The weekend is in the history books in Thief River Falls, as riders completed the final day of the USXC Seven Clans Casinos I-500. Christian Brothers Racing had their machines dialed in all the way to the finish, as Brian Dick (Cat) and Zach Herfindahl (Cat) battled for first and second.
In an exciting finish, Polaris’ veteran rider, Justin Tate, was able to capture the third place finish to add some color to an otherwise green podium. Saturday’s competition also featured vintage and junior riders tackling the tough Warren, MN loop, the most grueling of the three day race.
The top spot wasn’t a slam dunk for Brian Dick, even though he left with over a three minute advantage at 9:00 AM Saturday. Yamaha Pro Class riders went out according to their elapsed time gaps and Dick had teammate Herfindahl breathing down his snowflap all day.
At the first fuel stop in Warren, Herfindahl, who turns 18 tomorrow, had closed the gap to under a minute-and-a-half and Brian Dick knew it. “I knew Zach was close, within just over a minute at the first stop,” Dick said. “I just started to feel more and more comfortable on the sled as the day went on, but I didn’t like the second loop, it was pretty rough out there.”
The second run after the first gas stop had a lot of rock-hard drifts and very technical running and almost every rider said it was a test of their stamina. Several riders had offs on the final day and in the post-race staging area, there were several windshields and other sled parts that had seen better days.
On Snow Magazine Women’s champ, Jolene Bute (Cat), agreed with Dick’s assessment of the day’s second loop. “I finally just had to slow down a little and ride smarter so I could finish in one piece,” Bute said. After the dust settled, Dick crossed the finish line with about the same distance from Herfindahl that he left with at the start. The winner of the Pro Stock class walked away with a cool $10,000, courtesy of Seven Clans Casinos, along with additional factory and sponsor contingencies. The 2014 I-500 marks Brian Dick’s second win in the race, besting the field in the 2011 running.
Another hotly contested class today was the all-new Super Stock class, with riders facing off on EPA-compliant, 600cc showroom sleds. Sam Vandeputte (Doo) pulled ahead of Jon Arneson (Cat) on day two and was able to maintain his lead to net the $5,000 in prize money. Vandeputte’s teammate, Nick Roehl (Doo), worked hard for a second place finish. Another pro performance worth noting was the riding clinic put on by Benjamin Langaas (Cat), fast enough to grab the top finish in Semi Pro 600, Amsoil Semi Pro Improved, fourth in Speedwerx Pro Open and fifth in Yamaha Pro Stock!
The last few years, the I-500 has hosted vintage sleds on the final day and in 2014 over 30 riders on ‘70s machines took to the ditches. In the end a classic Polaris piloted by Michael Fugelberg toughed it out to earn top honors in the Fly Racing Vintage Class.
There were many great stories from this 2014 I-500 weekend, with one being the entry of seven Mattison family members in the vintage classes, piloting late ‘70s Arctic Cat cross country machines. Gerry Mattison grabbed the championship in the Arctic Cat Vintage Legends class. With a different kind of “vintage,” 64 year old Paul Dick (Cat) finished second in the Red Lake Outdoors Legends 50+ class aboard a 2014 Sno Pro. If the last name sounds familiar, it should, as Paul is the father of Pro Class winner Brian Dick.
Brian Dick won’t even get a chance to rest up, as Monday both he and Gabe Bunke (Pol) head for Alaska to compete in a race with an equally humbling reputation to the I-500: The Iron Dog. Dubbed the “World’s Toughest Snowmobile Race,” who would ever think the Seven Clans Casinos I-500 would serve as a training camp for a couple of USXC riders with already complete resumes?
For everyone else, the I-500 conversation always turns to “next year” and next year just took on a whole new dimension. USXC owner, Brian Nelson, took to the podium at tonight’s awards banquet to officially announce the 2015 Winnipeg to Willmar I-500. The return of a continuous route I-500 has been rumored and hinted about over the past year, but Nelson turned the rumors into reality, to the excitement of the packed banquet room. The race will follow a large chunk of the original Winnipeg to St. Paul course, heading towards Willmar, MN once riders reach Alexandria. Nelson himself is a two-time winner of the original I-500 aboard a John Deere in 1976 and an Arctic Cat in 1978.
For more information on the 2015 Winnipeg to Willmar I-500, visit www.usxcracing.com.