During its epic Adventure Touring Shootout MotoUSA cruised into Big Sky, Montana to catch a round of the 2011 Western Hare Scramble Championship.
MotoUSA has landed in Montana for the Klim Big Sky XC. This race is in only it's third year but has become part of the AMA Western Hare Scramble Championship. The event is held at the Big Sky Resort which is the largest ski area in America thanks to neighboring Monlight Basin Resort. In the winter this place hosts over 150 named ski runs, but in the summer, dirt bike riders take over for one weekend.
The XC is staged from Mountian Village which sits at 7500 feet of elevation. From base camp the 10-mile loop runs higher onto the slopes and will challenge riders to a level uncommon in most hare scrambles. The Big Sky XC has earned a reputation in only two years as one of the more challenging off-road races in the West. We walked the EnduroCross course and it is very simple. Riders won't be having any problems with the minor obstacles, though it does make for some good spectating and hopefully aggressive passing opportunities.
The feature that garners most pre-race chatter is the rock garden. Located far and away from Basecamp, the rock garden is a massive pile of boulders without any route to speak of. The last two years have cut in a minor path, but there's nothing forgiving about this part of the track. A race can be won or lost here. Unfortunately, the race fell on a scheduled maintenance period for the ski lift which usually takes specators up to the nasty hillside. Hardcore fans will
have to hike their butts off to get there this year, and in this type of thin air, that's no simple challenge. Plenty of top pros are attending for a chance at landing in the record books. One man who won't is the 2010 champion, Nathan Woods. Nathan died as the result of an accident suffered in the WORCS series. His absence will be noted by all this weekend. He is missed.
Another rider who didn't make the grid is Wood's 2011 teammate, Kevin Rookstool. Perhaps Oregon's best hope for a victory at Big Sky, Rookstool was injured a week ago at the WORCS race at Washougal Motocross Park. We chatted with the Stillwell Performance KTM rider and he informed us that several of his ribs were separated in the crash. He attempted to ride the Indianapolis EnduroCross but the results was dismal. After briefly considering heading out, it looks like he'll sit this one out. However, of the top riders who are suiting up, David Kamo is racing for JCR Honda and is from nearby (relatively) Nampa, Idaho. He should be considered a favorite to run at the front. There's also a slew of Garrahan racers on hand. Brian won this race at the inaugural running in 2009. Jason Raines put on a Yamaha demo ride in the region and then trucked it over to throw his hat in the ring. Don't ever count out this multi-time Hare Scramble champion.
The race is also part of the Montana XC series and the pro purse was bumped to $5000. The extra points and monetary incentive has local speedsters coming out of the woodwork. After discussing preliminary details with resort representatives, over 20 states are represented this weekend.
We witnessed the kids' race this afternoon and it's clear that many are following in the footsteps of their parents who raced C-class today as well or the other amateur and pro divisions on Sunday. There are plenty of things to keep the family entertained over the weekend. Gift shops, restaurants, zip-line, mountain biking, high ropes course, paintball, disc golf, hiking and a bungee trampoline and rock wall make this more like a vacation than a race weekend. Watch MotorcycleUSA.com for results of the pro race tomorrow.