Best in the Desert, Vegas to Reno Race Recap
Prior to the race, I was crazy-busy – readying my bike, installing a new lighting system and getting everything for the trip. Two days before the race, after installing the lighting system, the bike wouldn’t start. It took an entire day to get figure everything out so I was ready to go.
Testing Before the Race
We finally started heading to Vegas at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and arrived in Primm, Nevada a bit after midnight. Then, it was time to test the lights. I rode from Primm (Stateline) to Jean Nevada, which is 12 miles away – testing lights and checking the new suspension. Although the suspension and the lights were in pretty good shape, we quickly discovered that, at a pace of 75 mph, I was outrunning the lighting. All in all, the testing went well.
We arrived at our hotel at 3:30 a.m. and caught a few zzz’s. But now, it was Thursday, the day before the race. I woke up at 7 a.m. and called a friend at Collins Motorsports. Billy let us come in to do a few little fixes so we would be ready to race the bike the following day. Thursday was registration, tech and contingency. This is when race fans can get up close and personal to the vehicles and talk to the riders and drivers. Since half of my crew was still back in L.A., everyone on scene was running around like chickens with our heads cut off. By the time all was said and done, I went to bed at 10 p.m. and the rest of the crew hit the hay at midnight.
On race day, we woke up at 3 a.m. and headed to Beatty Nevada, which was the location of the start line –110 miles from Las Vegas. Motorcycle staging was at 5 a.m. The first bike was heading out at 5:45, first light. First Ironman started at about 6 a.m. In total, there were 13 Ironman Experts and 16 Ironman Amateurs. I began in 10th position. Starting order was every 30 seconds. So, it didn’t take long before I was in dust I, to passing the rider who started before me within a minute and –eventually, was passed by the eventual winner within two minutes. The dust was bad. The rising sun directly in my eyes was even worse!
During the Race
My race was going well despite the fact I had to fight with the dust and the sun peeking over the horizon. I got to the first gas stop at 40 miles out, fueled up and was off again. The dust was getting even worse.
I rode hard despite the fact I could hardly see. I rode to the second gas stop doing an average 50 mph. Two Chase crews were leapfrogging me, Chase 1 doing odd number pits and Chase 2 handling the even-number pits. Then, it was on to third gas stop.
I made it to the third gas stop, fueling up and then heading back out. About 15 miles later, the real fun began, when my front tire went flat. Riding with a front flat isn’t fun. It’s difficult to predict where the bike will go, because the tire flops from one side of the rim to the other, the flat acting like a plow forcing the steering to do a 90° turn in an instant. At times, I was slammed into the ground.
In 35 miles, I went down four times because the front flat sent me down, so I felt like I was in a boxing match. Each hard-hit zapped my energy level. I finally made it to my pit where, mercifully, my team changed the front flat and gave my bike much-needed fuel.
Return to the Race
Now back to racing, I discovered the dust wasn’t as bad because riders were starting to spread out. It would be bad in certain areas, where it was silty and the wind wasn’t not moving the dust off-course. At that point, along came flat number two – this time in the rear. This one threw me for a loop because it sent me off the bike, where I landed on my head.
Although I recovered, I felt punchy, as the hit was a bell-ringer which gave me mild concussion. Even so, I managed to collect the little sense I had and ride 25 miles with the flat to my pit, to secure a new tire. When I got to the pit, my crew knew I was out of it. So, I took a 15-minute break, which left me feeling well enough to resume the race.
The journey to the next pit was good despite the fact my crew questioned whether I should continue. Even so, when I met the crew at the next pit, were amazed at how well I was doing and how much time I had been able to make up.
The two flat tires took a toll, so the first Trophy Truck passed me just before I arrived at the pit. I saw him pass without warning while I was doing 60 and he was doing 90. The herd, including the fast Trophy Trucks and Class 1s were on their way. At the pit, I decided to wait for all the crazies to pass, as I was hot, tired and punchy. My crew later told me I was at the stop for two hours, though it didn’t seem like it at the time.
Once the fast traffic was gone and it was time for me to resume the race, my crew wondered about allowing me to leave. Despite their concerns, I remained driven and insisted on heading off toward my next pit. I made it to my next fuel stop and all was good. Although I was a little down time and energy wise, my goal was still in sight – to finish!
The final blow to my race was a second flat front. Riding with flat fronts is exhausting, consuming vast amounts of energy trying to keep the bike upright. Whenever the tire flopped, I was on ground. The harder I pushed, the harder the fall.
When I came to a road crossing checkpoint, I tried to use my radio but was unable to connect. I also tried my cell phone but discovered I didn’t have service. I tried in vain to get checkpoint crew to radio to the next pit, but they were also without service. I had ridden 20 miles on a flat and needed to go another 25 to reach my pit.
To get an idea of just how punchy I was, consider this: My next pit didn’t even have a spare tire on hand. The other crew, which was 100 miles away, had it. Since it was dusk at the time, I had time to think because the bike was moving slowly. I figured out a spare was not waiting for me at my next pit. As dusk turned to night, it was hard to add darkness to the obstacle of the flat tire. In five miles, I crashed three times. Exhausted, beat up and punchy after the third crash, and aware no spare was in sight, it took everything I had just to pick up the bike. At race mile 385, the race course parallels a highway, which I rode the bike until I could park. In the end, I had ridden 385 miles out of 535.
I removed my helmet and gear and set them, along with my camelback, on the bike. With the beacon flashing, I sat down next to the bike waiting for someone to drive by. A Chase crew looking for their vehicle saw the beacon and stopped to ask if I was okay. They gave me water and food. I borrowed one of their cell phones so I could try calling my crews. But the calls went straight to voicemail. Thankfully, my crew that was 10 miles away noticed a call come in from a Nevada number. So, they decided to return the call.
Before the helpful crew left, I asked which rider they belonged to. They said, “Ebberts,” who I had met at race mile 360. They were struggling with the car, trying to limp it across the highway. Then, they headed off into the night. After they left, there was nothing to do but wait for my crew.
Tired, exhausted, punchy and disappointed that I didn’t finish, I eventually realized that – despite the events, the race had served a purpose. It was a 385-mile training ride for the race that I set my sights on now, the 50th anniversary Baja 1000. I know I could have finished the desert race. What ended it were flat tires and a concussion. My crew and I learned from it. Now, we are aware of the adjustments we’ll need to make as we prepare for the Baja 1000.
- 13 Expert Ironman starters, 16 Amateur Ironman starters
- 6 Expert Ironman finishers, 5 Amateur Ironman finishers
- Average age of 11 finishers 36 years old, oldest 56
- The 62-year-old was six years older than the next oldest rider.
- Result: 15th Place by distance completed