USXC I500 In Pictures

One of the first riders to come by our cameras on Day 2 was eventual winner Ryan Simons. He didn't disappoint and aired out this approach at least as much as any other rider.

Not to appear biased, but we probably love the I500 more than any other single race. A mix of mystery, adventure, speed and random carnage, the 500 is full of ups and downs. It is the race that keeps guys up at night because they’ve never won it. It is the race a small handful of guys hang their hats on because they have won it. For others, it is the 26.2 of snowmobile racing and simply finishing is a victory. Indeed, there is a story behind why every rider is here. Follow along as we take you on a tour of a few things that happened at this year’s USXC Seven Clans I500.

Cody Kallock had a great run on Day 1 and was in second place on the time charts. Here he jumps past Polaris rider Tommy Mulligan.

Corey Davidson has won this race before and even in his early 40s he's still a threat to win. A broken clutch put him out on Day 2.

Aaron Christensen is perhaps the top Polaris cross-country racer. A mix of mechanical knowledge and pure riding talent, he is fast and smooth and almost never makes mistakes.

Justin Tate is Ski-Doo's top cross-country rider. Much like Christensen, Tate brings a ton of experience and sled knowledge as well as speed.

Cousin of Corey Davidson, Ryan Faust and his brother Travis cut their teeth racing ice lemans. When everything goes right for them they are Top 5 riders.

Re Wadena almost won this race in 2006 when he finished second behind Bryan Dyrdahl. Then he was on Ski-Doo, now he races for Yamaha.

Nate Moritz has been rising steadily through the Semi-Pro ranks. He double-entered in Pro 600 and finished 7th.

Bobby Menne got his first Pro podium at the Oslo 100 and finished third in the Soo I-500 the weekend before the Seven Clans I500, so he had a ton of momentum coming into the race. He would run as high as fourth on Day 3.

Wily veteran Jon Arneson won the Masters 40 class. His brother Steve wasn't so lucky, he DNF'ed after he cased a road approach and cracked a vertebrae.

Adam Mach was high on the Semi-Pro time sheets until he went out on Day 3.

Jill Tangen has been fast in Pro Women, but she wasn't fast enough to beat...

...Jolene Bute. Seriously, how many 500s has Jolene won?

Here's a lesson in cross-country racing. Anyone can run down a ditch, but can you run down a ditch in the snow dust of two or three other sleds? Yeah, not so easy anymore, is it?

Ben Langaas has really found the pace in Expert 85. More on him later.

Jen Fuller is part of the mighty Bunke Racing team. She has been finding the pace in Pro Women but the 500 wasn't kind to her. She had a blown belt one day and a crash that knocked her out (literally) on Day 3.

Cole Lian has risen through the Junior ranks and is one of the faster riders in the Expert 85 class. He finished fourth.

Alan Krause said he had 47c before Carl Kuster ever did. Talked to him for a while and he said he came all the way down from Alberta and lives somewhere near Camrose, home of Ryan Simons. He finished third in Masters 50.

Gabe Bunke has almost won this race more than once and most recently finished second in 2010. Like Corey Davidson, he is one of those riders who doesn't look fast when he goes by you, but he posted the second fastest time on Day 2 and was up to third after passing Cody Kallock on the river before losing his engine on Day 3.

Eric Christensen also races under the Bunke Racing banner. He's been running a production Polaris Indy and has been doing well. He finished fourth in Masters 40.

Wes Selby was sitting pretty after Day 1 but his carbs iced up on the first leg of Day 2, putting him way down on the time charts. He ended up fifth overall, proof that a bad day at the 500 is not the end of your race.

While chasing the race we ran into Team Arctic Race Manager Mike Kloety and Roger Skime. They always have the stopwatches going and can tell you where the Arctic Cat frontrunners are at any point in time.

The ride may be over, but the day is not. After the first two days riders get a maintenance session where sleds can be repaired and prepped for the next day. Here, Cody Breitbach asks USXC's Brian Nelson what time the repair sessions begin.

While we waited for the maintenance session to begin we wandered over to the Bunke Racing trailer and hung out. Here, Aaron Christensen grinds some clutch weights, throwing sparks on the leather couch in Gabe's trailer.

Meanwhile, Bobby Menne and Gabe get some spark plugs ready while Taylor Bunke eats lunch. Always good food in the Bunke rig.

You get one hour to do whatever you need to do to your sled. A few minutes into the session and Cory Berberich already had the chaincase apart, inspected and buttoned up on Ryan Simons' sled. These guys are good.

Wes Selby got some extra help from Joe Lesmeister after his rider, Brian Dick, went out on Day 1.

Aaron Christensen didn't get crazy with his sled, just the basics.

Eric Gausen had some shock issues after Day 2 and he addressed them in his maintenance session.

Everything was neat and in it's place in Cody Kallock's maintenance area.

Bobby Menne also kept is simple in his maintenance session, inspecting, busting ice off the sled, cleaning clutches, etc.

Eric Christensen worked on his own sled during his session. Gabe Bunke's signature on the hood adds some MPH no doubt.

Jolene Bute worked on her sled changing carbides.

Ross Erdman works on his Yamaha Nytro. Ross was the only past winner still in the race after Day 2. He won it in 2007.

A little farther down the row Re Wadena and Brian Strawsell work on another Yamaha.

Cory Berberich paid special attention to the air box on Simons's sled.

Berberich preps the seal for the air box to make sure it goes on nice and clean. This team's attention to detail on Simons' sled was second to none in the maintenance session. It helps when you have a mechanic like Cory who could probably take the sled apart and put it back together together blindfolded.

Justin Tate and his mechanic Kolby Campbell go over Tate's Ski-Doo. Two blown belts on Day 2 put a serious crimp in Tate's race. Justin said he thought maybe the second one was just a bad belt.

After two glorious sunny days of racing, Day 3 dawned gray with a freezing mist in the air. We chased the race with John Sandberg from arcticinsider.com and the previous days we were saying how we wished we were racing. On Day 3 we agreed we were glad we weren't racing.

Waiting for the start were Arctic Cat snowmobile product manager Joey Hallstrom and his son.

More attention to detail on Simons' sled. Each little tear in the intake screens was siliconed shut and edges were taped down.

We chased Simons for about five miles and after seeing him run speeds of 90+ on Day 2 we weren't surprised to see him dial it back to 70-80MPH on Day 3. Flat light and iced goggles will do that. A 10-minute lead helps too. Christensen had pulled a minute on him by the time this photo was taken just before the first fuel stop though.

Next through was Bunke, who slotted himself into third after he got by...

...Cody Kallock on the river.

We hightailed it back to the finish line in time to catch Simons crass and take the win. That's Roland Hill from Seven Clans Casino waving the checkers.

Shortly after the win Simons got a call from team owner Dwight Christian, congratulating him on his win. Dwight was with the other half of Christian Brothers Racing at the snocross race in Michigan.

The guy in the middle is Brian Sturgeon. He has a connection with Simons because he brought him on Team Arctic while he was Race Manager.

D.J. Ekre got hurt at the Detroit Lakes race. He was telling Roger Skime that he may or may not be back, but added that he really wants to win the 500. I figured D.J. would be done after this injury, but hearing how he talked to Roger I think he will be back for at least this race. The lady in the blue jacket is Ryan's mom.

Cody Kallock rolled in to take third place. Skime inspects the iced-up intake screens on his sled. They caused it to lose RPM and he said he couldn't let off or it took forever for the Rs to climb back up.

Mike Kloety updates his Facebook. Wait, can you even do that with that old flip phone he's got?

Skime talks with Eric Gausen about finishing fourth. I'm going to editorialize here and say Skime and Kloety showed great sportsmanship congratulating every racer, regardless of brand, on finishing the race. We are kinda bummed that they couldn't get a handshake from people of their own brands.

Selby finished fifth and told us stories about running the in the flat light. Didn't sound fun.

Spencer Kadlec found a drainage ditch on Day 3. He was heading for the bottom before he even knew what was going on. Hit so hard it made his sled a little shorter up front. Spencer finished 8th after having a real bad Day 1. That's his fiancee, Amber Lund.

Ryan Scripture made the trip out from Maine. He is one of the fast guys on the USCC East circuit. He came into the finish missing a side panel and various other parts. He finished 9th.

Jordan Torgerson, Mike Kloety, Roger Skime and Spencer Kadlec listen to Bobby Menne tell about his massive crash. He limped into the finish on one cylinder. He finished 11th.

Dave Dirkman was all smiles after he finished Day 3. Out of five I500s this is the first one he's finished. "I have a 20-percent finish rate now!" he said.

Justin Tate looks at his sled. He clipped the a-arms off on a clump of something while he was getting onto the river. He rode it back part of the way on the highway.

Taylor Bunke finished his first I500 marking the next generation of Bunke racers.

Ben Langaas bit his lip on the first leg of Day 3. Looked pretty painful, but he won Expert 85 so who cares?

The Kallock family, most of them race!

Simons had a sticker on his sled honoring his brother who passed away this past year.

Your Top 3, Simons, Christensen and Kallock along with Seven Clans' Roland Hill and Miss USXC, Olive Beaulieu.

The winning rider and winning team. Next to this, probably Simons' best finish in snowmobile racing was the silver medal he won in snocross at the X Games in 2007. Or maybe it's the second place he got at the Soo last year? Whatever, the kid can do it all.

 

 

 

 

 

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