I wouldn’t say I was overly nervous coming into the third round of the 2016 WORCS series, but with so many racers (we had over seventy bikes total in the pro race) on such a tight course, and with an abbreviated race-length compared to the normal two hours, I felt it opened up the possibility for more things to go wrong than right. Having said that, I was in a pretty positive frame of mind; no matter how unpredictable the conditions, I knew that allowing any negative thoughts or emotions to creep in would make it easier for mistakes to happen.
Speaking of mistakes, I actually did let one of those occur before the race had even begun when I misjudged the staging time for the pro-race on Saturday evening and showed up a whopping ten minutes late. My heart sank as I came around the corner to see the front row of the narrow starting line completely filled with over twenty pros, meaning I would have to start on the second row, which would be a far from ideal scenario on a course where the start was quite capable of defining the race. In a measure of true sportsmanship—and friendship—Jake Argubright was quick to move over, allowing me to squeeze in right next to him, for which I was incredibly grateful.
The start procedure was dead-engine, and when the green flag flew to signal the start of the forty-five minute pro race I was happy to feel my bike fire up on the first kick. Unfortunately, I didn’t get off the line quite as well as I would have liked and I rounded the first couple corners around twelfth or thirteenth. I made a few early passes to work into ninth, and had a little back-and-forth battle with Michael Sleeter as the first lap wound down, before finalizing the pass over a log double and moving into eighth.
On the second lap I was able to make the pass on Travis Coy as he held too tight of a line around a right-handed corner, allowing me to maintain more momentum around his outside. From there, I had a bit of a gap to make up on the six riders ahead of me, but I was struggling to really push a good pace as I had begun to suffer from a bit of arm pump—I rarely ever pump up anymore, but in the tight confines I was all upper-body on the bike and not breathing as smoothly as I normally would, hence, arm pump.
By the halfway point of the race I had made it up to fourth as a few riders had some issues, either crashing or dropping out, and I finally started to close the gap on Argubright, who was running in third. I was just starting to apply some pressure when Jake made it easy for me, losing his front end entering a corner and falling to the floor.
Having made into third place, behind Blayne Thompson and Justin Seeds, I had finally found a little bit of form on the bike and with about ten minutes to go in the race, I was starting to make the slightest dent into the fifteen second gap ahead of me. With my arm pump beginning to subside, this was my best shot at getting up to the leaders, but just before the finish line I made the silliest mistake over a turning log, pushing the front end and falling over. I got up quickly enough, only losing four or five seconds, but the hiccup in the momentum I had built cost me way more, as the arm pump crept back in. With time winding down, any outside shot I had at the win was gone and I crossed the checkered flag a few laps later to take third place on the night.
Honestly, after a less-than-stellar start to the race, making it up to third felt like a win to me. To be able to earn solid points towards the championship in such a unique and unpredictable event, and have quite a bit of fun while doing so, felt fantastic. Congrats to Blayne Thompson for earning his first WORCS win, I’m sure it won’t be his last, and a huge shout out to my teammate Justin Seeds on taking second spot; I know how hard he’s been working to show he’s capable of this, so to see him get the result was great.
I really want to commend the WORCS crew, as I think the event ended up being way bigger than they were expecting. With the sheer volume of riders, and being on such a confined course, everyone was putting in so much overtime, and I want to give them a lot of credit for pulling off this endeavor of hosting an off-road race with over two thousand entries in a Las Vegas casino.
Thank you to my mechanic Phil, suspension tech John, my wife (and our little bean), family, and all of my personal supporters: Precision Concepts, MSR, Shoei, Sidi, 100%, EVS, USWE, Focus apparel, BRP, RAD custom graphics, GoPro, A’ME grips, IWC motorsports, ATP mechanix, Rekluse, CryoHeat, and the MotoXerciser.
Next weekend I’ll be back on very familiar ground as the BIG 6 Grand Prix series heads to pretty much everybody’s home track: Glen Helen Raceway. I’ll be looking to maintain this momentum and get on the podium once more, though I will have my sights set a couple steps higher.
Thank you to each of our team sponsors: Rocky Mountain ATV/MC, Precision Concepts, Maxxis tires, FMF exhaust, Maxima USA, Renthal, Dubya USA, Acerbis, Matrix Concepts, GPR stabilizer, CryoHeat, Rekluse, VP Race Fuels, IMS, BRP, LA Piston Co., A’ME grips, Braking, RK/Excel America, ARC levers, DT1 filters, RAD custom graphics, Zip-Ty, Boyesen, Seal Savers, MotoSeat, MotoHose, Next Components, Rigid Industries.
All photos provided by Robby Bell courtesy of Harlen Foley.