By Steve Berkner
NAVARRA, Spain – While the U.S. Trophy Team ended a wet and muddy Day-three with a 1 minute, 35.88 second lead over Italy in the International Six Days Enduro, it gave back nearly 14 seconds of that lead during the Day Four competition after another night of rains created even wetter and muddier course conditions.
U.S. World Trophy Team rider Taylor Robert still leads the Six Days overall after four days of competition. Photo by Steve Berkner
In the first test of the day, the Italians sliced nearly a third of the U.S. lead, gaining 28.30 seconds.
It would take the U.S. Trophy Team–Taylor Robert, Kailub Russell, Thad Duvall and Layne Michael–the rest of the Day Four’s six special tests to claim back half of that deficit. The U.S. now leads Italy by 1 minute, 22.31 seconds.
Starting positions that proved advantageous on Day Three turned into a disadvantage on Day Four, with Robert on row one and Russell on row two. The duo was “breaking trail” ahead of all four Italian Trophy Team riders.
During that test, Robert placed 10th and Russell 21st.
“It was just really slippery out there,” Russell said. “The test didn’t really deteriorate as much (from Day Three) as it was just really, really slick everywhere. It was like riding on ice. The mud here is nothing like back home, where when it rains, it gets deep and rutty. Here is just polished slick. Most of the time, I’m just trying to keep it on two wheels.”
Russell finished the day in 10th place overall, which dropped him from fifth to sixth overall for the first four days.
Duvall is considered a “mud specialist” in the United States, but the course still gave him trouble.
“I don’t think you can compare these conditions to anything like I’ve ridden in the States,” he said. “That first enduro test was some of the slickest trail I have ever ridden in my life. It was hard to find the right gear to be in but I was happy I got through it without having too many problems.”
Duvall finished that test with the 12th fastest time and went on to finish the day in 13th overall, his best days test finish at this year’s ISDE.
“That first test today really hurt us,” said U.S. National Enduro Team manager Antti Kallonen. “Although we never want to give back any time to our competitors, these types of things happen in team competition. We can’t make excuses it was just extremely slippery and we had riders starting out front where it was hard to find traction or just hold your line. From then on (after the first enduro test) we were able to gain back some time and more than hold on to our lead.”
Kallonen said Day Four can be a turning point at ISDE.
“If you can get through Day Four without any real problems, you probably have a good chance at a good finish,” he said. “Going into Day Five with a minute and 22 second lead is still a good place to be in.
“Day Five is the last full day, but it’s still shorter than any of the days so far,” he explained. “More importantly, it’s got some new trail and a new test which I’m sure our guys will be looking forward too. It will be up to our guys to hold their ground. Going into Day-six and the final moto our goal is to have at least a one minute lead.”
In the Junior Trophy category, the second-place U.S. Team of Trevor Bollinger and brothers Steward and Grant Baylor made up over 1 minute, 30 seconds on Sweden. Starting Day Four 1 minute, 55.60 seconds behind, they ended the day just 24.24 seconds back.
“While our Trophy Team didn’t have the best day, our junior team had a very, very good day,” Kallonen said. “They picked up a minute and a half on Sweden and are now only 25 seconds back.
“All three of our Junior Team riders are east coast guys and excel in the mud back home, where, when the going gets tough, they just get better. Our goal tomorrow, like with our trophy team is to go into Day-six and the final moto with a minute lead.”
The U.S. Women’s Trophy Team, still in fourth place, lost rider Rachel Gutish, the first U.S. rider lost from a team of 28. She went out with a mechanical failure mid-day.
Teammate Nicole Bradford explained Gutish’s misfortune.
“Before the second check, we all ran into a bottle neck where you lost enough time waiting our turn to get up the hill that you were going to get penalty points for being late at the next check,” she said. “Rachel was trying not to lose any more time and lost control on the trail and hit a tree, hurting her knee.
“After the check, I saw her on the side of the road and stopped to ask her how she was doing and she was worried that she might have hurt her knee bad. I told her to follow me back to the paddock where she had her knee looked at and was able to get back out on the trail for the second lap.
“Later I saw her again on the side of the trail. I stopped and this time she said her bike had just quit working and she told me she was done and to just go on.”
Gutish’s retirement will not exclude the three-rider U.S. Women’s Team from ISDE competition. In the Women’s Trophy Team division, only the top two scores are counted each day. Bradford’s score along with teammate Tarah Gieger’s score will by default be the two rider’s scores counted.
In the three-rider club team division, the U.S. Team of Josh Toth, Jason Klammer and Ben Kelley, the Trail Jesters, remained in second place, 5 minutes, 39 seconds behind an Team Italy and held a comfortable lead of more than 6-and-a-half minutes over Team Scotland.
Toth leads all the overall club team riders with eight wins in the event’s 24 special tests.
The U.S. Club team Eric Cleveland Memorial–Jimmy Jarrett, Broc Hepler and Alex Dorsey–dropped from third place to fourth, 8.22 seconds out of third. The U.S. club team the Missouri Mudders–Nathan Ferderer, Ryan Powell and J.T. Baker–are in sixth place.
Day Four also saw the start of the three-day Vintage World Trophy division, with more than 130 vintage motorcycles entered. These bikes must have been manufactured before 1987. The lone U.S. rider in the vintage class is 25-time Six Days participant Fred Hoess, who finished the day’s only test, an acceleration test, in third place.