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BAJA MAGIC The road to Art Babcock’s 2019 SCORE BaJa 1000 Pro Moto Ironman win took many twists and turns By Stuart Bourdon If you ask long-distance athletes why they do it, you’re likely to get many different answers. For some, it’s a bucket-list sort of thing. Others might talk about the desire to find and then stretch their physical and mental limits. A few thrive on the challenge of going long hours and many miles solo. You might say that for Arthur Babcock it was a competitive nature from an early age, an invitation to join a desert racing team a few years ago and a personal loss that eventually led to his winning Pro Moto Ironman Class at the 2019 SCORE Baja 1000. Ironically, the road to winning that race began in the small town that Babcock came from in New York State called Mexico. Some might say it was fate. “One of my passions growing up was racing snowmobiles, then got into downhill mountain bike racing on an international level for several years, and did some amateur motocross racing back in the Northeast,” he said. Moving to a different part of the country led him to start desert racing in 2013 and eventually to the 2017 SCORE Baja 1000. “A buddy of mine threw my name out to Carlin Dunne. Carlin was looking for someone to fill a last-minute open spot on a four-man team, and I was fortunate enough to get it.” That chance meeting became a friendship and produced even more motorcycle racing adventures. Among his many motorcycle racing successes, Dunne was the 2016 SCORE Baja 500 Pro Moto Ironman class winner. Babcock and Dunne had been talking about doing the SCORE Baja 1000 solo for a long time, but talk turned to action after a tragic accident took Dunne’s life during the 2019 Pike’s Peak Hillclimb that June. Arthur decided to honor his friendship with Dunne by going after the SCORE Baja 1000 Pro Moto Ironman trophy that same year. “That August I put a program together and started training by riding my mountain bike in-between motorcycle rides,” he said. “I would go for 200 to 250 miles at a time, and I did three 400-mile days on the motorcycle. You have to be cautious about where you put your tires when mountain biking so it’s good practice for racing down in Baja at 90 or 100 miles an hour.” The physical training for a 1000-mile solo ride has to be complemented by thorough planning, and there’s a lot that goes into getting from one end to the other of a desert racecourse that long. “Probably the biggest thing that people don’t understand is how much logistics plays a part in success. We had multiple chase teams of our own (friends who volunteered) as well as relying on the Baja Pits organization when coordinating a support plan,” said Babcock. Knowing what to expect ahead of time is a big help too. “We pre-ran the course to find the exact GPS waypoints where the hazards like rocks were and put up tape and flags to make sure that chase crews knew exactly where they were supposed to be.” Keeping the rider and bike safe and in good working order were also big parts of the plan. “We had hydration packs and nutrition planned for every 100 miles or so and tried to stop no longer than it took to change backpacks, check everything on the bike, examine the chain, check the oil. I mean it wasn’t like NASCAR, but you’re talking under a minute and I was back out there,” he said. Babcock’s 2019 SCORE Baja 1000 Pro Moto Ironman run was not without its trials, though. “I made some mistakes. At around mile 130, I took a digger into a three to four-foot hole that wasn’t there during my pre-run,” said Babcock. “Luckily the only thing that broke was a fender, but that was just the beginning. I started to have major electrical problems at around the 600 mile mark and had almost no lights for the rest of the race.” At one point the bike had to be jump-started, and when they began tearing it down after the race, Babcock’s team discovered a failed stator. “The amazing part was somehow the motor kept running for who knows how many miles. I was carrying some of Carlin’s ashes on me during the race. We had some ‘Baja magic’ working for us. Someone was looking after us from above.” SJ

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