Mountain Dew and M&Ms: Local becomes youngest to complete 250-mile dirt bike race
When Joey Berlet crossed the finish line of the San Felipe 250, he made history. As he concluded the grueling dirt bike race, he earned the title of the youngest ever to finish.
The race takes riders and their bikes over rugged mountains and arid desert on the east coast of Baja California in Mexico.
Berlet, 18, completed the taxing race in 10 hours and 2 minutes with help from his crew, which included dad, Luke Berlet; mom, Carissa Berlet and mechanic Jim Otto.
“He barely broke a sweat,” Luke said. “He got to the finish line, and he could have done it again. That was impressive. That’s something to do with being 18 and full of oxygen and blood and whatever 18-year-olds are full of.”
Joey is not sure if he’d want to do a similar race in the future, saying the next shortest race is 14 hours or so, and some go into the 30-hour range. For now, Joey is happy with completing the one race.
“I have a contract with the Army to leave in June,” he said. “So, I thought this might be one last (way to) have a lot of fun, do something crazy before I ship out.”
Joey, who graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in December 2020, has been dirt biking since he was younger but usually that looks like going to Sand wash Basin or Utah and messing around with his friends as they try to prove who has the most skill.
Never before had he done an endurance race like the San Felipe 250, which his father said is the hardest point-to-point dirt bike race there is. Of the 269 entrants, 75 did not finish the race.
“I’ve known about the Baja for a few years, and some of my friends at work had gone down there to race it, so I thought I’d give it a try and see how it turns out,” Joey said.
A race of that caliber is expensive to just try. Joey’s parents funded the trip and served as his chase crew, helping him prepare and pre-ride the course over the two weeks leading up to the race and aiding him at five stops during the race.
“My reaction was just blown away that he thought he could do it,” Luke said. “Or desired or wanted to even try.”
Getting through the race was difficult for Joey. Not only was the terrain taxing on the bike he rode but also on his body. Luke described miles of whoops, or tight bumps similar to moguls for skiing. Racing over that takes a toll on a person’s body.
Joey said he did lots of squats to prepare his legs for the weight they would bear throughout the day.
Joey also navigated salt beds that had loose and gritty material, which made the one lake bed on the course feel like the “smoothest thing you could imagine,” according to Joey. He said he was able to get up to 99 miles per hour on the lake bed.
Staying focused and mentally tough was the hardest part of the long day.
“By race day, (the terrain) is just beaten up enough where you can’t go fast and have as much fun going really fast,” Joey said. “Also it isn’t (technical) enough that you can go slow and be like, ‘Wow, that was some cool stuff I went though.’ It’s right in the middle of just being boring and riding and riding and riding. Your mind starts to wander off, but you need to stay focused.”
Joey just focused on getting through the next chunk and making it to the next pit stop where he could pick up more of his fuel of choice.
“Mountain Dew and M&Ms,” he said.
Shelby Reardon is the assistant editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach her, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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