I depart Calgary on Thursday night August 4th 2011 heading for the all familiar Patricia, Alberta for the second edition of Xtinction. Last year’s Xtinction was a resounding success with multiple bikes bent and scratched, tears shed, sweat poured and smiles aplenty on the competitor’s and spectator’s faces. This yearthough, I’m hoping for a bigger, harder, “please let this nightmare end” Xtinction. But before the showdown on Sunday, I have a few other matters to attend to. I’m lucky enough to get into the 12-person riding school with Graham Jarvis. For those who don’t know who Graham is, this year so far, he won Hell’s Gate in Italy, The Tough One in GB, Romaniacs in Romania and lost the Erzberg Rodeo in Austria due to a technicality.
Those extreme enduros are the toughest in the world and Graham cleaned them all. I’m Polish, so naturally I cheer for Taddy in the enduro and endurocross races but it’s hard not to cheer for the quiet Brit from Leeds that disects the most technical terrain like a rock climber solving a boulder problem. After all, he does have five World Outdoor Trials round wins under his belt.
I crawl out of the tent at 7 am Friday morning, eat a quick breakfast and head out to the entry gate to meet Shane Cuthbertson who is organizing the school. We sign release forms, introduce each other and head to Lee Fryberger’s ranch ten minutes away. Lee is gracious enough to let us conduct the school on his land and its a great privilege. Like I mentioned in my last years Xtinction photo blog, riding on these almost sacred lands is truly a gift. The day goes quickly, Graham is keeping us busy practicing drills in the 32 C heat. We practice grass track techniques, technical hill climbing, dead-starting on steep hills and energy-saving techniques when in trouble.
Because I never truly practice riding skills per se, all we do is go out with buddies and bang trees all day or race, it’s nice to do some repetition in a controlled environment. At the end, Graham decides to make us feel even worse about our riding ability by giving us a freeriding show. It is fun to watch what a world class trials guy can do on a 250 lb dirt bike. Awesome.
I wake up grogily on Saturday but stoked to attend the media shoot with the likes of Shane Cuthbertson, Jason Schrage, Bobby Prochnau, Ben Rego, Brian Wojnarowski, Geoff Nelson, Graham Jarvis, Mike Brown, Kyle Redmond and Nick Fahringer. We
head to a remote corner of the Xtinction property for some gnarly terrain. The sun is right above, not ideal for a photo or video shoot, but with this talent pool, it doesn’t really matter. Ryan from Throttle Entertainment is here as well to document the whole event. The shoot turns into a boy’s hillclimbing battle and one particular grassy, loose hill has the riders numbers. Everyone takes multiple attempts, Wojo probably 20 but at the end only two riders clean the hill… as expected Graham Jarvis and… Ben Rego. On a dissapointing note, Jason Schrage, so pumped for the Xtinction this year had an awkward fall during the shoot and broke his wrist. Bummer.
The parking lot is now full of RVs, EZ-up tents, massive team trucks and trailers. It’s a beehive of activity as the Johnny O Hare Scramble named after the owner of this great piece of land is being conducted today as well. Being part of the Kermaxx Offroad Series, the race attracts a massive turnout and the classes are stacked. Most of the local Pros don’t usually pass up a race in the Provincial Series, but do so this time, to focus on Xtinction tomorrow and preserve some precious energy. They’ll need every drop of it tomorrow.
After a one am wind and thunderstorm where my EZ-up met its demise, I wake up at 7 am eager to get ready
for the Xtinction to begin. Alas, the storm wrecked havoc on the course ripping down flagging, fencing and signage. Lee and his army of volunteers deploy to get it all fixed and the start of the qualifier is only delayed an hour.
The qualifier begins in an enduro format where four riders per minute get released onto the course. The course is slick after the rainstorm the night before. The carnage begins immediately. The Valley of Guangie, the most spectator friendly
point on the course, is covered by fans on all hilltops. Within ten minutes, all hillclimbs are littered with flying bikes and their pilots separated from their machines by gravity. Jarvis, Brown, Fahringer, Redmond, Prochnau and the like are making the hillclimbs look easy. Other riders further down the order remind all the spectators of the consequences if you don’t make it to the top. Ropes hang on the sides of climbs reminding the riders of the steepness they are about to ride up. The only way to retrieve their stranded bike half way up the hill is via those lifelines. The qualifying is over. Of the 58 riders that signed
up, 40 make the Main Event and get ready for a minimum of two hours of pain. If they think the qualifier was tough, they don’t really have an idea whats in store for them in the Main. Hills like “Gerry” and “Kody” which were not part of the qualifier, just sit there waiting for the onslaught and carnage.
A sound of a shotgun sounds through the valley. A Le Mans start sees the riders sprint to their bikes and ride off. Mike Brown, the man on pole position from the qualifier gets away
first. Fahringer, Redmond and Jarvis give chase. Brown makes a small mistake on a sweeper and Fahringer jumps into the lead. The first lap sees three lead changes. Fahringer gets lost on the course and Jarvis takes over the lead before the first lap is over. These boys are on the pipe! The pace settles, and the leading four quickly distance themselves from the rest. Jarvis leads comfortably while Brown and Redmond duke it
out for second place. This is like deja vu for Redmond, who duked it out bar to bar with Cory Graffunder last year. Unfortunately, Cory broke his hand few weeks prior to the event and isn’t here to defend his title. I quickly reposition myself and go to “Gerry” to see some carnage. The leaders breeze through it like its a mole hill. What will it take to slow these guys down!!? Behind the leaders the usual suspects are lurking, Prochnau, Cuthbertson, Rego, Cerny, Kroeker, Bolso and Nelson. Our homegrown talent is having some trouble keeping up with the pace of the leaders, but ready to pounce if any mistakes are made.
Another rider is causing a stir among the fans. A
young baby-faced kid from Vernon B.C. is tearing the course apart on his Honda AF500. Decked out in a visor-less helmet, ripped-up retro gear, pitted out of an old Ford Ranger and a tent, he’s riding up the gnarliest of hills standing on the pegs like it’s a Sunday ride. His name is Chris Sorokovski. After the qualifier, I ask him:
“Where you from Chris?”
“Vernon” he replies.
“Did you ride the Sun Peaks CEC this year then? It was right in your neighbourhood.” I ask.
“No, I was saving money for this and I’m stoked I qualified for the Main. That was my goal for Xtinction” he answers.
Now thats a true spirit of Xtinction. You don’t need factory
support, trucks, team mechanics. Just some raw talent and determination will do. If this kid keeps it up and gets some support, the veterans better watch out in the years to come. Apparently after the Main Event was finished, Chris wanted to go out on the course to help other riders! What more needs to be said…
Laps three and four tick down. There is less and less riders on the course. Some become Xtinct, some retire due to mechanical issues. Only five riders make the time cutoff and head out for the fifth and final lap. The battle for second place between Brown and Redmond has been raging
for over two hours. Jarvis is about three minutes ahead but not pulling away. He’s gotta stay consistent and not make mistakes. Mistakes?? This guy does not make mistakes! He is riding in total control, conserving his energy and making every hill look so easy its boring. The final RedBull arch awaits. At the finish, Jarvis takes the win by three minutes from Mike Brown who finally takes over second place from Redmond. Over two hours, the two were separated by less than 10 seconds at the
end. Nick Fahringer takes a well deserved fourth place and Bobby Prochnau rounds the top five.
I’m knackered and all I did is take photos. Walking around the pits after the race I see lots of exhausted faces, but in a sea of smiles. Was Xtinction II a success?? Ask them, and you’ll get a resounding Hell Yeah! Personally, maybe because I’m a sadist and can say whatever I want since this is my blog and I’m far from being capable of riding this terrain, but I would like to see the leaders struggle a little more like us mere mortals. The terrain is terribly hard, yet the leaders make them look like child’s play. I still have a mental image of David Knight lifting his whole bike over a ledge at Last Man Standing in one of the Throttle Entertainment movies. That is what I would love to see. Many competitors would struggle greatly to get through the course, but is that a bad thing? After all, it is called Xtinction. But I’m just being selfish and greedy. A man can dream, no?
Saying that, this year’s event surpassed my already high hopes and expectations. The talent that this event attracted in 2011, the amazing organization by Lee Fryberger and his team and the Johnny O’s terrain that the race is run on, was truly, truly awesome. I already can’t wait for next year and hope Xtinction III will be even better. I don’t doubt it will.
For easy scrolling, use your keyboard arrow keys once you click on the first photo below. They are not in any particular order. Yet.