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Cycle News 2020 Issue 26 June 30

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 99 of 107

VOLUME 57 ISSUE 26 JUNE 30, 2020 P99 situation, and there's a lot of rumors that I've heard," Rice says. "Basi- cally, I had the choice of riding my BSA twin or the three-cylinder of Tom Cates. It was the same three- cylinder in a Trackmaster frame that I had won the Sedalia Mile on and, believe me, that thing had a lot of straightaway speed. You could pull five or six bike lengths on each straightaway, but the problem was that at Sacramento it would hang the left case going into the turns and the wheels would skate. It was pretty challenging to ride, but it was a fun bike to ride. "But the problem was that I went out and rode the three in practice, and it just didn't feel quite right to me," Rice says. "My times were re- ally close to what I was doing on my twin. I didn't know it at the time, but the three had either a blown or leak- ing head gasket on one cylinder, which dropped the power down." Rather than dominate his heat race, Rice was doing all he could just to guarantee a direct transfer spot to the main event on the ailing triple as he drafted Chuck Palmgren on the run to the checkered flag. All hell broke loose just after that. "I was about an inch off Palmgren's rear wheel to keep from getting passed by Tommy Rockwood, but right after the finish line Palmgren sat up and started slowing down, and I was so close to him, and it surprised me that he shut off," Rice says. "I went for the rear brake, and I nicked the gearshift lever in the process and knocked it in between gears. The bike was freewheeling, and I tried jamming it back in gear, but it would not go. There was no way I could make the turn, and I remem- ber thinking, 'Man, I've got to lay this thing down quick.' This all hap- pened in less than two seconds." Rice says he blacked out before slamming into the guardrail while the triple vaulted it and struck a photog- rapher, who was seriously injured. "I remember coming to in the ambulance and doing a body check to make sure everything worked," Rice says. "It did, but I was kind of freaked out because there was all this blood, and I didn't know where it was coming from. Then I figured out that I had broken my nose." As the movie portrays, Rice climbed out of that ambulance and attempted to compete, but the souring BSA triple was even more battered than he was. "By then we knew that some- thing was going wrong with the motor, and we didn't have time to fix any of that," Rice says. "Of course, I wasn't in real good shape either. I think I finished 14th." The movie leads viewers to be- lieve that Romero's win at Sacra- mento clinched the championship that day. In fact, it did not. There were still two races remaining, and though it would take a miracle, Rice still had a mathematical shot at retaking the points lead. "But the next race was at Ascot, and Ascot and I never got along," Rice says. "I didn't like that place. I think I got fifth there, and that was a pretty good finish for me. Romero won it, but like I say, if the points system had been the same as the year before or the year after, I would have probably had a 300-point lead on him." But don't think now that Rice is complaining about not winning the championship. Instead, he relishes the time he spent as a professional motorcycle racer, a career that lasted through the 1974 season before Rice elected to walk away while he still could walk away. "Motorcycle racing was the soul of my existence back then," Rice says. "I'm happy to have raced when I did because I think that is unquestionably the golden era of dirt track racing in terms of specta- tor attendance, brand loyalty and brands that were supported by the various factories. You had Kawa- sakis racing Nortons and Yamahas and Hondas, BSAs and Triumphs. It was also the time when there was the highest level of competi- tion. At San Jose, you'd have 140 guys trying to get 40 qualifying spots. Nowadays, you don't have 40 guys show up to the race." Today, Rice lives in Portola Val- ley, California, with his wife, Lisa, and 12-year-old son, Kyle. Rice owns his own electronic manufac- turing and design business. CN This Archives edition is reprinted from issue #16, April 27, 2005. CN has hundreds of past Archives edi- tions in our files, too many destined to be archives themselves. So, to prevent that from happening, in the future, we will be revisiting past Archives articles while still planning to keep fresh ones coming down the road. -Editor Subscribe to nearly 50 years of Cycle News Archive issues:

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