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CODY SETS ANOTHER RECORD IN BAJA 1000.

Byline: TIM HADDOCK Staff Writer

Very few riders attempt to complete the SCORE Baja 1000 in a solo effort. Even fewer would try in a year like this one when the course is in one of its worst conditions and the level of difficulty is extremely high.

Entrants were given nearly two days -- 43 hours -- to complete the course. Of the record 431 starters, a little more than half -- 234 -- officially finished.

Before last weekend, only two solo riders have completed the Baja 1000 in the past three years. No woman has ever completed the course in a solo effort in its 39-year history.

Anna Cody, a motorcycle rider from Camarillo, became the first woman to complete the Baja 1000 by herself. She finished 172nd overall, in 33 hours, 35 minutes and 40 seconds.

It was almost 15 hours after the first motorcycle team finished the race. A three-rider team, which included Cody's younger brother, Quinn Cody, won the Baja 1000 on a Honda XR650R in 18 hours, 17 minutes and 50 seconds.

But winning the Baja 1000 was not Anna Cody's goal. She just wanted to finish. She wanted to finish as part of a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. It was part of Cody's way of honoring and memorializing her friend and teammate, Lillie Sweetland, who died five years ago after a battle with leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

Cody and Sweetland were the first women motorcycle riders to complete the Baja 1000 back in 1990. Injuries, children and work schedules prevented Cody and Sweetland from repeating their feat.

That race in 1990 was Cody's last Baja 1000. Sixteen years after completing a record-setting run in the race, Cody was back to set another record.

The 1,047-mile race started in Ensenada, Baja California, on Nov. 15 and ended in La Paz on Nov. 18. The course was damaged in spots from recent hurricanes and tropical storms, and several of the top finishers crashed at one point or another on the treacherous course.

Some of the most dangerous spots were created because of the storms. Others parts were booby-trapped by some of the estimated 300,000 spectators who attended the race.

Cody said before the race it would take her 23 to 26 hours to complete the course. She was about 10 hours off her estimate. As she entered La Paz and worked her way through the streets to the finish line, she said she had tears in her eyes and was met with applause and celebration.

Cody's record-setting Baja 1000 was filled with near head-on collisions with other entrants, mud holes that swallowed trucks and motorcycles along the coast, a wayward hay truck driver and a moment of inspiration provided by her brother and crew near the end of the race.

``It was one of the most emotional races I have ever done,'' Cody said.

Her race started with the other entrants at 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 15, and she almost crashed twice with other vehicles in the first 150 miles of the race.

She nearly collided with a Volkswagen Bug going the wrong way on the course shortly after the race started. When she was racing through the Valley of Trinidad, she had to maneuver her way around a hay truck that was driving down the middle of the course.

Things eased up once she reached San Felipe. She didn't have many problems until the trophy trucks started catching her near San Ignacio around 8 o'clock at night.

The nighttime racing conditions presented more problems for Cody. The trophy truck, buggy and race car entries were bearing down on her constantly. Plus, muddy conditions along the coast outside of San Ignacio were swallowing motorcycles, ATVs, trucks and cars.

It was a part of the course she and her mechanic, Richard Jackson, inspected a few days before the start of the race. They knew the muddy conditions were dangerous and were prepared to avoid any treacherous spots. But racing at night made it difficult to notice some of the mud holes. Jackson told her how to tell if a mud spot was firm enough to ride over and which parts were soft.

Cody said she saw trucks, motorcycles and ATVs stuck in the mud and considered herself lucky she listened to Jackson's advice on how to avoid following them.

``If he hadn't given me that tip, I would probably still be stuck there,'' Cody said.

She had another near-miss with a vehicle around 2 a.m. She was almost 20 hours into the race, stopping only for brief breaks for fuel and water, when she crashed her motorcycle. While she was trying to pick up her bike and get back on the course, she could hear and see a trophy truck heading right for her. Only, she wasn't sure if the truck driver or navigator could see her.

She tried to wave down the truck and warn the driver where her motorcycle was. Cody said the truck narrowly missed hitting her bike.

``I dragged it about 25 feet into the bushes just to get it out of the way,'' she said.

She eventually got back on her motorcycle and made it to the next pit area.

``I was pretty shook up at that point,'' Cody said. ``I rested for about an hour. The roughest part of the course was coming up.''

The last 200 to 300 miles were the most storm-damaged part of the course. But at one of the last pit areas, about 50 miles from the finish, her brother's team and her crew members put together a sign that read: ``Welcome Anna.'' She was more than 30 hours into the race, with little rest, food or water. But she was within reach of her goal of finishing the Baja 1000 on her own.

``Overall, I was actually feeling fine,'' Cody said. ``Tired, but I kept it together, kept it moving forward.''

She crossed the finish line around 4 p.m. on Nov. 16 emotionally drained and physically sore, but in the record books as the first woman to complete the Baja 1000 solo on a motorcycle.

``It's such an awesome feeling,'' the 38-year-old Cody said. ``I just said a little prayer to my former teammate that we did it and I wish she could be here with me. I've always wanted to solo it to La Paz.''

Cody was one of 16 solo riders to complete the course this year.

James Sones of Banning on a Honda XR650R was the fastest solo finisher. He completed the course in 26 hours, 6 minutes, 4 seconds.

Alastair Hilson was one of the top solo finishers. He completed the course in 32 hours, 53 minutes, 6 seconds on a Honda XR650R.

``I don't know what would feel better - to win or just to finish,'' Hilson said. ``It's two different people. One's doing it for time; the other's doing it for satisfaction.''

There were 37 riders on motorcycles or ATVs who attempted to complete the race solo. The 16 who did it received the Sal Fish SCORE IronRider Award.

Colie Potter was one of the 16 solo riders to finish the course.

``I had to pull way down deep here at the end, but it's fun,'' said Potter who finished the race in 31 hours, 58 minutes, 30 seconds. ``I

love to ride motorcycles. I only took gas breaks and stopped for food. I didn't sleep or anything. I took like four 15-minute breaks.''

The 431 starters broke the record 346 set in 1977. The 234 finishers were also a record, breaking the previous mark of 198 set last year.

The SCORE Baja 1000 is scheduled to be televised as a one-hour NBC Sports special at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 10.

timothy.haddock@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3715

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 26, 2006
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