Winning at the highest levels is never truly easy. Sometimes, however, it just feels that way.

Take Max Gerston, for example. Known primarily for being one of the top EnduroCross riders in the country, he’s been chasing the Kenda/SRT AMA West Hare Scrambles Regional Championship Series this year in order to add some speed to his technical game and stay race-sharp until EX season starts up in August.

Washington West Hare Scramble 2017
Once into the lead, things clicked for Max Gerston who rode almost casually while pulling away from the field. He beat runner-up Joey Fiasconaro by almost four minutes and regained the points lead from defending series champ Nick Burson, who had a forgettable day finishing eighth overall and sixth Pro/AA, 155-145.Photo by Mark Kariya

He discovered he was pretty good and racked up a very consistent run of results after finishing fourth in the mud at round one, then slipping back to sixth at round two.

Since then, he’s been on the box at each round, but that first victory eluded him until round seven, the Toasted Hare Scramble by the Mt. Baker Motorcycle Club in Bellingham, Washington, where he finally broke through to win over Joey Fiasconaro and local fast guy Joel Tonsgard.

Remarkably, it seemed almost easy compared to Gerston’s previous efforts and fulfilled a promise he’d made.

I kept telling myself I was going to win one and finally started believing it and we did it,” the Beta 390 RR rider shared, adding, “Honestly, it was so weird. Today was such a weird day because I’ve kind of been in a little bit of a lull all week and I’ve just been working all week (he cleans pools in the Phoenix area where temperatures hovered around 120 degrees in the week leading up to the race). Waking up this morning, I felt blah; I just wasn’t able to get things going. All the way up to the race and kind of even through the race, I [felt that way].

“Maybe that’s what did the trick because you couldn’t get greedy out here. You had to take your time and be patient so maybe my patient riding style, I guess, maybe the track suited it a little bit.

“I guess I was better at riding this stuff than I thought I was!”

Gerston ended up beating Fiasconaro by almost four minutes, the Gas Gas EC 300-mounted rider having to push hard on the opening section of motocross track after getting a dead-last start.

“I kind of knew I had to pick through some people on the motocross track before we got into the single-track because I knew there wasn’t going to be another opportunity to pass,” he said.

But he confirmed Gerston’s feelings about the rutted, root-filled seven-mile course through typically dense Pacific Northwest woods, saying, “It was a different race. You couldn’t really ride fast or push or you would make a lot of mistakes. You just had to stay steady and consistent.”

For third-place finisher Tongard, it was not only his first podium finish at a race of this level, it was his first race running against this level of competition, the Frank’s Motorbikes Beta 250 RR rider revealing, “I was a little scared, but I figured, ‘Might as well do it.’ It’s at my hometown [track] so I’m glad I came out; it was a lot of fun.

“It was gnarly, though.”

While Tri-City Cycles YZ250F rider Clayton Gerstner hasn’t been chasing the series, he might change his mind after winning the FMF Pro 250 class and finishing fourth overall in his series debut.

Washington West Hare Scramble 2017
From left: FMF Pro 250 runner-up Ryan Turner, first-time winner Clayton Gerstner and third-place Cole Conatser celebrate.Photo by Mark Kariya

Class points leader J.T. Baker got his usual good start and led for almost two hours until a bent chain guide and sprocket on his SRT Husqvarna TC 250 forced him to a crawl as he made his way to the pits for repairs. (He eventually limped in for fifth in class and 26th overall, a lap down, though he remains the points leader over Conatser, 166-142.)

That allowed the rest of the class to vie for his spot with Gerstner pulling out the win. Local Danny Brocker followed in fifth overall ahead of FMF Pro 250 runner-up Ryan Turner, Purvines DA8 Racing teammates Axel Pearson and Nick Burson (both of whom had issues with the hot, humid conditions as well as the tight trees), FMF Pro 250 third-place rider Cole Conatser and Open A winner Devin Schueler.

The series now takes a summer break and resumes in September in Jericho, Utah, where it’ll be desert conditions but in physically taxing trails with endless turns through trees. Then there are the final two rounds in Northern California woods so reigning series champ Burson promises to add more riding in trees to his training program as he now chases Gerston in points, 155-145, with Fiasconaro third with 135.

Washington West Hare Scramble 2017
After missing the first four rounds, Kyle Kerling has been another model of consistency with four podiums and two wins in the Big Wheel class, including the latest one at the Toasted Hare Scramble. He now sits third in points behind Mason Matthies (third on the day) and little brother Zachary, 162-109-106.Photo by Mark Kariya
Washington West Hare Scramble 2017
Though it didn’t pay points, the first-ever strider-bike race for the little kids proved to be popular and there was no denying the cuteness factor. Rider number 116 made her race debut like a number of others. You may recall that her mom, Maria Forsberg Hahn, won a few races in her career.Photo by Mark Kariya