Last weekend marked the first round of the AMA National Hare and Hound series in beautiful Lucerne Valley. The desert is an eye opener if you’ve never been there: Wide open with rocks, mountains and dry lake beds for as far as the eye can see in all directions. It looks like there’s a city in the middle of nowhere with thousands of weekend warriors camped out in the desert. There was moisture still in the ground from rain week before. The desert is incredible with the crisp, wet-dirt smell, and the traction is awesome!Clint (my mechanic), my brother, Nick and I arrived Saturday. We got my YZ450F dialed in and then checked out the start. I got my line figured out and was pretty happy and looking forward to Sunday. We went to Victorville that evening, had dinner and got to bed early. 4:30 a.m. rolled around and, “ring ring ring,” alarm clocks banged in our ears letting us know it was race day.After a quick shower and breakfast we were on our way to the desert for “fun time.” I put a bike on the starting line to hold my spot, got my ankle all taped up (popped a few ibuprofen), put my gear on and practiced the start a few more times, smoothing out a few ditches and moving some rocks out of the way. After that, I was ready. I gassed up my bike, prepped my goggles and headed to the line.The start in Lucerne is epic: Hundreds of motorcycles all lined up for nearly half a mile, five deep, all rearing to go. Finally the banner goes up and all engines go quiet. The silent anticipation before the race is pretty cool. It’s an amazing thing to experience every time. After a minute or so, the banner falls. My bike fired along with a few hundred others. It’s unlike anything else as the valley comes alive with racers, looking like ants from afar, hauling butt across the desert.I got a mediocre jump off the line, but my bike was more than willing to make up for it. I kept it pinned through the gears, 2nd, 3rd, 4th as fast as she’d let me. The start funneled down about halfway through. I left it wide open and got in front of all of the guys on my side until I saw only one person still in front of me, Destry Abbott. Our lines started coming together, so I peeled off and made my own line just to the side, going about 90 mph. We came to the banner after holding it wide open for almost four miles. Near the end, our lines split sending me to the right and Destry to the left. He had to back off cause he had a rough ditch to go through an my line was smoother. I had a clear view as I hit ribbon and was first on the course.The first loop was actually a good one, with a lot more technical stuff than they usually put us through. Everything was going well until about halfway through… I hit my foot and tweaked my ankle completely sideways. I didn’t go down, but man
, I went limp and cried like a baby! I rode with my foot off the peg for a bit and told myself, “Get tough; you can do it!” A few minutes later, I was able to put pressure on it and get back on the gas.After the first loop [40 miles], I had about 10 to 15 seconds on Destry. I stopped for a quick pit: Gas, new goggles, a quick sip of water and I was on my way for loop two [62 miles].With Destry on my tail there was no room for errors. I kept it pinned and rode my butt off. They put us on some gnarly trails with rocky, off-camber hills that I don’t think a big horn sheep would attempt. Then they sent us down hills that I probably wouldn’t walk
down as they were practically vertical. I came down over rocks the size of Volkswagens, which weren’t bad at first, but then wham!
I had both feet out so I didn’t fall as I tried to regroup and straighten out.Next, we came through some washes with really deep sand. It was a lot of fun, but hard-to-read being the first rider. Sometimes I’d want to take the inside line, but I’d go to cut in and “Holy cow!” There’d be something like huge boulders or a five-foot wash-out and I’d quickly jump back to the outside.The alternate was 35 miles into the loop. I got another quick splash of gas and my crew said I had a 30-second lead. Not a lot, but a little bit of breathing room.I kept it pinned into the last section and about halfway through, all of a sudden, no ribbon! I was lost. I went a little futher thinking maybe the ribbon had blown off the bushes, but no luck. I thought, “No way! I’ve worked way too hard to throw it away now.” I flipped a quick U-turn and started heading back, desparately searching for ribbon. Talk about panic! Finally, to my relief, I saw some in the distance. I got on the gas, flipped another U-turn and was back on the course.I instantly realized the valuable seconds I lost when I saw second place coming into the valley. My breathing room was now down to 10-15 seconds which meant no mistakes. I pinned it all the way through the last part of the course which was more nasty, tight stuff. I came down the last gnarly downhill right into the finish smiling from ear to ear. Yee haaa! My bike was awesome and I had the first National Hare & Hound in the bag.Around 45 seconds later, Destry came off the hill taking second. Ty Davis was 3rd (first in the 250 class), Steve Hengeveld – 4th, and Brian Brown – 5th. My cousin David [Pearson] came in around 8th, falling from 3rd when he ran out of gas near the end. Click here for full results from the Lucerne National Hare & Hound
.Thanks to my sponsors for everything; my bike is working great. A big thanks to Clint Braun, my friend and mechanic, and my brother, Nick [Pearson], for all their help, and the guys and gals from Montclair Yamaha for all their pit support this weekend. Another big thanks to my family and all the people cheering me on at the races and at home.