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A HELPING HAND Tanner Janesky’s Ride Of A Lifetime To Win Pro Moto Ironman By Mike Vieira Finishing in the Pro Moto Ironman Class in the SCORE Baja 1000 is quite a feat, but winning it with the kind of race that Tanner Janesky had is truly worthy of the “Ironman” title. The 2022 race marked Janesky’s return to the SCORE Baja 1000 after placing second in the class in 2019. Personal demands forced him to sit out the last couple of years, and although just running and finishing in the Ironman Class is a real accomplishment and source of satisfaction, he intended to win the class with his third attempt this year. Despite this year’s crowded field of very capable riders, Janesky decided that he’d just run his best race and hope to finish in the top three. “I looked forward to it with a combination of excitement and terror,” he said. “Because I know how painful it is when you try to Ironman, and I know how dangerous it is. A catastrophic injury can happen to even the best riders.” Starting in seventh position in his class but with most of the other moto classes ahead of him, dust created a real visibility problem in the early part of the race. With little wind to clear the air, Janesky was struggling to see, but by Ojos Negros he managed to pass more than a dozen other bikes on his KTM 450 XCF-W. He gave a “thumbs up” to his service crew and passed them by to stay in the hunt. Cold temperatures also added to the difficulty and danger of the ride. At the start of the race, he could see from his GPS readout that the temperature was 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The thermometer kept dropping lower into the teens as he rode on. “I kept my hands functional by tucking the left one behind my radiator intermittently and reaching back with my throttle hand while slowing down for turns to catch the hot exhaust gas,” he said. “At one point, when it was just 18 degrees, I’m going over 70 miles per hour, and the air going through my helmet feels like my brain is getting frostbite.” Even his hydration tube was frozen. Dawn began to break as he started the rocky descent from the summit and things began to warm up a bit. These slower, more technical sections are favorites of Janesky’s because they allow him to gain time on competitors by just going slightly faster than others as they pick their way through the tough stuff. In the faster sections, the roughness of the course surface beats up on the riders as they dodge rocks and ruts, and Janesky was worried about half-buried rocks that could cause his undoing. He recalled that all his bad crashes in Baja have been from hitting these sand-covered rocks that are all but invisible at speed. Then, at mile 367, after advancing to second place, Janesky’s fears were realized. While racing through a sand wash, he came upon a downed rider on the course and another who had stopped to help. Janesky was slowing to offer help when he hit the same rock that caused the first crash. Janesky said he was thrown over his handlebars with his bike landing on top of him, sustaining injuries to his back, shoulder, and face. Thankfully, his injuries were minor compared to those of downed rider, Giovanni Spinali. Janesky used his satellite phone to call for a helicopter to airlift Spinali to the hospital and stayed on the scene to comfort and provide him with water until he was safely on his flight to get medical attention. Once the helicopter took off, Janesky got back on his bike and into the race despite his own injuries. “It’s not easy to continue your own race after seeing somebody injured that badly,” he said. “You’re hypersensitive to every rock that you hit after that. It’s terrifying knowing the next one could do the same thing to you.” He had been stopped for nearly an hour and a half, giving other riders the chance to get well ahead of him. At that point, he felt he had no chance for a podium finish, and thoughts of quitting started to enter his head. Instead, he pressed on and picked up his pace, despite not seeing his chase crew for more than six hours. Dodging rocks and getting beat up by whoops in the washes, Janesky slid off a twenty-foot cliff, further damaging his bike and his own body. Finally, at San Matias, he was able to meet his crew to assess the damages, replace the wheels, and prepare himself for the cold, dark, dusty night ahead. Staying out of the way of the SCORE Trophy Trucks and being slowed greatly by their dust hanging in the air became additional challenges to his progress. However, he eventually began passing other bikes every few minutes and started to believe he was getting back into contention for the lead somehow. He started to wonder if he should ride more conservatively to reduce the risk of crashing, saying to himself, “Do I want to ride to win, or ride not to lose? I ride to win. In Baja, and any life situation, there are things you can control, and things you can’t. I can’t control the temperature, the dust, or the other riders. I’m riding stuff I don’t recognize and swear I never pre-ran. But I can control keeping myself on the little purple line on my GPS and riding, so that’s all I do.” When he reached his final scheduled pit stop at Ojos Negros, his crew excitedly waved him on to pass by, and he knew he must have been close, although he had no idea of his position at that point. Battered and nearly frozen, Janesky finally reached the finish with a time that was twenty-four seconds faster than any other Ironman racer that day, and when the hour and twenty-five minutes he was stopped to assist at Giovanni’s crash were credited back to his official time, he ended up winning by that amount of time. “All my training and testing paid off,” he said. “Not only training my body but my mind. That was the ride of my lifetime.” SJ

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