This past week has been one of the toughest weeks that I can remember. Unexpectedly, losing a close friend has a way of knocking you on your ass quicker then words can describe. On October 6th, my friend PJ Marquez passed away at the Denver Endurocross. I was fortunate enough to spend his last day with him and am truly thankful for it. I still don’t know if that day made it easier or more difficult that night in the hospital when we received the news that they were unable to save him. Before we got the call to rush to the hospital we were on the road to an enduro in Trinidad, CO. When we finally gained the strength to leave the hospital, Kyle and myself had a big decision to make. It was now 1:30 in the morning with a three and a half hour drive to the race. Either we just go home and forget about the race or suck it up and do the thing that we all knew PJ would want us to do.
My dad pointed the van south while Kyle and I tried to catch a few hours of sleep. Sunday morning it felt like I was waking up from a nightmare, only I knew this was real. All at once the memory of first meeting PJ came back to me. It was at this race 5 years ago that I got a flat tire on day one of a two day race, and PJ was there representing his shop, Valcom Motorsports. I went over and asked if he had another tire with him that I could buy, but he didn’t have one with him. Instead of just saying sorry you are out of luck, PJ jumped in his truck drove 20 minutes each way and got some kid he just met a new rear tire. That was just the way PJ was. He had the biggest heart and would do anything he could to help anyone who was in need. There does not seem to be enough people like that around anymore.
The race started at eight and I just tried to block out everything that had happened. It was a struggle to get my head straight but, all things considered I felt like I was riding quite well. I rode a mistake free day and ended up a minute off the pace of the overall winner for the day, settling in second place. With everything going on I was satisfied with the result and was ready to get home.
It was another week of work before the double header and final round of the WEBE series. I had a pretty good size point lead before the weekend so I would basically have to finish each day to wrap up the championship. Monday afternoon I got the phone call that PJ’s funeral would be Saturday. It was a no brainer decision that we would miss the race Saturday and go to the funeral. Worst case scenerio, I would come into Sunday’s race tied for the championship. We loaded up the van and adopted Gary Sutherlin for the weekend and headed to Rocky Ford. It was no surprise to see how many people were there for the service. With a guy as great as PJ it was still amazing to see the amount of people he had an effect on. After the funeral, everyone headed to the local Elks lodge to celebrate PJ’s life and have a drink. The stories told put a smile on everyone’s faces. It was easy to see that PJ didn’t waste much of his life taking things too seriously! In the Whiskey Dare Devils spirit Kyle Summers and Gary unloaded a 110 and it wasn’t long before Kyle was ripping 3rd gear wheelies down Main Street. Thankfully the police never showed up. Gary, Campo and I left the Elks lodge about 9 p.m. and headed south to Espanola. I finished driving about 1:30 and jumped into the van to try and get some sleep.
7 a.m. came much too soon but I was anxious to get to the race site and see Saturday’s results. Travis Porter finished second on Saturday, which meant I only had a 3 point cushion to wrap up the championship. I ran number 324 this weekend, which was always PJ’s number hoping it would bring me some luck for the day. For the start I lined myself up far to the outside of the sand wash where the sand hadn’t been ripped up yet so it was still firm. When the flag raised I got a great jump and rode the edge of the wash all the way to the first corner and pulled the holeshot! The number was working so far. I lead most the first lap as I was trying to learn the course, but I let Killy Rusk by and tried to just key off of him. I really struggled focusing and was not riding as well as I knew I could. Midway through the second lap Gary caught me and I let him go too so that I could try to follow him. A few corners later he blew a corner and I went back by him. Every lap I would see Travis catching me no matter how hard I pushed and it was so frustrating not being able to get away from him. He hunted me down and as we started the last lap he was right on my back tire. The entire lap he was right there and would capitalize on any mistake I made. Not more then a half mile from the finish we were battling through lappers when I tried to take a line to get past two at once and hit a bush and went down. My instant reaction was of frustration that I blew the race so close to the finish. When I went down Travis hit my tire and fell right next to me! We both picked up our bikes and I luckily got going just in front of him to finish in 2nd for the day. That finish was good enough for me to win the WEBE Pro Championship!
I can’t explain the emotions I felt after the race. The feeling of accomplishing a goal I set at the beginning of the year was drowned out by how tough the week had been and I was just relieved for it to be over. With everything that had gone on it was just a huge reminder to appreciate the small things because you never know when it all could end. I want to thank the WEBE crew for always putting on amazing offroad races. It really is the best series out there so if you ever get a chance to come out to one of these races, you wont be disappointed. I have to give PJ Marquez a huge thank you for always being there to support me. Whether it was fixing bikes I destroyed, building my bike for my ISDE’s, always having encouraging words when racing wasn’t going how i hoped, or simply just being there to help me see situations clearly and help me make good choices in my everyday life. We are all going to miss you PJ.
If you get a chance, please support the companies that support me. I would like to thank MotoAdventure Kawasaki, Dango’s Damping, Race Tech, Fly, Dirt Tricks, IMS, FMF, Motorex, Hinson, DT1, Enduro Engineering, Leatt, Dunlop, A’ME Grips, Excel Rims, Protaper, Topar Racing, Acerbis, and VurbOffroad.
Thank you for reading!