Story And Photos by Ben Baucum
The 24 Hours of Starvation Ridge is by far the largest off-road team focused competition in the Northwest. The annual event routinely draws racers from Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California, Washington and Canada. Its late October date guarantees more dark hours than light, and also makes predicting the weather a giant question mark. In the past five years there have been incredible extremes in conditions. From the dust of 2008 to the mud of 2010, the forecast days before this years commencement was promising to be “perfect.” That belief slowly drowned the morning of the race with mild but steady precipitation. The 2012 event racked up over 100 entries including 28 Ironmen who gathered beneath the swift and soggy skies to wallow in the mire for a sleepless 24 hours.
The sinister start was devised by race promoter/land owner Scott Doubravsky. Riders lined up separated from their laid down machines by 100 yards, which also included a rough-cut trench. When the green flag waived signaling the start, an awkward sprint commenced. Traction-less boots trotted in and out of the ditch, one hundred strong. Two strokes and FI bikes seemed to have the advantage firing to life, but there was some confusion about which way to go. After some redirection by course workers everyone was getting a sense of what the next 24 hours would be like.
The newly cut track was tacky and flowed along the bleached grass covered hillsides. Well used portions of the course were hard packed and shiny slick on top. The track split several times to give riders options that would be difficult to memorize over the 21 mile layout.
Care was taken to create new features to the well-used racing facility. Beyond the old farm house there was a virgin hill climb. If a rider chose to take the bypass they tacked on a few more seconds for by going up the more gradual incline. It was a cinch for some and an impossibility for others. It was also the most dry section of track thanks to the steep angle and constant tire tilling which exposed the dry dirt below.
First to complete a lap was the Hillsboro Motosport team rider Reid Brown. A Starvation Ridge regular fresh from his first ISDE, the Oregonian felt comfortable with the course after having plenty of practice riding the grass tests in Germany. The KTM pilot was rewarded with clear vision and enjoyed the luxury of cutting the first race-pace lap over the unused sections of the track.
His Honda mounted teammate Anthonee Gibbs, took the transponder around the course for a couple laps and added a few minute gap over the competition. The Washington native was determined to stay dry and sported heavy duty rain gear. He rode like a champ, but looked like a commercial fisherman.
The rain continued to fall as did the morale of many riders. The sweet flowing fresh-cut grass track was evolving into a slick slurry. Ruts developed and lap times suffered for the less skilled. Unlike the mud race of 2010 the dirt below stayed mostly firm and rideable. This was somewhat to the dismay of the Ironman winner of that year, Ben Harman, who freely admitted that pure speed is not his strong suit. He was busy working his way back up in the pack following a poor start to put mid-race pressure on Ironman leader Brady Allard. The two would have their work cut out for them as the sun dipped below the thickly clouded horizon.
Just after dark it began raining vigorously. Visibility was impeded even further by fat saturated drops highlighted by bright battery powered beams. The high humidity created a hanging fog that lingered in low lying areas out of the reach from the mild breeze. Out front, the Motosport Hillsboro team still had a comfortable lead. Joey Lancaster did not let the slop damper his spirits. “It was an adventure every time I threw my leg over the seat… [the mud] made you think, use throttle control and attack every section of the track.”
The rain let up in the early morning hours, but by this time the combination of standing water and the metered stampede of knobbies left miles of ruts. Uphill, downhill, crossed up and shallow, it would only get more rough as the night progressed. During the darkest hours is also when RUTS, the second place pro team, would come closest to taking the lead. They were cutting consistently quick laps when Motosport Hillsboro rider Tiger Lacey got his bike tangled in a wire fence and took some time to get free, but it wasn’t enough to change the outcome.
By end of the torrential 24 hours the Motosport Hillsboro team of Anthonee Gibbs, Don Boespflug, Joey Lancaster, Monte McGrath, Tiger Lacey and Reid Brown were fast and flawless enough to master the mud. “We managed to have a relatively mistake free race. We were able to lead from one mile in all the way through the finish, and now I think everyone on our team has a greater appreciation for dry ground,” said Brown.
Baja bound Brady Allard edged out Ben Harman for first honors in the Ironman class. The self-sufficient rider will soon attempt a solo of the 1,000.