Once again the pros, all 28 of them, were grouped up front followed by over 560 expert and amateur racers. Like before each row of 10 would be sent on their way.
Before the start, with over four hours of hard running ahead of him, last year’s winner Ross Neely said, “I’m feeling good right now, I’ve been training and am ready for this one. It’s going to be tough so I’m going to have to push it but if I run my pace, don’t have any spills or anything like that I should make it.”
About that time Beth Legenbauer the lone female racer in the field said, “I’m pretty excited and a little nervous as it’s a lot of people. I’m just hoping for a clean start and getting through the first bottleneck.”
The VCGP begins on the main street then the riders make a 90-degree left turn and begin a decent that leads them over a jump then onto the dirt part of the course. It’s a pretty wild time run and Neely led the first part of this charge.
Next on point was Ryan Dudek, from Long Beach, and the chase was on with Neely in hot pursuit. At the end of the first lap they had put a gap between themselves and the pack.
Shortly after the start, former winner Justin Soulè had his day end after only 10 of the 25-mile course when a rock put a hole in his motor case. Back on the course and not far behind the lead duo, Irving Powers, Steve Garnett and Rodney Spencer Jr. were giving chase.
Over the next four hours the lead changed as one rider then another stopped in the pits while the others kept going. At one time Powers held the lead on time but up front the battle was between Neely and Dudek.
Starting their fifth lap Neely had the advantage as he rolled out of the scoring chute at the finish line followed by Dudek and Spencer — they finished in that order.
After taking the checkered flag to the cheers of the crowd Neely said, “The first lap Ryan got past me and I kind of stayed out of his dust but after that we got into lappers and it was dusty the whole time. It was a rocky road up there and he got a little squirrely, looped around, I got by him and never saw him again but I knew he was pretty close.”
While Neely doesn’t have a new bike and rides a 2009 KTM. As for the future he said, “I’ve got my sponsors but I’m looking around for a team to race and travel with.”
Then he expressed his thanks for support from his family, Dicks Racing, RMS, CMS, Dirt Tricks and Moose Racing.
As for Legenbauer, she achieved her goal of making four laps and ended up 218th overall. And she credited, “my lovely husband.”
One racer, 57-year-old Artichoke Joe Devicchio from Castro Valley, Calif., has competed in all 40 VCGPs and raced both Saturday and Sunday this time.
Before Saturday’s race he said, “On a race like this you pretty much have to use your head a lot. You have to pay attention to what you’re doing and let the bike do some of the work, well most of it if you can. Let it go if you have to and be aware of the rocks.”
Another pre-race tradition is auctioning off two “head start,” positions for charity. The two winners were Jason Jenson and Brent Lyman who got a one-minute or a 30-second start on the field.
Even though several riders went down on the rough course only one of them had to be transported to the hospital.
•Sunday, a three hours timed event, is reserved for novice riders, women as well as those racing either older bomber or vintage bikes. Over 450 riders contributed to a record turn out of 952 riders.
Numbers 1 and 2 on the front row were held by brothers-in-laws Jonathan Wornardt and Don Crumb. And this event is the only one they ever race.
“All we do is prep for this one race, we ride on rocks, in the dirt and actually make sure we get dust in our faces. And we make sure our bikes are in tip-tip shape for this race,” Wornardt said with a laugh.
Asked what his wife thinks, Crumb replied, “She’s happy with me doing it but just doesn’t want me to get killed.”
Once again two “head start” positions were auctioned off and Broke Hodges got the one-minute advantage followed by MRANN regular Alina Frei, who had the 30-second lead on the field.
Hodges is one fast, accomplished rider as those chasing her soon found out. She held the lead at the end of the first lap followed by Keith Johnson, Don Crumb and Jeremy Froland.
Behind this lead pack was Adam Thissen, riding a bomber bike and charging toward the front. He and Hodges would swap the lead either in the pits or on the course until Thissen finally claimed the lead for good.
After winning both the Bomber class and first overall Thissen said, “A good ride, dusty and I’d like to thank the Lord for letting us to do this today, all the course workers for putting it on, my club for pitting me, RMS, Moose racing for the gear and all my friends and family for helping out. Brooke (Hodges) was really fast and we went back and forth and she was ahead on the second lap so I put my head down and caught her.”
During the end of the race Ian Brown had been sneaking up on the leaders and finding he was close, gunned it and took second over all.
“It was rough, really rough but a lot of fun, dusty, especially right in the beginning with the bottlenecks,” he said. “Once you got through that it was pretty wide open. On that fourth lap I went down a few times trying to make up time and it’s my second year here.”
Hodges had a spectacular performance for a VCGP rookie.
“It was really good, I got the double zero start which was awesome and I was able to put my head down and pull away as fast and as smart as I could,” she said. He (Thissen) passed me and was going at a speed I wasn’t comfortable with so I decided to back down and ride my race. I’ve never been to Virginia City before and I’m glad I came as it was a lot of fun.”
Then she thanked her parents, Motion Pro, 650 Racing Suspension and especially Brian Garrahan Off Road Training, which she credited for her being able to handle such a rough course.
Also finishing his 40th VCGP Artichocke Joe said, “It was an awesome day out there, a few bottlenecks but everyone had a good time. A great course, challenging, a little fast and it was a great race. This club always puts on a great race and I’ll be back next year to do it again.”
And next year riders will once again come to the Comstock to compete in this classic race. A race any rider would like to say they’ve won.
OTHER RACING NEWS
•This weekend two oval tracks will be in action. Down in the Feather River country the American Valley Speedway, at Quincy, hosts its second race of the season. The action begins at 6 p.m. and the IMCA Modifieds will headline the racing card.
At that same time Rattlesnake Raceway hosts another of its events with seven classes, including the IMCA Modifieds and mud bogs.
40th Anniversary Virginia City Grand Prix
•Saturday - April 30, 2011
Overall - 1. Ross Neely, 2. Ryan Dudek, 3. Rodney Spencer Jr., 4. Irving Powers, 5. Brian Garrahan, 6. Reece Honea, 7. Justin Bonita, 8. Steve Garnett, 9. Alex Dorsey, 10. Matt Zulim, 11. Ryan Toomey, 12. Michael Berenbak, 13. Steve Tichenor, 14. Adam Thissen, 15. Jesse Barstow, 16. Brett Murdaugh, 17. Josh Wilson, 18. Kevin Brown, 19. Kale Elworthy, 20. Cody Wallis, 21. Kurt Ashely, 22. Paul Working, 23. Justin Drake, 24. Caz Przygoda, 25. Stephen Garrez, 26. Brandon Henning, 27. Sean Jones, 28. Darrol Brown, 29. Sam Clark, 30. Tom Ellis
Class Winners - Ross Neely (Pro), Jamie Welsh (125 Exp.), Stephen Garrez (250 Exp.), Justin Drake (Open Exp.), Brett Murdaugh (30+ Exp.), Kevin Brown (40+ Exp.), Darrol Brown (50+ Exp.), Cody Stegemiller (125 Ama.), Matt Mirell (250 Ama.), Sam Clark (Open Ama.), Tony Browser (30+ Ama.), Ron Morrill (40+ Ama.), Eric Kaiser (40+ Ama.), Mike Caveney (50+ Ama.)
•Sunday, May 1
Overall - 1. Adam Thissen, 2. Ian Brown, 3. Brooke Hodges, 4. Keith Johnson, 5. Dave Tourneet, 6. George Helgerson, 7. Larry Hagadon, 8. Brandon Burnett, 9. Eric Hansel, 10. Chris Hjelm, 11. Jeremy Froland, 12. Mike Wegener, 13. Eddie Higgins, 14. Kevin Carter, 15. Ryan Poplawski, 16. Jake Sebaugh, 17. Andy Ramirez, 18. Kris Whelpley, 19. Ian Murphy, 20. Nicole Sterley, 21. Dominick Russo, 22. Wesley Haskell, 23. Mikey Morgan, 24. Ryan Roseman, 25. Vince LaRocca, 26. Joel Cabezuela, 27. Patti Henning, 28. Shayne Downing, 29. Will Allen, 30. Joey Marich
Class Winners - Robert Cantrell (125 Nov.), Ian Brown (250 Nov.), Dave Touneet (Open Nov.), Keith Johnson (30+ Nov.), Larry Hagadon (40+ Nov.), Chris Huntze (50+ Nov.), Adam Thissen (bomber), Cliff Townsend (Vintage), Peter Prichard (Masters), Brooke Hodges (Women)