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Hill Climb notes: Colorado Springs motorcycle rider becomes YouTube 'smash'

June 27, 2014 Updated: June 28, 2014 at 10:41 am
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Colorado Springs racer Jeff Grace was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time Wednesday when, as he descended from the summit of Pikes Peak after a practice run, collided with a motorcycle from which a rider had lost control as it tumbled down the mountain from a switchback above.

Called "Honda from Heaven," the YouTube clip already has more than 300,000 views in just two days.

"People look at the video, and they assume I can see the bike going down the mountain," Grace said moments before The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Fan Fest in downtown Colorado Springs. "That's a huge wide angle with that camera. I'm stuck in a fetal position riding a crotch rocket. I had about two seconds to get things under control."

Grace hit the brakes but couldn't avoid the unmanned bike, causing him to flip once in the air but was uninjured. He said his bike came to rest on the dirt outside of the asphalt, its wheels hanging off the side of the mountain.

"I look at it a million ways," Grace said. "It just worked out. My bike was a little beat up, but I'm still able to race on it. I'm not too bummed out."

Frenchman makes long trip worth it

He traveled more than 10,000 miles, spread out over 38 hours between flying and layovers, just to get to Colorado Springs from his remote home. On Friday, Fabrice Lambert made all that time and energy worth it by recording the fastest time recorded in the bike division in qualifying on the bottom half of the Pikes Peak Highway.

Lambert, 33, was born in Paris, but moved to the tiny and mostly unknown Reunion Island at the age of 4. Reunion Island, a French island located in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Mauritius, is nearly a 6,000-mile plane ride to France.

In his fourth run, Lambert recorded a lap time of 4 minutes, 13.641 seconds.

"Yeah, I live on the other side of the planet," said Lambert, whose teammate, Eric Piscione, also hails from the southern Reunion Island city of Le Tampon, which has a population of around 70,000. "You know everybody there."

Trace Downing is turning his Hill Climb debut into a six-week family vacation. Then again, traveling from Nelson, New Zealand, he figured he'd make the trip worth it.

Downing and his family made the 7,500-mile trek, and on Friday, the Kiwi finished eighth among Lightweight division motorcyclists.

He's just not so sure he'll make this journey again.

"I reckon this will be a one-time thing," Downing said. "I came here in 2008 and rode up the hill, and I wanted to come back and maybe race on Pikes Peak. But this is a big expense and quite expensive, especially shipping and freighting my bike over and back."

Honda team helps bring Airfence to prevent future crippling injuries

Last year, motorcyclists representing Honda reconnected on the summit of Pikes Peak, celebrating their race but waiting nervously for teammate Alex Moreno. He never made it to the top.

Their worst fears came true when they learned the rider had suffered serious injuries after going down near the picnic grounds. Moreno suffered paralysis from the waist down.

As a result of the accident, the Honda team worked with AMA Pro Racing and the Pikes Peak sanctioning body to implement Airfence technology provided by RoadRacing World Action Fund on key corners of the course.

"It's like a crash barrier," middleweight division motorcyclist Zach Jacobs said. "If a rider crashes into it, the fence has blowoff valves that'll get the air off and absorb a lot of the impact. We've been losing a lot of motorcyclists to hitting concrete walls. We don't want to take away from the race, but I feel like there have been enough incidents that it warranted us helping out."

Truck driver takes turn on two wheels after wreck

Mike Ryan, whose Freightliner suffered severe damage in a practice-run crash on Thursday, took his turn on a 2014 Triumph motorcycle Friday as he hoped to qualify for Sunday's event in the UTV/Exhibition class.

He's just glad he had something to ride.

"I'm lucky to have great sponsors," Ryan said. "Castrol and Triumph came to me earlier this year. Castrol gave me money. Triumph gave me a motorcycle. I was going to ride around the Rockies on the motorcycle for my vacation next week. It's the only thing that I still have that has round wheels on it."

Ryan, known for his signature cab in the former Big Rig class, actually started his Hill Climb career on two wheels. In 1995-96, Ryan reached the summit on a motorcycle.

That long period of time brought out the nerves in Ryan for his first practice run.

"I felt like a seventh-grader asking a girl on a date," Ryan said. "I was nervous. I forgot what I was supposed to do. I had to hope the officials here would let me ride. They told me if my times are decent and I don't do anything stupid, they'd let me run."

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