Kai Aiello was one of our first athletes and it's because of his work ethic and determination, He is in a transition right now from the Pro Motocross series and Supercross so he decided to give the WORCS off road series a try. I suggest giving it a read because the transition isn't as easy as people may think.
The months of September and October typically mark the transition from motocross to supercross. I have been asked many times if I would ever consider racing off-road, but honestly never knew the answer because I had not raced one before. So, with the weekend off from other events, and some convincing by my friend Timmy (Weigand), I made the decision to race Round 9 of the WORCS series at Glen Helen.
Saturday is the qualifying day for Sunday's pro races at WORCS races. Pro 2 riders do a 1 hour race on Saturday to qualify, while the Pro riders qualify based on best time in a session (similar to motocross/supercross). Since this was my first ever off-road race, I raced the Pro 2 class.
In Saturday's race, they waved a green flag to start the race. I got off to a pretty good start in 4th place. I was able to pass into 3rd early on after eating some roost, but around 20 minutes into the race I found that my heart rate was very high from working so hard to pass. On top of that, the leaders had a pretty solid gap, but I was still able to see them. I regrouped my heart rate and put down some smooth/fast laps to try and close the gap. I could also see the rider behind me closing in slowly towards the end of the race. After an hour of racing I crossed the line in 3rd behind Austin Walton and Tallon Lafountaine. It also turned out that I had the fastest time of the race during my push to catch the leaders. I was stoked! Physically I felt okay, other than some tight arms. I knew I didn't pace the race very well and would have to work on that for Sunday. I regrouped and pounded some PNG hydration because I knew Sunday's race would be twice as long and brutal.
At the rider's meeting on Sunday the event promoters told the riders that they added "pro sections" for the day's race. Apparently this was only a surprise to me, and something everyone else thought was pretty standard. I was confident with Saturday's course, but wondered what was in store for the next two hours of racing on new sections.
On Sunday we got to use the regular motocross start gates. I was confident I could use my experience from racing the pro motocross nationals this summer to my advantage and rip a nice holeshot from the outside. That is exactly what I was able to do, even on a 350 against the 450's. It was nice to be out-front and have some fresh air, knowing everyone behind me was eating roost. I was able to control the pace and lead for a good portion of the first lap. We started to come up on the first of a few pro sections. This one was an endurocross style rock garden, but I was confident I could make it through without too much drama. Well, as it turns out, I missed my line and got stuck in the rocks, which allowed 4 or 5 riders behind me to pass. I regrouped and headed towards the back of the course for the other pro section, which consisted of a tight and technical creek bed straight into a short/steep single track climb.
We entered the creek making good progress through the tight trail until we got to the climb. A rider from the first pro gate was stuck on a rock and we were forced to come to a stop. There was only one line up the hill. The picture here was from before we even touched the course, and really doesn't do justice as to how steep and tight it was. We had to pivot tight left around a rock, avoid tipping over into the ravine, and then smash up some ledges and ruts to get to the top. Yeah, not a typical day for a moto guy like myself. Anyways, we made it through after some pushing, yelling, and falling. A couple of the riders in front of me used their endurocross skills to get around the stuck rider which created large gaps in the field after just the first lap.
As the race went on I learned the sections better and did my best to make it through them every lap as cleanly as possible. I did improve throughout the race, but without a doubt I was still way out of my element not riding on anything like that before the race. I struggled in the loose rocks and had so many sketchy moments! I tried to laugh it off and keep pushing hard.
Halfway through I made my pitstop to refuel. I was shocked as to how fast the process went. Within 10 seconds my gas was filled and I had fresh goggles. I took off in a hurry without grabbing anything to eat/drink. Looks like I would have to rely on what was left in my camelback.
As it turned out, I ran out of water in my camelback with two laps to go. After an hour and 40 minutes of racing, I was so thirsty and wished I had grabbed a drink during my pit. My body stayed strong for the most part though, and I was able to make it through all two hours of racing. I could tell my nutrition and hydration from Saturday night and Sunday morning was much better. The rest of the race was pretty lonely. The field had spread out quite a bit, and at the end of the day I crossed the line in 6th place in my first Pro 2 race.
Looking back on everything, it was quite the experience but I am super happy that I decided to race. There is something to be said for getting out of the normal routine and expanding your comfort zone. This race did just that for me! I was pretty happy with my results all things considered, and now I sit here wondering how much I could improve now that I have a race under my belt. As I did in my instagram post, I'll conclude this blog with a few key takeaways from the racing this weekend:
- 2 hours of racing feels quite long
- Rocks are sketchy
- Wet rocks are especially sketchy
- When you can't go around someone in a bottleneck, I guess you're supposed to go over them?
- Off-road guys still send it when it's dusty and you can't see anything
- Camelbacks save lives
- Rocks are sketchy
I don't think this will be my first and last race of my off-road career. I am looking forward to trying again very soon. But for now, I really want to go throw some whips on supercross triples!
Thanks to everyone who helped me this weekend, my family, PNG, and all my other sponsors.