ST. GEORGE — Kadin Guard raced through the Mexican night, dodging through dust and brush – and even a near miss with a cow – to carry his team to victory in the Baja 1000, one of the most prestigious off-road motor sporting events in the world.
The St. George resident took two turns at the wheel of his team’s motorcycle in the November cross-country event, leading his group to a win in the Pro Moto Limited class, recording a team time of 25 hours, 15 minutes and 45 seconds to travel the roughly 898-mile loop across Baja California. His team, 160X, finished more than 2 1/2 hours ahead of the second-place team.
“I’ve worked my whole life to get to that point,” Guard said. “As a kid, that was my dream, just to get the opportunity to get down there to race at this event. It’s like an athlete in high school, like, ‘I want to go to the Olympics.’ And if they win, it’s just a huge bonus on even getting to go. Winning it was a pretty cool opportunity.”
The Baja 1000 is a race that competitors globally strive to compete in. Up to 28 countries have been represented in the race’s 53-year history, competing across several classes in both motorbikes and trucks. Guard said he made up to 15 trips to Ensenada, Mexico, over the past five years just to make connections and establish his reputation as a rider in the hopes of getting an invite to a team. He has since raced in the event several times.
It is exclusive to get in, difficult to even finish and outlandish to win. Racers have to deal with the general rigors of sharing the same vehicle between riders, passing it one to the other and then driving it continuously for 20-30 hours and keeping it in usable shape. On top of all that, they have to deal with booby traps set by spectators.
“Just to finish is a huge accomplishment,” Guard said. “I’ve had a fridge in the middle of the road before. I’ve had them make a rock wall across the wall, over a hill or around a corner. I’ve had them put old car tires or barbed wire in the ground. Anything they can do to make somebody crash, they do.”
Guard compared the event to the Super Bowl for local communities. He said residents will camp out along the track and occasionally try to induce a crash for their own amusements, a practice that has been reduced in recent years.
He said his closest encounter this year was a near-miss with a cow in the dark. At roughly 3 a.m., Guard was driving along a narrow, dusty path at 40-50 mph, his only visibility being the bike’s headlight. He came up on a cow and just narrowly missed a collision.
“It’s 3 a.m., it’s cold, I’m slow to react, I’ve been up for 24 hours. I slam on the brakes and I’m skidding and I miss the cow, almost where you could feel the fur rip off,” Guard said. “After that, you’re awake and shivering in fear.”
Team 160X avoided any worse drama and had no technical or logistical issues other than Guard having to navigate through Ensenada near the finish line. It was the first time in his experience with the event that the bike had held together and there were no problems. The good fortune is what allowed them to build some distance from second-place 180X, which was within just 10 minutes of Guard’s team the majority of the race but fell behind after having issues in the final legs.
The team used Guard for two stints, more than any of the other three riders on 160X. He was the final driver, crossing the finish line and winning the event.
Guard said he hopes the win helps build his name and brand more and open doors for his future.
“I think it solidifies my ability to go down there and race. I think it opens eyes on other teams or manufacturers. There are very few people who are able to go down there and do well.”
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