It is the most terrifying sequence of sounds you can hear on the mountain. The skid of racing tires followed by the deafening sound of silence, and then the thunderous crash of trees and rocks. Someone has gone off course. I’ve heard those sounds a few times over the past decade and if I never heard them again that would be fine with me. Unfortunatelyit happened this Thursday – and to a good friend. It was bigger and louder than I had ever heard before and at the impact shook the ground beneath my feet. I couldn’t see it from my vantage point, but I immediately knew it was a big hit.
I jumped from the position where I was shooting and started running downhill. Hoping all the way that what I would find would be less dramatic in appearance than what it felt and sounded like. Another photographer was running up the hill to the corner to see what had happened. I yelled down “Who is it? Is he OK?” I didn’t get an answer so I yelled a bit louder, WHO IS IT!? IS HE OK!?” Finally…an answer – the other photographer yelled back, “It’s Mike Ryan… He’s OK”.
Moments later I arrived on the scene to see Mike walking around his big rig, a full 100+ feet off the course, down a 30 foot embankment. Judging by the height that the trees were sheared off just below the edge of the road, Mike’s rig clearly had flown a good distance before coming to rest in the dense thicket.
Getting to Pikes Peak nineteen years in a row doesn’t happen by accident. It takes the drive, dedication and passion of a person that truly loves what this mountain represents, and what the environment itself makes him feel. It also takes a team of likeminded people, as well as the respect and trust of a marketing department which has decided that you are the person best suited to represent their products in the most demanding racing environment on the planet.
Mike’s crew is equally extraordinary. After the crash and finding out that Mike walked away without even a scratch, they were in surprisingly good spirits. His engine builder, Bobby Ball, told us “Well…that’s what you get when you ask a redneck for more horsepower.” And his chassis builder, Randy, told us that he wasn’t really disappointed. That instead, he saw it as an opportunity to rebuild the entire chassis and make it even better – fix all the little things that had always annoyed him over the years.
Mike and his team are passionate. They are dedicated, and if you think that they won’t be able to rebuild and return to their tire-shredding, earth-shaking, Size Matters ways, well…you’d be wrong.
A Final Word From the Editor:
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb organizers have allowed Mike to switch classes and compete with his brand new Triumph Explorer 1200 Motorcycle on Race Day. It has been seventeen years since he’s raced on a bike which coincidentally was at Pikes Peak when the course was all dirt. We wish him the very best! Find out more about Mike by visiting his website and via social media:
Special thanks to Andrew Bohan Editor-in-Chief/Creative Director/Co-Founder of Life Blasters for capturing the moment so skilfully. Please check out their website and connect with them on Facebook. Our exclusive video was produced by Chad DeRosa, director of the upcoming feature film documentary, Out of Nothing.