Desert Rivals 175, El Paso, Texas. July 28th 2012
After taking a few months off due to injuring my leg when I lost a fight to my ladder in a yard work related melee I went out of my way to find races to attend, which is hard to do in July in Arizona. Coming off a 2nd place finish at the Chupacabra 100 July 21st in New Mexico we decided to drive to El Paso to race the Desert Rivals 175. It is a long drive but they had a decent guaranteed prize purse of $600 plus I would be able to meet up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years.
We arrived at tech and contingency on Friday evening, it was held in a convention center on an Indian reservation a little south of El Paso. The facility was awesome, they hold concerts there all the time, and the banners said Creed would be there next month? Everything was held inside this large nice building, hearing the trucks echoing off the walls was cool. They had a DJ and video cameras projecting onto large screens above the stage. We were registered and teched very quickly, the registration girls were nervous and forgot to collect my money but I reminded them it wasn’t free although I’d like it to be. We met Ortiz aka “El Mamito” from Race Dezert. Adam helped him with his quad because Adam noticed his rear hub and Axle nut was extremely loose.
Saturday morning we headed out to the race spot in El Paso, we drove through a long neighborhood that was very reminiscent of neighborhoods in Baja. The road to the pits was paved all the way and pit row was also paved, my pit crew loved that, they wouldn’t have to eat dust all day. I knew this race would be a good challenge because they had a few organized pre runs which I didn’t attend and the class was open to teams or 1 or 2 and I had chosen to ironman it. The time limit was set at 4 hours and the distance was 175 miles so I assumed it would be fairly high speed which would be a big departure from the previous weekend’s technical course in Gallup.
There were 6 pros entered and I was 3rd off the line, each racer started 30 seconds apart. The pros would run 6 laps of this 27 mile course. I wanted to take the first lap easy so I could get a feel for the course and how well it was marked. The first few miles of the course were just like Page, soft reddish sand, and whoops. A few miles into the race I hung a right and started a hill climb. The top of the hill climb was rocky with these slate like rocks. I heard a loud thud on the right side of the quad and it felt like I banged the a-arm into something. I thought that was very weird because I didn’t see a rock that size on the right side. Coming down the hill I lost control a bit because the quad wouldn’t turn left. I kept going and the quad kept pulling right. I looked down and saw the tire was very flat. Apparently I had punctured it on a rock when I heard that thud.
The next section was about 2 miles of solid big whoops; it was hard to get through because the quad was pulling hard to the right. I didn’t want to burn out my left arm compensating so I slowed my pace down knowing it was going to be a long day at 175 miles. Halfway through lap 1 the course comes very close to itself and I spotted the 2nd place quad here so I knew I wasn’t doing too bad. The organizers had also very smartly put a checkpoint out there so nobody would cut the course.
I made it through lap 1 and my pit crew was not expecting me to pit after only 1 lap but they quickly put on my spare front tire and topped off the fuel. I took off after a 1:45 pit stop and tried to pick up the pace a little bit. I made it back to that long section of whoops and I noticed the quad was pulling to the right again. I looked down and the tire looked weird but not flat. I looked down a mile later and it was completely flat, that was a huge bummer because I only brought one spare and I wasn’t sure how I would ever catch up. I didn’t hit anything sharp this time so I wasn’t sure why the tire went down. I tried to keep up the pace and I just hoped that my pit crew was able to fix the other tire I had destroyed.
I got to the pit after lap 2 and they told me the other tire wasn’t fixable, there was a huge gash in the sidewall. So we just hooked up my crappy electric pump to the spare that was on the quad and waited. Then my friend Kyle from Texas asked if we could put Slime in the tire. I said hell yes but I don’t think we have any. Then he ran to his car and brought back a big can of slime. After a 3.5 minute pit stop I was off again and hoping the slime would hold the tire. I had just done about 20 hard miles on that tire completely flat doing god knows what kind of damage to it.
At this point I thought I was still in 3rd place, I hadn’t passed anyone and nobody had passed me but Adam told me I was in 2nd, so I figured somebody had broken down and he said the guy in front of me was the Honda 700. I went out and finally had a clean lap the slime was holding! Around mile 17 I caught up to the Honda 700 and made the pass which I though was for the lead. I got back to the pit and Adam said I was in 2nd still and the guy he helped yesterday (Ortiz’s team) was in the lead. This was confusing to me since I knew he was in the Expert class not the pro class. I assumed he meant that the black Honda pro Q3 that started 1st off the line in my class was ahead of me since I hadn’t seen them all day. So I put my head down and started lap 4. I had a good pace on lap 4 and nothing exciting happened.
At the start of Lap 5 I stopped at the scorer’s table and tried to get them to tell me who was in the lead but they couldn’t understand me. It was hilariously frustrating for me at the time, but I shoulda just kept my head down and not stopped. A few miles later I lapped Ortiz’s team and I passed a few more quads but none of them were in my class. My legs were on fire trying to stand up through that brutal whoops section on this lap but did keep myself from sitting down through there like a lazy slob.
At the start of the final lap I was happy because the tire was still holding air and the course was fun. A good mix of high speed, rough, flowing sweeping turns, silt, jumps, and whoops. But I wasn’t looking forward to that brutal 2 mile section of San Felipe style whoops. I made it through the rough sections again and managed to keep my butt of the seat as much as possible.
Then coming up to around mile 17 I saw dust up ahead and a black shape. I went through the next section faster than I had all day and I caught up to the bumper of Q3, the 1st place quad at about mile 20. There was also dust ahead of him, I was close enough to bump him in a turn when he looked back and saw me and he picked up the pace. He wasn’t going to give the lead to me. I knew I had started 60 seconds behind him so the victory was basically mine but I didn’t want there to be any doubt. I had never raced with this organization before and I had no idea how their time keeping methods were. There was also an expert quad running number 11 and my number was Q11 so I was a little nervous.
The next section was fast but dusty, I stayed on his bumper for a few hundred yards then I backed off knowing he was going to have to pass someone else and I didn’t want to get caught in a mess of dust. I knew the long straight headed into the pits was sandy and damp with zero dust and I would make my move there. I was pinned in 5th through the sand and over the whoops and I caught his bumper heading into the race course that is part of the pit bypass section. I was all over him yelling to move over but he wasn’t giving up. I could see he was very tired so I stayed behind him waiting for an opening. About ½ a mile from the checkered flag in the rough sand section I saw an opening and made the pass and took the checkered flag about 20 seconds ahead. I was very excited to be the first pro across the line and happy I had enough left in my tank to make a pass. Q3 came by and we shook hands.
The results were announced about 30 minutes later and I was handed an awesome trophy and a stack of money. The results also showed they had the timing exactly right; I finished 1:23 ahead of 2nd place. Thanks to Kyle and to Slime for saving the day, to Fasst Flexx bars for handlebars that helped me from burning out my arms racing 50 miles on a front flat, Jim at Motowoz for helping tune my shocks again, Kelly at KMS for rebuilding my tranny quickly, and to Adam and my family for joining me and helping me on all these adventures. I will definitely get a small airtank, the stupid little electric air doesn't cut it when you need air quickly, doh.
This event was very well run; I would recommend it to anyone.
The staff was all very friendly
Everything ran on time.
The results were posted quickly with no fuss.
The prize money and trophies are cool.
The pits are paved.
The tech/contingency is a big party, all held indoors at a great facility.
The entry fee was only $65 for pros!!! $45 for sportsmen (4 laps).
Everything was 30 minutes or less from all the great hotels near the airport.
All of the competitors were friendly and courteous too.
The race course is great, it has everything.
If you go to El Paso you HAVE TO eat at “Crave” that place is phenomenal.
Video clips, check comments for time stamp links to interesting parts:
Segment 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KL9fMUUhqA