Beat By A Girl - Jesse Ziegler Vs. Sarah Whitmore - Dirt Rider Magazine

This ego-crushing tale begins in the Anaheim pits, the holy place of motocross normally reserved for stories of success, tales of man versus machine with motivational accounts of obstacles overcome. But not on this day. No, this was a day I'll forever associate with demoralizing doubt, absolute defeat and an all-out gender letdown. This was the day I was a girl.For this, my fellow males, I apologize in advance.The IdeaThere I was, enjoying the scenes of the supercross pits when a familiar voice echoed off the factory Yamaha semi. It was Terry Beal, the ever-clean, smooth-selling media man from big blue. He was smirking at me through a chain-link barricade, apparently set up to keep ruffians like myself out of the Yamaha VIP tent."I have a great story idea for you," Beal said with a devilish grin and laughter under his breath. "It's called, 'I Got Beat by a Girl,' and it'll be you racing against Sarah Whitmore."A quick "OK, sure, that'd be sweet" escaped from somewhere inside me before I could even comprehend what I'd just agreed to do. Quickly, an internal conversation took place between the two voices in my head: Reason and The Other Voice."Did you just agree to race Sarah Whitmore?" Reason asked."Race who?" replied The Other Voice."Sarah Whitmore," Reason tried again."Who's racing Sarah Whitmore?" The Other Voice was confused."You just agreed to race her for a story," Reason reasoned.Then, silence. Both voices abandoned me-something they usually do right after they talk me into trouble. I had to think for myself."Hey, Beal, how fast is she?" I asked, already knowing the answer."She goes pretty good, dude." Beal said a little too seriously. "I think she'll take you. But it'll be a fun story to do and you're perfect for it."If this sounds to you like an embarrassing game I've already lost, then you're right on. But I'm a man of my word, even if the word isn't well-thought-out.ContactI was sitting in the stands at the Phoenix Supercross a couple of weeks later when I saw Sarah for the first time since the gauntlet had been thrown. I went over to introduce myself and was pleasantly surprised. She had heard about the story idea and seemed genuinely excited about beating the tar out of me. Good for her. She also didn't throw out an attitude or start with the smack talk (that would come later). I told her I'd be getting a hold of her soon to smooth out the details, and then we went on our separate ways.The first thing I did when I got back to the office was get in contact with Sarah's manager, Steve Aldaco. A couple of e-mails later, I found myself dialing her number to make some plans.Six rings and the strangest voicemail greeting later, I left a message telling her to call me back. She didn't. I tried again and again before I was finally able to get Whitmore on the phone.Now the unique thing about Sarah Whitmore isn't that she rips on a bike and she's a girl. It's that she has a unique attitude that allows her to get what she wants. She's not bossy or spoiled by any means. Just persuasive and always working an angle. I'm not sure why she has a manager as it seems she could get anything she wanted.Case in Point Sarah was living in Southern California for the winter in order to prepare for the upcoming Women's Motocross Association (WMA) series. Since Sarah hails from the icy confines of winter-laden Cheboygan, Michigan, she needed the time in the sunny state to get in shape for the season. So when I asked Sarah where she'd like to race, she said Racetown 395. Why does she say this? Because she's been hitting that track three times a week for the past month and knows she's pretty fast there. For some reason, I agreed to the location. She asked me when I'd like to race, and wisely, I said I was busy for the next few weeks but I'd call her back. After all, I had some practicing to do.PracticeIt's true. When you work at Dirt Rider you ride a lot. But it's not always what I'd call motocross training. In fact, I hadn't seen a gate drop in quite a while. So in order to get back my race pace, I decided to hit as many motocross races I could find in the time before the big war of the sexes. I began with REM Saturday Motocross at Glen Helen. It's laid-back, safe and fun-everything I like about moto. I raced a few of these on my Long Haul test bike and was feeling an improvement in speed and stamina. But as I wandered the pits and chatted with my pals, the reality of this whole thing really started to get to me.It started with Tyler Keefe. We were at the riders' meeting at Glen Helen when I told him I was racing Sarah in a grudge match with bragging rights and public humiliation on the line."Dude, she's going to smoke you!" Keefe said. "I saw her working out at the gym the other night. She was lifting like a mad woman and then she hit the elliptical for, like, 30 minutes. She's in shape, man, and she rips on the bike. You're toast."Then someone else piped up."You know," they said. "I watched her ride a few years back, and I doubted if I could hang with her."Then Jimmy Lewis had to chime in."If it comes down to it, there's nothing that says you can't take her out."The glimmer of hope illuminating my male victory faded with the jabbing comments of my "friends."Race DaySarah and I were supposed to meet at about 9 a.m., but she was running late so I used the time to get in some practice and devise a strategy to overcome the oft-predicted defeat.I looked around the pits and was surprised to see Doug Dubach, Steve Butler and Joe "Meltdown" from Yamaha deep into suspension testing on the new YZ250F-the same bike Sarah and I would be racing on. Great, these guys were going to watch this? Dubach and Butler pretty much define everything that is manly about motocross. They have raw speed, great style and a deep history in the sport that takes benchracing to a whole new level. I walked over to their boxvan for some tips and admitted to them what I'd gotten myself into.Butler became the 753rd person to suggest I might be in for a demoralizing experience when I stepped to the line with Sarah. Dubach was much more helpful, offering to wear my gear and sneak into the race for me to save face. He even suggested "gooning-up" his style a little with some lame cross-ups to make it more realistic. I quickly abandoned the Yamaha van and vowed not to speak to either of the two for a good week or so on grounds of gender abandonment. That was, until I wanted my sag checked 10 minutes later.OK, there I was at the track on time with my race-prepped YZ250F that Chris Denison and I worked on the night before. I put on new tires, and he cursed the graphic gods as he wrestled with my WMA-colored backgrounds. Yes, I raced with blue backgrounds. Like a girl. I know, I know. At least I wore men's gear. Anyway, I was resting between one of my two-lap practices when Sarah finally decided to show up. I was beginning to hope she'd chickened out.After some initial smack talk that would make a streetballer blush, Sarah and I agreed to watch each other practice to scope out the competition. I was already geared up, so I went out and busted the fastest laps I could. I was pretty smooth, cleared all the jumps, only fell over once and quit just before I became tired enough to show weakness. Sarah looked a little nervous when I came back to the pits, so I asked her if she thought she had me covered."I don't know," she said. "You're faster than I heard."Faster than she heard? What the factory does that mean? Who has she been talking to, and how slow did they say I was?I was still trying to figure out who threw me under the bus when Sarah went out for her practice. She only got around about a lap and a half before pulling off with a stuck throttle. Apparently, she lacks the ability to properly prep her own bike-at least that's what I suggested to her. I gave her a hard time for making excuses already. Sarah was silent. Ha! I got her good with that one. If only I knew what I'd gotten myself into.For the most part, it was fun talking trash back and forth with her. I teased her about her photo shoots, advertisements and tattoos, and she made fun of me for about to be beaten by a girl, being a sissy, having blue gear on, shaving that morning-for pretty much whatever she wanted. Somewhere in between blabbering hurtful and unsubstantiated comments about my manliness, Sarah sweet-talked her way over to the Yamaha van-o-icons and convinced the factory boys to work on her bike. Dr. D and crew were wrenching on it like they owed her something. Sarah and I were watching them wrench when she leaned over to me and softly, so Dubach couldn't hear, told me he was her hero growing up and asked if I thought it'd be stupid if she told him.OK, did Sarah just ask for my opinion? One minute she's insulting my energy drink and the next she's seriously asking for my advice. I don't get women. They constantly confuse the fork seals out of me.I told her to go for it. She did, and Dubach seemed happy to hear of another young motocrosser idolizing his accomplishments and talent.After all this heart-warming girly crap, Sarah finally got back on her factory-prepped bike to finish her practice session. She poked around pretty well on her first lap, but even after a couple of good ones she still wasn't jumping a combination into a corner right by our trucks. I was stoked. I figured if I was clearing that with ease, and she was hesitating, that must mean I have the edge. Ha! Eat that all you naysayers and male-haters. I can win.Wrong. Sarah just doesn't show all her cards-more on this later.Next, we did a practice session together. It was a good way to get a bird's-eye view of how she rode. This is when I started to see the end. I knew I was in trouble when I watched her accelerate out of corners and gap me. Her style was almost flawless, with a simple, aggressive nature that proved much more efficient than my agro-macho style. I muscle bikes around to get them where I want them to go. It's a hard habit to break; it really becomes apparent when I ride with someone as smooth and calm as Sarah. She flows where I strain, and she really keeps her momentum going. Even though I was fairly confident of my tragic fate after our paired practice, I had no idea the extent of the gap in our talent or her secret-keeping ability. I would find out soon enough.Here's an interesting fact: When Sarah gets even the slightest bit bored while riding or hanging out at the track, she tries to entertain herself by singing, talking, dancing-pretty much whatever will get her the most attention. Now, for the record, Sarah can't sing at all. It's more like a cat in an alley looking for a can of tuna than music, but it is effective in making her and just about everyone else around her smile and laugh. Before our race she was talking all sorts of smack, about how I'm going to deal with getting beat by her. I told her this wasn't a surprise since it was technically her home track. I think that knocked something loose in her head because she started singing.I can officially say I've heard the worst rendition of Aretha Franklin's "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)" the modern world has ever heard. It's a song you usually see in women's designer jeans commercials where a good-looking model is rolling around on white linen sheets in little more than a pair of jeans singing to a picture of her boyfriend. It was like that, but it was Sarah, in her riding gear with helmet hair, screeching something awful. I couldn't help but laugh at the poor girl. Was she neglected as a kid? I thought about asking her parents when I met them at the Indy show weeks later, but they were so nice I couldn't bring up how big of a pest their daughter could be. Sarah's father, Terry Sr., looked at me after I told him Sarah and I raced and said, "Don't feel too bad, she beats a lot of boys."When the gate finally dropped on our race or, rather, the rock-you see, we didn't have a gate so I did the whole rock-drop thing-I was reminded of something I'd read or heard or was told by Sarah: She's a slow starter. I blew her away from the beginning and my start-early-and-run technique was working pretty effectively...for a lap. I was riding well, with not too many bobbles and was staying ahead for the most part. We decided on an eight-lap race-about 20 minutes-and unfortunately, I only led that first one. Sarah passed me cleanly on the outside of a sweeper, and I was stuck watching her and her pink gear from the rear for the rest of the race. A sucker for a lesson, I watched her closely as she slowly but surely lengthened the gap between us. I love learning from the people I ride with, and what I learned from Sarah was obviously a big factor in why she was whooping the shifter out of me. She takes great lines. Superb lines, I'd even say. I've followed some fast racers around the track in my time, but I was surprised by Sarah's line selection and creativity because in practice she hadn't taken any of the lines she was racing. It seems Sarah was keeping secrets better than a girl's best friend, a smart race strategy indeed and one that was very effective. Touche to you Ms. Whitmore, you smart-ass. When the checkers waved, it was Sarah taking the victory as predicted by just about everyone I'd spoken with prior. The scary part is I don't think she was even trying.Racing a girl and getting completely annihilated by her isn't that bad of a feeling. After all, she's faster than I am. It's that simple. What really hurt was watching Dough Dubach and Steve Butler shake their heads in disappointment during and after the race. Dubach commented briefly afterward, "I noticed Jesse started to wear down a little by lap three, and Sarah seemed to have plenty left."After the race, it was off to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant where I agreed to treat Sarah and her buddy Eamon to a meal after losing my racing bet. We had a good time at dinner. Eamon and I even got to pick on Sarah a little-which isn't easy because she's pretty damn good at comebacks and when she isn't, she pouts and turns on the victim routine. I pride myself on being a sarcastic smart-ass, but Sarah, on a good day, can go punch for punch.You'd think after putting up with Sarah's womanliness all day and feeding her we'd be even, right? Well, I also agreed to more public humiliation by wearing a shirt, of her design, to the San Diego Supercross. You might have seen it on as part of our supercross coverage. It was a bad day for me. And I don't want to talk about it anymore.In the end, my racing experience with Sarah was more than memorable. I definitely appreciate the speed and talent of the fast women invading motocross, and though she still gives me a ton of sass, I was happy to be beat by one of the fastest.Women racers are for real. If you don't believe me, go race one. You might need a rematch. Did you hear that, Sarah? Rematch. Like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed in Rocky II. This time I pick the track.Check our website for the real story-as told by Sarah Whitmore herself.