Striking Out In The Silver State
Story by Trevor Hunter, Photos by Kato, Harlen Foley, and Jimmy Lewis
Coming off back-to-back 3rd place finishes at the Parker 250 and Silver State 300, myself and Hayden Hintz were hoping to continue that podium streak coming into the biggest race of the year, the Casey Folks Vegas To Reno. The Open Pro field was stacked for this race, with 14 entries in our class and a lot of talent making up those entries. With a couple of days testing fuels, mapping, and tires on our 3BROS KTM 450 XC-F, we both felt confident in the bike and looked to put together a solid race.
We ran a combination of gas suggested by the folks at F&L Racing Fuels and found we could get a little more top speed out of the bike, along with a stronger pull which helped pulling 5th and 6th gear with our tall 15/48 gearing. Additionally, Blais Racing remapped the bike in accordance with the fuel. We felt the mapping smoothed out the power off the bottom, but gave it more in the mid-top where we needed it to grab the higher gears. We also balanced our wheels with Motion Pro 1/4oz. weights for this high speed race. It would help with tire wear and gain traction as the tire would be firmly planted on the ground rather than hopping around at high speeds.
Friday morning’s 3:30AM wakeup call came dark and early, and we set out for the start of our 515 mile race in Armagosa Valley. The COVID-19 restrictions made things a bit hectic trying to get to the start line with a long line half a mile long. We cut it close on time, but made it through and quickly got sorted. I was slated to start the race for us and get the bike to Pit 2 at RM82 where Hayden would take over for a bit.
Starting 7th off the line, I watched on as I saw a big dust cloud arise right off the start. Once the light turned green, I ventured off into the desert quickly reaching 90+MPH on a sandy stretch of road. To my luck and the other rider’s misfortune, the bike who started directly ahead of me had blown a motor on that first straightaway just a few minutes into the race. After passing him, I was now dust free and setting my sights on the next rider, only to pass him a few miles later on the side of the road with a broken bike!
With a 3 minute gap to the next bike, dust was minimal for most of my time on the bike. The 30ish miles into Pit 1 started with a long whooped out straight away before heading into some flatter sections and a long, rocky sandwash. From Pit 1-2, it was extremely fast, save for the 7 mile “speed zone” where we couldn’t go faster than 45MPH. Following the speed zone was a long 20 mile valley into the Bonnie Claire pit where you seemingly never had to lift unless you hit some dust clouds. Our Strava recorded our top speed through here at 114MPH! We were now sitting 5th O/A physically as I handed the bike off to Hayden for his 122 mile stint.
Hayden was able to pass into 4th O/A between Pit 2-3, but eventual winner Ricky Brabec was hot on his heels leaving Pit 3. Ultimately, he would get by and take off to win the race physically and on adjusted time. I got back on the bike at Pit 5 at RM204 and would ride 69 miles to Pit 7. We watched eventual winner Ricky Brabec roll through just ahead of Hayden, meaninAs Hayden handed the bike off to me, he said the rear brake was practically nonexistent. I took off and tried to settle into a comfortable pace knowing I didn’t have the rear brake as a safety. The first 10-15 miles were tough without the rear brake, but the terrain started to open up after that and made the rear brake a little less critical.
Unfortunately, Jacob Argubright had broke down leaving Pit 5, which bumped us up a position. As I came flying into Pit 7, we stopped to do a big maintenance pit which included a wheel change, rear brake pads, air filter, and gas. We had an issue with our left side rear brake pad which had worn down to the metal, despite the right pad looking like new. We suspect the caliper got stuck on the pin which led to the premature wear on the left brake pad. We had a rather long pit stop which cost us some time, and the N3 team had closed the gap over the last couple of sections lacking some braking power.
I got back on the bike for the final time and was tasked with riding 100 miles from Pit 10 at RM367 to Pit 13 at RM467. From RM400 on, the course was exactly the same as I had ridden last year so I knew what I was heading into and had a vague idea of where I was out on the course. Hayden handed the bike off to me with a little bit of a lead on the N3 team and I set out into the desert. Pit 10-11 was really fast, mainly staying on this wide and smooth powerline road before venturing off into a sandwash and two track road.
As I left Pit 11, I could see N3’s dust and knew the gap was minimal. A majority of the 36 miles to Pit 12 wasn’t ideal terrain for myself as it was high speed roads with rises and dips and a lot of in-ground rocks to hit. The course followed it up with my favorite section on the couse. We were sent down this fast and flowy “sand track” with big berms and some jumps to float off of. On top of that, the spectators were out in full force in this section cheering us on as we raced by. Leaving Pit 12, I looked back and saw the N3 bike was still right there. Again, I knew what was in store for the next 31 miles to Pit 13 and it was extremely fast. I did my best and got the bike to Hayden so he could finish the last 50ish miles for us with the N3 bike right on our wheel.
We averaged just under 62MPH to finish the 515 mile race in 8 hours and 20 minutes, with Hayden crossing the finish line 3rd physically. Skyler Howes, who had led most of the day physically, crashed out coming into Pit 13 and wasn’t able to ride in to the finish. On our team, Hayden made up a little bit of time on N3, but it wasn’t enough as we finished just over 1 minute behind on adjusted time for 4th O/A, and 20 minutes behind Ricky Brabec.
Overall, we had a good race with only a few small problems, but our best one yet as a team. Our Kenda K270 rear and Washougal II front tires held up really well and worked good out in the Nevada desert. The dual-sport rear tire suffered a little in the sand, but was excellent on the hard packed roads and rocks. We swapped it out around RM270, but it still had some good life left on it. Likewise, the Washougal front tire worked well everywhere and lasted the entire race. Next up in the BITD Series is Laughlin for their hare scramble format next month so stay tuned for more!
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