It occurs to me, that before I let time march away much further, I have a few stories I should commit to paper before the details get too fuzzy. One of my most memorable Six Day memories is of one I didn’t even compete in, the 2007 ISDE in La Serena Chile. Chilly
By 2007 I had medaled in two of the international events. I was still racing regularly and hoping for the opportunity to ride the Six Days again. My speed was never all that fast, so for me to make the team the stars had to sort of line up in my favor. And I have certainly had my share of fortune.
But that year I didn’t make the team. I don’t remember any of the specifics. It may have been the year of my first knee injury. The phone did ring, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. It was an invitation to do the pre-ride for Team USA in Chile.
Neena and I were already working to sponsor a club team. So I would be at the event anyway. We spent a couple of years helping 3 rider club teams as sponsor. What we did was put together a number of sponsors to pay for a team shirt. Then we would give the shirts to the riders to sell. The sponsors paid for the shirts and the riders got to keep all the money. It worked out pretty well. We had a couple of riders who just kept calling asking for more and more shirts. It was a good motivator.
As team pre-rider, I would ship my bike in the team container. Then I would participate in the organized reconnaissance of the race route. Every country is allowed one rider for this. My job would be to survey the course and keep track of the times.
The “times” are the most important element in this. I would keep track of how long it took to ride each section, then compare that to the posted time schedule. If the schedule is tight, the riders need to know to keep on their toes. If it is lax, then the riders can take their time in the section. For those who have ridden many enduros, you know how common it can be for these times to fluctuate. One section is really easy and the next is a full head down race.
I prepped my 450 KTM and shipped it off for Chile. I would have to pack my gear on the plane, but I didn’t need much. I was already riding regularly in Baja and had my kit pretty well sorted. I was prepared to handle most any trail issue.
Arriving in Santiago, we found ourselves having to sort out a mix up at the rental car counter. Instead of having our reserved minivan, there was nothing. It seems most of the Six Days travelers had already arrived and taken everything there was. All reservations were out the window. Surely such a thing has never happened before!
What was to be found was a 4 door subcompact and that was literally the last car left. With 4 adults and gear it was quite the sight to see us pack up. We had to put Carlene in the back seat and stuff bags over her. The car handled terrible. A quick stop and inspection revealed the tires had about 10lbs of air each. But we fixed that and were on our way 6 hours north to beautiful La Serena.
Coming into town I could see race course markers along the road and noted that they were for day one. We had a few other challenges to sort at our hotel but were soon settled in for the night. The next morning we were casually getting ready when I saw a group of bikes headed south out of town. It occurred to me that this might be the pre-ride group. I didn’t actually know what the schedule was. So we got our things together and headed off to parc ferme. Sure enough, I was late. The group had already left to ride the Day 1/2 course. But the parc ferme crew had uncrated my bike, so I jumped in my gear and took off headed the same general direction as the bikes I saw earlier.
I sort of have to laugh at it now. No map, no gps, no phone, no plan, I just grabbed my pack and sped away. As I didn’t see any other signs of the group, I just kept going in the direction of the markers I saw the night before. Once I reached them, I just followed them to the dirt. Of course, I am sweating this the whole way, feeling like I have screwed up the day.
But before long I am making way down the course and in short order start to see dust ahead. I wick it up a bit and catch the sweep rider. When he realizes I am there he does a double take and pulls over to let me by. Turns out it was the trail boss who was riding sweep and he couldn’t imagine where I had come from. But I had my skunk helmet on so he didn’t fuss too much.
Before long I settle down and start catching more of the group. As it turned out, the group of 15 or so riders was made up of 5 seriously good riders and 10 others who it could be argued didn’t belong there. The riders started dropping out in short order. Just the five of us actually completed the entire 3 day ride. Most of the course was run twice, so total mileage was about half that of the race.
There was one Italian, probably a top national competitor, who was determined to WIN the pre-ride. He made it quite clear that no one else was going to ride in front of him. Also in the group was Husaberg’s Thomas Gustavsson. As the group size whittled down, it became quite enjoyable to ride with just a few of us who could make a solid pace.
Each night I did my best at the team meeting to give an account of the day’s ride. But it was difficult. For myself as a racer, I never had much interest in the pre-ride notes, unless the times were tight. But Chile was unique. It was a desert race and Team USA was mostly woods riders.
More than once I had a rider come up to me at the end of the day and say “I didn’t really understand what you were trying to explain last night, but now I completely understand and you were right”. One rider commented “I always thought desert racers were sort of pussies, what is there to do but twist the throttle? After today I have a whole new respect for the desert”.
The other part of my job was to give the Trophy Team riders any feedback on the tests that I could. But you can imagine the challenge. I can’t ride anywhere near their speed, so my impressions don’t count for much with them. A couple of the tests were beach sand, fast and power robbing. One had a couple of blind downhills. I commented that everything was safe over the blind take offs. Later Fred Hoess recounted to me, remembering what I had said, he just held the throttle wide open on a take off and suddenly the world dropped away from him so fast it scared the shit out of him. “I have never flown so far in my life, I was sure I was dead, but the soft sand landing made it all okay”.
Speaking of Fred, well I can’t imagine that there is a rider anywhere who has more infamous ISDE stories to his credit. Taking water from the church in Czech being one of those, I am not sure if it was really holy water or not, but we will save that story for another day.
In Chile Fred came into a pit I was at and realized he had lost his tool pack. So I gave him mine. He was also complaining of bad wheel bearings on his Gas Gas and he asked me to find bearings or a wheel for him because he wasn’t going to make it otherwise. As for the wheel bearings, turns out they were fine. The Gas Gas front axle tolerance was very tight and he had machined it down a fraction or two to slide in and out easier. But it was too much and the loose wheel banged around against it. As for his fanny pack, turns out Bob and Tony had set up a “special” pit for Fred and he left his pack while mounting a fresh tire.
But none of the above are even what I came here to talk about. I guess it really was a quite an eventful trip. My real story is about Jimmy Jarrett. Let’s see now where was I? Oh yes, after the pre-ride was over, we decided I would chase for the Trophy Team during the race. I would ride my bike from pit to pit and help out anywhere I could. I would also get a live look at some of the special tests and give any input I could.
Again, I remember trying to talk to Kurt Caselli about a particular hole that was developing and exactly how to avoid it. But again my success with this was limited. Kurt “you know that hole you told me about, well I hit it straight on, almost sent me over the cliff”. This particular corner in the test literally had a cliff just 10 feet outside the ribbon.
To arrive at the test I just mentioned, the course came up on a small open mesa and then turned right down to a hidden valley with the check and test, neither of which were visible from the mesa. The course came back out of the valley and continued on the far side of the mesa.
When I arrived at this check, the Team USA crew was in a panic. Jimmy Jarrett had not shown up. It was rumored that some of the riders may not have seen the turn arrows and continued across the mesa, missing the check and test. Jimmy’s wife urged me to start down the course to find him. Like I am supposed to catch a Trophy rider! With apprehension I took off.
About 5 minutes down the route I encounter Jimmy coming backwards on the course. I flag him down. He knows something is wrong, but isn’t quite sure what. I explain the situation to him, he needs to get back and run the special test. The last thing I say is “be careful going backwards!” I try to follow him, but it is a narrow canyon and there is no way I am going to ride it fast. I nearly run headlong into a Swedish Junior rider I know. He recognizes me and gives me that wtf look.
Okay, we have Jimmy back on track, job done. I roll back into the pit area to hear “we waived Jimmy through without gassing him, he won’t make it, you need to carry some gas to him”. Seriously! So I fill up two litre bottles with premix and get ready to head off again. But he has a huge head start on me and was already behind on time. I remember from the pre-ride that the highway comes close to the course again about 10 miles on.
I start down the highway. When I get to the correct valley I can see that I am going to have to ride a couple of miles across the desert to intersect the course. I find a small track starting the correct direction and take to the dirt. Before long the track becomes a trail, then whoops start to appear and then ribbon. It seemed a bit puzzling, then I realized I had found a section of local race course! Imagine doing a small desert race in La Serena Chile, how cool.
The track takes me right to the place I need to be. I stop, hoping I have arrived before Jimmy. I take the spare gas and discretely place it behind a bush. In a couple of minutes the same Swedish Junior rider rolls up. He stops, says hi and asks what the heck am I doing? I just shake my head and say “you don’t even want to know”. He laughs knowingly and goes on his way.
But now I know that I am surely ahead of Jimmy. Before long he rolls up just as casual as can be, like he knew that this is exactly what the plan was and where I would be. He sees the gas and calmly pours it in without a word. Then he says thanks and is on his way.
As I am writing this, I just realized that there is another Jimmy Jarrett story form Chile. On day one he came into the first pit complaining that he is losing his clutch. He throws the bike over to pull the cover off and install a new one. With the cover off, he starts to pull the clutch, Rich Caselli (?) looks over his shoulder and says “Jimmy, that clutch is dry, I don’t think there is any oil in your bike”. Sure enough, filled up with oil the problem was solved and no real damage done.
Jimmy was a good sport about it all. A year later in Greece, he had a pair of the special Team USA edition Sidi boots. At the end of the event I commented that I would really like to have a pair of those. He just handed me his. I started to offer to pay him but he just gave me that knowing look that said he hadn’t forgotten that maybe he owed me a little something. I still have those boots and the story that goes with them.
There were plenty of adventures in Chile. Now that I think of it, probably more than any Six Days that I actually rode in. My ISDE memories are of some grueling days of riding, some physical and some mental. But I never broke a bike or a body part. I never got lost, never had to protest anything. They were not very adventurous. I just played tortoise and made it to the end of each one.
Part way through the week it became obvious that Kurt Caselli had a good shot at the overall win. The KTM factory started to give him much more attention. I watched at one pit as the mechanic explained that the next section was much higher altitude so they wanted Kurt to drop the needle on his carb. But instead of having him fiddle with small parts, they simply had an entire throttle, cable and slide prepared for him to drop in.
Johnny Aubert was very strong over the last couple of days and held Kurt off for the win. Kurt had a small chance in the final moto to overcome the difference, but it would have required him to win. He was lined up against Marko Tarkala who was riding the all new KTM 505sxf. In the deep sand Kurt’s 300 was no match on power.
Rory Sullivan rode with a bit of tape on his fanny pack that said “I Go Speed”, a saying used by a child he knew. When he wasn’t looking, I took a marker and crossed out a couple of the letters. He spent half a day riding around with a pack that said “I Go Pee” before he realized it.
One last story form Chile – people were crazy to buy riding gear. When I finished my riding a guy from Brazil literally bought the clothes off my back. On day six we had a large garage sale in the Team USA pits. As I was about the only Spanish speaker, I played auctioneer. Jimmy Jarrett brought a suitcase with 5 or 6 full sets of Moose gear. At the end of each riding day he had stuffed his dirty gear back into one of the original plastic packages. On day six, people were literally picking through these bags of nearly new, but very dirty and smelly gear, asking “how much for the socks”. What a sight! I got a good laugh out of it all. They bought everything we could drag out.
Photo Link – 2007 Chile Six Days Photos