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Mud forces Hill climbers to bail on game plan for ‘Bentonite Nightmare’

Posted at 6:45 PM, Jul 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-30 13:49:42-04

BILLINGS – Motorcycle racing is underway at the Great American Championship Hill Climb south of Billings. Just not as expected.

Riders had mostly smooth sailing Friday morning into mid-afternoon before a monsoon-like storm blasted through the South Hills. The rain was short-lived but violent, soaking this weekend’s course a little after 4 p.m.

But remember, they’re celebrating 100 years of steep-climbing, high-paying races with a record purse of $101,000 this summer. Heavy rain may have slowed it down, but didn’t shut it down.

While organizers told MTN Sports they wouldn’t risk rider safety on a soaked hill, clear weather followed offering a green light for action to continue Friday night. However, muddy conditions were almost unbearable and forced riders to throw strategy out the window.

“You go up on the hill, look at the hill. I try to pick out a line,” said pro racer Todd Stuart Friday from the base of the Bentonite Nightmare. “But the way hill climbers are, we’re kind of like sheep… one guy hits a trail and we all follow the same trail.”

Alex Waldron is aware of transformations riders have encountered through the years.

“It’s a different hill every year,” Waldron said. “There is a little similarity, but it does change every year. I mean, it sloughs, it makes ledges and it’s tough from the start clear to the end. It doesn’t have (just) two or three obstacles. As soon as you drop the hammer, you gotta ride.”

Racing was scheduled to continue Friday night until around 11:30 p.m., but wrapped up early. Action picks up again Saturday at 9 a.m. and is expected to continue until 11:30 p.m.