ST. GEORGE — A St. George native is sitting in the top 10 dirt bike racers at the Dakar Rally after stage 5 of the 12 stage race held in Saudi Arabia.
Skyler Howes has been making waves in the rally racing world for the past few years, placing ninth overall and first privateer in the bike category at the 2020 Dakar Rally. At the time of this report, he is sitting in seventh place overall.
Originally known as the Paris-Dakar Rally, the annual off-road rally-raid stage race previously took racers from Paris, France, to Dakar, Senegal, until security threats in Africa forced the cancellation of the event in 2008.
From 2009-2019 the event was held in South America, and in 2020 it moved to Saudi Arabia.
This year’s race kicked off Sunday in Jeddah and will continue through Jan. 15, making a giant loop around the Saudi Arabian desert and returning to Jeddah.
Information on the Dakar Rally website about this year’s route said the following:
The rich tapestry of landscapes in Saudi Arabia offers an almost infinite number of permutations to give the route of the Dakar a better flavour. Just as 2020 was a quest of discovery, the 2021 route will be a journey of exploration. Everything will be brand-new, including every single kilometre of the specials. Furthermore, the fastest sectors, where the difference comes down to raw power, have been trimmed.
St. George News caught up with Howes’s mom, Jan Howes after stage 4 to see how her son was faring in the famous race and how she was doing watching her son chase his dreams from afar.
“It’s a roller coaster,” Howes said of watching her son, adding that sometimes she and her husband smile so big at each other thinking about their son’s accomplishments, and at times she has to remind herself to stop gritting her teeth.
Howes got a strong early start at the race, sitting in the top spot after the first three stages, but some navigation difficulties and trouble in the Saudi Arabian sand slowed Howes down during stage 4.
“He kind of got lost and then got back on track,” Howes said of her son.
Skyler Howes dropped to 42nd place on the stage after he sunk into a witches eye, Jan Howes said.
A witches eye is a hole in the sand dune, similar to a sink hole. They often form at the back of a dune and can be difficult for riders to see.
But, Howes said, her son was able to recover and work his way back to 20th place on the stage and stay in the top 10 overall.
This is Skyler Howes’s third trip to the Dakar Rally and his mom said he has a really great attitude about his racing that allows him to enjoy what he does.
“His attitude is just do the best he can do and go really fast,” Jan Howes said.
Howes is once again racing as a privateer, meaning he is not racing for a factory team – though KTM Racing does supply his dirt bike – and is dependent on fundraising from family, friends and fans as well as gear sponsors to pay for his entry and trip.
“All of his followers, family and friends donated for him to be able to be there,” Howes said, adding that her son is very grateful for all the support.
Skyler Howes is also sponsored by Washington City-based handlebar company Fasst Company, who he once worked for.
“They’ve really stuck with him,” Howes said, “They’ve been really great people.”
As for mom, she said that it takes her breath away to be able to watch her son reap the rewards of all the hard work he has put in to chase his dreams.
“It’s so nice to be able to share in that happiness,” she said.
Racing will continue Friday and then racers will have a rest day Saturday before finishing stages 7-12 Sunday through Jan. 15.
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