Round 4 of the National Hare & Hound series was held in Jericho Utah and put on by the Sage Riders. This venue is far from home but I have been getting quite familiar with the lay of the land and the riding in the area over the years. I really like the terrain and the racing up there but it is getting pretty beat up and is physically demanding. This year we would get blessed with a lot of weather the day before the race. On our drive up we had rain and a lot of snow. When we got closer to the race site the snow had gone away but it was raining off and on. There was a lot of rain but this place also soaks up the water really fast! Saturday was slated to be sunny and about 65 degrees, which is Perfect racing weather. The start wasn’t until 11:30 Saturday but was postponed until 12:00pm.
Saturday morning my wife and I rode down to the start to walk some sand dunes. I found a good line and wasn’t too worried because it wasn’t going to be very dusty. We made our way back to the truck and got ready for the race! When the banner dropped my bike fired off quickly and I was probably about 3rd to the dunes. Taylor blew past myself and a few others and I tried to follow him. I was in tow but a little way back and didn’t realize a bunch of riders had bypassed the sand dunes to the right and tucked in right before the flags at the end of the start. It was a complete cluster trying not to T-bone other riders and make it through safely. After that it was a mad dash across a valley with a lot of up and downs. We all shuffled positions quite a bit and by the time we settled down to a trail I think I was around 10th overall. I had Kendall Norman right in front of me so I tried to stick with him and make the same passes when he did. We finally worked into the top 5 and were setting a good pace when I was climbing a hill and saw the leaders coming back down the hill. I made a mistake by not really paying attention to course markings and following the people in front of me instead. I know better but in a battle it’s hard not to do. I made a choice coming back down on where I thought the course was going but I was wrong. The course was headed right and I was on the left side. We were lost long enough to get shuffled back probably outside of the top 10. At this point it was all out chaos on the course. We were 4 maybe 5 wide sometimes going down tight canyons and trails. I rode through bushes, branches, rock piles and whatever was in the way wide open trying to make passes and stay with the leaders. I was getting roosted with rocks up hills and smashing branches trying to sneak under trees. I had ripped my right side jersey completely off my shoulder exposing my skin to a beating of branches as well. By the time I got back up into the top 5 the chaos was beginning to settle down and I was trying to regroup and get back on pace with the leaders. At that point we made our way down a rocky canyon and I struggled a little bit with some arm pump and had to back it down a little bit. I lost sight of the leaders but was starting to reel back in the dust going down a fast fire road. I saw some arrows pointing left and Immediately made a hard left off the road up into the tress. Well I didn’t see any ribbon again. I searched and searched for ribbon or a trail when I looked back and saw bikes blazing up the road still. The arrows were for a corner way up ahead that stayed on the road. Again after making up all these spots I was forced to play catch up. I put my head down and charged again making another pass before the pits. When I came in to get gas and a fresh set of Viral Goggles from my beautiful wife they let me know I was a couple minutes down. In the pits that’s never fun to hear but I just needed to ride my own race and set a good pace for loop 2. Loop 2 was the easy loop that the amateurs had already finished. So the course was beat up and really rough. I just kept trying to charge and keep a decent pace going. It was pretty uneventful almost the whole way until after the alternate gas check I started to see some dust. I thought it must just be a lapper that I was catching but after a while I never caught anyone that quickly. I knew at that point but it must be 3rd place. I had no idea who it was but it lit a fire under me for the last 10 miles. I had something to finally chase and not ride by myself. I finally got close enough and realized it was the husky of Dalton Shirey. Just about when I got close he looked back and saw me and just took off! He started pinning it and dusting me out really bad. I knew the trails we were on and realized we were very close to the finish. I thought at this point there is no way I am going to make a pass but I wanted to finish really close to him to show that I put in a good 2nd loop. The final mile was the same finish as last year’s hare scramble that we raced in this area. So I had a couple good lines and knew where some of the corners were that we were approaching. I was still in the dust but I realized I had to give it a shot and go for a pass. I pinned it up a whoop trail right behind him and I couldn’t see anything but I knew a hard left hander was approaching. It was a bit of a 180-degree corner through some brush back onto another trail. I think Dalton came in a little hot and I was able to tuck down low and just lay it over and get on the gas. We were both approaching the next trail about the same time and now had the inside line. We made some contact and I thought for sure I was going down but I managed to keep it up and take over 3rd place. Now I knew I had a pass attempt coming back and needed to be on my toes. He kept running it in on me and trying to get back by but I was able to fend him off and a few corners later we turned down into the finish shoot and I had made the pass stick for as long as I needed too.
I was really happy to finish the race in 3rd overall and be back up on the podium. It was one of the most eventful Hare & Hounds that I have been involved in over the years. With the chaos off the start and then the confusion of getting lost multiple times and having to pass the same people over and over I never expected a podium spot with how far behind I was in the pits. I just wanted to put in a charge and see what I could do. I was happy with where I finished but I want to be up front battling for the win and have to make less mistakes and ride better to be up there. Can’t wait to come back in two weeks and do it all over again!! A big thank you to my wife for keeping me fueled up and ready for the weekend and my Pops for helping with the long drive!!