Finding Bronze At The Silver State
Story by Trevor Hunter, Photos by Mark Kariya/Harlen Foley
Coming off of a podium finish at the Parker 250 with mediocre riding by myself, Hayden Hintz and I were looking to perform much better at the Silver State 300, now RD. 2 of the 2020 Best In The Desert Championship. We got in a day of testing a few weeks prior and both felt much more comfortable and confident on our 3BROS Racing KTM 450 XC-F. Hayden raced this event last year and we decided he’d ride the same sections this year since he knew the terrain and general area. As for myself, it was all new to me but I was excited to see something new!
Race day started dark and early at 3:30AM where we’d travel the short distance from our hotel in Caliente to the new race start a few miles down the road. Due to a wild fire outbreak on the hillside next to the start, the BITD crew quickly rerouted the course where we’d start at the original finish line and race for 16 miles backwards on the mapped out course until we jumped back on at Mile 26. The finish would then head back to the original start location after Pit 7 and race those 10 miles backwards on the course.
I started out the race for us, leaving 3rd bike off the line. Only the Factory Beta team and another privateer effort would leave tracks in front of me. I took off at 5:33AM and blazed down 100mph fire roads for miles and miles. The dust from the first two bikes would settle in some areas and blow away in others. I ended up hitting more than a few thick patches of dust losing valuable time on the two leaders. For 25 or so miles, we stuck to wide open roads chasing down the sun. Eventually, we headed into the mountains where it was a bit smokey, the dust was lingering, and the sun was glaring — not a good combo. I did the best I could and felt confident in my riding and speed, but struggled to ride at 100% through some dust and blinding light.
As the course sped back up and I got a little antsy to catch the team ahead, I started making some small mistakes and blew a few corners in the closing miles of my section. But, as we headed into Pit 2 at RM 73, I had caught the 2nd place team and trailed in their dust. Into Pit 2, I handed the bike off to Hayden where he would ride 75ish miles to Pit 4. In the process, we passed the 2nd bike and now sat 2nd OA physically and out of the dust. Hayden rode really well and lost very little, if any, time to the Beta team of Joe Wasson and Chance Fullerton up front.
We chased to Pit 4 and awaited Hayden’s arrival. The Beta team went in and out and were about 2:30 ahead physically, and about 30 seconds ahead on adjusted time. We quickly gassed up and I headed back out onto the course for my second and final stint. Again, I felt really comfortable and thought I had a pretty good pace going early on. I blew a corner or two and had some close calls, but I could see Chance’s tire marks doing the same. Instantly, I noticed the tires were past their prime and braking wasn’t quite as solid as it was in the morning. Around 10 miles in, I was racing through a sandwash and came into a slick corner a little hot. As I braked, the rear end started to come around and never stopped. I laid the bike over, but was able to quickly hop up and get going again. The end of the grip filled with some dirt but I was able to get it cleaned out and prevent the throttle from sticking. However, the front brake saw some damage. The lever bent up in the perch, and the perch itself was really loose. Within a mile, the whole front brake system was flopping around on the handlebars rendering it virtually useless until I could get into the pits 15 miles later.
This made racing at speeds a little tricky, especially in some of the sandwiches filled with turns and a lot of unknown. Luckily, I had some wide open fire roads where braking wasn’t too critical until closing in on an apparent corner. I reached my top speed of the whole race at 105mph on a long, downhill, freeway-wide road that lasted seemingly forever. I finally got to the pit where I could get the perch tightened up and in a position to where the front brake was usable, though not ideal due to a bent lever. As I left, I noticed the rear brakes weren’t working all that great, and eventually just stopped working. I had smoked the fluid and went through more of the pads than I had thought in the last few miles and early on in the race.
The terrain to Pit 6 started off fast and fun, then narrowed down into slower, really tight mountain roads with a lot of loose rocks before dropping into a twisty and sort of rocky sand wash. I struggled quite a bit in this section with a non-existent or marginal rear brake and an odd working front brake. The last 25 miles opened back up and ventured onto some of the most fun fire roads I’ve ever ridden. They meandered down the hill with sweeping turns, small rises and dips, and were smooth as glass. I had a blast ripping around at high speeds and trying to go as fast as I could. Around RM 212, as I raced at what I thought was a fast pace, eventual winner Skyler Howes passed me in the dust around the outside and took off. I was amazed at how he could get close enough, let alone pass me, in a fast section like this where dust was abundant, but hats off to him for making it work. I sat in right behind Skyler’s dust for the next few minutes before handing the bike off to Hayden.
After Hayden took off, we raced to Pit 7 for a quick fuel stop before he completed the last 15 miles of the race. After the Beta squad and Skyler came through, Hayden appeared and we gave him a quick splash of gas. As he rode away, we saw some serious wear and holes forming on the rear tire and hoped it wouldn’t come apart in the last 15 minutes of the race.
We made the short trek over to the finish and were happy to see Hayden sitting there with the Top 2 guys. After a short celebration, he rode the bike over and our jaws dropped when we saw the tire. There were several holes straight through the tire and the mousse had disintegrated to nothing. You could see nothing but rim as you peeked through the holes in the tires. Hayden said he didn’t notice it at speed, but did once he cruised back to the truck from the finish. 300 miles on one rear tire may have been a bit too much for us, but we got very lucky and made it work.
In the end, we crossed the line 3rd Overall physically and on adjusted time, around 7 minutes off of Skyler and 6ish minutes behind Beta. It was a huge improvement over our Parker race, especially on my end, and all of us were proud of the effort. Without my mistake going down and wreaking havoc on the bike, we likely would have been much closer to the front two. Now, we have a month and a half before we hit the longest race of the year, Vegas to Reno in mid-August.Th
Thanks to the team sponsors for helping us stay competitive in these long desert races!
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