International Six Day Enduro Qualifiers
Idaho City 100 ISDE Qualifier
By Skyler Howes, Harry Lyles, Ben Meza, Brendan Crow and Braydon Bland
Photos by Terri Bland
Courtesy of Chris Blais/Blais Racing Services
IDAHO CITY, ID, MAY 31-JUNE 1, 2014
Race Report by Skyler Howes, E3 LOI
First thing, I want to thank everyone that helped this weekend: the Stouts and Andersons, for the delicious pasta and hospitality; the Knights, for all the advice and keeping my hands fresh; Don Meza and Dean Crow. for the amazing hard work to keep us all perfectly dialed in the pits; the Fulfers, for the amazing food and making sure we are always taken care of; the Blands, for letting Harry [Lyles] and I in on the way up and down. I met Joe from Reel Cameras out working hard. Really cool to meet the rider manager in person and see all the effort they put in to the best POV camera on the market! I also want to thank Blais Racing Services, Fasst Co., KTM, Rebellious Status Clothing, ESR Suspension, Race Tech, RAD Manufacturing, Freegun, AMSOIL, Alpinestars, Kenda, Pro Moto Billet, Fastway, FMF, Rekluse, HBD Motografx, Regina, TLD, BRP, Bullet Proof, DirtTricks, Reel Cameras, Eline, IMS, No Toil, Acerbis, Muscle Milk, X Brand Goggles, A’ME Grips, RMOR FX, and Bike Week Radio.
The alarm goes off at 6 a.m., and it felt like I was up before anyone! I cooked up some oatmeal and started getting the little things, like gear, ready.
The riders’ meeting was first thing, and then, row by row, the first LOI riders were off, starting with E1, which my teammate Ben Meza was in. I started on row 13 and I was the only rider on the minute! At 9:13 a.m. I hit the trail – or paved road, I should say. The Idaho City small-town vibe is sick! The start of the course weaved through the town and out on to the trail.
Right away, I found my flow and cruised through the transfer. I quickly caught dust and had to make a few passes. Then I came upon the first test. I waited my turn and they waved me on. I pinned it, but still not knowing any of the terrain here, I was a little more cautious than I would have liked to be.
To my surprise, I caught a rider in the test, and another, and another. I ended up passing four riders in the special test, which actually didn’t work in my favor. Having to fight in the dust and make passes in the tight trails really hurt my time. I came to check one with 11 minutes to spare. The next transfer sections turned out to be pretty sweet on the logging roads; getting some two-wheel drifts on were pretty radical!
The next test was the grass-track, which I didn’t get to walk, unfortunately. I quickly found out that slower is faster. The terrain was very dry: hard-packed underneath and “poofy” on top. I blew a couple corners, one of which was major. I found the groove and tried to make up time.
Coming into the pits, I got fuel and munched on as much food as I possibly could!
Next came the road test. I was stoked! Finally, a trail [on which] I could let it all hang out – and I did just that. I caught three more riders in this test and got around them quick. One rider that I caught right up to was actually an E3 Pro rider, which gave me some motivation.
More fuel in the pits and we were off on the 33-mile transfer that we had to do in 110 minutes. Let me tell you, this was some tight stuff: all fresh, private trails that were overgrown. My arms and neck were taking a beating! Lucky for me, my X Brand goggles kept my face protected, and my Troy Lee Designs helmet was keeping my dome from getting destroyed, sticking six feet above the bike.
The fourth test took a toll on me. In the really tight trees and downhill switchbacks, I lost quite a bit of time. Coming down a hill, my front end started [going] into the side of the hill, which kept knifing my front end, ultimately causing me to tip over. I quickly remounted and put the hammer down, but I was not happy about the mistake.
The last few transfers went well and I came back to the main pits to start my 15-minute work period. I quickly put in a fresh No Toil air filter, lubed my chain with some AMSOIL metal protector, and looked over the rest of the bike before I pushed it into impound. One hundred and thirty-one miles on day one taught me a lot about the enduro format, and I knew how to better approach Day Two. With some struggles in the day, it put me back to eighth in the E3 class and a disappointing 19th overall.
I got in some grub and hit the sack.
Today was 30 miles shorter than Day One because some of the hills we came down, we sure as heck weren’t making it back up with any hope of keeping time. We were doing most of Day One’s course backwards!
Right away, [going] into the tight trees, I put in the effort to push in the trees and find my speed. We had a 29-mile transfer that consisted of two special tests. I felt like I nailed these tests, much better than yesterday! I ended up catching up and passing up to minute five from minute 13; I was feeling good.
As we came to check three, it was tight; I had only a couple minutes for some quick bites of fruit and water before we hit the grass-track. I started on my minute and made my way to the test. I waited in line for about a minute and a half before I could go.
I hit the grass-track with a much better approach and only had a small bobble when I stuffed it into a corner. As I exited the test, I took a glance at my watch and noticed I only had two minutes to make it to the check! I was fully pinned, 100 percent, trying to make it on time. I took some gnarly risks on a road with the water cuts almost launching me into a flying W. I came to the pits and noticed I was three minutes down. I slowed for the pits and for the check to write down my number – what a mistake. I crossed the check line at 12:00:02, which put me four minutes back! I was pissed!
I nailed my next special, which was the road test, and made my transfer back to the pits, where I had about 20 minutes to spare…?! Talking with everyone, they all had been late – some only two or three minutes and some up to six because they had to fuel up. No one was stoked. Every transfer section into the checks, we had over 20 minutes to spare at each. Day Two’s times were all jacked.
I started to feel the toll of the terrain in the last transfer. So many braking and accelerating bumps from 300 riders doing the same trail the day before made for a rough and bumpy day. My Flexx handlebars were my pride and joy, along with my Race Tech/ESR Suspension.
At the last check, we had 27 minutes to spare, so we all kicked backed, bench-raced and drank some water, waiting for the 1.8-mile road transfer back to the pits. I finished out Day Two much stronger, but with that four-minute penalty, I dropped to sixth in the E3 class and 12th overall.
I learned so much from my first time at Idaho City and my first-ever enduro. Disappointed in my result, it will only give me the drive to train harder to come back next year knowing what to expect!
Race Report by Harry Lyles, AA
My main goal after I get done with college – besides finding a good-paying job to support my racing – is to try to qualify for the ISDE in 2016. I decided to go this year, even though I was in the midst of the end of my school year. I decided to do so, so I would have two chances to see how the Idaho City ISDE Qualifier works before I fully commit to trying to qualify for the ISDE. I was so excited about going, I had all my supplies, gear and bike ready a week before I left.
I left So Cal directly from school and drove straight to my parents’ house to drop off some flowers to my mom, because she was retiring after 27 years of teaching that day. (Way to go, Mom!!!)
I filled up my truck and headed straight to my teammate’s house in St. George, Utah. The solo six-hour drive went by quickly, and I was in Utah, at Skyler Howes’ house, around 9 p.m. We loaded up his sprinter and drove straight through the night to Braydon Bland’s house.
We arrived at 2:30in the morning in Herriman, Utah, and quickly passed out. We all were up bright and early at 6:30, and Skyler, Braydon, and I went straight to IHOP and got crazy on some pancakes. We charged to Idaho City and got there around 2:30 p.m. and went straight to sign-ups.
After sign-ups, we unloaded the bikes and threw on some helmets to ride the jetting loops. After a hitting a couple fast sections, I knew I had to make a few changes. I leaned it out the main jet, and my Blais Racing machine was purring. Skyler and I ate a delicious dinner with the Fulfers, and off to bed we went.
Saturday’s route was going to be a long one, according to my route times. I would leave at 9:33 and not come back ’til 4:14 in the afternoon. The course was a total of 130 miles, so conserving energy was going to be the key to surviving the weekend.
On the way up, Skyler gave me some really good advice on how to approach the start of the race. I felt relaxed as I left the starting line, and within a few short miles of twisting through the trees, I had arrived at the first special. I checked into the special riding at a fast and “flowy” pace. I knew I wouldn’t have the fastest time in the first special, but I rode at a comfortable speed that I knew wouldn’t give me arm pump and cause me to crash.
After the special was over, I couldn’t believe how rough the course was, and I was hoping for smoother trails down the way. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the truth; the trails were extremely scenic, but they were the roughest trails I have ever ridden.
I got to the grass-track, and I was really excited to put my lap in because I’ve never ridden anything close to something like it. I was a little too excited, and I ended up washing out my front end twice, which really killed my test time.
I put those mistakes behind me and just focused on the rest of the day, which was pretty uneventful – until I got to the home check and completely made a rookie mistake. I went straight into the pits, which evidently caused me to burn the check by three minutes! I was so bummed, because if I hadn’t made that mistake, I would have ended up third AA out of 17 super-fast guys!
Although I was upset about my silly amateur mistake I’d made the day prior, I wasn’t going to let it dictate my ride for Day Two. For Sunday’s course, we would run the course backwards, which meant the trails were going to be absolutely hammered. By the time I would get to them, over 350 riders would have touched their wheels on the trails.
The first two tests, I rode awesome and didn’t make any mistakes, but as soon as I got done with the second special, I was hearing a weird squeaking sound out of my forks. I looked down and immediately saw that the problem was that my fork bleeder was ripped off and fork oil was spraying everywhere every time the forks would compress. I knew this was going to be the end of my day, but I decided to keep on pushing to try to make the checks on time.
As the day progressed, the forks got harder and harder, until my left fork was completely out of oil. This made the bike absolutely unbearable to ride, because it felt like I was riding a rigid-frame bicycle at a Thursday Glen Helen practice. I’ve never been so happy to see the end of the race, because the bike was causing me so much pain.
All in all, it was an amazing weekend, hanging with my friends and teammates and seeing parts of the U.S. I haven’t seen before. I met some really cool people and I cannot wait to come back and race it again next year with some experience under my belt.
I want to take the time to thank everyone who helped me out at the Idaho City ISDE Qualifier: Skyler Howes, for driving hundreds of miles in his rig; Boe and Terrie Bland, for letting Skyler and I stay the night; Don Meza and Dean Crow, for being the ultimate pit dads; and to Jimmy Jarrett, for letting me borrow his blow-up mattress.
A special thanks goes to all the volunteers that made this event possible and to all of my amazing sponsors: Blais Racing, Fasst Co., Race Tech, ESR, Troy Lee Designs, Muscle Milk, Cytomax, Von Zipper, Dirt Tricks, No Toil, Kenda, and FMF. THANK YOU! See you at the races!
Race Report by Ben Meza, E1 LOI
I couldn’t wait for the Idaho City ISDE Qualifier this year! It’s my favorite race to attend! It’s so different from what I normally race! The format for the race was two 100-mile days, in the enduro style.
Saturday, I was ready to go! I was sitting on line two with Michael Allen and Josh Knight. I knew the E1 class would be a tough class, but I tried not to think about it.
The first part of the day went well! I was in the top three for the first few special tests! Unfortunately, I then got really tired and fell off the pace for the last few tests. I knew I was doing well still, so after the day, I set my sights on the next day.
Sunday started off much like Saturday: with a great start! I won the first special and was up front in the next few. Due to a poorly placed special in the middle of a short transfer, I lost six minutes that I couldn’t do anything about. I was really bummed but tried to keep my spirits high. After the second day, I was sitting fifth in the E1 class.
My finish isn’t really where I want to be, but I still had a great time out there! I want to thank my dad for helping me at the races and being my biggest supporter. I also want to thank the whole Blais Racing Team for everything they do for me, on and off the bike. Finally I want to thank each of my sponsors for continuing to help make my dreams a reality.
Race Report by Brendan Crow, Class E3
I had no expectations coming into this race, mainly because I had not competed in an enduro in several years, let alone one that was not anywhere near my local Southern California area.
The first day of the two-day event would prove to be one of the most taxing days I have spent on a motorcycle, and it truly opened my eyes to an event of this magnitude. I chose to ride in the E3 class and did my best to focus on myself, knowing there were a lot of excellent riders in the same class.
I spent the first half of the day getting acclimated; during the first few transfer sections, I was exploring the fine line between good speed and saving energy for the special tests. Most of my special tests would be a bit of a disappointment, as I fell over or made mistakes in most of them that cost me precious time. I kept my head up and rode on.
The course would cover about 125miles, and around the 100-mile mark, I would start to struggle mentally and physically. (Spending more than seven hours on the bike had completely drained me and left me cramping.) I wondered what I had gotten myself into, as I couldn’t help but think about still having one entire day of racing left. I don’t think I have ever in my life been so happy to see the finish line. I rode through completely exhausted, made a few adjustments to the bike before impound, and was ready to rest.
Waking up for Day Two was very difficult. Thinking about and remembering how I felt the night prior completely scared me. I had been 100-percent ready and not tired whatsoever before Day One, and [yet I] was left completely tired [after the first day]. Now I had to repeat the day while feeling the effects of riding the day before. I did my best to be optimistic and told myself to just go have a good time on my dirtbike.
Once we fired up the bikes and took off, my mindset began to change. I felt much better! I spent the first few miles loosening and warming up, and I was getting excited to see how the day would go. I made much fewer mistakes in the special tests this time around and felt like I was riding well, even with the past struggles of riding in the trees lingering in the back of my mind.
The only part of the course which gave me trouble was making one of the checks on time, although I would learn that everybody made it to that check late, so I had no reason to worry about it.
The biggest thing I left with after Day Two was that I enjoyed myself the entire time! I had become more used to the technical type of riding we were venturing through and was able to loosen up and have fun. Day Two was shorter mileage, but I was able to pass the finish line smiling and happy after having a successful weekend.
I may have not done extremely well in the results (Day One: 24th overall/ ninth E3; Day Two: 17th overall/ seventh E3), but I am satisfied with the result. Being my first time in Idaho City, I didn’t put pressure on myself to do well and came away surprised and excited with my finish. This event was unlike anything I have done in the past, and I can only hope I have the opportunity to do it again.
Race Report by Braydon Bland, 125cc Expert
I was pretty pumped about going to Idaho City because of all the interesting and awesome stories I have heard from some friends.
Friday, Skyler [Howes], Harry [Lyles] and myself made our way up to Idaho for the race. When we got there, my family showed up and we got me all signed up. Then I went back, tested my bike out, prepped it, and took it to impound. Before my family and I were about to leave, Skyler and Harry talked me into having spaghetti instead of a juicy burger, ha ha! Thanks, Ann and Joann, for the delicious spaghetti!
After we got to our hotel, Burke and I went for a little swim and then went to bed.
I woke up Saturday, went to the race and started getting ready. Due to this [being my] first experience with an enduro, I was getting a little stressed with all the times and rules that had to be done. Thanks to Josh Knight for helping me go through the steps and how it works; I was then a little bit more excited.
We watched everybody take off ahead of us, then my row, with my dad and Vince.
Once we got to our first test section, I watched my dad roar off up the hill. I was pretty stoked for him, because he hasn’t raced in years! Then, as I was going, I was trying to chase him down and pass him, but he has still got some speed! It felt pretty good and [we] made good time, [enough] to take a little break before we took off on the second check.
We got to the second test section, and this section was my favorite, because it was wet in the corners and fast and flowing through some tall trees. After that, we got to the end of the second check. My dad and I filled up with some gas and had a couple minutes to take a break and eat some fruit.
After a break, we got back on the bike and started [toward] check three. Within a couple miles, it was then the third test section. This was what I was looking forward to, because it was the grass-track that was three miles long in trees!
I started my test and was feeling good and was catching the guy in front of me, but then I hit a tree and took a dirt sample. I got up faster than I ever have before and started chasing him again. I then inched [up toward] him and past him. I ended that test section feeling pretty good, even with the crash.
When we finished the third check, I barely made it in time for the fourth check because of our times. I started the check, and I loved this loop because it was super technical and on a very steep-sided hill. When we got to the fourth test section, it was super fast on a road, but it was fun because it was nice and smooth. Then I went into to some nice single-track. I ended up with around 10 minutes to spare to take a break and eat some fruit.
After my nice break, I got ready and took off for the fifth check. I was feeling good and stayed in my dad’s dust but then fell off a hill, and it took me a while to get up. From there on, it was super fun in some really tight pine trees, which was cool. I got to the fifth test section, and it had lots of hillclimbs and downhills.
Basically, the rest of the race I rode good and was really happy with my finish. I am also really stoked for all my teammates [who got] awesome finishes!
Last, thanks to my mom and dad for everything they do for me and all of my sponsors: Blais Racing, X Brand Goggles, Fasst Co., Fastway, Troy Lee Designs, Alpinestars, FMF, and everybody else that’s helped me out.