We’re back in the desert after a few months off! Following the Silver State 300 and Tonopah Hare and Hound, myself and Hayden were bringing some confidence and momentum into the big one — the Casey Folks Vegas to Reno. Unfortunately, fellow competitor Nic Garvin is out for the remainder of the year with some serious injuries sustained in Baja right after Tonopah. His strong start to the series was impressive to watch and he had us on our toes as we tried to defend the Open Pro championship. With him being out for the year, that “bumped” us into the virtual points lead going into V2R, though we wish we could have a straight up battle to the finish as we hope to do next year with Nic.
After some good test sessions leading up to the race and getting a feel for the high speed desert terrain, Hayden and I felt good going into the longest race of the year. New for this race was a time trial to set starting position, which we deemed Hayden to take on for us. Going against some heavy hitters, Hayden finished out 3rd O/A on the time trial behind Dalton Shirey and Ricky Brabec and narrowly edged out Beta’s Zane Roberts. With time trials over, we probed the bike putting the big 4.5 gal IMS tank on and Kenda K270 rear tire.
Friday morning started dark and early as we awoke around 3:30AM and hit the road by 4:15AM to leave Beatty and go north up to the start line outside of Bonnie Claire. Hayden started it off for us and would ride the first 130 miles to Pit 4 in Millers, NV. Through Pit 1, Hayden kept it close to Ricky and pulled a small amount of time on Zane, though it was still very early in the race. By the time Pit 4 came around, we had lost a few minutes to both Dalton and Ricky, though that was what I expected as those two teams would be tough to beat on speed.
I got on the bike for the first time at Pit 4 it started with a section I had ridden last year. I got on and felt pretty good for the first few miles, but almost immediately I had come up on some rain damage in a high speed section. Seeing it and the danger marking last second, I did what I could to get the front wheel over it and I braced for the rear end to pick up. As I hit it, I felt confident the bike could handle it and it’d be alright, but as I rode the front wheel, I started to get a little head shake and got a tad nervous that I couldn’t pull it off. In what felt like forever, the rear end dropped back down after kicking me up and over the bars with me feet well above the seat. I landed it, gave a sigh of relief, and tried to get back on the gas. The next 20 or so miles had seen a lot of water and was fairly rocky and washed out and I struggled to find my rhythm. I kept fighting the bike and not riding how I wanted to be, but I was finally able to start to turn it around about halfway to Pit 5. I felt more comfortable and started trusting the markings again and started to drop the hammer a bit. Soon thereafter, I found myself coming down a virgin sand wash and ended up getting lost. Luckily, I realized this before I got too far out of the way and I was able to manage my way back to the course. From here on out, the roads were all very, very fast yet fun and I was able to make up some lost time on the Beta team behind us as I raced to Pit 6 90 miles later.
Hayden jumped back on the bike for a short 80 mile section to Pit 8 where I would take off and ride 145 miles to Pit 12. When he came in, he had quite a few tipovers in the rocky terrain coming into the pit and the Beta of Zane Roberts was side by side with us. With both teams performing a wheel and air filter change, it’d be up to the pit crews to see who would get back on the course first. The Beta team proved to be a bit better as they came in behind us and left just before us. In the process of our wheel change, somewhere along the way our axle didn’t get put in right which we would later find out…
Leaving Mina, I was sitting right in Zane’s dust as we raced down some fast and flowing fire roads, including through a herd of cows which got more than close to us leaving the pits. Doing the math in my head, I knew the Beta team would have to pit in Gabbs so my goal was to just stay in Zane’s dust and hope to make the pass while he refueled at the next pit. As his lead yo-yo’d back and forth, I was able to close it down in the last 10 or so miles and held right in the thick of his dust entering Pit 9 just 50 miles later. Just as I thought, I was able to squeak by when he was dumping gas. From here, it was the same section I rode in 2019 and most of the same in 2020 so I had an idea of what was ahead and how fast it was. I felt really good on the bike this time out and put my head down and did the best I could to open a gap before the next pit at Rawhide. Everything was flowing and the bike was working good, though I thought I could maybe hear something down by the rear wheel, though I wasn’t entirely sure.
At Pit 11, we dumped gas again and I saw I had a considerable gap open up with dust still a ways back in the valley. This gave me some confidence and I knew I could ride a safe, smooth pace till the next pit as the terrain would get rockier for the next 20 miles. Again, I felt really good and had a lot of fun in the sand and flowing roads leading up to Pit 11 at Top Gun. I was able to ride through without getting gas and couldn’t see any dust in the short distance which meant we still had a lead going. The final 30 miles to Weeks at Pit 12 was fast but had some more water damage with mud grooves cemented into the dry lake bed, though it still felt safe. I handed the bike off to Hayden for him to finish it off in the last 45 miles for us. Somehow I was able to pull nearly 7 minutes on the Beta team which gave Hayden a nice cushion to secure a 3rd Overall on the day.
Overall, it was one of the smoothest races we’ve ever had despite our rear axle nearly falling off and losing the chain masterlink in the last 200 miles. I had only one close call but no falls and Hayden only had some minor slide outs throughout the day. Mechanically, we were mostly rock solid and our brakes held together all 489 miles averaging 61mph finishing in 8:03.
Bike setup wise, the IMS 4.5 Gallon tank was a must as we like how it feels and the added weight. Gearing is 15/48 with an added 6th gear in the transmission. We’re running a 2019 XC-F tranny since the new Pankl transmissions introduced in 2020 don’t have a 6th gear made up just yet. Also, we ran big 235 Nitromousse’s in our 90/100-21 Washougal II Front Tire and 325 Nitro’s in our two Kenda K270 Rear Tires. This is to avoid burning up a mousse with the constant high speed terrain over the long stints we put the tires through. Surprisingly, the front tire performance went downhill a lot the last half of the race but it was nothing we couldn’t overcome. Other than that, everything else was rock solid and our rear and front brake pads looked like new after the race, something we’ve struggled with in the past.
Thanks to those who support us!
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