2016 BIG 6 round 6

BIG 6 GP Championship, presented by MSR

Round 6 | October 1, 2016 | Ridgecrest, CA

photos courtesy of Jean Turner


After breaking my collarbone during the summer break, I didnt think I was going to have as lengthy a recovery as I’ve endured. The collarbone is a pretty standard injury, and most stories of recovery, especially after having the bone plated, go something to the tune of three to four weeks and you can start riding; at least that’s the most common story I heard from countless others who had broken their collarbone and shared their story with me. Unfortunately, I’m learning that my injury wasn’t as simple as it could have been. I broke the bone in two places, so there was a floating piece in the middle, and that floating piece was pretty much crushed into four or five pieces. The surgery went well, but the recovery has dragged on and on. I’ve wondered numerous times if I’m doing something wrong, or if I’m all of the sudden a slow healer when I’ve been on the opposite end of that spectrum for most of my life. My surgeon’s opinion is that becasue I broke the bone into numerous pieces, it took a while for the ends of my bone to find each other, and it’s taking longer than normal for the healing process as well. Bottom line: over three months after surgery, my collarbone is still healing, but not fully healed and calcified. Needless to say, it’s been frustrating.

The bone has been strong enough for me to start doing some training, especially since it’s plated, but with two months of zero weight-bearing upper body activity, I defnintiely lost quite a bit of strength in my shoulders and chest and I’ve been trying to balance building the strength and stability back up without overdoing it. Thankfully the Glen Helen WORCS race went really well, though I haven’t been that nervous before an event in quite a long time, but the Ridgecrest Big 6 didn’t end up so well for me.

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The course was pretty much the same as it’s always been, but this year the dirt seemed the to have a harder base, making it easier to catch a hard edge and get squirrelly. Plus I was’t the biggest fan of the re-worked motocross section as some of the landings were pretty steep and had g-outs in the transitions of the landings. I’ve always enjoyed the Ridgecrest course, and maybe it’s because I’m coming off injury, but this year’s version just seemed a little sketchier to run at full speed.

I was lined up far to the outside of the start line, as I didn’t get the memo that you should send your mechanic or buddy out to the start line thirty minutes earlier than staging to block your spot, but I got a great drive out of the hole and was second place heading into the first turn. Unfortunately, because I was so far outside, Ryan Reina and my teammate, Justin Seeds, were able to sneak underneath me, but coming out of the first corner in fourth wasn’t too bad of a way to start the race.

I had a little more pace than my teammate early on and attacked him two or three times, but he seemed to be able to pinch me off or squirt right back by each time, so I finally just sent it around the outside of him as we were braking into a corner and I was able to make the pass stick. Reina was running a strong second place, but I think he landed in a hole on the motocross track and injured himself, pulling out of the race and bumping me into second place behind Eric Yorba, who had already pulled out around ten seconds.

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Over the next couple laps I maybe reeled Eric in just slightly, but I was noticing that Dalton Shirey was absolutely flying up from a bad start and catching me pretty quickly. Eric pulled into the pits a lap earlier than myself and Dalton, which handed me the lead for a short stint, but Dalton was all over me and took a better line, sweeping around the outside of me through a flat, high-speed corner. I would love to have hung right with him, but the next couple sections were really silty and I instantly had to drop back a little bit so I could see; plus, did I mention the kid was flying?

Later that same lap, I hit probably the thickest bunch of lappers that I’ve ever experienced in my racing career as six or seven riders were lined up, single file, nearly nose-to-tail like they were on a family cruise through the desert. I was able to get through them without incident, but in the time it took me to make my way by, Yorba had closed the distance back up to me and caught me completely off guard when he out-accelarated me down a straightaway to take second place away. I wasn’t too balled up about Eric passing me; with being less than a hundred percent, I was more focussed on riding my own race, and there was still about half of the race to go so, it was in the back of my mind that I could make a late push and try to reel him back in.

Then my race came to an abrupt end. Through a section of the motocross track, I hit a hole in the landing of one of the jumps and my hand slipped off the bar momentarily, throwing me off balance. I whiskey-throttled off the next jump - which was a short jump by the way - wide open. I landed just about in the face of the next jump and nearly saved it, but ended up tumbling of the side of the track pretty viciously. I didin’t feel injured, but my shoulder was instantly pretty sore and I made the decision to pull out of the race to not risk further deteriment to my already weakend shoulder.

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It was tough to take the DNF, and even tougher to do the one thing I had been focussed on not doing since coming back from injury, which was crash. In the end I think the crash was caused by a demanding racecourse, with a lot of holes and chop, meeting my lack of upper body strength. Luckily I feel my collarbone is ok and I’ll just need to take a little time to recover again before the Primm WORCS round in a couple weeks. This has been one of the toughest seasons I’ve experienced from an injury and illness standpoint, but it’s only making me want to succeed in acheiving my goals at Primm that much more. I’m definitely putting every bit of myself into that race to ride smart and do what I need to do to have a successful weekend.

I want to thank the whole team for supporting me, all of my personal sponsors, my family, friends, my mechanic Phil and everyone who cheers me on at the races. I look forward to seeing you at Primm!


Robby Bell


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