By Steve Berkner
NAVARRA, Spain – The 28-rider U.S. National International Six Days Enduro Team finished final preparations for this year’s Spanish ISDE which brought to close a hectic week of travel, unpacking, travel acclimation, bike setup and walking special tests.
U.S. National International Six Days Enduro Team
The week began just seven days earlier with news about U.S. World Trophy Team rider Ryan Sipes, last year’s overall ISDE champion, being injured at a GNCC event in St. Clairsville, Ohio.
“Ryan got hurt while warming up for a GNCC race where his bike slipped out on the parking lot and another rider hit him,” U.S. team manager Antti Kallonen explained. “He broke a bone (in his left wrist) and also suffered a concussion. It was obvious he wasn’t going to be able to go.
“Immediately we went to work on finding another Husqvarna-sponsored rider who could replace Ryan and ride his bike, which was already in Spain. We also had to find a rider who could be on a plane the next day at 4 p.m.”
Layne Michaels was the replacement. Michaels, like Sipes, rides a Husqvarna sponsored by Coastal Racing.
Michaels is no stranger to Six Days. Last year, he rode in his first ISDE, where unfortunately he did not finish, sustaining an injury while riding on the U.S. Junior Trophy Team.
“He’s definitely at the top of his game this year,” Kallonen said. “He just last weekend won the XC2 class.”
Kallonen said Sipes–the 2015 overall ISDE champion and the team’s strongest rider–certainly will be missed.
“But I also like our chances with this team, where we have one of our strongest U.S. Six Days team ever,” Kallonen said.
Michaels and Russell join Taylor Robert and Thad Duvall on the prestigious U.S. World Trophy Team. All are veteran Six Days riders.
“Overall, I’m still confident that we can make the podium as a team without Sipes,” Kallonen said. “Winning at Six Days always means taking some risks, most of them are calculated, but that’s what it takes to win. We can’t spend all of our time looking backward, we have to look forward with the decisions we’ve made.”
This year’s US Junior Trophy Team, for rider’s 23 years of age or younger, is made up of Trevor Bollinger and brother’s Steward and Grant Baylor. All three of them rode on the top finishing Junior Team during the 2014 ISDE in Argentina.
“I really like our chances in the junior division,” Kallonen said. “Trevor just won the overall XC2 GNCC championship, and both Baylors are having good years. All three of them know what they have to do to win.”
The U.S. Women’s World Trophy Team’s roster includes ISDE veterans Rachel Gutish, Nicole Bradford and Tarah Gieger, who will be riding in her first Six Days.
“Tarah comes to us with a motocross background, and she’s obviously got the speed to do very well in the tests,” Kallonen said. “She’s had an interest in riding off-road for a while, but she hasn’t had an opportunity to ride long days, like the first two days where the riders have to do nearly 200 miles each day.
“But I am confident that she’ll do well if she keeps a level head and stays focused on the trail sections. I think her special tests times will help complement Nicole’s and Rachel’s scores.”
The balance of the U.S. 28-rider team includes six three-rider club teams:
• Trail Jesters: Jason Klammer, Benjamin Kelley and Joshua Toth
• Eric Cleveland Memorial: Broc Hepler, Alex Dorsey and Jimmy Jarrett
• Missouri Mudders: Nathan Ferderer, Ryan Powell and J.T. Baker
• Tony Agonis Memorial: Joey Fiasconaro, Kale Elworthy and A.J. Lehr
• Michigan Off-Road Events: Luke Ross, Michael Pillar and Talon Soenksen
• Elizabeth Scott Company: Brian Storrie, Dan Capparelli and Jayson Densley
American rider Fred Hoess also will participate in a special commemorative Enduro Vintage Trophy division that will run concurrently to the ISDE on a shorter separate course.