They say slow and steady wins the race — but Enumclaw local Jaden Dahners knows that even milliseconds count when it comes to winning the International Six Days Enduro off-road motorcycle race.
Dahners, 20, has already left his home in Krain for Argentina — specifically, San Juan — for the esteemed event, which lasts from Nov. 6 to 11. The race is the oldest on the International Motorcycling Federation, first organized in 1913.
Dahners is following in his footsteps of his father and grandfather, both of whom also raced; his father, Jason, raced professionally and even competed in five International Six Days Enduros with Team USA, with his last race in Slovakia in 2005.
He recalled mounting his first bike when he was just four years old.
“It was Christmas day,” Dahners said. “My dad tried to teach me how to ride it, and I ran into our barn door.”
Obviously, he’s come a long way since then.
This will be Dahners’ second international race. He placed ninth overall, and second on the U.S. team, in France last year, while his team finished sixth overall.
Locally, he took first in the Stump Jumper Desert 100 endurance race (100 miles long) in Irby, WA last April.
For Argentina, he’s expecting to have to ride between 200 and 250 miles a day, spending as much as nine hours on his bike.
“It’s a very grueling, long race,” he laughed.
Besides making sure his bike is in tip-top shape before the race, Danhers is also taking time to walk portions of the route to make sure he knows at least a little bit of what’s in store for him.
“You end up walking probably 80 miles in a week, trying to memorize all the difficult sections… that can give you trouble,” he continued in an interview before flying out of the country.
Beyond that, though, racers don’t know what route they’ll be taking until they begin that day’s race.
“They kind of surprise you when you wake up,” he continued. “You have an idea of what’s going on, but sometimes you wake up, and it’ll be a completely different [route]… there’s a lot of exploring.”
Dahners wants to win, of course, but his more realistic goal appears to be just to finish.
“My mindset is, make it through the week. Don’t have any failures, don’t have any crashes,” he said. “Ride within my limit.”
Not the whole race is timed — Dahners and other competitors are expected to make it to various race points throughout the day within a certain time limit, but only certain points require him to really gun it.
“It’s a short timed period,” he said. “Usually, you’re only timed for about 10 to 15 minutes. But that 10 to 15 minutes, you heart rate is at 220 beats per minute — your blood’s flowing.”
Once the race is over, the timed sections will add up to around four hours, Dahners continued.
“I think last year, what separated me from first place overall, between all the countries, was a minute and a half,” he said. “Every half a second counts.”
To add to the challenge, racers are not allowed to have outside help if their bike fails.
“All the bike maintenance you have to do during the race,” Danhers said. “No one can touch your motorcycle, or you disqualify the race.”
That means Dahners is carrying all the tools he needs to keep his bike up and running, plus any snacks and water he might need (there are rest stops with gas, plus more food and water).
Oh, and cash, just in case law enforcement catches you speeding on the non-off-road sections of the route.
“There’s a lot of corruption,” he said. “If you get pulled over by a police officer, a lot of times, you can get out of it with just a couple Euros or whatever currency they take.”
According to the ISDE, more than 30 nations are sending their best racers to San Juan this year.
The winner of the race will not only be the team with the fastest time, but the team that completes the race with the highest number of riders.