Story and photos by Mark Kariya
Despite several minor issues, the 2018 U.S. ISDE team opened the 93rd FIM International Six Days Enduro in Viña del Mar, Chile, on a strong note. The team leads the FIM World Trophy standings, is second in Women's World Trophy standings and is a close third in Junior World Trophy standings.
Taylor Robert led not only the U.S. World Trophy team but put in the fastest overall score of any individual, a key factor in the team's leading results after the first day ahead of Australia and Spain.
U.S. Trophy team rider Taylor Robert posted the second-fastest overall times in each of the first five special tests before posting the fastest time in the last test of the 289-kilometer day.
"We had a crazy day," he said. "All of us wrecked [at least once]."
Though a bit banged up after being taken out on the street by an out-of-control Brazilian, Steward Baylor managed to finish decently for the U.S. World Trophy team.
Robert's teammate Steward Baylor crashed twice, including one crash in the first test. Robert said he had flashbacks to the 2017 ISDE when Thad Duvall broke his wrist in the first test and consequently put the U.S. World Trophy team out of contention to repeat its historic victory in 2016.
Chase rider Mark Hyde witnessed Baylor's second crash. A Brazilian rider overshot a turn on the pavement and took out Baylor's front wheel without warning. Though banged up, Baylor managed to finish the day without losing an extreme amount of time.
"I'm stoked that we're in the lead after the first day," Robert said. "I don't know if that's ever happened".
The Enduro Test at Pantanal showcased the beauty of the Chilean countryside.
His individual score of 54:22.61 seconds puts him at the top of the overall chart, followed by Australian Daniel Milner's 54:49.82. U.S. rider Ryan Sipes' overall time for the day was 54:57.41. Zach Bell, the only rider competing on the U.S. World Trophy team for the first time, survived his first day of racing at the event. After hitting the deck a couple times, he posted an overall time of 57:42.12.
The U.S. team leads the Australian Trophy team by 4.14 seconds with Spain in third place, 1:07.60 back.
In the Junior World Trophy category, Italy leads France by 13.44 seconds. The American trio of Grant Baylor, Ben Kelley and Josh Toth are in third place, 33.06 seconds behind Italy. Of the three Junior Trophy riders, Grant Baylor had the best day. He posted an overall time of 55:22.69, which was the fastest among all Junior riders and put him in the top 10 overall despite crashing several times.
Now in his sixth ISDE, Grant Baylor continued to show the speed he's demonstrated back home this year by turning in the best score of any Junior, helping the U.S. trio to finish a close third for the first day behind Italy and France.
"I'm sitting ninth [overall], but I'm two seconds behind fifth," Grant Baylor said. "I'm definitely stoked to be top Junior! This has been one of my goals for years and years. This is my sixth ISDE and I believe the last three years I've been a top three Junior, just fighting for it.
"As a team, we didn't have the best day. We had some issues as a team and like I said, I could've gone probably 30 seconds faster throughout the day. So just me alone with my wrecks and mistakes, if you take that away, it would've put us in the lead."
A familiar face at AMA off-road racing events, Tayla Jones set the pace for the Women's World Trophy competition. Her score was better than any other by 50.20 seconds and her Australian team is aiming for its sixth consecutive triumph.
The U.S. Women's World Trophy team (Tarah Gieger, Brandy Richards and Becca Sheets) finished the first day a strong second behind five-time and reigning champion Australia. Two of the three Australian Women's World Trophy riders, Tayla Jones and McKenzie Tricker, are regular competitors in the AMA Grand National Cross Country Series. Of the three American riders, Gieger turned in the strongest performance on the day.
Tarah Gieger rides away from the start this morning. By the time she returned this afternoon, she'd set the fastest overall time among the three U.S. Women's World Trophy team members. The Americans are in second place behind Australia by just over a minute.
"The first day was good," Gieger said. "We worked into it. We had some good test times and had some bad ones. I think it's like that across the board for everyone today. The transfers were kind of tricky. You'd be riding road and then hit a really technical transfer [section]. I think everybody went off the hillside once so that's not that fun. All in all, I think we came out of day one really good and we're ready for day two."
Watch video highlights from the first day of competition at the 2018 FIM ISDE: https://youtu.be/GrbC9Fezrwc