NHHA National Hare and Hound Association Series
Round 3: Dirt Inc. Rabbit Creek 100
By Skyler Howes
Photos by Mark Kariya and Michael Knight
Courtesy of Blais Racing Services
MURPHY, ID, MAR. 21-22, 2015
Race Report by Skyler Howes, Fifth Overall Pro
I’m always excited for the Idaho NHHA. We get a different type of terrain and a break from the California rocks. This year we were running the same bomb run as we did in 2012, so I had an idea of what to expect.
The Guard family and myself arrived Friday afternoon and I headed over to walk the bomb. It had changed quite a bit since the last time I was there. The sagebrush was thicker and the washes and rain ruts were bigger. There was also a pretty defined trail right up the middle as well. I decided on the main line right up the middle and walked the whole thing. We headed back into town for some grub and to get some sleep. (Thanks to Troy Guard for hooking us up with a hotel room.)
Saturday was the kids’ race. We headed out early and got there in time to watch my teammate Cole [Timboe] race his 50. He grabbed a sweet holeshot and rode a good race to come home with second overall!
After that was the Supermini race. My teammate Braydon Bland also ripped an awesome holeshot and ran away with the big W by over six minutes, like a boss!
Race day! We all headed out bright and early to make sure we had everything dialed. I dropped my bike off at the line to reserve my spot, right next to Ricky Brabec, who decided on the same line as me. They’d widened the bomb since I had walked it on Friday, and it seemed like the majority of the riders chose the far left side, which left a good open spot up the middle for us. After some more breakfast and gearing up, I headed to the bomb and lined up my trusty Blais Racing Services steed.
As the banner dropped, I got a great jump but hooked right off the line and also lost some momentum. I knew some people were going to be nervous of the sagebrush and slow down for it. If you just leaned back and held it pinned, most of the time the bushes would not be an issue, so I kept her wide open and hoped to edge everyone out for the main line. My Kenda tires gripped up in the dry Idaho dirt and plowed through the brush to bring me to the line with fresh air. I quickly noticed that the line on the far left was pretty fast, and I was getting edged out by Ivan Ramirez, Joey Black and Brandon Prieto. I was able to hold the line all the way to the end of the bomb just behind those three, in fourth overall.
We immediately dropped into a very tight handlebar wash and started the daisy train. In 2012, there was a handful of riders who jumped out of the wash and decided to bushwhack it across the top to get the edge on everyone else who stayed in the wash, which is total bullcrap. Without fail, Nick Burson took his same line and hopped out of the wash and passed us all up to second overall – I was pretty pissed about that, again – so now I was back to fifth.
After a few miles, I was able to catch up to Joey and battle with him for a sec before he decided to play it smart and ride his pace. I got by him and had my sights set on the next rider.
As I crested a hill, I noticed that Brandon Prieto had crashed but was up, walking back to his bike. I motored by, but come to find out after the race that he had injured his arm in the crash; I’m bummed for him!
After another mile or so, I noticed Nick on the side of the trail, [dealing] with some mechanical issues. This actually put me to second overall for just a second!
Shortly after, Ricky Brabec closed in quick and was on a mission. I swung a corner wide to make it easy on him so he could up the charge on to catch up to the front.
Back to third now, I had a high pace that I needed to keep, so I pushed hard through the Idaho chop.
I am really stoked for my Flexx handlebars; I don’t know where I would be without them, because I was riding tight and much slower than I should have been, to avoid any mistakes. Fourth-place [rider] Jared Schlapia was just out of my dust, so I had to keep it clean.
As we jumped into a tight, rocky wash, my arm pump got the best of me, causing me to have a small tip-over, allowing Jared to get around me. David Kamo and Dalton Shirey were right there as well, so I really needed to get my act together. I focused really hard on relaxing and riding smooth, which allowed Dave and Dalton to stay right on my tail. However, just a few miles later, I fully loosened up and was able to really put the charge on.
We came into the alternate pit eon, where I got a splash of fuel from Troy, and hit the trail right on Jared’s tail. I was able to put a good gap back on Dave and Dalton, so I could keep my focus on getting ahead of the dust. After following Jared for a mile or two, I was able to sneak by, putting myself back to third overall.
I wanted to give myself a good cushion, so I kept pushing hard, and I was feeling great! My ESR/ Race Tech suspension was soaking up the terrain great!
After about 25 miles, I took a glance back to see David Kamo not too far out of my dust. I thought, ‘Holy crap! He is riding good!’ because I was riding just about to my potential.
As we crested the next hill and made our way to alternate gas two, I slowed to get another splash of fuel from Don Meza. Even though I only spent about five seconds there, thanks to my IMS quick-fill system, David opted out of the pit and kept it pinned past me, putting me back to fourth overall.
Twelve miles later, we made it to the main pit, where I was 45 seconds back from Dave. Boe Bland got me dialed with some more AMSOIL mixed fuel and a fresh set of X Brand goggles from Brian Adams. I was quickly back out on to the 30-mile loop two with a pretty decent gap on fifth place.
I kept up the pace and was having a blast with the washes we were in right from the start. However, we came to the water holes, and you could not see the bottom, so that made me nervous. I took a center line and motored through the first hole and up to the waterfall. I caught a ledge that took all my momentum and I started to slide out. I paddled all the way up the waterfall right in front of everyone, like a squid, so I felt pretty embarrassed. Of course, Beau Cottington got it on film, so everyone else could see, too! Ha ha ha!
After that show, I had some work to do to gain back some more time on Dave and put another gap on whoever was behind me. I really put the hammer down as we made our way to the rocky, tight washes. Again, it is really easy to hop out of the wash and beeline through the sagebrush. I pounded through the wash and reached the end, looking back to see Axel Pearson just out of my dust; I really had my work cut out for me to keep him at bay, so I pinned it.
I hit a few crazy ditches and road crossings way hard, so I am so stoked for my suspension, Flexx bar and Fastway steering damper setup to save my life! We hit some really fast roads, and I let that Blais Racing power do the work, putting some distance back ahead of Axel.
We got to some awesome single-track, but climbing up a small hill, I veered slightly off and had to bomb down through a ravine and back onto the trail, actually losing me quite a bit of time and allowing Axel to get really close.
We hit another water crossing (my Alpinestars boots keeping my feet safe and dry) and onto another single-track.
At the crest of the hill, I started to kind of low-side wash out on a left-hand corner, so I turned into it. I clipped a small rock that stood me right back up and headed right off the trail that actually ended up to be, like, a solid 50- to 80-foot cliff. I bailed instantly, hoping to slide out on the downhill before I reached the cliff. Luckily, I slid to a stop and was able to stop it all from flying all the way down to my doom! I picked my upside-down bike back up and hit the E-start, beginning my journey back to the trail.
Axel cruised by, and I could see more dust coming, so I really hurried to get my bike back on the trail. Losing quite a bit of time, I gained my composure back up and tried to up my pace, in hopes of catching Axel. To my luck, he tipped over, and I closed in right behind him, but the dust was so thick! It was really hard to ride at his pace in the dust and make any type of move. As I closed in, my clutch adjuster screwed itself all the way in somehow, and I ended up only having the tiniest bit left to work with. To my disappointment, we rounded the next corner on in to the finish, where I was just behind Axel, in fifth overall.
It was an extremely eventful 107 miles through the Idaho desert and actually a really fun, great race! I am stoked to come away with a fifth overall, which is my best finish so far this year. There is a lot more things to learn, and I am stoked to continue my push for the championship and improve my results.
The biggest “thank you” to all of my sponsors: Blais Racing Services, Mom and Dad, Fasst Co., KTM, Rebellious Status Clothing, ESR Suspension, Race Tech, Dubya, DVS, AMSOIL, Alpinestars, Kenda, Pro Moto Billet, Fastway, FMF, Rekluse, RmorFX, TLD, BRP, Bullet Proof, Asterisk, DirtTricks, REEL Cameras, IMS, No-Toil, Maxilube, X Brand Goggles, Tunex of Washington, A’ME Grips, Samco, Hot Rods, Vertex, C&J Powder Coating, BeHot, and Suzie Potts!
[Stay tuned for more from this event to be posted soon on Today’s Cycle Coverage… Editor]