By: Rick Bairett
After a summer break, part two of the Utah desert racing season kicked off with a vengeance outside Cedar City on August 25th & 26th. The “Battle of the Borders,” started Friday night with a Hard-Enduro Knockout that was an absolute hoot to ride and to watch.
Two riders at a time launched off a raised platform, climbed over massive truck tires standing vertically, and crossed a mudhole on 10-inch planks. Next was a small boulder field before clearing more huge tires laying sideways and then jumping a pyramid of three horizontal utility poles. A trap made from more crossways utility poles, spaced at various distances, followed, with still more poles laying over a small hill. The reward for getting through all that was that you got to spin your bike around and do it again backwards. The objective was to complete the course in both directions faster than one’s opponent and continue to the next round.
As a spectator, it became obvious that maintaining momentum was key. But it’s easy to armchair quarterback and much harder to be the one making it happen. Numerous semi-random course elements could rob that precious momentum and leave a rider fighting to get it back.
Spectators were really treated to a show. Most riders made it through the course relatively unscathed, if not always quickly, and a few made it look easy. However, there were plenty of bikes and riders on the ground or stuck in the mud before it was over.
Even the kids on their minis and micro-minis got to attempt the Enduro Knockout. The shorter wheelbases and lower ground clearances of their machines increased the challenge, and most needed lots of outside help to navigate all of the obstacles.
Class racing the next morning—novice through expert and pro, including mini and micro-mini—was no less exciting. Just seconds into the course, after two sweeping turns, riders encountered mining-truck tires laid horizontally across the track. Several riders trying to cross that obstacle at the same time made things interesting at best, and left several riders, especially novice-class riders, in the dirt.
Next came the “snail,” where riders wound through tightening spirals until reaching the center and began winding their way out in the opposite direction. After passing through a Conex tunnel, riders charged through the junipers and rocks around the Three Peaks Oasis venue. The eight-mile loop included groomed track with fast jumps and berms, and of course the hard-enduro section remained part of the course, but with a couple of additions.
Besides the man-made hard-enduro obstacles noted, riders had to navigate a 90-degree turn over three utility poles to enter that section, and then had to exit over a huge concrete pipe. They had the option of bypassing the hard-enduro stretch but with a one-minute penalty. As Kyle Pulsipher, the race organizer, said, one minute is huge in a desert race. That’s even more true when taking that penalty repeatedly over four or more laps.
Accordingly, most competitors attempted the enduro section…with mixed results. Some made it through in less than 20 seconds, and clearing the concrete pipe turned out to be quite manageable. Others would have been better off to take the bypass, especially late in their race.
The reality of desert racing is that it takes a toll on the body. Accordingly, riders that flew through the hard-enduro section early in their race often went down attempting the same stretch 45 minutes later.
Tyler Lynn, of Mona, Utah, was one of a handful of Pro Open riders there, and he absolutely dominated overall. Tyler jumped out in front of the pro/expert race group early, stayed well ahead of the pack, and repeatedly flew over jumps and charged through the hard-enduro segment. He also laid down consistently blistering lap times, in spite of going down once on a remote section of the track.
Joshua Knight, of Plain City, Utah is a veteran pro racer with numerous first-place and podium finishes in regional, national, and international off-road events. His wins include four gold medals in International Six Days Enduro races. He also runs the Ride With the Knights race coaching center. Joshua also competed and did quite well in the Pro Open, taking second place.
One notable younger rider was 16 year old “A” 250cc (expert) class rider Jason Harris of Lyman, Wyoming. He was returning in his first race after a broken back four months ago. The injury was quite serious: a clean break with pressure on the spinal cord that required several rods to be implanted.
Jason is a factory rider with Team Three Bros Hatch Husqvarna. Still, having been laid up for months, and only being able to lift more than 10 pounds for the last few weeks, his stamina was missing. Accordingly, he took it relatively easy for the first couple of laps and found himself tiring, and sometimes going down, late in the race. His return performance was good enough for third-place in the A-250 class but Jason was quick to acknowledge that his comeback has a ways to go.
Tyler, Jason, and every rider I talked to had great things to say about the course layout and most were looking forward to doing it again next year. Jason even went so far as to say that the level of competition in Utah races equals that of southern California.
Group winners were: Tyler Lynn, Overall Pro; Utah’s Taye Pepper, Overall Expert; Utah’s Joseph Muth, Overall Amateur; Utah’s TJ Albano, Overall Novice; Nevada’s Jacob Fjermestad, Overall Mini 85 cc; and, Nevada’s Braxton Barnum, Overall 65 cc (not pictured).
While there were too many competitors in too many classes to list all of the winners (see https://app.iraceready.com/races/umora-results/event/jackrabbitsrd6 for more results), Utahans tended to fill the podium across most classes in this “Battle of the Borders.” Competitors included women and men, ages 4 – 73. They put on a fantastic show and looked like they were having a blast doing it.
The Battle of the Borders was hosted by The Jackrabbits Motorcycle Club of Southern Nevada—at least half their members are Utahans—and was a points race for both UMORA (Utah Motorcycle Off-Road Racing Association) and MRAN (Motorcycle Racing Association of Nevada). It’s hard to know how many competitors to expect, given competing priorities once school starts again. Thus, club president Kyle Pulsipher was pleasantly surprised that double the number of riders he had estimated registered for the event.
When riders were asked what they thought of the admittedly-challenging course, nearly all said it was fantastic! They were glad they came, and not just for the amazing course.
The Jackrabbits went to great lengths to make sure the venue was fun for everyone, and their efforts were consistently praised. For one thing, Three Peaks Oasis includes a waterpark with slides and other features. A practice course was available for little sisters and brothers who may or may not have been competing to run their bikes on. Also, Friday night included a BBQ, watermelon bust, and live music.
Jackrabbits leadership regularly emphasize that “it’s all about the kids,” and they put plenty of emphasis on the young participants and spectators for this event. In particular, they offered a motorcycle riding clinic with veteran professional David Pearson and had over 35 kids participate. David is a former factory rider with numerous regional and national off-road championships, plus two victories as fastest motorcycle in the world-famous Baja 500.
The Jackrabbits also worked with Moto Incorporated and several other regional and local sponsors to donate piles of prizes. Each child and young person had the chance to spin a wheel for a sponsor. Then they got to go to that sponsor’s table and pick from some great prizes.
With three great events, something for everyone, and a phenomenal track, the Jackrabbits have set a high bar for Utah club races. Way to go!
UMORA, MRAN, and USRA (Utah Sportsman Riders Association) still have several off-road motorcycle races scheduled for 2023. They are almost as much fun for spectators as they are for riders, so are worth supporting. See the Events Calendars at Utah Motor News for dates and locations of a desert race in your part of the state (https://utahmotornews.com/category/events/) .
© 2023, R Bairett