2015 Australian Tatts Finke Desert Race, Alice Springs, Australia
This race became a BIG undertaking for me, with making the decision to go race and have an epic vacation with my now, fiancée Rachel, it was going to take a lot of preparation to do this. I started by contacting the owner of The Quad Squad Australia, Adam Siemensma to see if I could use his quad for Finke. He obliged and the work began. I started to fund raise by giveaways from my awesome sponsors, gofundme page, selling advertising space on my t-shirts, selling the t-shirts, and by helping my parents sell their condo to make the rest of the cash. I sent my suspension, wheels/tires, gear and a camping setup for Rachel and I to Australia. Thanks to Fasst Company for helping me get it shipped away. I employed my now friend, Cade Cowdin (owner of Official Strength in St. George), to help me get the physical and mental strength to 100%. It was literally a transformation for me; I have never been that mobile, fast, powerful and strong in my life. I knew in my mind that no one was working harder in the gym than me and I know it would translate when it got tough out there. Sam at Dirt Fiend Racing brought back the popular “Tank” graphics kit to represent America. I was ready to get down to the Outback mate! I have to thank everyone that helped me get to this race and fulfill a dream. You don’t know how much it meant to me to try to win and represent for the USA!
We arrived in Alice Springs on a Thursday, with little time and the race starting on Saturday for timed qualifying, we had to some quick testing. We found a rough course on the outskirts of town. I’m pretty sure I saw ole Mick Dundee out wrestling a dingo but I couldn’t tell for sure…. With the help of Adam, we got the Elka/Teixiera setup feeling great! I was ready, very anxious, but ready. This was months in the making, I wasn’t really nervous because I knew what I put myself through to get there, I just wanted that light to go from red to green! Saturday came quickly, Alice Springs is an awesome place but can get very hot in the summer months but I had luck on my side. It was their winter which made for great temps but still dryer than a popcorn fart. I would need to hydrate and fast. Prologue had come; all I wanted to do was to get on that quad and ring its neck. I had been deprived of a race for over a month and it was time to get it on…
It was lines of two quads per row to go head to head against each other. I was paired with an Australian on a KTM. We rolled up to the starting line, the Finke crew staged us in the correct spot. I had been watching the “tree” the starts before ours. It would go from red, blink yellow 3 times then to green. Now on the starting line, I was focused as ever. I needed to get a great time to be able to start closer to the front come Sunday morning for the actual race. Red changed to yellow, my foot grazes the shifter upward to get into 2nd gear, another yellow I’m now at half throttle I can feel sweat starting to drip from my face, the last yellow I’m rolling a bit forward just like my MX days, and then BOOM green light! I was gone, clicking through each gear the Quad Squad prepped quad ripped out of the hole getting a big lead. The Maxxis Tires/Tire Block combo hooked up immediately edging out the other rider. The course had some good corners with some fast off cambered whoops. My Elka Shocks were soaking up the rough while my Flexx Handlebars were keeping me fresh and keeping me focused. I started to catch another rider and made quick work by passing them in the dust. I almost blew a fast corner but made it stick. I saw the finish line and held it wide in 5th. At first I thought I could have went a bit faster but couldn’t get down on myself since I didn’t pre run the course at all prior. After checking my results I had qualified 4th overall quad, meaning I would be starting on the front quad line. Success! I felt happier than a midget at a mini skirt convention. I felt proud of my accomplishment and put team USA in a good place.
FINKE was up on us. It was race day and I was feeling confident and ready to go. We checked when we would race as the supposedly had changed the rules overnight. They were supposed to combine the quads and bikes together but someone had complained and it changed back. They moved us forward to 12:12pm so an hour longer is all we had to wait. We headed back to the Van Vliets trailer to hang out a bit and get ready for the battle that was about to ensue. This time around there would be 5 riders to a line, I needed a good start. At around 11:05am; Jake, Harry, Mitch Van Vliet and I were chilling at the trailer when our friend Barry rushed to tell us that it was our time to go. We were flabbergasted at why they were starting that early but listened to his warning. We all rushed to get ready and jumped on our quads as fast as we could. Jake Van Vliet, the Sheridan brothers, I and another rider were on the first row of quads. The “tree” was already yellow as they had been waiting for us. We got in position but this time it only blinked yellow twice which I had misjudged from the day before. It went green, I hesitated then ripped out of the start but it was too late. I had a bad start… I was in 4th going around the first corner and dust consumed me. It was the nastiest dust I had ever experienced, nothing like the same prologue course the day before. I was in first gear with the clutch in trying to see past the cloud of dust. It opened up enough for me to see and I took off! I was blasting the corners; doing everything I could to catch up to the rest before we hit the desert. Towards the end of the prologue track I could see Clint Sheridan a couple corners ahead of me. I knew if I could catch him I could gain some valuable time on the leaders. Putting my head down and focusing on finishing the day strong, I pushed as hard as I could.
The race course was nothing like I had ridden before; it had some very fast sections where I was 5th tapped for miles into some fun whoop sections. Other times the whoops were so big that I felt like I was racing supercross (not an exaggeration with how big these were). Most of these bigger whoops had square edges in the bottom of them, yeah…. really sketchy. I kept having some epic battles with dirt bikes a long the course as well, they would catch me, make a pass, and then I would pass them back. This would go on for awhile. On the sides of the course, it was littered with awesome fans and people in great costumes. I saw a big f-in chicken and a sumo wrestler, crazy mate! Some of the girls out there supposedly got a little more “creative” but I didn’t see any of that. I had to focus on the prize. I could see Clint every time we would hit a straight away. He had to be only a quarter mile a head of me. I was closing in on our first pit stop at 78KM; I think that’s like 3,000 miles haha. I had to find my new buddy Chris to get a quick pit stop. After going to at least two wrong pit crews I found the correct one. I took back off but had lost some time. After the pit the course got rougher and rougher. The biggest obstacle was the whoops that headed up the hills and then down. They would swallow you whole if you weren’t careful. I was trying to remember what Baja Champ Colton Udall had told me about this section around 115KM was about but I couldn’t. I wish I could have because oh boy, it was nasty. I was gaining time on everyone including bikes because when they would let off up these hills I was keeping the momentum up. I would wheelie through them keeping the front end up. I was feeling really good thanks to my training I had received from Official Strength. I came to a long straight away with good rolling whoops and another treacherous uphill. I made quick work of the straight away and began to crest the hill. I was 4th tapped keeping the front end up and dropped the front tires down on top of a deep whoop. My rear end dropped down in it, I swapped right then left and was immediately in the air. I remember thinking “OH S***! When I hit the ground I dug in, with my left side taking all the impact.
I went black for only a second but had to get off the course. I was having a hard time trying to get up, my left side was severely hurt and I had the breath knocked out of me. Blood was starting to come out of my nose as well; I was a little freaked out to be honest. Lucky for me, I had some of the best fans in Outback to help me get off of the course. Rick was the first on the scene and helped me across the road after I calmed down a bit. There were around 20 spectators were I crashed, in a way, I was thankful it happened there. They sat me down and gave me a Coke to get my sugar up along with some snacks. As I sat there, some were making comments to get back on the quad and go. “Where was my Aussie spirit?” I didn’t take offense to this at all, I had already been pondering if I could continue or not. My quad had a bent tie rod and I needed help to walk around. I had to make a tough decision, keep going and possibly wreck again or get hurt worse or call it quits. With all of the planning, sacrifices made, training, money spent, people that have helped me get to this point in Straya, and now the feeling of failure. I had to make the hard decision to call it quits. I’m not going to lie, it was hard to hold back the tears as this was a bucket list item that I put a lot of hard work into but I had to look at the big picture. I had made it here, I had ridden very well but I needed to continue Rachel’s and I journey with the rest of the trip. Rick and Brian graciously took me to Finke so Rachel, my family, and fans would know I was ok. After about a 12 hour drive and getting stuck in the Finke River, we made it to the Van Vliets bus. I was relieved to see Rachel and was bummed to hear the 2013, 2014 ATV Champ Mitchell Van Vliet had to quit with a hurt hand. I definitely got chewed up and spit out by this race or “I got Finked!” was the new term. It was the gnarliest race I’ve ever done and only made it 115KM in to a 500KM race. I will be back and I will finish this race.
After the race was over, Rachel and I continued our 3 week journey to New Zealand and Fiji where I asked her to marry me while we were scuba diving. We had a great time and memories we will never forget.
Thank you to my amazing fiancée Rachel for all the support and guidance through this race. I really have to give a big shout out to Adam at the Quad Squad for all the help and opportunity to race. Huge thank you to the Van Vliet family (and Adam again) for the hospitality and the friendship, Rachel and I feel that you’re apart of our family now. You helped make it a memorable one. To everyone else that we met along the way and showed us the true Outback hospitality, thank you. To Rick, Brian and crew that helped me when I wrecked, thank you! To everyone that believed in my efforts enough to donate money or time, I appreciate that more than you’ll ever know. I felt like a USA rockstar down there. As always, thank you to my sponsors that keep me going!
Fasst Company, Western Designs, AMSOIL/Scottsoil.com, Maxxis Tires, Moto X-Perts, Dirt Fiend Racing, Elka Suspension, Teixeira Tech, Rad Manufacturing, My Pakage, Klim Gear, Sidi Boots, Sockracy, FW Carbon, Lone Star
Racing, Streamline Brakes, Task Racing, AME Grips, Fastway, CRF Skid Plates, VGR, FMF, Hot Cams, Pivot Works, Hot Rods, Vertex Pistons, Rath Racing, Glann Innovations, Works Connection, Hinson
Racing, Syphon Sound, Static Flow Media, Reel Cameras, Goldspeed Wheels/GPS Offroad Products, Eks Brand Goggles, Tire Blocks, Sprocket Specialists, Maier Plastics, Pit Traffic, IMS Products, Leatt, Val Brinkerhoff Racing Stables