Saddlemen

Race Reports from the Glen Helen 10-Hour Race: Blais Racing Crew Takes the Overall!

| 30 June 2016 3:51 pm

John Burr Cycles 10-Hour Race
Glen Helen Raceway

By Kyle Mercier, Ben Meza and Brendan Crow
Courtesy of Blais Racing Services
SAN BERNARDINO, CA, JUNE 19, 2016

Race Report by Kyle Mercier, Open Expert
I woke up on June 19 for the JBC 10-hour race at Glen Helen Raceway. I had an open mind on how the Blais Racing team would finish, expecting a top-three. With the 10-hour being my first team race, as well as the first race that was longer than the normal two-hour race I regularly compete in, I knew that pacing myself and lasting the whole race was going to be key.

Kyle Mercier (right) launches it at the Glen Helen 10 Hour! Photo by Cindi Fears Photography

Kyle Mercier (right) launches it at the Glen Helen 10 Hour! Photo by Cindi Fears Photography

My father and I arrived at Glen Helen around 6 a.m. I had hopes of starting off the race, and as I talked with my teammates, my wish came true, with me lining up on a Blais Racing KTM 300!

At 7:30 a.m., the race started, with both hands on helmet until the flag was waved. Once the flag went up, I pushed the electric start and put the bike into first gear, grabbed a handful, and started shifting through the gears, fast seeing myself pass all the other riders and taking the holeshot! Surprised with my start, I stayed focused and rode a good first lap, putting our team in second place.

By the second lap, I was a little tight from pushing hard on lap one. I controlled my breathing and looked for lines that I would be able to use as the race continued into the later hours.

Laps three and four, my body felt good and lines came together. I pulled into the pits on lap four and passed the bike to Ben. He took off strong, and both of my teammates were able to keep us in second place.

For the next few hours, we would each do four laps, then top the bike off with gas and switch riders! We had no bike issues throughout the whole race, which was a great part of our success.

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As we approached the last three hours, we dropped it down to an option to do three or four laps, depending on how we felt out in the heat. The third time I went out on the bike, I was the least comfortable I’d felt all day. I wasn’t able to get a good flow and almost went down a few times. I only rode three laps and decided to rest up and get ready for the end of the race, hoping to put that moto behind me.

As I was eating watermelon and drinking water mixed with carb sport, my teammate Brendon [Crow] got sick and wasn’t able to go back out and finish. Shortening up my rest, I quickly put my boots back on and strapped my helmet up and took the bike over with a little over a hour left in the race.

By this time, I was riding faster than I had all day – everything was just coming together and my technique was great! I felt fearless.

I came around the pit my first lap in first place and saw Chris Blais and my father with their hands up, waving me in! Chris told me to ride the race like I had to finish. My team poured a few water bottles on me, and I gave it my all for the next five laps! Feeling awesome with a clear track in front of me, I was able to ride my own race and hit my lines.

Kyle Mercier getting on the bike.

Kyle Mercier getting on the bike.

On the white-flag lap, I came in for water and to get topped off with fuel. I finished my last lap smooth and strong until the checkered flag for Blais Racing’s first 10-hour victory! It felt really good to ride so well and get a win for the team; it was a great way to spend Father’s Day!

I want to thank both of my teammates. We all came together and put a lot of hard work into the race on Sunday, as well as the years of preparation leading up to this event! Last but not least, the man that made this opportunity possible for all us young riders: I’ve got to give a big thanks to Chris Blais. He built an amazing bike that ran flawless for 10 hours pinned, as well as the wisdom he shares with us on becoming professional racers. A shout-out to Glen Helen Raceway and John Burr Cycles for putting on this event – definitely a good one! Looking forward to next year!

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Race Report by Ben Meza, Open Expert
Ten hours on a dirt bike in 110-plus-degree heat is a daunting task, but that is exactly what this year’s JBC 10 Hours of Glen Helen consisted of. In years past, the 10-hour was held as a night race, in an effort to escape the heat; however, due to low entries, the switch back to daytime was made.

The Blais Racing Services team consisted of Grand Prix specialist and my longtime friend Brendan Crow, motocross specialist Kyle Mercier, and myself. Due to Kyle’s motocross background, the decision was made for him to start. His experience with a quick sprint pace paid off, and our team snagged the holeshot. Kyle went on to battle for the lead during his four-lap session.

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I got on the bike second, and after a quick fill-up on gas by my girlfriend Paige [Jones], I was finally on the bike. My plan for the laps was to just take my first lap to learn the course and then put down some fast laps after that.

Immediately after I got on the bike, we dropped into a wash. I came into the wash a little too fast and blew a corner, ending up waist-deep in bushes. I made a quick recovery, working my way out of the bushes. After that, I backed off the pace for the rest of my first lap.

The remainder of my first session was spent searching out smooth lines that I could ride for the rest of the race. When I finished my four laps, I handed the bike off to Brendan and told him to be smart.

Ben Meza tearing it up at Glen Helen! Photo by Cindi Fears Photography

Ben Meza tearing it up at Glen Helen! Photo by Cindi Fears Photography

I made mistakes in my first session and tried to visualize the course in my head while my teammates were riding. The two of them rode awesome, and when I got back on the bike, we were still sitting in second overall!

My second session was much better! I rode smooth lines and pulled out my fastest lap! The course was breaking in perfect and the lines were prime!

Brendan managed to put us into the lead after I handed the bike off to him. We put ourselves in great position early on, and to be completely honest, the rest of our day was very uneventful. Our bike was perfect and our pits were fast. We didn’t have any mistakes and my teammates were super consistent.

At hour eight of 10, the temperature hit an all-time high of 115. We cut back our laps from four to three in an effort to keep our pace from slowing. Our lead was wavering between eight minutes and two minutes over the second-place Husky team.

In the last hour, the heat started to affect us, and when Kyle got on the bike for the last time, Brendan and I were about done, physically and mentally. The heat definitely affected us. Kyle muscled out the last five laps and came through the finish in first place overall!

Even writing the words right now, it doesn’t feel real. We managed to pull the overall win at the 10-Hour – totally the type of thing I used to dream of when I was a little kid.

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I have to give my teammates Brendan and Kyle major props for riding so consistently! I also have to give it up to Chris for all of his wisdom along the way. Without the knowledge he has instilled in me, I wouldn’t have been able to prep the bike at the level I was able to, nor would I have been able to prepare for the event physically as well as I did. He brings so much experience to the team.

I also want to thank all of my sponsors: Blais Racing, Fasst Co., A’ME, Kenda, BRP, IMS, Troy Lee Designs, KTM, Bullet Proof Designs, VonZipper, Fastway, PMB, FMF, Rockwell, my girlfriend, my parents, my club HBMC, the Lord, Kyle for letting me borrow his shirt, and everyone who has ever helped me out along the way. I’m still so stoked about the weekend and I can’t wait for the next one!

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Race Report by Brendan Crow, Open Expert
Being prepared is what the Glen Helen endurance series is all about, and leading up to the race, I knew our team would be competitive; I just didn’t realize how competitive.

The weather report had everyone worried, with temperatures predicted well into the triple digits. I have struggled in many hot races throughout the years, and being out in the heat wave that would be hitting Southern California was going to be the toughest yet. The whole week before, I purposefully did workouts during the hottest part of the day to try and get acclimated, and although I think it helped, it wasn’t a perfect plan, because the weekend would still be a staggering 20 degrees warmer than most of the days through the week. I drank a ton of water every day as well, and hoped I would survive race day.

The Blais team would consist of my longtime teammate and friend Ben Meza, and newest recruit Kyle Mercier. I had only met Kyle and seen him ride once before, but I was confident with the strength and speed of our team. For the first time, I would not be starting the race (all of the previous GH endurance races I’ve been in, I was the starter); Kyle would take the reins. He had a great start, grabbing the lead a few corners in and holding it for the entire first lap. He had set a great pace and handed it off to Ben in second overall.

Brendan Crow being interview at the finish.

Brendan Crow being interview at the finish.

One of my favorite parts about these endurance team races is that you are not only a competitor but an active spectator throughout the day. Even though the spectating mostly involves seeing everyone ride through the pits, you are able to get a much better understanding about what is happening all around you.

It was almost an hour and a half into the race, and I had yet to ride! When it was my turn to get on the bike, we were still sitting in second place overall, and I set out to find some lines and not do anything stupid.

Knowing the heat would be brutal in the afternoon, I wanted to use as little energy as possible and stay hydrated. I didn’t care how fast I was riding; I wanted to survive the whole 10 hours without having any issues.

My first time out on the bike was decent. I spent the first lap learning the course and adjusting to the bike setup (we were using Ben’s bike setup), but I was enjoying the seat time. After a quick four laps, I handed it back off to Kyle and was informed that while I was out, I had taken the lead!

I took the lead? How did that even happen? Well, it turned out that the leaders had bike problems and had to push the bike back into the pits. This meant (unbeknownst to me) I had made the pass. Were we really leading the race overall? I didn’t know what to think; I was stunned. Before I started racing in 2010, I remember watching the JCR team absolutely dominate these events, and I always looked up to the effort that they had. The knowledge of being the leaders instantly made me wonder if we could pull off the overall victory at the end of the day, but I knew this was hours away, and focusing on the moment was much more important.

Sierra Meza on gas patrol!

Sierra Meza on gas patrol!

Throughout the day, it got hotter, rougher, dustier and, simply put, brutal. All day we had been gaining or losing time to the second-place team, but our KTM 300 was still running flawless. With a little more than an hour to go, disaster struck – for me. Ben was out on course, and it was about five minutes before I was scheduled to get on the bike, and the heat finally got to me. Unfortunately, I have had this dehydration feeling many times before. I had been trying to put it out of my mind and get ready to ride, but while I was taking one last sip of water, I almost threw up. I was devastated. We were still leading and so close to holding on for the overall victory. I knew I shouldn’t ride and didn’t want my lack of water to ruin our race. I still had a glimmer of hope, thinking that my teammates could push on without me. Kyle hopped on the bike instead, and I saw that Ben was roasted as well. I couldn’t believe it. We didn’t have a single bike problem all day, and it came down to dehydration with 90 percent of the race behind us.

Racing in the heat is something I have not been able to conquer. Fortunately for our team, Kyle was able to marathon the last hour – five laps – and I could only stand in amazement as I watched our Blais Racing bike cross the checkered flag first!

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I had just finished my finals week at Cal State San Bernardino, and this is one heck of a way to kick off my summer break! I have been smiling all week and am still excited about it. It feels great to get the win. We had a pretty amazing day, and I will remember it for a long time.

I want to thank my teammates for an awesome day, the whole pit crew, my parents, my girlfriend Sierra, Chris and Patty Blais, the Mercier family, and Paige. I also want to thank all of my sponsors who continue to support me – it feels fantastic to get on top of the box: Blais Racing Services, Fasst Co., Costa Rica Unlimited, FMF, Kenda, ESR, Motorex, Fastway, A’ME, TLD, Bullet Poof Designs, Maxilube, Samco, IMS, Megla Designs, BRP, Alpinestars, EKS Brand, Acerbis, Rekluse, Mobius, Motion Pro, and Seat Concepts.

The Blais Racing crew!

The Blais Racing crew!

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Category: Endurance, Off-Road, POV, Regional, Riders, Riders All, Riders' POV, Riders' Race Reports

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