2015 Steel Shoe Fund 3hr Race:
“America’s Numb Bum”
By: Jarrett King
Take a quick look through our sponsor list and if you aren’t from Alberta, Texas, Louisiana or a couple other key places then I’m willing to bet your first thoughts are “Uh-Huh… Oil Money”. What else could explain why three guys would attempt to compete in a race 3000kms away from home in a neighboring country? Our dedicated sponsors have stuck by us in a world of downward spiraling oil prices and we work our butts off to get them the exposure they deserve but that’s totally beside the point. The point is that looks are deceiving. I say that because I’ve gone to a couple regional motocross races recently and I could have sworn we accidentally showed up at an AMA national. Giant logo’d $70 000 rigs, brand new bikes, spoiled rotten kids everywhere who don’t spend 4 hours in an entire season picking rocks off the track at a neighboring race. Yet does that reflect the average level of talent at that event? The truth is, probably not.
So what was my point again? Oh yeah: “Looks are deceiving.” If you don’t agree, showing up at the Steel Shoe Fund 3hr endurance race to compete will probably change your mind. Some of the fastest motorcycle racers in the USA show up for this race and since it’s a winter race (with winter roads) I don’t think there was $70 000 worth of trailers in the pits. Lucky for this crowd, fancy, shiny decals don’t translate into race wins and I don’t think any of them really care. This race is for enthusiasts. Pure-bred motorcycle-crazy, speed-addicted, challenge-drawn enthusiasts. That’s what drew me to this event last year and will probably bring me back in ’16. Where else can one of the fastest teams at the race show up in a trusty old van, unload a hopped-up 125cc MXer and crush fast laps all day on the way to a top 10 finish (and then offer us some slow-cooked homemade stew after the race)? Endurance Ice Racing is the great equalizer and just like any national race, the speeds have to be seen to be believed.
The 3hr Steel Shoe is quickly becoming one of the premier ice racing events in the USA. This year’s astounding 102 teams and 380+ competitors made even the huge twisting 12km (7.5 mile) track seem busy. Built by legendary off-road icon Jeff Fredette and a team of dedicated volunteers, the race was on the verge of being cancelled this season due to the warm weather. Come race-day though a solid 12+ inches of clear hard ice made for decent conditions. Not without challenges, the course building team was forced to improvise some course markers (tire sidewalls cut in half moon and one end inserted into the ice) that felt the wrath of bikes blowing corners with little risk of crashing. Otherwise, the only real obstacles were some epic puddles that formed throughout the race.
The race’s 3hr format allows for teams and solo riders to space out relatively well. One of the main attractions though has always been the multi-wave (by class) mass start. The use of AMA-legal screws ensures that the track conditions (and aforementioned ice thickness) remain decent throughout the day. Wheel guards help to reduce the risk of injury and with a few exceptions racers tend to remember that they are riding high powered buzz saws and ride accordingly. Strangely enough, some of the best talent in the field comes from the final row, with riders like multi-time winner JR Schnabel, Jeff Fredette, Jesse Janisch and others shooting for the Ironman Solo and Overall crowns. In addition, many of the teams are comprised of well-known riders, GNC national numbered competitors and other not-so-well-known fast guys.
For insight into the chaos, here is some helmet cam footage worth a look:
This year’s top seat was up for grabs but multi-time champ JR Schnabel was intent on keeping his crown. Multiple challengers kept with the front pack for the duration of the race but the main threats came from fellow soloist Lance Wollin and the ultra-fast team Harada Racing of Craig Pickett and Westley Westesson. Pickett managed to post the fastest lap time of the day with a blistering 10:16 on the second lap. Eventually though, the battle came down to JR and Lance, with Lance taking the win after 16 laps on the wet and sticky course. It was a particularly sweet win for Lance as he has been attempting to win this race for several years and suffered a couple heartbreaking defeats. The roar at the trophy ceremony showed just how hard he had to battle for the win.
So how did this road weary group of Canadian racers do? All things considered, not too bad. Starting from the back row, Jesse Dyer worked his way up as high as 21st place, eventually finishing in 26th overall. Not so impressive for a former podium finisher at the Numb Bum 24hr until you consider that he had multiple screws removed from his ankle only weeks earlier. In typical fashion he downplayed it with full intention to come back next season and crack the top 20. Known for epic start line wheelies on his custom built CR500AF, a stall relegated Clayton Dyer to a dead last start. Carburetor problems, a cracked air boot and rear hub failure forced multiple extra pit stops, but he worked his way back up to a respectable 42nd place finish. Yours truly managed to wade into talent way over my head, slowly breaking the top 40 and moving forward. Unfortunately, just after the start of the 2nd shift I was the victim of someone’s brain fade, taking a handlebar into the rear wheel from the outside at a high rate of speed. Having to ride 6 laps on a flat from a sheared valve stem crushed any hopes of a decent finish but proved excellent “Accidental R&D” for the new Mitas Ice King tires. Given that “Team Corn Fed” didn’t bother to buy us a round of beers after the race (or even come check in for an apology), I don’t think they can expect a Christmas card in 2015. At least our results give up the perfect excuse for a return trip in 2016!
Results aside, this whole event is straight-up awesome. Ultra-competitive racing, enthusiastic fans, great course layout, epic weather and some of the friendliest, humble and awesome motorcycle racers you could possibly gather on a frozen lake…and all for a good cause. I hope hell freezes over, because we will probably be back in 2016!
**As a side note, on the Saturday before race day, our trip led us through the tiny Minnesota town of Kimball. A new friend by the name of Dean warned of “far more Rednecked-ness” and a far less serious competitive environment…with almost no practice time under our belts, the “Knaus Ice Races (KIR)” sounded like a must. Having witnessed the carnage firsthand, we can honestly say that the biggest regret we have was not lining up a car of our own in advance. “Beatings will continue until moral improves” was the logo for the cars, not the competitors. Good Stuff.
Knaus Ice Race video:
For full results, click the following links: