Nearly 350 racers traveled to Big Sky Resort in Southwestern Montana over the weekend for round 6 of the AMA West Hare Scrambles Championship Series. National championships were on the line for many of the youth and amateur classes on Saturday. Others made the trip simply to enjoy the unique event held on the ski slopes of largest ski resort in the U.S.
The Pro class was the first to leave the line on Sunday afternoon. The race would prove to be a test for both man and machine, as the rocky mountain course caused many DNFs. A $5,000 pro purse motivated several top names to make the cross country trip to scenic Big Sky. Yamaha’s Jason Raines, Husky’s Jason Thomas, and JCR’s David Kamo battled for the holeshot heading into the woods. Kamo went down hard, which eventually ended his race day and resulted in a trip to the local medical clinic for stitches. Thomas was the fortunate one, grabbing the lead and a clear trail. At the end of lap one, Thomas was nearly one minute ahead of the AMA Hare & Hound’s Robert Underwood. Raines’s day also ended early, reportedly due to jetting issues caused by the higher sections which rose above 9,200 ft. Underwood and KLIM rider Keith Curtis were 2nd and 3rd early on. Thomas entered the pits on lap two with a comfortable lead, but was unable to restart his bike after refueling. Later, a frustrated Thomas speculated that an electrical issue was to blame. By the end of the third lap Arizona’s Eric Baily was in lead, with Underwood still in second. As they came through the scoring tent the forth time, a clearly motivated Underwood had shrunk the gap to 30 seconds on Baily, only to have his bike expire a few moments later in the endurocross section. With both Thomas and Underwood out, Baily was two minutes ahead of a charging Rory Sullivan with Montanan’s Curtis and Cameron Weaver battling for the final podium spot. Sullivan, who calmly handled his poor 11th place start, was able to move towards the front at a steady pace. As the race neared the three hour mark, Sullivan’s lap times quickened while the grueling alpine course started to wear on the rest of the pro class. When the leaders arrived at the scoring station for the last time, Sullivan was in the lead with Baily, Curtis and Weaver following. Time expired shortly after Weaver crossed, bringing out the checkered flag to the rest of the field. Sullivan’s lead grew on the final lap, Baily maintained second, and Weaver limped in on a flat rear tire in third passing by Curtis, who was sitting on the side of the trail with an empty gas tank.
Rory’s charge through the pack and dust also earned him the Nathan Woods Memorial Hard Charger Award, which was presented by Nathan’s teammate Kevin Rookstool. Rookstool was unable to compete due to lingering endurocross injuries, but traveled to Montana to represent Stillwell Performance by presenting the Hard Charger Memorial at the award ceremonies.
Despite dry/dusty conditions, the KLIM Big Sky XC earned praises from racers of all ability levels throughout the weekend.