Even though he’d been there and done that, the lure of riding a motorcycle to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak brought Santa Barbara’s Carlin Dunne back to Colorado Springs for another 10-minute adrenaline rush last month.
As in his previous three appearances, Dunne was King of the Mountain. His 2018 Ducati was the fastest two-wheeler to race up the knuckle-tightening, 12.42-mile course with 156 turns, some of them on the edge of precipitous catastrophe.
Dunne is gaining legendary status in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a k a the “Race to the Clouds,” the second oldest motorsport race in America. He made his debut in 2011 with a Ducati from his family’s Santa Barbara dealership and sped to victory over all other two-wheelers. In 2012, he became the first motorcyclist to finish in less than 10 minutes, setting a record of 9 minutes, 52.819 seconds. He returned in 2013 with a revolutionary electric cycle and again was the overall motorcycle champion.
Riding a new Ducati Multistrada 1260 model for the 96th running of the Pikes Peak Climb on June 24, Dunne reached the summit in a time of 9:59.102. He waited in the freezing, thin air for leading qualifier Rennie Scaysbrook to finish his run. The Australian stopped the clock at 9:59.794, less than seven-tenths of a second slower than Dunne’s time. Finishing third was Chris Fillmore, who had set a new motorcycle record of 9:49.625 in 2017.
“I’d like to get the record back,” Dunne said, “but the mountain decides how fast you go. It’s like climbing Everest. Conditions were difficult this year.”
Among the 77 vehicles that finished the race, Dunne came in 10th. “Cars have weight, downforce, and four giant tires,” Dunne said. “We’re leaning to create traction, managing slides at every turn. It’s an articulated dance.”
Dunne, 35, has been riding two-wheelers almost since he could walk. His father was a professional rider, so his wanting to hit the streets on a rip-roaring motorcycle was not an act of rebellion. He also did a lot of mountain bicycling.
After his 2013 Pikes Peak run, Dunne devoted himself to the Baja racing scene and partook in the Dana Brown movie Dust 2 Glory. Dunne won the solo motorcycle divisions of both the Baja 250 and 500. Victory in the Baja 1,000 eluded him.
“The 1,000 is extreme endurance,” he said. “Pikes Peak is extreme concentration. It’s like taking Baja and condensing it to 10 minutes. It’s a curveball. You have to adapt.”
He described the experience of racing from a forest to a mountaintop: “It’s a steady drumroll. You can’t think: clutch, shift, throttle, brake, turn. Just do it. Everything is flowing. You have to feel the machine. You ride the motorcycle like it’s an extension of yourself. When your senses are totally peaked in that setting, it’s an incredible visceral experience. You’re not worried about how do you pay the credit card. No drug could duplicate it.”
THE NEXT CUP: In just two weeks, college soccer teams will start practicing for the 2018 season. It will culminate on December 7 and 9 with the College Cup, the semifinals and final of the NCAA men’s championships, which will be hosted by UCSB at Harder Stadium.
It will, of course, be exciting if UCSB’s Gauchos are one of the final four teams. They’ve gotten there twice: In 2004, when they reached the final at the Home Depot Center (now the StubHub Center) in Carson and lost to Indiana on penalty kicks; and in 2006, when they defeated UCLA 2-1 in St. Louis to win the national championship.
The Gauchos had high hopes of playing before the home crowd in 2010, when the College Cup came to Santa Barbara for the first time, but a controversial defeat at Cal Berkeley knocked them out. Akron, Louisville, Michigan, and North Carolina played here for the title, won by Akron.
“We’ve put everything in the 2018 basket,” said Gaucho coach Tim Vom Steeg, whose team will have 10 starters returning. The only notable departure is that of Kevin Feucht, who did not even play last year because he blew out a knee on the first day of practice. The German midfielder graduated from the university and has taken an offer to play at Duke while he pursues an MBA, a degree not offered at UCSB.
Returning up front for the Gauchos will be sophomore Rodney Michael, last year’s leading scorer, and junior Noah Billingsley, who donned his first cap for the New Zealand national team this summer.
Among the new faces will be junior transfers Thibault Candia (Temple) and Faouzi Taieb (St. Francis Brooklyn). If even a little bit of the football in their native country has rubbed off on them, it bodes well for the Gauchos. Candia hails from Nantes and Taieb from Marseille. Those were among the cities recently celebrating France’s championship in the vastly entertaining World Cup.
“The World Cup showed that the best teams played as a team,” Vom Steeg noted, a quality that drove Croatia into the final. “It really is a team sport.”
It’s true that the superstars went home in the knockout rounds, but not before they had their moments. I can’t get over the magical mastery of the ball that Argentina’s Lionel Messi displayed when he scored a goal against Nigeria.
UCSB will unveil its team Sunday, August 12, in a scrimmage against San Diego State and will host Westmont College in the season opener on Saturday, August 18. To put themselves in position for an NCAA bid, the Gauchos will have to take care of business in home matches against St. John’s N.Y. (Aug. 24), Butler (Sept. 8), and UCLA (Sept. 22), as well as a road match against New Mexico.