Pirate Riders Racing
Starvation Ridge 24-Hour Race Report
October 25 & 26 2014
By Steven Handl
Its dark out and I am tired and its early Sunday morning, we have five more hours of racing to go. I am sitting on my bike in pit row waiting for my teammate Phil Egbert to come in. The rain is coming down steady now and I can see the drops bounce off the LED lights on my hand guards and splatter into the night. As I look up and down pit row, the streetlights give it an eerie green glow. My Scott goggles fan is humming away and I don’t worry about fogging up but more about getting mudded up. I carry a clean wiping towel in my jacket pocket just in case. The other teams are in under awnings or in tents that survived the high wind gusts that destroyed my EZ-UP and our warm up hut that we called the Hacienda. I zip up my KLIM jacket to keep the rain from running down the back of my neck and start my bike again for any heat it may give off. It seems as if time has slowed down or maybe it’s an effect caused by my lack of sleep. The thought of warm dry clothes is a nice vision as I wait along an empty pit row for my turn to ride. A bike is coming and it’s Phil! He has only one light bar working but he has made it back!
The massive light bar that looked like it came out of a Sci-Fi movie was now dark and mud spattered. I power up my HID lights and wait for Steve Cooper to wrap the transponder belt around me and tell me to go. I hear “You’re good to go Buddy! See you in an hour and a half “and I take off. Pit row has a six-mile per our speed limit and even now a radar gun was checking for speeders. As I ride down pit row in shiny black ooze that makes sucking sounds on the tires as my knobbies pull their way free from the goop. I hear shouts and cheers of encouragement from fellow racers and their pit crews huddled in their tents as I ride by; it’s a crazy good feeling as I head out into the black.
The race started at 10 o’clock AM on Saturday morning. Phil started this year and was able to get a good jump off the line and have an early lead. I was next and my ride in the mud took a lot of energy with the bike going sideways more than straight over the twenty-mile racecourse. I did make it through the man made water pit before the finish line! Smart or not my teammate Tom Torpen said it saved a minute but we were in still third place. Cooper went next, and Tom and Ole Stimac finished out the rotation of our five-man team. Two solid teams from Oregon were to be our main competition. The Oregon 50X team won our class last year and they were in second place. It started raining again just before Phil left for his second daytime lap. The joke was that it only rained when Phil and I were riding, not funny! The highlight of my second lap was just before the man made water pit. Tom was waving me on shouting stay in the middle! So in I went and all was well until half way when I hit something under the water with the front wheel. The front end knifed over and shot off hard to the left and then I found out how deep the water hole really was. The dark brown water was rolling over my radiators as I gassed it to get out of the deep end of the pit. I came out the slimy mess looking like a burnt sugar cookie and really happy to not to have drowned out. Once I was back in the pits Tom says, “I guess we shouldn’t try that again “Phil and I both agreed.
Once you leave the pits you notice how dark it is, the water and mud mix absorb the light from your race headlights and limit how far you can see. My triple HID bike mounted headlight and hand guard mounted LED lights were doing a good job in front of the bike for the conditions. To look out farther my helmet mounted HID light from Cyclops lets you see where you are going all you have to do is turn your head. When its dry race night at the ridge you have race lights from a hundred motorcycles flashing across the fields, it’s a pretty cool thing to see. Now it’s wet and muddy and very few teams are out, I can see only random flashes of lights as I slog along. I keep telling myself to just race the track, stay focused, go as fast as I can and don’t fall down, your bike is the Six Days model it was made for this stuff so suck it up and ride it right. You can’t go slow as the bike looses the ability to go forward and starts swapping side to side and you have to muscle your way through and hang on. I am able to catch third gear and stand up, things get easier for a brief moment then I hit a rock and loose momentum and start the whole cycle over, this goes on for miles. At five miles the barn comes into focus in one end and out the other, my brain says fifteen more to go. The stubble fields offer traction on the outer edges and reflect light. The plowed fields with sprigs of green winter wheat are the worst. The mud comes up in slabs and it feels like your sinking while being slowed down. It’s best to get into a deep rut to hold the bike in line and let the side lugs of the rear knobby dig in for traction. The high winds also played with the race course ribbons and barrels I had to slow down to make sure I was headed the right way several times. Just before the second check there is a long flat road with high banks and it holds water really well. I was coming up on another rider when suddenly he wants to race. I am faster and have caught him and he should let me go by. Wrong! The race is on and I want to get clear of him fast so he can’t wreck us both. Watching us would be like seeing two drunken snakes slithering down the road. I found a little traction on the road edge berm and slowly pulled away from him. Check points two and I am glad to see you! It means halfway finished in my brain and it gives me a chance to wipe the mud off my lights. Next is a run along the barbwire fence, plowed field to stubble field and then the rock pile to my favorite spot the Phone booth! That’s right a real phone booth, it doesn't work but it’s so out of place it’s just cool.
I hit the old gravel county road it has some puddles but it also has traction. I speed down the old road catching sixth gear in my KTM and relax a little. A huge John Deere tractor blocks the road so you can’t miss the turn or I should say you don’t want to miss the turn. I have now entered the mile marker nineteen area; the last two miles from this point are the hardest. The hills are off chamber climbs and then steep down hill sections with both wheels locked up sliding down ruts to help keep the bike up. I made it past the worst section to a harmless looking uphill turn when my bike suddenly needs its oil drain bolt inspection. My bike handlebars are on the downhill side with the wheels in the air. The only light I have is coming off the hand guard mounted LED’s which are pointed into the mud. My helmet light is off and the HID’s gone off when the engine died, it could be worse right? I dig in the mud to find my handlebar end and have to lift the bike up in small amounts as my boots keep sliding. In a big heave I get the bike back up where I can get back on it. The battery is down so no electric start and I have to kick. It lights off first kick!
I love this fuel injection even more now! I scrape off layers of mud from the palms of my gloves on the hand guards so I can get a grip on the bars. With the engine running my HID’s lights have re-started and in first gear I push the bike over the little hill. Tired from the extra effort to free my bike I have at least another mile to go, now it’s a fight against the mud to the finish line. I enter the scoring area and look up to see the scoreboard; it says Class leader 167R in big red letters! I can’t even whoop but feel much better with my ride and wonder what happened to the Oregon boys? The ride to our pit seemed long, I said “Hey Coop guess what? “He replied “Uh it’s muddy out there “with a grin. “ NO we are in first place! Get going, as I don’t know how big of a lead we have! “I put the transponder belt on Cooper and off he went. After 20 hours of racing we had the lead, for now at least. I went to the trailer to make sure Tom was up. He was coming down the ladder when I told him we were in first. He went into full race mode and was ready to go in what seemed like a few minutes. Waiting is the worst part and in a race like this and anything can happen in an instant out on the racecourse. If you breakdown it could be an hour or longer before your team finds out. Cooper was out about 2 hours now and Phil was told of riders being lost or having barbwire in their wheels. We were watching riders but at this point everybody was a sugar cookie coming in so they all looked the same. Then we hear the wild man 2 stroke bike rev and “Hey we still are in first “As a happy and shouting Steve Cooper comes home. He got lost and rode the second loop twice and also had a tangle with some barbwire. “This is a hard race, “ said Cooper “ Its like doing twenty miles of the Cascade Enduro-Cross section. “ We sent Tom out on what would be the last lap and told him to ride smart as sun was out. Phil checked on the Oregon 50 boys and they had the bad luck of a rider getting lost.
At the trophy presentation the event promoter Scott Doubravsky said “ Those Montana boys do pretty good in the rain, I think they brought it with them” Yeah he blamed us and we were booed but in a good way? Walking back through the riders, one of the guys I helped to get his bike running the night before the race says, “ You guys are fast” I replied were not the fastest but we are Relentless!
Clean Up: I called Jack at Trail Tech “I did the 24 hour at Starvation Ridge and my light has water in it “and Jack starts laughing. He says” Sorry for laughing “and starts laughing again and says, “I heard it was Epic. “
It was Epic! And two days seemed to go by so fast. Now we have the memories and tons of cleaning to do! Thanks again to Scott and Debbie for putting on the largest 24-hour race in the USA! Now how about some dry weather for next year if we don’t bring the rain?