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Riders to numb bums this weekend

24-hour ice race a challenge of endurance

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 13, 2013 06:00 am

GOING NUMB – About 100 riders will race in the Numb Bum 24-Hour Ice Race this weekend at Sandy Lake.
GOING NUMB – About 100 riders will race in the Numb Bum 24-Hour Ice Race this weekend at Sandy Lake.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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Local riders will freeze their butts off this weekend on a frozen lake as part of the world’s longest, coldest motorized ice race.

About 100 riders and 750 guests will be camped out at Sandy Lake this weekend to take part in the 24th annual Numb Bum 24-Hour Ice Race. Billed as the world’s longest, coldest ice race, this unique event challenges riders to race motorbikes and quads across sheer ice for 24 hours straight.

Track master Dan Cheron and his crew will plow the course this Wednesday, said race co-ordinator Darin Oakford. The course will be 15 to 20 kilometres long with 150 corners.

“Our snowbanks are going to be 10 feet high in some areas,” Oakford said. Organizers will also plow a smaller peewee course for riders 10 and under.

Ice conditions are excellent due in part to January’s cold snap, Oakford said, and temperatures this weekend are forecast to be in the minus five to 10 range – ideal for racing.

“We’re hoping for some of the best weather we’ve (ever) had out there,” he said.

The Numb Bum is an endurance race that challenges riders to do as many laps as they can in 24 hours. Winners typically put on enough kilometres to make it almost to Vancouver and back.

There are no prizes involved, Oakford said, so it’s strictly for bragging rights.

“It’s a great outdoor event for families and riders.”

Chris Hoyland of St. Albert’s Riverside Yamaha is back for his fourth Numb Bum, racing a 2012 KTM 500 motorcycle tricked out with spiked tires, heated handgrips and an extra-large gas tank.

It’s the friendly atmosphere that keeps bringing him back, he said.

“No one else in the world really does anything like it.”

Hoyland said he and his teammates Curtis Ryll, Darren Toplis and Jim Burrows have been training on a private track and have already run three other six-hour ice races this season.

“We’ll be in the top three for sure,” he said.

Riding solo in the daylight-only Red Eye class is Legal’s Douglas Phillips. He’s spent the last few weeks pumping up his body and tuning up his Honda CRF 450R dirt bike.

Phillips wasn’t sure of his chances in this race.

“So far in all of my other races I’ve placed in the top three, but those were only six hours,” he said.

This time, he’ll be racing for at least 12.

“It’s like an addiction,” he said, when asked why he was back for his fifth Numb Bum.

Bikes typically get up to 90 to 100 kilometres an hour on the straightaways – speeds unheard of in dirt races – and still take super-sharp corners.

The race is not without risk. Spinouts and crashes are always a danger, as are pools of water seeping through the ice. Past races have left riders with frozen fingers, eyeballs and genitals.

The biggest risk for a racer is a breakdown, Hoyland said.

“As soon as you have a breakdown, you can be down two or three laps,” he said.

He’s had wheels fall apart on him mid-race, and once lost his headlights in the middle of the night.

“You’re driving in darkness for about three to four kilometres.”

There’s also sleep, or lack thereof.

“Your body’s used to sleeping and you’re out there racing in minus 20,” Hoyland said.

Adrenaline helps, but it’s still tough getting through a two-hour shift in the saddle.

Team support will be vital, said Oakford, who will be racing for Team Scona Cycle.

“It’s pretty lonely out there at two in the morning,” he said, and you have to rely on your teammates to keep you and your bike going.

The race runs from noon until noon on Feb. 16 and 17 at Sandy Beach just west of Alexander First Nation. Tickets are $10, half of which goes towards the Sun and Sand Recreation League. Visit www.aeira.com for details.


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