Less than half a year ago, former GNCC Champion and ISDE overall winner Shane Watts was laying in the hospital preparing himself for the worst after having just broken five vertabrae in his back, but last weekend, the amazing Australian was back to his usual self, speeding across the desert floor at 60 mph en route to an 11th-place finish at The Moose Run AMA National Hare & Hound in Red Mountain, California.
Watts' amazing recovery was complete.
"It was a major deal; I ended up fracturing five vertabrae and had to get six of them fused together, so I've got the solid-spine thing going on at the moment," said Watts who broke his back about a year ago in what he said was a simple, slow-speed fall. "As of now, I don't feel as though anything is different, or a change in the way I feel, which is pretty remarkable consider having that many fractures and that, and still be able to do what I'm doing. There is an 11-inch scare running down the back of my back."
The Moose Run was Watts' first real race since the injury and to finish, let alone take the checkered flag in 11th place in a race that really isn't one of his specialties, was truly one of his most major accomplishments of his career.
"That was sensational, especially after the injury I had last year," he said. "I was really stoked to get out there, and conditions were ideal out there in the desert. I had the XC 150 KTM and it was sensational - top gear, pinned across the desert floor; I mean, it doesn't get much better than that."
Watts talked about his ride in the desert: "I pretty much rode conservatively and didn't take any big chances and ended up 11th overall. I was really happy with that. On the 150, I was a little slow off the start there, giving up some power against the big bikes, but once we got into a rhythm, I jumped in with a few guys and got into a freight train the whole first loop. Like I said, I didn't push hard or anything like that, just rode conservatively. I didn't want to have no more crashes or anything like that, so I basically looked at it like a fast trail ride.
"Then, the second loop and the third loop, they got a little bit tighter and a little bit more rocky, and that's where the 150 really shined," he said. "I made a lot of passes and rode strong.
"By the end of it, I was tired. I mean, I don't get to train anymore, just too busying coordinating everything with [my] Dirt Wise Schools and all of the other projects I've got going. But I had a great time and that was what my goal was, to get out and enjoy myself. The finish didn't really matter as long as I had a good time riding."
Watts said that he actually rode the opening round of the National Enduro Series a couple of weeks ago.
"I actually did the first National down in Sumter, but we had an issue there where we gave someone a full factory ride for free, and to make that happen, we ended up being on row 118, which was a long way back, but this was really the only race I've done since I got hurt."
This was just Watts' second-ever National Hare & Hound race.
"I did one hare and hound 10 years ago and didn't finish because of the chain came off and I wasn't able to finish," he said. "So that was one of the reasons going back this year, I wanted to complete it. I've always liked open riding, even though I'm known for riding through the trees. I really enjoy getting into top gear and going fast as well."