A St. Albert biker has once again conquered the world's longest, coldest race on ice — and he's got the film to prove it.
St. Albert rider Frank Barry came first in the Red-Eye (no headlight) class at last weekend's Numb Bum 24 ice race. The 24-hour race, held annually at Sandy Lake, is known as the world's longest, coldest motorized race.
About 105 racers and a thousand spectators roared through this year's race, says race marshal Daniel Cheron, braving ice, cold, dark and wicked winds. "The wind was a killer," he says. "It felt like minus 30."
Barry, 25, faced an additional challenge in the form of a film crew that was following him for the event. The crew was entertaining, he says, but also added an unexpected handicap to the race.
"I had one real long pit because they wanted to slap a camera on the bike," he says. "I went from having a five-minute lead on second place to having to work pretty hard to catch them."
One long ride
Barry says he spent about 14 hours on the track and covered some 843 kilometres — a little less than a round-trip from St. Albert to Lethbridge. "I think I had more seat-time than anyone there," he laughs.
The film crew was there shooting a piece for the Discovery Channel's Wild Sports Week for March, says a network spokesperson.
The crew asked a lot of questions about the race and his gear, Barry says. "I was just physically drained for part of it," he says. "That was more challenging: trying not to sound like an idiot from being exhausted."
The race otherwise went well, he says, despite the weather. "An extra 20-kilometre-an-hour wind doesn't make much of a difference when you're doing 80 kilometres on a bike," he says. The cold weather also kept the track frozen, making for prime riding conditions.
St. Albert's Warrior Racing team placed fourth in the Red Eye, Cheron says, with Legal's Team Nightmare taking sixth.
Just 17 years old, Team Nightmare member Brandon Phillips was likely the only minor in the race. He and his brother Doug spent 10 hours on the track, he says. "Everything worked out really well," he says, and they're looking forward to their next ice race.
Hall of famers
Drayton Valley's GT Racing Team took first place overall in the 24-hour category, Cheron says — their sixth such win in the race's history.
Snagging the more infamous Innovator Award was Team Speed and Accuracy, a rookie group that finished the race despite a ludicrous number of mechanical problems. (The Innovator is given to a team that goes to great lengths to finish the race with their original machine.)
"These guys had never raced [the Numb Bum] before," Cheron says. "One of them had never ridden a quad before."
The team hadn't even made it to the starting line when they hit their first problem, Cheron says: a dead battery. Trouble piled on from there. Oil leaked out of their motor. The ignition switch shattered, forcing them to hotwire it. They ran out of gas twice. They had 12 flat tires, two broken taillights, and a smashed roll bar. "They actually finished the race on rubber without any spikes on their rear tire at all."
Despite everything, Cheron says, the team still managed to finish the race. "These guys did not quit," he says. "Their spirit was real good." The whole pit area pitched in to help, he adds, with one person building them a new set of spiked tires from scratch.
Barry says he's ready to hit the ice again next year, and hopes to get on a team to spend even more time in the saddle. "I'm sure I could have kept driving, but I was glad when it was over."
For details on the race, see www.aeira.com.