USRA Utah Sportsman Riders Association Desert Series
Round 4: Desert Foxes’ Knolls Knockout at Knolls OHV Area
By Skyler Howes
Photos by Mike Knight
Courtesy of Blais Racing Services
KNOLLS, UT, MAR. 28, 2015
Race Report by Skyler Howes, Open Expert
The last time I was at Knolls was back in 2005, I think, on my 80. I knew kind of what to expect with the terrain but still had not even been in the area in 10 years! I was stoked to drive up early and stay at the Blands’ house Friday night and get back out to the race site early Saturday morning.
The start was pretty interesting! We started right at the base of a sand dune and had about four dunes total on the bomb run to jump over. Kadin Guard and myself found ourselves the best side to start on and got lined up. There was quite a bit of confusion in the riders’ meeting, as they changed up the banners and totally screwed us all who had decided to line up on the right side. After much complaining from all of us, the club rearranged the banners and got it worked out so we could all keep our same line.
As the banner dropped, I got a great jump and even pulled a wheelie up the first dune. My Kenda Washougal 2 tire hooked up great! As I crested over and hit the flat, I loaded the rear end to let the Blais Racing power of my KTM 300 XC pull me out front.
Each dune had a steep face on the other side, so we would launch off of them. However, I had no idea how soft the sand would be, so I checked up on the face of each dune to play it safe. This allowed Josh Knight to read off of me and send it a little farther than me each time. As we reached the last dune, Josh cut to the inside, and we were side by side heading to the first hill. I tried to take a bee-line to edge him out but just then I nailed some hidden thing in the sand and almost went over the bars! I rode the front wheel all the way to the base of the hill and somehow pulled it off. I’ve really got to thank my ESR/ Race Tech suspension for saving my life on multiple occasions!
Josh got up the hill first, with me right on his tail. In the riders’ meeting, they specifically told us that we had to take the lower line on the hill to avoid any pile-ups. Well, just as we got to the top, Dave Pearson took the main steep hill and straight-lined it ahead of us to grab the lead.
Now in third, I decided to play it safe and see how these guys were going to ride. Just as we came down from the hill and onto the flat sand, we crested a small dune [and saw] a small family of children riding their little TTRs backwards on the course. Dave was in first, and I could see him swerve and barely miss the first kid. He slowed and furiously pointed to motion the rest of them away from the course; it was so sketchy!
We hit the first sand-whoop section, and to my surprise, we all stayed within one second of each other. The sand kept the dust down, and we all held on a really good pace!
We reached the first hill, and it got a little sketchy, with the dust. I could only see Josh’s helmet, so I judged everything off of that; seeing if he hit anything, I would know it was coming up.
Once we hit the silt, we spread out quite a bit. Dave was riding so effortlessly in the lead, while we had to fight to see the rocks and hidden things in the silt.
I was able to close right in on Josh a number of times in tight sections and then [I would] immediately get gapped because of the dust.
We got to a few “virgin” sections that were so crazy-dangerous! You could hardly stay straight because of the silt. Then there would be random ditches and rocks in there. Plus, you couldn’t see from the rider ahead of you! I tried each time to make any move I could, but Josh kept her steady and in front.
Then we came to a small, off-camber left turn up a silty hill. I slightly blew the corner and started to slide all the way down into a wash. I thought, “Okay, no big deal, I will just ride the wash until I can find a place to get out.” Well, the course immediately turned left and up a hill, so I tried to get out of the wash. It was so dang soft that I just buried the rear wheel. I backed out and went to another spot to try again, with the same result. Now I was losing a ton of time. Finally, after riding most of the wash, I found a spot to get out and made my way back to the trail. This, ultimately, in the long run, put me about three minutes back. I wasted a lot of time and energy and lost even more time back on the trail, trying to recoup.
Out on loop two, the course got so much worse, and there were riders scattered all over the place, either broken down or just trying to catch a break from the relentless course. I beat myself up more, just pounding the sand whoops and using a lot of energy trying to gain back up some time, but when I came back around to the pit, I had either not made any time or lost more time to Josh and Dave. I got another splash of fuel from Boe [Bland], goggles from Troy [Guard], and a water from Brian [Adams], and I was out on the third and final loop.
By now, the course was pretty much a war zone. Lappers were insanely thick, so it was extremely important to plan ahead and find the sweet lines to make passes. For some reason, I was flowing so good on the third loop. Every corner I hit, I stuck it, and sessioned all the whoops so good. Never once did I lose time behind a lapper, and I felt that in all the crazy silty sections, I chose the perfect line and tracked all the way through.
As I reached the midpoint of the loop, I saw Dave Pearson on the side of the trail with apparent mechanical issues; he gave me a thumbs-up, and I kept it pinned in hopes of gaining any time I could on Josh.
My fitness is improving more, and I was actually hoping for a fourth loop! Maybe it’s because of my Flexx handlebars and Fastway steering damper taking away all of the abuse? Yep, definitely that!
I made my way back around to the pits and got the checkered flag. I shrunk Josh’s three-minute lead down to about a one-minute lead. I was pretty stoked to close in two minutes in one lap! I crossed the line in second overall and first place in Open Expert. Josh continues to ride like an animal, and I hope that the next race, in Jericho [Utah], I can hold it to him for another close battle.
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 Designs, Asterisk, DirtTricks, REEL Cameras, IMS, No-Toil, Maxilube, X Brand Goggles, Tunex of Washington, A’ME Grips, Samco, Hot Rods, Vertex, C&J Powdercoating, BeHot, and Suzie Potts!
[For more from this event, please stay tuned for “Race Report from the Knolls Knockout, Take Two: Braydon Bland,” to be posted soon on Today’s Cycle Coverage… Editor]