenge had been off the schedule the past few years, so it was a new experience for the both of us. Sticking to the same setup we’ve used almost all year, we felt ready to go for the two-day format and 90 miles of racing each day.
For Day 1, Hayden started off for us and lined up first against Nic Colangeli, our closest competitor in points. Hayden got the jump over Nic and headed off into the dusty desert with Nic in tow. As we waited in the pits, we saw Nic leading at the end of lap 1 with Hayden right on his wheel. We watched along as they set off into the desert for lap 2 with hopes that Hayden could get back around Nic before handing the bike off to me. As bikes came into the pits at the end of lap 2, the N33 bike had also gotten around Hayden and we sat 3rd O/A physically. We gassed up with our IMS tank and quick-fill and I headed out onto the course for my two laps.
Leaving the pits, I hammered down with hopes of catching the N3 and N33 bikes. $3,500 was on the line for the O/A win, and we needed to finish right behind Nic (N3) to secure the championship. My first ⅔ of the first lap went well and I felt good with my pace. However, the rough course started to get to me. In an effort to make up time, I was overriding the bike and riding it like a 250F, not a 450. I quickly tired out and had to back it down for my second and final lap. I made up some time on my first lap, but a lot of dust and a slightly slower pace on lap two wasn’t enough. At the finish, neither of us were all that happy with how the bike handled the tricky whooped out course. The 23 mile loop offered about 20 miles of big car/truck created sand whoops, which are largely different from bike whoops. The faces of the whoops are much steeper and often are like curbs. They tend to want to buck you over the bars and cause the bike to become unsettled when not hit properly.
With another 90 miles of racing the next day, we decided to head to Havasu Landing to do some suspension testing in hopes of gaining some confidence in ourselves and the bike. After a couple hours of testing, we made some big improvements with the rear end. Previously, it felt “low and slow” as the shock was a little soft and would pack under constant whoops causing the rear end to swap and kick side to side. We stiffened up the low speed compression 8-10 clicks and sped up the rebound 2-3 clicks to help with this. When hitting the trophy truck whoops, you have to wheelie/manual them to maintain speed and avoid getting sent over the bars, and this put more of the weight on the rear end most of the course. Thus, stiffening and speeding up the shock was our solution.
On Day 2, we decided I would start similar to our method at Glen Helen a month ago that had worked out well in our favor. Since we finished 3rd Open bike on Saturday, and the 4th place finisher didn’t show up, I started by myself behind N3 and N33 which was a relief. I didn’t have to worry about beating anyone to the dust and could ride my own race. I took off at the green light and railed a few berms before heading into the treacherous Parker desert after a full day of SXS, Car, and Truck racing had taken place. Much to my dismay, the course wasn’t as beat up as I thought it would be.
A few corners had much bigger whoops and there was a lot more silt prevalent throughout the course, but overall it wasn’t as dangerous or as rough as I expected. From Day 1, I smoothened out on the power and gelled with the bike better, ultimately leading to a faster pace. About ⅔ through the loop, I was catching some dust from the riders ahead of me. Rounding a corner, I saw the N33 bike just getting going after a crash, and I raced my way past to get ahead of the dust. I instantly took off, but caught some more dust just a few miles leading. Once we reached one of the plateaus, I could see I had caught N3. From here, it was tough to make up anymore time with how dusty everything was. I would try different lines everywhere I could, with some working and some not.
For the rest of lap 1 and all of lap 2, I trailed in Nic’s dust searching for a way around. Close to the end of the lap, I took a different line out of the dust and ended up dropping my front wheel into a big hole with an angled square edge on it. My front wheel hit and I nearly went over the bars, but I kept the bike upright and raced off to make up some time. I closed the gap back up, but hit a buried rock or hole coming out of a high speed corner. It sent me into a “Flying W”, then into a whiskey throttled Superman as I hung off the back of the bike trying to regain composure. As I raced across the whooped out rode completely out of control, I knew I couldn’t throw it away just a couple of miles from the end of my day. Luckily, I got the bike under control and cruised it into the pits just outside of Nic’s dust. Here, Hayden got on the bike and trailed Nic, but never found a way around.
In the end, we finished 2nd O/A on the day, but we were successful in the bigger picture. We won the BITD Open Pro Championship, the mini “Adventure Series Championship,and the Maxxis Triple Crown Overall Championship, which netted us an extra $3,500. By finishing 2nd, we lost out on an extra $2,500 in prize money, but we aren’t complaining too much! Now, we look forward to finishing out the GP season and will head into 2021 with hopes of defending the N1 plate!
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