As riders trickled into El Rosario for the end of day 3, we lounged around enjoying the day and hospitality of our hosts. I did my bike maintenance for the day which consisted of changing an air filter. During the entire event I went through 4 filters, 1 quart of oil and one rear tire. The 450xcw needed nothing else.
I did not give much thought as to how the scoring for the day would come out. Again I was assuming that something reasonable would be decided. As I saw it, there were three options. The first would be to stop the stage at the beach where we hit the impasse. Second would be to give each rider time credit for the time required to get around the water area. Finally, there was the option to do nothing, just let times stand. I would not favor that, but it would be consistent. There had been no time adjustments for any of the previous course issues.
We had our problems on the course, but I didn’t see that any real harm had been done. There was nothing that could not be cured with some intelligent race rulings. As we went into the riders meeting that night at 9pm, I gave little thought to the outcome.
As the meeting began the organizer explained that there had been a protest filed by a group of riders for unsportsmanlike conduct on the part of another rider. They went on to explain that the protest did not meet any of the criteria for such, therefore it was not upheld. But, the protesters had been given a 50 minute time (approx.) time bonus. This was the end of the explanation.
Of course I was first to chime in and ask what the heck they were talking about. The organizer then went on to explain that the protest was filed against me. Apparently the riders in our group had claimed that somehow I had taken unfair advantage of the situation at the marsh and broken a “gentleman’s agreement”.
Here is where the specious logic begins. Again, it was stated emphatically that the protest was not upheld. But, the time bonus given to the protesting riders was based only upon a time derived from my own GPS track, from the time I left the marsh area. There was no other justification offered.
So the inference was absolutely clear. Despite what was said, the organizers clearly believed the protest was of merit and awarded time based upon it. The smoking gun was using my own GPS time as the reference to award time to other riders. Out of everyone and everything involved in the race, I was somehow solely responsible for the outcome of the other rider’s day.
If you would have walked up and punched me in the face, I would not have been more stunned. I attempted to question the actions, but the attitude was quite clear, the decisions had been made, the scores posted and there was no genuine interest to hear any other viewpoint, particularly my own.
Frankly, I don’t think that most of the riders in the meeting knew quite how to react. They were probably caught off guard just like me. Certainly no one came to my aid. Only one other rider dissented, saying that the action was arbitrary and served as a defacto penalty against all the other riders. While his argument did not benefit my cause, he was none the less correct. But again it was clear the organizers had made their decisions and considered the issue closed.
When I left the meeting I my head was reeling. Not only had the scoring for the day been completely botched. I stood accused without any opportunity to respond. While the words of the organizers said one thing, their actions made it very clear that they were in agreement with the accusation. The only other explanation offered was that no other riders had lost time at the water crossing, so there were no other circumstances to consider
The events of the evening left me too wound up to sleep. Steve Hengeveld did offer an apology for having been the inadvertent catalyst for the events at the marsh. I thanked him, but none of it was really his fault. When the 5am breakfast call came, I had only captured 2-3 hours sleep. It would be a long day ahead and I had little enthusiasm to face it.
Oscar Hale designed the first of the day’s three special sections. It was a fun loop that headed out to the beach and then made a loop around the El Rosario mesa. I started 7th, my finishing spot from the day before once all the free time was handed out. I made a few passes up to third. Henge had started behind me and caught be shortly before the finish. We crossed the line 3rd and 4th.
The second test started south of San Quintin and took us along the beach, past the Old Mill and back to the beach again. From there it went east up a long fast wash to take us under the highway and a loop around the foothills. This was a very innovative loop that required lots of navigation.
During the first special of the day I was riding on leftover adrenaline and frustration from the previous night’s events. But by midpoint of the second special that was exhausted and my lack of sleep caught me. I have raced some of the most grueling events in the world. I have developed a knack of riding on autopilot when things get really bad. I sort of let my conscious mind go. But it is quite another thing to have to navigate when the mind and body hit the wall. For the final day I had to back my pace way off, otherwise I just made too many mistakes. I could ride faster than my mind could keep up.
The riding on day four was by far the best of the event. The route and navigation were the most technical of any of the days. There was little wide open terrain, it was all a constant series of twists and turns. But by now I was just looking to get to the end of the day without any issues.
Henge and I spent quite a bit of time riding together. He was suffering bike problems, probably from getting water in the carburetor. He would catch me then disappear again. At one point I gave him a tow to get his bike started, but it died again quickly. He sent me on as he stopped to work on it. He would finally get going again and finish the day a fair bit behind me.
I was happy to see the finish line. I was happy to say goodbye to the event. Despite everything, I take some consolation in knowing that I rode very well for most of the rally. As I said, these were days that probably equaled personal bests for me.
The 2015 KTM 450xcw was amazing. The handling was perfect. Most places I felt I had an advantage over much of the field just because of the bike. In some spots it was a bit down on top end power, such as going down the long beach section. But more often the super smooth power delivery made it very easy to ride. I will do a write up with more detail on the bike.
As always my pit crew was spot on. Neena is getting pretty good at driving around Baja and sorting things out for herself. Shout out to my folks, as well as Mike and Nic Garvin for coming along to help out too.