USRA Utah Sportsman Racers Association Desert Series
Round 7: Sugarloafers MC Hare & Hound at Cherry Creek at Little Sahara
By Skyler Howes
Photos by Randy Christiansen/HiDesertPhotos.com
Courtesy of Blais Racing Services
JERICHO, UT, MAY 16, 2015
Race Report by Skyler Howes, Open Expert, First Overall
I began the solo journey up to the Little Sahara area Friday afternoon for the USRA Race. It was raining on and off, so I knew this weekend was going to be interesting. The Stout family fed me some delicious pasta for dinner, and I went over to walk the bomb. It was a long, flat bomb run into an S turn through a fence. The kicker was, we started about 10 feet in front of a 6-foot wash, so a good jump was key.
The Stout family again fed me some breakfast; how would I ever survive without them? I geared up and headed over to the start line.
Braydon [Bland] and I were both going for the same line, so we worked together to build a little kicker over the ditch.
As the banner dropped, I actually got off to a pretty slow jump. However, it worked out pretty good! Cory Pincock got an amazing jump, and when he hit his little kicker, he came right over into my line, so if we both got a good jump, we probably would have ran into each other!
We all hit the flat, and I let the Blais Racing Services-built KTM 300 do all the work. I was pinned fully to the stop and could see that I was pulling into the lead. As we reached the banners, I could see Ty Bartholomew and Tarran Taylor heading for the inside and [they] had the lead on me. I knew that they were going to swing the corner wide, so I cut in tight and took the lead. I leaned back and let my Kenda tires dig into the Utah dirt to grab the holeshot!
I took to the trail and knew that there would be a little bit of dust around this area, so I tried to open up as much of a lead as I could. Then it started to sprinkle rain, so vision was going to be an issue!
After a few tight sections, I glanced back to see Josh Knight just a few seconds behind. We hit the tight trees, and he closed in closer. After a bit, we got to this really tight handlebar wash that went on forever! It was actually really sweet, but this soon into the race, I got pretty pumped up, so I was really trying hard not to make any mistakes. It had a few rock sections in the wash, and I made it through clean, with no mistakes. As we hit the next open section, I glanced back to see that I had put just a few more seconds back on Josh.
By this time, we had made our way around to the north side of Desert Mountain and hit most of the road sections. I was trying my hardest to put any time I could on Josh, because this loop was going to be [about] 48 miles, and I needed to stop at the alternate pit. He kept me honest through the slick rock sections and back around to the pit. Neil Dansie was there to assist with the pit. He had my dump can ready. I grabbed it from him and got a splash of fuel and took back to the trail. While I was stopped, Josh caught up and made the pass for the lead, but we both left the check around the same time, so the race was really on now!
I made as many moves as I could, but the terrain here was really treacherous! There was a lot of rocks around, and any time I would try to get around, I would almost nail a pile. As I was trying to pass, I nailed something – a huge rock, probably – that sent me straight into a flying W and knocked my left hand off my handlebars. I thought for sure that I was dead, but somehow I hit a whoop after that and it pitched me perfectly back onto my seat and I saved it! There was definitely someone looking out for me on that one; I was in full “Jesus take the wheel” mode.
I was taking a lot of roost from Josh, so I worked my way as close as I could to him to wait for a mistake. As we crested a hill, we both merged slightly off course, so at this point it was whoever made it back to the course first would have the lead. I hairballed it down the hill and pushed hard to take the lead back. By this time, I was feeling nice and loose, so I really put the hammer down to try and open up any gap that I possibly could.
We made it down onto the last valley before the pits, but it was really sketchy. It was all overgrown with grass, so you could not tell if there were any bumps or ditches. I really have to give a huge shout-out to my ESR Race Tech suspension for saving my life on multiple occasions when I hit all those ditches. My Fastway System 5 steering stabilizer was also a life-saver, with all the crazy headshake that the terrain was causing. I’m surprised that I was able to hang on!
I made my way into the pits, where I got another splash of AMSOIL Dominator mixed fuel and a fresh pair of X Brand goggles. By the way, all that rain we were getting all race really wasn’t a big deal! I could see totally fine, with everything falling right off the lenses!
Back out on to loop two, I relaxed a bit, because I had opened up maybe a 15-second lead on Josh through that last valley. Well, then we got to the fun stuff. Most of the second loop was tight in the trees, and the previous rain had made the dirt absolutely perfect! All of a sudden, Josh was right on me, and he was pushing hard! At the beginning, I had nothing for him! I was just lucky that I was in the lead and there was no place to pass, because he was absolutely flying through the trees.
We hit a few rocky sections, and I put a couple seconds back on him. Then we would get in the tight stuff and he would be right on my rear tire again. If I made any type of bobble, Josh would be right there to try and make the pass on me – it was insane! We were pushing so hard, and luckily for me, we had spread apart for just a couple seconds, because coming down a hill, I nailed a big rock and almost swapped out and lost some time. Josh Knight did everything he could to squeeze by, but somehow I held him off.
We had made our way to the alternate pit, but this loop was only 41 miles, so I was going to chance it and skip the pit. I knew if I stopped, I would lose the lead, because Josh would not stop.
Then we made our way all the way back around to the Little Sahara sand dunes, and I knew that Josh had these things fully figured out. The course markings were a little confusing, but I kept the lead into the next whoop section; Josh was right on my wheel. We hit a tree section that was all sand and I could really feel the pressure.
I came around a corner and saw mile marker 35 for loop two, and I knew I had to give it everything I had to open up any type of lead before the finish. I really pushed hard, and we got back to the valley that was still dry, and I could use the dust to my advantage. We made our way back to the last whoop section and into the finish, where I took the win! Josh was about four to five seconds behind me, in second place. We’d just spent the entire 90 miles only a couple seconds apart in a fully intense battle. We had pushed so hard that I was told we put close to eight minutes on third place!
The Sugarloafers laid out an amazing course, and the conditions helped for one of the best races so far this season.
I really have to give a huge shout-out to all of my sponsors for making it possible for me to race: 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, stay tuned for “2015 0516 Race Report from the USRA Sugarloafers, Take Two: Braydon Bland,” to be posted soon on Today’s Cycle Coverage… Editor]