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Gopher Dunes is rough, tough, hot and feels like the motos go on forever. If you know me at all, you know sand tracks are not my favourite. I have never been able to find a fast, cool, flowing style where you can wheelie everything and just hop around. For me, it’s more like, plow into the big bumps and hang on. Not a good strategy but I made the best of it. For me, my goal this past weekend was to just go as fast as possible for as long as possible instead of riding good, strong, consistent laps.
During the first moto I feel like I failed at that big time. I just rode around at my own pace and never stepped outside of my comfort zone to go faster. The second moto was so much better, well, for the first 20 minutes. I got a good start and made my way to about the Top 5, running there and pushing hard. I could see Floridian Tristan Lane ahead of me and I was trying like hell to catch him. But around the 15 minute mark I started to realize I wasn’t going to be able to work that hard the entire moto. So, I started to back it off, but not long after that I started to cramp up and it was all downhill from there.
At Gopher Dunes it doesn’t take long to get dirty! Photo by James Lissimore
I struggle to eat on race day, which is strange because really everyone knows how much I love food and eating. Earlier in the day, I had eaten something that upset my stomach and I wasn’t able to eat the rest of the day. Believe me, I got an ear full of it from my wife afterwards because I didn’t eat the same thing I normally do. Lesson learned. So, I blame the second moto on a lack of energy due to not eating, which in reality is my fault. Like I said, though, my riding at the beginning of the second moto was possibly the best I have ever ridden at Gopher, so I am just taking the positives away from that and moving on. I don’t want to get down on the weekend because, in reality, it could have been much worse, I moved up three spots in points, and I get to race one of my favourite tracks next weekend.
For this week, it’s really about making sure you recover. We have three more weekends in a row and it’s important to not be blown out already. Riding two days this week is plenty for a guy like me. Just trying to stay loose on the bike but also doing sprint laps with good rest to make sure you’re not working too hard. Being back in Ohio this week is nice, it’s not nearly as hot as back home in Arizona so it makes riding a little more enjoyable.
Now it’s on to Round 5 and Cade’s favourite track of the series.
Sand Del Lee is a great track, in my opinion. I got so excited last year when it was back on the schedule. Some people complain that it is hard to pass but I don’t seem to think so, it gets rough and it is plenty wide with lots of different obstacles. Not a huge fan of the first turn but I blame Kevin Tyler for that (just kidding). Well, that’s about it. I will say that I entered Unadilla for later this year, so that will be my first race back in the USA in over two years, so you can say I am PUMPED! See you at the races!
We are now at the mid-way point of the 2019 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series. With four rounds down and four more to go, Colton Facciotti and Phil Nicoletti are tied atop the 450 class points. As much as a lot of things are completely unpredictable in Canadian pro motocross this year, Facciotti and Nicoletti being so close in points after four rounds is not one of them. With both riders being fast, fit, and determined to win this championship, it’s no surprise that they are in such a dogfight now for the 2019 450 MXTour Championship. With eights motos to go, let’s take a look at what might be in the immediate future as Facciotti and Nicoletti battle for this championship.
Phil Nicoletti proved to everyone at Gopher Dunes that he’s ready to make a run at the 2019 450 Championship. Photo by James Lissimore
Both riders appeared to come into Round 4 with completely different mindsets of how they wanted their race to go. With only stories and videos to base an opinion, the only way left for Phil Nicoletti to truly experience what a national was like at Gopher Dunes was to actually line up and race. After Round 2 in PG, Nicoletti told me that he couldn’t wait until the series moved east to rougher tracks and more challenging conditions. Considering that he trains each week at Clubmx in South Carolina where it’s been mega hot for three months, Phil said that during the opening three rounds he couldn’t get warm. With those cool race days behind him, Nicoletti showed up at Gopher Dunes very excited to tame the roughest track in Canada.
Facciotti, on the other hand, has raced many laps at Gopher Dunes so there are very few, if any surprises remaining for the 5-time 450 Champion. Because of his familiarity with the track, Facciotti came into Saturday knowing exactly what to expect. He knew that Round 4 is one of most important races of the series as there is just so much that can go wrong. With Gopher Dunes being so hard on each rider’s body, as well as their machines, the national at Gopher Dunes usually goes really good or really bad. Facciotti was well aware of this so he came into Saturday with the mindset to score some good points, stay out of trouble, and leave still in possession of the red plate. Judging by the results from Round 4, I’d say that both riders had a pretty good day at the Dunes.
Round 4 wasn’t Colton Facciotti’s best day, but he still held on to the red plate. Photo by James Lissimore
Now we have a four-race sprint to the finish in the 450 class with both Facciotti and Nicoletti deadlocked in points, and after his big win on Saturday, Mike Alessi is just 17 points behind. I would normally say that Facciotti has a clear advantage as he’s raced at the final four tracks many times in his long career. However, so far in the series Nicoletti has been very good at learning our national tracks quickly. If Nicoletti has had any weakness in his race craft it would have to be his starts. In more than one moto this season Nicoletti has started behind his main competitors, which has hurt him. Although the remaining tracks in the MXTour will most certainly suit Nicoletti, all four are very difficult to pass on. This is one advantage that Facciotti does have in knowing these tracks and how crucial good starts are.
So, what happens from here? Nicoletti has zero experience on any of these remaining tracks. However, he’s talented enough to learn them quickly and he’s proven to be very good at figuring out where the best lines are. Also, because he’s mostly started behind our series veterans, he’s been able to watch where they go in the early laps and then make the most of what he’s learned. Nicoletti is hungry, fit and very motivated to win the championship. Now that he’s had a taste of the red plate, he will not want to give it up.
Last year Colton was feeling very well at the Sand Del Lee round, but he still managed to win the overall. Photo by James Lissimore
Facciotti, on the other hand, has more championship experience than most of the 450 riders do combined. In the past, he’s been unbelievable at managing every championship he’s won. Of the four tracks that remain in the MXTour he’s been very good at three of them in recent years. Last year he won the overall at SDL with two hours of sleep the night before (remember he got very sick the night before), he’s won three of the last four motos in Deschambault, and Walton Raceway is his favourite track of the series. Colton will have to draw on all of his past success if he wants to win his sixth championship in 2019 as Nicoletti will most certainly take this fight down to the final moto at Walton. Throw in last weekend’s resurgence of Mike Alessi, Cole Thompson’s recent success on the eastern tracks, as well as Matt Goerke, who could be a spoiler in these final four rounds, and we definitely have a fantastic conclusion coming to the 2019 MXTour Series. It all gets back underway this Saturday at the Sand Del Lee track, located just outside Ottawa, ON.
Pack your gate boys, the final four rounds are going to be exciting. Photo by James Lissimore
The Rockstar Triple Crown Series hit Gopher Dunes this past weekend for the fourth round of the Canadian Outdoor National Motocross Championships. This race weekend has become a tradition for me and my family over the years. I believe that since the National Tour started hitting the Dunes back in 2005, I’ve only missed one event, and it’s always a good time. This year was no exception.
Every year the crew at the Dunes seems to take the facility to another level of professionalism. The place looked great again this year and a neat new addition for the spectators was the installation of an actual grandstand on the north side of the course. For years the berm along the southside has been the prime viewing area for spectators, and it still is, but every year they seem to be opening up more viewing options for the spectators around the course, which is cool. A real luxury that the folks at Gopher Dunes enjoy is the huge amount of space available to them to park all the fans and racers. This is always done in a very organized fashion and everybody gets their space, which especially for the families that are racing is very nice.
It was great to see the GDR Honda Team dominate their home national. Photo by James Lissimore
The Pro Racing this year was dominated by the Honda Canada/GDR/Fox Racing team, and for the first time since the team came into existence, they swept the podium. In dominating fashion, I might add, as Dylan Wright went 1-1 in the 250 class while Mike Alessi also swept the motos, going 1-1 in the 450. More on Alessi in a minute.
While Wright did win both motos, and really has been the fastest guy in the class all season, he did receive some competition. He battled with KTM/Red Bull/Thor Factory Rider Jess Pettis in the first moto. The two swapped positions a few times before Wright took over towards the end, and in moto two Dylan had his hands full with Monster Energy/Alpinestars/Piller’s/Kawasaki ace Tyler Medaglia who kept him honest for the entire moto. Honourable mention as well to MX101/Royal Distributing /FXR /Yamaha rider Luke Renzland who rode hard all day for a 3rd overall podium spot behind Wright and Pettis.
Moving on to the 450 class. As previously mentioned, I have been coming to the National round at Gopher Dunes forever and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone dominate the premiere 450 class the way Mike Alessi did on Saturday. He was on another level. Rockstar/OTSFF/Yamaha’s Phil Nicoletti, who was finishing as high as 3rd overall last season at Unadilla, and ended up 6th in the US Nationals, rode his butt off all day and had absolutely nothing for Alessi who was pulling 2 to 3 seconds a lap on Phil for the entire second moto. Alessi was certainly feeling it, which prompted me to mention in one of my many bench racing sessions over the course of the weekend, that other than maybe Jeffery Herlings, I don’t know if anyone in the world, Eli Tomac included, could have beat the 800 on that track on that day, He was just that good.
Cole Thompson had a solid day at Gopher Dunes going for 3-3 for third overall. Photo by James Lissimore
As mentioned, Nicoletti finished 2nd overall and Factory KTM rider Cole Thompson rounded out the podium in 3rd. Bit of a bummer for the fans who were hoping to see local hero and defending outdoor National Champion Colton Facciotti win his home race. Colt went 4-4 for 4th overall, still very respectable but was never really in the mix. To me he didn’t look 100% but still rode hard and smart, salvaging the points that he could towards the Championship. As far as the title goes, Facciotti is now tied with Nicoletti for the points lead going into next weekend’s round at Sand Del Lee. Alessi, with his win, jumps past Thompson into 3rd, 17 points back I believe.
A fun new addition to this year’s series has been the FXR Premix races for 125 2-strokes. So far the series has been dominated by Ontario rider Nathan Bless who won again this weekend and holds a commanding 105 point lead over some guy by the name of Boston Boots, who only rode the first two rounds of the series. I’m not even sure if that’s real or not. 16 riders lined up this past weekend and it was great to see and hear the 125’s ripping around the Dunes wide open everywhere. There were competitors out there on everything from 2002 Honda CR125’s to 2019 KTM’s and YZ’s. There was even talk in the pits that two competitors. Justin Roney sponsored by Extreme Toys in London, Ontario and veteran Ryan Gauld, who everyone knows, had put pink slips on the line in a side bet of epic proportions. Gauld managed to edge Roney out in the final standings, although you could have thrown a blanket over the two of them for the duration of both motos. They were that close. Never heard if the bet came to fruition but it made for some good chatter in the pits.
On Sunday I had fun riding a brand new 2019 RM-Z 250 on the rough Gopher Dunes track.
I always really look forward to Amateur Day at the Dunes. I have always enjoyed racing there and getting to ride on the same weekend as the Pros for me makes it even more fun. I really liked it back when the Amateurs rode Saturday and the Pros on Sunday. The track would be completely done up for the Amateur competitors. The Pro Riders and team members would all be hanging around, and when you were done you could relax with a cold one or two and bench race a little bit and look forward to seeing the Big Boys race on Sunday. They flipped it around a couple of years ago, and while it’s still a great atmosphere it’s not quite what it used to be.
Speaking of not being quite what it used to be, the actual Gopher Dunes track has certainly undergone quite a transformation in the last couple of seasons. The addition of numerous big jumps around the course, while making the track more visually appealing for the spectators, have made it tough on us old vet riders to get any kind of flow going out there. But, in the end, it’s still Gopher Dunes at heart and it still gets rough, tough and nasty, and that’s what I love about it. Two-classing it might not have been the smartest move for my first race of the year, but I figured what the heck. Let’s make the most of it. I’m paying for it today, but it was definitely worth it. Great weather, a great weekend of racing and good times with friends and family. And that’s what it’s all about.
Good day and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. As we’ve reached the midway point of July, our summer riding season is getting very busy. In particular, the summer moto camps at the Yamaha Canada sponsored Moto Park Academy in Chatsworth, ON are rolling along for the for the next six weeks. If you would like to sign up, please visit www. motoparkracing.com for all of the details.
One of the most anticipated races of the year is now history. Even though Round 4 at Gopher Dunes perhaps wasn’t as challenging as in years past, Saturday was still a very tough day. First off, the weather was very warm with a good bit of humidity all day long. There was a decent breeze, but I’m sure that only the fans felt it as the track temperature was even warmer. At the end of the day it was your typical national at Gopher Dunes – hot, miserable and taxing on the riders and their machines.
The Gopher Dunes facility looked amazing for Round 4.
From the moment I arrived at the Gopher Dunes on Friday afternoon it was very evident just how much work the GD crew put in to make this event look good. I think the one thing that sometimes gets overlooked is the amount of effort it takes to make one of these MXTour rounds happen. Each round of the series takes months to plan, and get ready for the teams and fans to arrive. It all builds into a few big days where you pray that Mother Nature cooperates, and then in the blink of an eye it’s all over. We are extremely lucky that all of our national tracks take such pride in their events; driving into each one on Friday for the first time is always one of my favourite things. To say that the Gopher Dunes grounds were prepared to absolute perfection would be a gross understatement. From the paddock area looking like a golf course, to the track looking like a beautiful undulating sand oasis, no one could argue that Gopher Dunes wasn’t ready for Round 4 of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series.
After a three week break between Rounds 3 and 4, everyone was more than ready to get back racing. Whether you were a rider who enjoyed some success in the opening three races of the series, or a rider who wasn’t happy with how the west went, the break was about one week too long. Anyway, the wait was over and everyone was ready to get back to racing. In talking to some of the riders on Friday, I enjoyed listening to them tell me how their break was and what they did special to prepare for not just Gopher Dunes but also the rest of the series. Most riders did something different to prepare for Gopher Dunes, whether it was riding a whooped out sand track or do a little extra training. For a few of our older riders, they mostly took care of their bodies so they’d be good for these final five rounds. Either way, as much as the riders were excited to get back racing, you could sense a little extra tension as they were a little worried about what was in store on Saturday.
There was definitely some suffering going on at Gopher Dunes. Photo by James Lissimore
With the extreme conditions that a race like the Gopher Dunes National always seems to have, it has always produced surprising performances over the years. This year we saw perhaps one of the biggest surprise performances ever at this storied track as GDR Honda rider Mike Alessi dominated both 450 motos. When I say dominated, I do mean dominated as for the better part of both motos it wasn’t even close. I’m sure very few people, including myself, thought that Alessi would come out at Round 4 and not just win one moto but win both in such a convincing fashion. In Moto 1, Alessi grabbed the early lead and never looked back. In Moto 2, he did the same thing. To give you an example of how fast Alessi was in the second moto, by the third lap he already had a 13 second lead! With Nicoletti struggling a little with his starts, Thompson fighting a very sore back, Goerke having bike issues, and Facciotti battling a sore neck, Alessi took full advantage and honestly made both moto wins look routine. As I said, it was definitely a surprise given how the first three rounds went for Alessi, but on Saturday we saw one of the most dominating performances ever on this track. Can Alessi do it again this coming weekend at Round 5 in Sand Del Lee? In talking to him this weekend and seeing how happy and confident he is, anything is possible. As for the rest of the 450 riders, they will have to recover this week and hope that what they saw on Saturday isn’t a sign of things to come.
Dylan Wright had a dream day at the roughest national of the MXTour Series. Photo by James Lissimore
In the 250 class, it was much of the same for the GDR Honda Team as Dylan Wright grabbed the win and took back the red plates in the process. Wright didn’t quite make his win look as easy as his teammate did in the 450 class, but he was still the dominant rider on the day. To make this day even more unforgettable for Dylan and his family, on the podium after the race he proposed to his girlfriend and she accepted. It was the perfect ending to a great day for Dylan Wright, his family and his team. Does it get any better for the Gopher Dunes crew than to have their team riders win all four motos and take both red plates into the following round? In the 250 class, Wright now leads by 14 points over Marshal Weltin, while in the big bike class, Facciotti and Nicholetti are now tied in points and will share the red plates this coming weekend. It was a great day of racing at Gopher Dunes and it was good to see a large crowd of people turn out to watch. It was also exciting to see Eve Brodeur win the WMX East class and Nathan Bles take home the victory in the 125 Pre-Mix class. In some unsettling news, we received confirmation this weekend that Jake Tricco is no longer part of the Honda Racing GDR Fox Racing Team. This is very unfortunate for the talented Ontario rider who had so much promise coming into 2019. Hopefully he’s able to continue to recover from his early season injury and get things back on track very soon.
Liam O’Farrell had another one of his normal days at Gopher Dunes going 8-7 in the 450 class. Photo by James Lissimore
Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great week and I can’t wait to see you this weekend at Sand Del Lee. Finally, I want to make mention that even after the tragic loss of his fiancée two weeks ago, Ryan Derry was on the starting line at Gopher Dunes this weekend. I can’t even begin to imagine how much courage it took for him to race on Saturday, but good on him for being there. It’s been incredible to see how our motocross family has pulled together to support Ryan. Thanks for reading and have a great week!
What a day for Gopher Dunes and the entire Honda Racing GDR Fox Team. Photo by James Lissmore
Chambly, QC – It was a successful weekend at one of the most challenging tracks on the Triple Crown race circuit. All three riders showed tremendous effort, determination and positivity.
The skies were clear which made for a great day of racing at Gopher Dunes. In the MX2 class, Jess Pettis got the holeshot in Moto 1 and led for the first few laps of the race. He was riding very well and finished second overall for the day. Pettis’s injuries have had some time to heal, and he is excited to be back in contention for the MX2 championship.
Jess Pettis – KTM Red Bull Thor Factory Race Team 250 Rider: “It’s a great feeling to finally be able to ride with less pain. I am excited to be back at the top contending for moto wins. I am looking forward to finishing the second half of the season strong and healthy.”
Tanner Ward had a great start and was close to the front of the pack in Moto 1. Unfortunately he had a crash in both Moto 1 and Moto 2 which affected his overall result. He is excited to finish stronger next weekend at San Del Lee.
Tanner Ward – KTM Red Bull Thor Factory Race Team 250 Rider: “Unfortunately things didn’t go the way I would have hoped at my hometown race at Gopher Dunes. Two crashes landed me in 7th overall for the day. I look forward to turning things around next weekend at San Del Lee.”
In the MX1 class, Cole Thompson was charging hard. He holeshotted Moto 1 and led for the first few laps of the race. He lost a few positions throughout the race and ended up finishing third overall for the day.
Cole Thompson – KTM Red Bull Thor Factory Race Team 450 Rider: “This weekend at Gopher Dunes was the toughest race I’ve faced this season. Especially dealing with an injury and not having much time on the bike. I gave it my all both motos and was happy to collect a podium going 3-3 for 3rd overall. This week I’ll keep working hard to get my body back to 100% and be ready to fight for the top spot at Sand Del Lee next weekend.”
In the WMX class, Orange Bleeder Eve Brodeur took the overall win. Although WMX racers can only collect points on either the East or the West, and not both, Eve took it upon herself to race the West Coast rounds and challenge herself against the competition in Western Canada. Now that the series has moved East, she will be collecting points from the second leg of the series and will be defending her Eastern Championship title.
On behalf of everyone here at KTM Canada, we want to extend a big congratulations to all KTM riders mentioned for their impressive performances in these challenging conditions.
The MX series will continue on July 20th at Sand Del Lee for round 5 of the 8 round series.
Over the years there have been so many memorable Gopher Dunes moments for both myself and every single person who has ridden there. Honestly, I think it’s just one of those tracks where the conditions are almost always extreme. Whether the weather is hot or cool, the track always gets crazy rough and challenging. The bumps get deep, and sometimes the ruts get deep. It can change very quickly, regardless of whether it’s a round of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series or just a local Ontario race. As far as the national race is concerned, though, I think the hottest day we’ve seen was in 2013 when the temperature was like a million degrees with 90% humidity. However, as far as the most challenging the track has been for the pro riders was in 2009 when it rained just prior to the event and left the track very soft. That year it was not only extremely rough but also very rutted. In a few sections the riders basically got into one rut at the beginning of the section and had to remain in it until the next corner. I’m sure everyone has their own opinion about what year, or years, was the most difficult, but this is my story and I’m sticking to it! Anyway, to celebrate the MXTour Series coming to this storied track for another year, here are my Top 5 Gopher Dunes moments in no particular order.
This photo is from 1990 and as you can see the sand has always been deep. I’m also riding a 125 in this photo so that leads into my next memory.
Moment #1- 1988
This one is an easy one as it’s the first year that I ever went to Gopher Dunes to practice. The track had just opened. I remember it being really so cool that we didn’t just have a new track to ride but it was also close to one of my favourite tracks of all-time…Big Bend! Also, I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that I love about the Tillsonburg area of Ontario but I’ve always maintained that I would love to live there one day. Thinking back to those early days at Gopher Dunes is definitely cool, because at the time it took over from the one true sand track we used to have in Ontario – Bills Hills in Wilberforce. I know it sounds like I just made that name up, but honest to God, there used to be a track called Bills Hills and it was always hot and rough. Anyway, when Gopher Dunes opened its doors in the late 1980’s, it marked the beginning of one of the roughest tracks on the planet. Not too bad considering it’s a dead flat piece of land that used to be an old tobacco farm.
Moment #2: Racing a 125
Seeing as I grew up in the 1980’s and spent all of the 1990’s as a pro rider in Ontario, in those days, not only did we race at Gopher Dunes a few times each year but we also raced two-strokes. As we will see this Saturday when the gate drops on the FXR Racing 125 two-stroke class, riding a 125cc dirt bike around the track at speed is very difficult. Actually, let’s say that it’s difficult at any speed. To ride deep sand well on a 125, you need a few things to go right all at the same time. You need good technique, some sort of fitness, and a loose and flexible right wrist as you’re wide open for most of the time. You also need patience, and finally, you need to know what the word momentum means. Just like in the mud, momentum and energy are very important if you want to succeed at Gopher Dunes on a 125. Having said that, there is nothing quite as rewarding as finding your groove on a 125 in sand. Some of the best memories I have is racing a 125 in the sand. Watching the 125 class this weekend should be entertaining, especially with them being the final moto on Saturday. Ouch!
Kyle Keast was a beast in 2013. Photo by James Lissimore The podium celebration is 2013 was a warm one! Photo by James Lissimore
Moment #3: 2013
Again, in my opinion, 2013 was the hottest Gopher Dunes National that I’ve ever seen. It was not only crazy hot but it was also very humid with virtually no breeze. I still don’t know how the riders did it that day, especially the top riders who put on quite the show. That year, Ontario legend Kyle Keast was fit as a fiddle and ready to finally win his first ever pro national. But he had a few things standing in his way on that fateful day, the extreme conditions of course, as well as a determined Aussie named Brett Metcalfe. I won’t bore you with all of the details from each moto, I will just skip to the entertaining final moments of Moto 2. While the news was blasting out heat advisories every ten minutes, Keast was leading the final 450 moto and pretty much had the win in sight. Metcalfe came from way back to muscle his way into second with a few laps to go. Up ahead he could see Keast leading but at that point he probably looked more like an oasis in the Outback Desert. As Metcalfe admitted after the race, he had nothing left and at that point was happy to take second. Unfortunately, Keast made a small mistake and went off the track for a brief moment. That was all it took for Metcalfe to motor by and take the moto win. Keast was a beast that day and I don’t think anyone who was there that day will ever forget it!
Racing the Gopher Dunes National in 2009 was a tough day but an awesome day.
Moment #4: 2009
I also made mention of 2009 and how I think the track was extra challenging. I can speak intelligently about the track that year as that was the only time that I’ve ever raced a national at Gopher Dunes. The year prior I had come out of retirement to race the final round at Walton Raceway, and since I had fun, I figured why not try a few more the following year. Since I had never raced a national at Gopher Dunes, I was pretty curious to see what it was really like. Also, it was at the time my son was just old enough to know what his parents were doing so I thought it would cool for him to see his dad race on the roughest track in Canada.
Of course, my day didn’t really go as planned as I crashed pretty hard in timed practice. While my bike and I were cartwheeling through the sand, my freshly sharpened footpegs sliced my left side wide open. It actually looked like a seven-inch shark bite. If my son wasn’t there I most likely would’ve called it a day as the crash really hurt, but he was there with his eyes wide open so I sucked it up and raced two of the most miserable motos of my life. The track was insane, I could barely breath, and in between motos I had to get the St. John’s attendants to clean my gaping wound and then patch it back up. I didn’t finish very well that day, but even as I was lying in the hospital at 11pm that night getting stitches while the nurse yelled at me for not coming to see her sooner, I was actually pretty happy because not only did I survive a national at Gopher Dunes, but my son got to see it live.
Thanks for all of the great moments Gopher Dunes! I cannot wait for the next 30 years.
Moment #5: Everything
I could on and on with Gopher Dunes memories, however I’m sure you’re getting tired of reading this. My final favourite moment is just all wrapped up into 31 years of Gopher Dunes memories. From the entire Schuster Family and their unbelievable hospitality over the past three decades, to the ever-evolving track, there have always been a lot of reasons to visit Gopher Dunes. Over the years I’ve raced there, I’ve taught riding schools, last month I drove a new Honda side-by-side there, I’ve stood on the side of the track as a proud daddy and watched my son race, and once again on Saturday, I get to watch some of the best riders in the world compete for national glory. I can’t wait to see you all there, and to Gopher Dunes, thanks for the memories!
Mike Harden would love using these tires if he was racing today. Photo by James Lissimore
Moment #6: Paddle Tire
I know I said I was all done and that there only going to be five favourite moments, but I cannot talk about my thirty-plus years at Gopher Dunes and not talk about a certain day in the Spring of 1998. I’m not going to go into too many juicy details about this incident (and I do recall it being an incident) as I promised Derek Schuster that I would tell the complete story in the next issue of the Gopher Dunes Magazine. However, here are the Coles Notes.
Back in 1998 we had an Ontario Provincial Series round at Gopher, so all of the local top guns were there. In those days, Provincial races paid really well and our sponsors took them very seriously. I’ve been fortunate enough to win eight Provincial titles and I cherish each one as I had to beat some very fast riders. Anyway, we show up at Gopher Dunes in 1998 and everything appeared normal. On that day, CMRC ran the 250 Pro moto first, which was a little different as usually the 125s were first.
So, when the gate dropped for the opening 250 moto the track was still fairly smooth and fast. I got off to a second-place start behind the 1984 500cc Canadian Champion Mike Harnden, who had for some reason come out of retirement to compete that day. I saw that it was Harnden in front of me so I assumed that I would be able to pass him quickly and hopefully race off to victory. Well, that didn’t quite work out, as immediately I began to get these baseball size balls of roost hitting me everywhere. They were like nothing I’d ever experienced before, and it didn’t take long for my frustration to build. By the end of Lap 1, I’d used two tear-offs, then three, and soon I was out of tear-offs and there went my goggles. I could easily close up on Harnden going into the turns, but coming out he would pull away. Finally, after a few laps of eating sand, I got really close to him in one corner and saw that he was running a full-on paddle tire. Not like the scoop tires that they have today, Harnden had a full Glamis Sand Dunes paddle tire.
Halfway through the moto I was choking on Gopher Dunes sand and my eyes were almost done working. I looked behind us and saw that we had a big lead on third place so I backed it down and took a very disgruntled second place. My anger grew even more as we exited the track as Harnden was celebrating like it was 1984 all over again, at least that is what I saw out of the one part of my eye that wasn’t full of sand. I ate so much sand in that moto. Not only was there sand inside the back of my helmet, but my mouth was so full of wet sand that I couldn’t even tell Harnden what I thought of him. Moments after the race Harden got DQ’d and didn’t race the second moto out of protest. He claimed we were all whiners and that back in 1984 no one would’ve cared. I found that hard to believe as I’m sure Ross Pederson would’ve lost his mind if he were in my position.
At the time there was no official CMRC rule that made paddle tires illegal, as I’m sure no one ever dreamt that some former Canadian Champion would come out of retirement and use one. The rule changed the next day and remains there today. As I said, I will elaborate more on this story in the near future, and I will track Harnden down and get some of his thoughts. What a moto that was and what a great story that incident still makes today. I was talking to Frank Schuster last year about this and he told me that this is one of his favourite stories off all time. Please feel free to email a few of your best Gopher Dunes stories at email@example.com. Thanks for reading!
Five years ago, Matt Koeleman of RTBA Films teamed up with MXP Magazine to go Up Close and Personal with Liam O’Farrell at the 2014 Gopher Dunes National. It was definitely another hot and gruelling day at Gopher and also a challenging one for Liam.
Up close and personal with Liam O'farrell - YouTube
Gopher prep! I’ve always wondered what someone like Matt Goerke, who loves the sand, does to get ready for a race like Gopher. For myself, it’s all about just trying to find a setting that I can ride comfortably for 35 minutes. You would think with living at Clubmx for so long that I would love the sand, but you would be wrong. I like more of a sandy clay mix, something like Sand Del Lee. I love that place.
I drove all the way back east from Arizona to try to help prepare for the sand this year. I’ve spent the last week in Michigan riding and training, trying to ride as much as possible in sandy conditions. In Arizona, I’ve only found one good sand spot to ride, but without rain, it is almost impossible. My style of riding has never totally suited sand, but I feel as if the last couple of years I have improved a lot. My results last year at Gopher didn’t show it, but that was the best I have ever felt there. I always think back to my first year in Canada. The first lap at Gopher I had a huge crash. Then I remember how unbelievably fast Kyle Keast was. I just remember him going by me like I was standing still and thinking how terrible I was riding.
Although Cade isn’t a natural sand rider, he’s looking forward to the next two weekends. Photo by James Lissimore
Like I said earlier, no matter how you’re riding at Gopher Dunes, it’s all about being comfortable, because no matter what there is going to be some suffering. You just have to manage how rough it is, and try to stay loose and have good lines. It’s weekends like this where I will look for advice from my teammate, Marshal Weltin, and my Team Manager, Al Dyck. Both have a lot of knowledge when it comes to the deep sand riding, and utilizing that skill and knowledge is huge for me. Well, I’m sorry but I don’t have too much to say this week. I just wanted to check in and let you all know that I’m as ready as I’ll ever be for Round 4. However, I’m sure I will have plenty to talk about after the weekend. Thanks for reading, and now it’s time to go and play in the sand!
Cade hopes to be still be smiling after two motos at Gopher Dunes this Saturday. Photo by James Lissimore
Red Bull: Motorsports icon Dave Despain takes a first look at how some of the competition is shaping up for this year’s event with its all two-stroke racing format Red Bull Straight Rhythm returning on October 5 for its sixth year, and the nitty-gritty remains the same. Line up side by side and race head-to-head down a ½ mile of rollers, whoops, doubles, tables and all other kinds of rhythmic insanity. By popular demand, the only bikes racing will again be two-strokes, so be prepared for those sweet, sweet sounds and even sweeter smells. The classes will be 125cc and 250cc, but you just never know when something unexpected will happen at this event (hint, hint).