Story and photos by Mark Kariya
Injury crushed the high hopes held by the U.S. ISDE team as the 92nd International Six Days Enduro got underway on Aug. 28 in Brive-la-Gaillarde, France.
Thad Duvall, a member of last year’s winning U.S. World Trophy team fell near the finish of the very first test, injuring his left wrist and forcing him to seek medical attention. Duval will fly home Tuesday, Aug. 29, to seek treatment from his personal doctors.
After he fell while braking at the end of a fast straight, Duvall quickly picked up his Husky FE 350 and got to the finish. But being unable to work the clutch, he was forced out of the race within sight of the parc ferme.
Unfazed by the hot, humid and dusty conditions, Taylor Robert found himself second in E3 and second overall at the end of the first day, putting him in position to repeat at fastest individual overall. The U.S. World Trophy team, however, is out of the hunt after Thad Duvall injured his wrist in a sudden crash in the day’s very first test.
“I tried to ride it out,” he said. “I don’t know; the more I rode, the worse it got. Don’t get me wrong⏤I’m super-disappointed in an injury, but I’m more disappointed in letting the team down and letting a lot of people down that support it.”
Since all four scores count towards the final results in the FIM World Trophy division, the U.S. team found itself 16th out of 19 at the end of the first day.
Host country France performed almost flawlessly on home turf, though in conditions more akin to a hot, humid, dusty GNCC. France leads Finland by one minute, 50.05 seconds while Australia sits third, 2:16.65 back.
Since the team has virtually no hope of challenging for the win now, the only glory that remaining U.S. World Trophy riders Taylor Robert, Kailub Russell and Ryan Sipes can seek are class wins or overall individual honors, which is not out of the question for these riders.
“It’s definitely disappointing," Robert said. "But in one sense, it’s less pressure on [the three of] us [still going] because now all we really have to do is focus on ourselves and if we mess it up for ourselves, then it’s all on us; we don’t have to worry about wrecking it for the team so we can just leave it all on the table.”
Like many of the faster riders, Grant Baylor found himself having to pass slower guys in every test. Sometimes, it went well. Other times, not so much. He still ended the day 10th in E2, helping to lift the U.S. Junior World Trophy team to fourth.
That’s what Robert appeared to do. Competing in the E3 class (500cc two-stroke/650cc four-stroke) aboard a KTM 500 EXC-F, he’s just 6.19 seconds behind Christophe Nambotin from France, the two also 1-2 in the entire field of nearly 800 riders.
Sipes is ninth overall and fifth in E1 (125cc two-stroke/250cc four-stroke) on his Husqvarna FE 250, 23.30 seconds behind Frenchman and class leader Jeremy Tarroux.
France also leads in E2 (250cc two-stroke/450cc four-stroke) thanks to Christophe Charlier. The best American in the class is Russell, who sits 46.17 seconds behind the Frenchman after a series of mistakes in one test.
Grant Baylor of the U.S. Junior World Trophy team is 10th in E2, 48.03 behind Charlier. The U.S. Juniors are currently fourth behind Sweden, Italy and France.
Joining Baylor on the three-man team for riders under 24-years-old are Layne Michael - who was on last year’s winning World Trophy team - and Josh Toth. Toth and Michael finished the day 13th and 14th in E1, respectively.
Despite a case of food poisoning on the flight over, Brandy Richards didn't appear to feel ill on the first day of competition, finishing fifth overall in the women's event. Despite losing Becca Sheets to a mechanical issue for the day, Richards and Kacy Martinez-Coy put the U.S. third in the Women’s World Trophy standings, behind Spain and Australia.
The three Americans comprising the U.S. Women’s World Trophy team are all first-timers. Becca Sheets had a mechanical issue and DNFed the day, though she was expected to re-impound and be able to start tomorrow. The WWT class permits one throwaway score a day.
Despite Sheets’ misfortune, Brandy Richards and Kacy Martinez-Coy rode well and helped the team finish the day in third behind Spain and four-time defending champs Australia.
After battling a suspected case of food poisoning when she arrived, Richards heads the Americans and sits fifth in class behind observed trials and rally star Laia Sanz of Spain. Martinez-Coy is ninth in class.
The Club team standings for three riders, finds a French trio leading, but America’s SRT Off-road, comprised of Ben Kelley, Ty Tremaine and Cody Webb, are fifth.