It seems sort of odd for me to be writing a race report. Truth of the matter is, this isn’t so much of a race report, more just one of my ramblings.
It Was A Bit Dusty Racing Tecate This Year
Now there used to be a time when I did lots of race reports. Racing was the central focus of my life. Nearly everything I did was in some way related to racing, the next race. That is not to say that I was a great racer, rather racing was great to me. It was what drove me out of bed every morning with a purpose.
But at some point I quit being that person, one who identified primarily as a racer. It didn’t happen overnight, but was such a gradual transition that I didn’t even know it was happening. I was still very much living the life of an avid motorcyclist, but slowly the compass swung from racing to something else.
It was a bit of a shock when I woke up one day to realize that I was no longer a racer. It wasn’t such a bad thing, but the realization caught me by surprise. I had turned my attention to trail riding, exploring, and guiding tours. I was doing things on motorcycles that were fun, low key and brought me lots of enjoyment. But they weren’t racing and that took a bit of mental adjustment for me.
I am hardly alone in this sentiment. Life as a motorcycle racer is a very finite time line and the clock never stops ticking. It is a hard road and far more so for those who tackle it at a pro level. So I am not complaining. I have been very fortunate to do what I have done.
But there is a little bit of that racer inside that never quite goes away. So it is nice to have the opportunity every once in a while to get out and mix it up with the boys again. The Tecate Enduro is just one of those kinds of events. The course terrain has been superb the last few years. The event itself is a fun atmosphere and uses a simple race format. But don’t be fooled into thinking it is an easy race. It is really more like a hare scrambles laid out on the gnarliest enduro trails to be found. Much of the mileage is spent in first and second gear and by the end of the 80 mile day, it feels more like 180!
Nice And Clean At The Start Of The Day, Later I Got So Dirty I Changed Jerseys
Bike Bandit and Vey’s Powersports are sponsors of the event so the whole crew came out to enjoy the fun and torture. I guess it all just depends on what you consider fun. This is the kind of event that leaves many of us feeling a bit defeated. It’s fun in a sort of masochistic way!
So here is one of the other great misconceptions about life as a motorcycle racer. Many would think that as you get older, the classes would get easier. Ha! I say. Think of the old saying about the cream rising to the top. As you get older, the number of riders in the class may dwindle, but the cream still remains. So I find myself lined up alongside Larry Roeseler, Grant Palenske and Dave Wonderly.
Last year I managed a win in the class. But I had some good fortune that day while others did not. I ride a lot, but truth be told, most of it is not quite challenging enough to qualify as race training. I also have to consider that I ride motorcycles for a living, so getting hurt is something to be avoided. I have to guide a tour next week. Man, listen to all my excuses!
Seems like I started this to talk about the race, so I better get to it. It was a very dusty day for everyone. It was more like a desert race in that sense. I got off to a decent start. It was soon obvious that this was going to be a challenging day of riding. I made a few passes early and felt pretty good, regardless of the dust.
I even caught Grant Palenske; he was on the minute ahead of me. But I could see that he was probably pumped up a bit in the early going. Passing riders can be a challenge in the tight dusty conditions. But many riders started to tire in the early going and were courteous enough to move over.
My bike was working well. I had just built a new bike for this race, 2007 KTM 450xc. These are my favorite bikes, not exactly new, but with just a little set up they work as good for me as anything newer. They have lovely motors and are super durable. My set up is pretty straightforward; Moto Lab suspension, Flexx Bars, Seat Concepts seat, Fastway pegs and Rekluse Z-start Pro auto clutch.
Midway through the first loop I started up a narrow climb in the brush. It was so dusty I could not see the ground. Half way up my bike came to an abrupt stop. At first I thought I had knocked it out of gear in the rut. Turns out the rut was so deep I could not get through. I backed up and gave it a second run, but same result. Now a few bikes were starting to pile up behind me.
I ended up having to back out and find my own way to bushwhack up the hill. It cost me a couple of minutes and really got my heart rate up. Still things were going pretty well. But late in the loop I ran a stick into the rear wheel. It managed to wedge a large piece between the sprocket and swingarm, with the lower end up against the chain guide. I fought with it for a couple of minutes and could not get it free. Finally I decided I would just have to ride until it worked its way out and hope it didn’t break anything.
At the check, we had a short break before the start of the second loop. It was supposed to be 20 minutes, but the schedule was fast, so we only ended up with about 10 and many riders were looking worn out already. The second loop was sort of uneventful, lots of fun riding in some of more open areas of Tecate.
But the last part of the loop was narrow single track in really tight brush. This is almost like riding in the East and I really struggle in the super tight stuff. Not only am I slow, but I get a bit of motion sickness too.
Happy To Make It To The End Of The Race
There was a long break before the start of the third loop. I tried to eat and drink but I had a bit of a queasy stomach. It was probably a combination of dehydration and motion sickness. I started the third loop ready to throw up! I got off to a really slow start for the loop, just trying to keep it all together.
A few miles into the loop I started to feel better and could get back into race mode. But as for the results, I already knew that my class competition was easily outpacing me. There were two particularly difficult technical sections. In one boulder step downhill I was extra cautious and made it through without any problem. Dave Wonderly charged past me in this section, showing how it really should be done.
The big uphill was “Brown Jug” and my 450 chugged up it like it was nothing. I passed a couple of riders in the process. I had one funny incident. At the very top I caught a rider. I was just chugging along, so I gave him a good throttle rev to let him know I was coming. He looked back and twisted the throttle to the stop when he saw me. This was all in an effort to stay in front of me. I was thinking to myself… well you can imagine what I was thinking. Anyway, off he went like a bat out of hell. That lasted all the way to the next corner where he predictably ran right off the trail and I cruised by.
Justin Morgan & Eric Yorba Chase Noah Kepple, Start Third Loop
Much of the third loop had a really good flow and I was having fun and making time. One leg was starting to cramp, but I was able to keep it under control. We came to a virgin cut down hill in the boulders and brush that a few guys were backed up on. One rider was on the ground and clearly too tired to lift his bike back up. I encouraged the guy behind to bulldog past, but he then promptly fell over on top of the first bike. We lost a number of minutes waiting for this to clear.
I was chasing Reed Haber towards the end. We come around a corner in the brush to find 10 guys sitting in a big uphill bottleneck. I made a quick survey of the situation; see if we could find a go around, but no luck. We were stuck and not going to get anywhere soon.
It was clear that none of the riders were getting up the hill without help. I walked up to check it out. There were a couple of ruts and a big rock to clear at the top. There was no way to get a good approach at it, only about a bike length. So I started pushing a couple of riders up, most were tired and not quite at their best anyway.
As for me, the “racing” part of my day was basically at an end. So I organized a few riders to help clear up the bottleneck. It took two helpers, one on top and one behind, to get most riders through. We started making progress, but more riders kept arriving too.
After a bit I got back down and explained that everyone needed to chip in and then I rode up myself. There was about 5 more miles of riding. I was rather spent, so I just went into trail ride mode to the finish.
Long and difficult races can be demoralizing while you are on the course. I have spent plenty of race days thinking “when will this ever end”. But on the other hand, there is something about getting to the finish line and winding down with your buddies that seems to make up for everything.
Second Place Finisher Justin Morgan
So another year at Tecate has come and gone. I have been racing the event for 15 years or so. I never got to do the original versions of the club enduro back in the early days. But the current event format is pretty fun and certainly successful as the club sells out quickly every year now.
I have to give a shout out to the fast guys. How they make such time in the tough Tecate terrain amazes me. Gas Gas mounted Noah Kepple won for the second year in a row. Second went to Justin Morgan and third to Dustin McCarthy. Eric Yorba and Brent Larsen rounded out the AA class.
Third Place Went To Dustin McCarthy
Photo Credits – Mybajaphoto, Reed Haber