By Steve Berkner
NAVARRA, Spain – Despite rain showers that lasted for nearly 24 hours, the U.S. Trophy team added just over a minute to its lead over Italy on Day Three of the International Six Days Enduro.
For the second day in a row U.S. Trophy Team rider Taylor Robert finished Day Three in first place overall. Photo by Steve Berkner
The U.S. Trophy Team now leads the second-place Italian team by 1 minute, 35.88 seconds. Spain is in third place, 1 minute, 44.77 seconds behind the Americans.
For the second day in a row, the U.S. team’s efforts were led by Taylor Robert, who remained in the top overall position after turning in the fastest combined special tests times for the day. The four-rider U.S. Trophy Team includes Robert, Kailub Russell, Thad Duvall and Layne Michael.
Robert, who also competed in this year’s Enduro World Championship, said, “I’ve had some good results in slippery, muddy conditions in the World Championship races, so I wasn’t too worried about the (muddy) conditions. The tests were certainly slippery in places. For me, it was a great day.”
Robert’s six Day-Three test times were fast enough to rank third, first, 18th, fourth, second and fourth, respectively.
“We added over a minute to our lead over Italy today, after we got off to another very strong start where the Italians seemed to start slow,” said team manager Antti Kallonen said. “This was even more important with the rain, because conditions were muddy and very slick.
“Today (Day Three) had new trail, and when it rains like it did, we actually are at a little of a disadvantage with Taylor’s and Kailub’s start positions (currently Robert is first overall and Russell is in fifth place) as they are some of the first riders out and have to break a lot of new trail.”
Each day’s starting position is based on the rider’s overall finish the day before. Three riders start each minute on adjusted time.
Day Three got off to a hectic start for the U.S. Trophy Team, when the decision was made less than a half hour before the first U.S. rider was scheduled to leave for the day to go with a softer tire compound to improve traction.
Rain fell overnight before the start of Day Three competition and was expected to continue throughout the day. Six of the seven U.S. Trophy and Junior Trophy riders swapped out “normal compound” tires for “mud compound” tires during the morning 10-minute work period. Photo by Steve Berkner
“With more rain forecast for the rest of the day, we actually had both of the World Trophy and Junior Trophy Teams change to a softer compound mud tire during the morning 10-minute work period,” Kallonen said. “Tire compounds are becoming more important in European off-road (motorcycle) competition, because the rules require a DOT-approved tire and choices of tires are very limited. More recently, some of the tire manufacturers are making special mud-compound tires just for the Enduro World Championships that are very soft and good for the mud but don’t hold up well for any other conditions.”
The team was able to locate some of those tires just before the start of Day Three competition.
“As it turned out, the tires seemed to help,” Kallonen said. “Our results were very good today. Right now, there isn’t any more rain forecast for the rest of the week, so we will go with the normal tires unless it starts to rain again.”
The U.S. Junior Team moved up one position to second place overall when second-place Spain lost a rider to a DNF. The U.S. Juniors are now 1 minute, 55.60 seconds behind Sweden and 1 minute, 34.91 seconds ahead of third-place Italy.
“At one point, we were actually about 30 seconds closer to catching Sweden, but then Grant (Baylor) had a mishap on the last test when he had a tip-over and actually got his foot caught in the rear tire and had a hard time freeing himself when his boot got caught between the spokes and the brake caliper,” Kallonen said. “Even though the Swedish Junior team is in the lead, they are very young and don’t have the experience that our three riders have.”
All three of this year’s U.S. Junior team rode together two years ago in Argentina, where they won the Junior Team division Silver Vase. The U.S. Junior team is made up of Grant Baylor, his brother Steward Baylor and Trevor Bollinger.
The U.S. Women’s Trophy Team of Tarah Gieger, Rachel Gutish and Nicole Bradford moved up to fourth place where the team is 2 minutes, 31.75 seconds out of third place. Australia, Spain and Germany are the top three teams in that category.
U.S. Women’s World Trophy rider Nicole Bradford waits for her teammate Rachel Gutish to leave the start platform of a special test on Day Three. Photo by Steve Berkner
In the three-rider club team division, the U.S. club team Trail Jesters, made up of riders Josh Toth, Jason Klammer and Ben Kelley, remain in second place. The American team Eric Cleveland Memorial, made up of riders Jimmy Jarrett, Broc Hepler and Alex Dorsey, team moved up from fourth place to third.
Individually, among U.S. club team riders, Toth leads the C1 class, Kelley leads the C2 class, and Hepler is in third place overall in the C3 class.
“Again, our club team riders are turning in some terrific results,” Kallonen said. “Out of our six teams, we have three in the top seven and a fourth team in 11th. I think we can attribute that to the success we’ve had with a lot of podium finishes recently in the Trophy and Junior Trophy teams. That philosophy, which has brought us success on our trophy teams, is showing up at the club team level as well.”