We just got back from our whirlwind trip to Vegas to watch the 2010 AMA EnduroCross motorcycle racing opening round. With temps hovering around the 110 degree range, it was a strenuous day for everyone. The mood in the pits was pretty quiet throughout the day as most people who didn’t have something to do where sequestered inside to keep cool.
This was my first trip to the Vegas round in a couple of years, but well worth it. The last time I went, I tried my hand at racing the event. In the world of off road racers there is a distinct division between those who have attempted this crazy event and those who have not. For those of us who have, we have a special empathy for that guy riding around in last place in a qualifying heat race. We know the feeling; heart rate pinned, arms pumped up and just barely able to hold on to the bike while just trying to ride around the track and get to the finish.
Even among the best riders in the group, there is an understanding that you simply cannot explain the demanding nature of EnduroCross to someone who hasn’t competed in it. As one rider told me, “people keep telling me I should just push a little harder because I look slow out there, a little more effort and I could win…. they just don’t get it”.
I have decided it is much better to watch than to attempt racing this particular event. I think many other have figured this out too. In the first few years of the EX, racers from all disciplines showed up to give it a go. Probably like me they figured; “hey, I like technical terrain and here is a racing format that showcases that”. The problem is, to be a great EX style racer you need the grace of a trials rider, the combat and jumping skills of a motocrosser and the grit of an enduro racer.
The group of riders who showed up to qualify this year seemed much smaller than in the past and not as diverse. Most off road racers have figured out the difficulty of just making the night program, let alone the main event. So now the sport has been pared down to those riders who have chosen to specialize in the format. Perhaps the best example of this is a young rider like Colton Haaker, who has come of age solely racing EnduroCross and nothing else, a specialist.
In the end, this was pretty much the usual suspects when it came down to crunch time. Taddy looked strong as always. Geoff Aaron got a good start and really gave Taddy a battle in the early laps, but a few small mistakes let Taddy get away and Geoff was not able to get back in touch with him.
Probably the real new standout for the night was Cody Webb, currently leading the National Trials Championship, he was riding a box stock GasGas EC250. He ran as high as third in the main event before bobbling. With a little more experience and time spent on bike set up, look for him to be a regular contender.
Webb battled with Husky mounted Cory Graffunder during the middle of the race. When Webb got hung up in the water crossing, Cory was able to get by and cruise around safe for the final podium spot.
Another rider looking good was Ron Como, riding a rather tired looking TM 250. Ron is just another example of a racer putting his trials skills to use in Endurocross. His bike sounded kind of flat in the corners. TM’s are known for their great horsepower numbers but typically don’t have much on the bottom end. But Ron definitely looks like one who could be a contender with some more experience and support.
Many of the pro regulars really did not look on their game. Most looked like they were just charging the obstacles and hoping for the best, instead of riding with a strategy. Notables who did not have good night were; Ricky Dietrich, Nathan Woods and Colton Haaker. KTM’s Mike Brown rode steady, but was never really in the hunt for the overall. The Zip-Ty Husky boys, Burson and Garrison, had a particularly difficult day.
Destry Abbott lead Ricky Dietrich for a spot in the main event
Destry Abbott showed some grit by shutting down a charge by Dietrich to secure a spot in the main event. Destry is just coming back from surgery and has only been riding a couple of weeks. Rory Sullivan had a shot at getting in the final, but a mistake let Jamie Lanza by to secure the final slot in the main event.
Tight confines of the Orleans arena looked to favor the two strokes. The next round in Oklahoma is a much larger venue and the four strokes may have their say there.
For the first time Cameron Steele did the call for the race along with Laurette Nicoll. I got to go up in the booth and hang out during the final, even got to say a few words, so that was pretty cool.