By Steve Berkner
NAVARRA, Spain – The beginning of Day Five of the International Six Days Enduro didn’t go well for the U.S. World Trophy Team, which led the competition each day for the first four days. Overall ISDE leader–U.S. Trophy Team rider Taylor Robert–high-sided in a corner of the day’s first special test.
U.S. Trophy Team rider Taylor Robert is interviewed by FIM-TV following his Da Five finish. Going into Day Six, Robert was the individual overall leader. Photo by Steve Berkner
Taylor’s crash did substantial damage to his rear sub-frame, rear fender and side panels, causing him to finish 28th in that test, nearly 10 seconds behind the special test’s fastest time and 8 seconds behind his nearest competitor for the individual overall, Australian Daniel Sanders.
At that moment, it looked like the United States was about to have its second consecutive day of slower test scores, following Day Four’s lead over second place Italy drop nearly 14 seconds to 1 minute, 22.31 seconds.
But for the U.S. team, Day Five turned out to be a worse day for two of its closest competitors teams. Second-place Italy lost two of its trophy team riders, dropping them to 19th place, and Spain’s Ivan Cervantes failed to start the day due to an injury he suffered earlier in the week, dropping his team from fourth to 12th.
At the end of the day, the U.S. Trophy Team held a 3 minute, 43.62 seconds lead over second-place Great Britain and a 29 minute, 16.59 second lead over the Czech Republic going into the final eight-lap final-moto.
“Going into the final-moto, all our (Trophy Team) riders should have to do is finish all eight laps of each of their motos, and the U.S. should make history by winning their first World Trophy,” said U.S. National Off-road Enduro team manager Antti Kallonen. “All we should have to do is not take any chances and keep each of our riders on the winning lap.”
According to Kallonen, Taylor, who leads the individual overall competition by 12.10 seconds, “is kind of in an interesting place.” For his team to win, he can’t take any chances to protect his lead.
“It’s all going to come down to how he does when his final-moto starts and they get to the first corner, because, if he doesn’t have the lead, or a good line, he’s going to have to back down and not risk crashing out.” Kallonen said. “Taylor (who has a motocross background) and I have already talked about the importance of the U.S. winning its first ever ISDE championship as a team, compared to him winning the overall. The problem is, in a normal motocross race, you line up for a gate start with 40 other riders you know are all motocrossers. At Six Days, there is a good chance half of the riders in your moto most likely don’t do much motocrossing. Their skills are actually in off-road, not motocross. You just don’t know how they are going to handle things when the (starting) gate drops.”
Taylor said of his day, “Today didn’t start out to good for me when I wrecked pretty hard in the first test and messed up the bike pretty good when I high-sided.
“All of the plastic on the rear of the bike was just shattered and had to be replaced at the next check,” he said. “At the time, I thought it was pretty bad, but not as bad as the Italian rider who crashed in the same test and broke his hand, dropping them out of the race.”
Taylor dropped another 4 seconds during the next two tests.
“I guess I was just trying to push too hard,” he said. “It wasn’t the day I had hoped for, but it could have been worse. Going into [Day Six], I have a 12-second lead for the overall, l and the team has almost a 4 minute lead, now that Italy is out. Right now, as a team, we just have to make sure everybody finishes their final motos and stay out of trouble. For me, the most important thing is to have a solid moto without any mistakes.”
The U.S. Junior Team–Trevor Bollinger and brothers Steward and Grant Baylor–is also set to make a podium finish, if things go well in Day Six. The team is in second place, 26.92 seconds behind Sweden. Italy’s Junior Team is in third place, 3 minutes, 33 second behind the U.S. team.
“With our Junior Team, I am telling them just the opposite of the Trophy Team,” Kallonen said. “Our juniors have a history of many podium finishes, with only 27 seconds to make up to win and a three-and-a-half minute cushion to third, we can afford to takes chances.”
The U.S. last won the ISDE Junior Trophy in Argentina in 2014.
In the Women’s Trophy Team division, Australia continues its dominance holding a 3 minute, 34 second lead over Spain and a 17 minute, 50 second lead over Germany.
The U.S. women’s team–Nicole Bradford, Tarah Gieger and Rachel Gutish–sit in fourth place, 29 minutes, 53 seconds behind Australia. Gutish retired on Day Four after a mechanical failure and is the only U.S. rider, of the 28 who started, to not make it to Day Six.
Going into Day Six, two U.S. club teams sat in the top three positions, with the Trail Jesters–Josh Toth, Jason Klammer and Ben Kelley–in second place and the Eric Cleveland Memorial Team–Jimmy Jarrett, Broc Hepler and Alex Dorsey–sitting in third.
Individually, in the club team division, Toth leads the overall with Toth and Ben Kelley leading the C1 and C2 classes, respectively. Hepler is in third place in the C3 class.
After two days of competition and three special tests in the Enduro Vintage Trophy division, American Fred Hoess leads that category. He has a 1 minute, 15.79 second lead over his next closest competitor.