The idea hit me in a basement at LAX, standing in line for U.S. Customs. I was jet lagged, had been traveling for over 30 hours, and my body was saturated with German Beer and strudel. I blurted it out, “I’m going to race Vegas To Reno!”
My girlfriend Charli, just stared at the endless line. I said it again, “I’m going to race it solo!” “Are they going to stamp my Passport here?” She said, with a puzzled look, Char was obviously just as delirious as I was, and didn’t even acknowledge my ridiculous idea.The next morning I awoke at 4:30am and began to plan my effort; I had been screwing off all summer and hadn’t ridden a dirt bike in almost a month. So my theory was simple, I needed a goal to get myself back into race shape, and I had less than three weeks to get prepared for Vegas to Reno.First things first, call the boss; I called Johnny Campbell and told him about my idea. “Johnny I need a challenge, I’ve always wanted to solo this race, and it will be good training for the Baja 1000…” After a long silence, he agreed, “Yea, yea, that will be good, I’ll have Eric prep your bike.”I was stoked I wasn’t going to have to build my own bike, also, Eric is the best in the business, so I knew I was covered. Just as I got off the phone with Johnny, Charli walked in. “What’s Vegas To Reno? She asked. “Well, it’s the longest off road race in the U.S., 535 miles from Vegas to Reno.” I explained. “Why cant it be Reno to Vegas? Reno is Gross, and Vegas is way more fun.” I had never really thought about it, that’s just the way it is. Do I have to go? That sounds terrible.” she said. Yes it is terrible, in a fun sadistic kind of way.
As race day approached things began to fall into place, I lined up Hide Hanawa and Scott Dunlavey as my chase crew. Hide and Scott are the A-team when it comes to Baja mechanics,. The two of them are as cool as ice under high pressure race conditions, as a team, they can change front and rear wheels and an air filter in under 2 minutes. So all I needed to do was be able to ride the bike for 9+ hours without screwing up. I began riding moto 3 days a week, road biking and training in the gym as much as possible. My trainer Coach Frazer came up with a super top-secret nutrition plain for race day. I knew this was going to be most important, you can race 3-4 hours without food, but after that, your brain begins to disconnect from your throttle hand and bad things happen.Now all that’s left to do is race, my alarm went off at 3:45am. I got my usual race night sleep, about 1.5 hours of actual sleep and the rest tossing and turning. I jumped out of bed, made some coffee and began to put my gear on. I had one new piece of equipment that I was uncertain about using. You see, its hard to go 9 hours without relieving yourself, so, I put on my new piece of gear, ran the tube down my leg through a small hole in my pants, and taped the end of it to my boot.Just before the race started, I lined up at the staging area, in the small town of Beatty, NV. Next to me were Shane Esposito and Dave Pearson. They both looked at me suspiciously, still not believing that I was going to ride solo, so I pointed to the rubber tube hanging from my boot and the puddle of fluid under my foot peg. It’s always good to gross out your competition on the start line.At 5:45 sharp the first rider left the line into near darkness, riders followed one every minute. I was 6th off the line; by the time I got a mile down the first 100mph straight I had entered a thick wall of dust that had settled upon the course. For the next 60 miles, I didn’t see a thing but dust. After I left Pit 2, I finally got some clean air and began to have fun on the perfectly graded NV roads. There is nothing like a 90+ MPH power slide done right! It’s the best feeling in the world! Done wrong, well you end up cartwheeling through the desert. After about 20 miles, I noticed that there were only two tracks on the road in front of me. I didn’t understand why, and kept charging. A few miles later I saw Shane pushing his KTM; I figured David must be way out front, but then I began to see some dust, as I approached the famous Cottontail Ranch. I could see a bike two or three miles ahead of me. When I arrived at the Cottontail Pit, Charli, fed me a piece of a bar and told me I was in second and there was a Yamaha team about 3 minutes in front.
The next 60 miles I began to rapidly pull in the Yamaha. By Pit 5, I was completely immersed in their dust, having to back off to let some of it clear so I could stay on the road. At Pit 5 I had a planned wheel and air filter change, I put on a new 150oz Hydration pack and stuffed down some more food. This gave the Yamaha a small gap, but by the next pit, 50 miles later, I was right back in their dust. I was using a lot more energy than I would have liked to too, riding in their dust, but I wanted to be close enough to capitalize if they made a mistake. By Pit 9, at about mile 300, I was frustrated and expected them to change a rear wheel. When they blew through the pit with no wheel change, I knew I had to do something. About 5 miles later we dropped into a whooped out sand-wash that was not too dusty. I held it pinned, and started railing all the outside lines trying to miss the big chop and rocks. I got right on their wheel, and went to the inside in a right-hander and finally got the lead!I knew I had to pull at least 2.5 minutes in the next 60 miles, so I could do my next wheel change without losing the lead. I rolled into Pit 12 with no other bikes in sight and again, Scott and Hide went to work. Char began to feed and change my Hydration pack. The bike was ready before I was; I jumped back on with 150 miles left to race. I kept it together pretty well over the next 100 miles which was probably the roughest part of the race. The last 50 miles was a struggle, I began to second-guess myself, and everything started to bother me. I just had to block the pain out of my mind and hammer through the last 30 miles of rocks. When I reached the finish I’d never been so happy for a race to be over. Best in the Desert promoter Casey Folks was there with a proud look on his face ” Great job! This is the first time in history that someone has won the overall solo!” he said. I was just happy to finish and it took a while for it to sink in that I had won.
In the end, it took me 9 hours 21min 18seconds to finish the 534-mile course and I finished 14 minutes ahead of the second place team. This was probably the toughest race of my life but it couldn’t have gone any better, I need to thank everyone who helped me with this crazy idea, Hide and Scott AKA The A-Team, Eric Siraton for building the baddest bike, Johnny Campbell, Jim Boggs, Jim Castillo, Coach Frazer and of course Charli, maybe next year Casey will do Reno to Vegas for you.