2021 Best In The Desert Parker 250 Race Report
Photos by Trevor Hunter, Harlen Foley
Coming off of a successful year last year, Hayden Hintz and I were looking to carry that momentum into the new year and the start of the 2021 Best In The Desert Series at the Parker 250. We had made a couple of minor changes to our KTM 450 since last year, mainly a few sponsor products as we would be riding for Kilmartin Racing this year. However, most of the same setup was used and we were feeling good about our chances despite a talented Open Pro field this year. After going through tech and contingency on Friday, we were ready to get the race going bright and early Saturday morning.
7:30AM AZ time was our call time for the race to start, and as usual, the Sun was barely up and the temps were cool. Luckily, we drew the first start row, but starting two at a time meant we would need to get the jump on the N2 bike of Evan Kelly and Nic Colangeli to start out dust-free. As I rode over to the start line, I noticed the rear brake felt really soft and spongey which isn’t ideal for a long race like this, but I had hoped it would come back once we started racing. When the light turned green, we raced off into the Parker desert side-by-side as we weaved in and out on the graded path they had laid out for us. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it out ahead of Evan and I immediately had to back down and ride slowly through the rocky, two-track road filled with dust.
For the most part, I dealt with quite a bit of dust for the first 25 miles or so, and going straight into the low-hanging sun made visibility nearly nonexistent. Once I reached Midway, the course turned away from the Sun and I was able to pick up my pace with little dust. From there, the next ~35 miles went fairly smoothly. As I continued to ride, the rear brake continuously got worse and worse and I ended up trying not to use it at all except for emergencies. Coming into the pits, we were still sitting in 2nd O/A but I had lost quite a few minutes to Evan in the opening miles while sitting in the dust. From here, Hayden jumped on the bike to do his first of two loops.
A little over an hour later, Nic Colangeli on the N2 bike came through the pits still leading physically, but right behind him was Nic Garvin who was soloing the event on his CRF450L. Nic had started 30 seconds behind us, and with him passing us physically, that set us back a spot in the running order. I jumped back on the bike a little behind Nic and went out to for my final loop.
Right as I got going, a lapped quad had passed who was going very, very slow through the pits. While the speed limit is 25MPH, he was going 13-14MPH (via my Garmin watch), costing me valuable time as we idled down the stretch and I was unable to pass him. At that time, the two Beta teams of Joe Wasson and Zane Roberts were right on my wheel. Finally, the quad pulled off at the very end of the pits and I could get back up to the legal speed limit. As I took off, the rear brakes were all but nonexistent and I had to solely rely on the front brake. However, sometime during the first two laps, we had blown the left fork seal due to a rock hitting the lower fork tube, and we were left with oil-soaked front brake pads.
From here, the brakes weren’t working all that great and I decided to play it safe and try to have a smooth ride. As we raced up Osborne Wash in and out of the lappers dust, my hands started going numb and feeling fatigued. The rock-hard ODI lock-on grips had torn up my hands and I was feeling the effects much earlier than I was anticipating. Near the end of the wash, as I struggled to hold on and struggled to slow down, Joe Wasson ripped past me and left me in his dust. I kept the same strategy and tried to knock off smooth, problem-free miles avoiding any crashes or damaging the bike even more.
As I hit Midway, I could see Zane Roberts close to me. Still, I did what I could and tried to hold him off as long as I could. About 10 miles from the end of the loop, I got caught in a lapper’s dust which slowed me down tremendously. For about a mile, I had to back way down as I sat in blinding dust and couldn’t close the last 50 yards to his rear wheel. Finally, we jumped onto a wide fire road and I was able to close up and get around him. Unfortunately, Zane had closed the gap at that time and right after I passed the lapper, Zane passed me. I tried to hold his pace but fell back slightly in the final few miles of the lap. After my 2nd 63 mile loop, I handed the bike off to Hayden for him to bring it into the finish. And that he did, 5th O/A physically and on adjusted time.
It wasn’t the result we were looking for, but neither of us crashed or got hurt so we are thankful for that. We’ll be ready to come back to Laughlin next month and hopefully more prepared as that race suits our styles a lot better than Parker did.
This was some of the other “damage” done to the bike after ~250 miles and over 4.5 hours of racing.
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