Mandi Mastin got her first taste of the International Six Days Enduro when she traveled to Spain in 2000 to watch her brother Cody compete as a member of the U.S. Junior Trophy Team. Today, the Ohio-born Mastin is herself a veteran of 12 ISDEs.
“I thought it was such a cool experience when I went to watch Cody that I made up my mind that I was going to compete the next year,” says Mastin. “I had basically been riding only motocross up to that point, so the whole off-road thing was new to me. But in 2001, I just put my head down, rode as much off-road as I could and went out and qualified.”
Perhaps the biggest appeal for Mastin was the atmosphere and the challenge of Six Days competition.
“It’s just such a unique event,” Mastin says. “You have to do everything yourself, working on the bike and getting ready each day, and I enjoy the weeklong struggle of finishing and staying on time.”
Mastin admits that her first year she felt a bit over her head.
“That first year I went, I probably shouldn’t have been there,” Mastin says. “I was only a C rider, but I kept telling myself I was going to finish, and I did. It’s just that drive to keep going. Now it’s the determination to go back each year and try to do better.”
As for her favorite Six Days experience, Mastin points to Chile in 2007. While it probably wasn’t her best performance, the U.S. Women’s squad won the Women’s World Cup that year in the first year the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme recognized women riders with the award. Nicole Bradford and Lacy Jones joined Mastin on the U.S. women’s team that year.
“That Six Days really sticks out in my mind because we won the first World Cup and the excitement that the three of us shared,” Mastin says. “But they are all special in their own way.”
Mastin says her goal each year is to finish with a gold-medal time, which she has yet to do.
“That’s what keeps me coming back, to get that gold medal,” says Mastin. “I’ve come so close, but I’ve just had a couple of problems that kept me from getting it.”
The camaraderie of riding as a team and competing for your country is another aspect of ISDE that appeals to Mastin.
“Even though you are pushing for a gold for yourself, you also know you are riding for your teammates, as well,” she says. “It’s an honor to go to the event and represent the United States and to be a part of a team, it’s just a lot of fun.”
The 2014 Six Days is in Argentina on Nov. 3-8, and according to Mastin, the U.S. squads should have a leg up on the competition because most of the top teams will be doing what the U.S. team has to do every year: pack up and travel overseas to the event.
“We have to work out of containers every time we go to a Six Days, so the Euro teams have it easier, because they can drive their support trucks to the event when it is held in Europe,” explains Mastin. “This year, they will be working out of containers and eating foreign food, so it will be a bigger adjustment for them.”
With her vast experience in Six Days competition, the newcomers to the team will often look to Mastin for advice.
“Like with Sarah Whitmore and Maria Forsberg, when they were on the team, I try to help them understand what’s going on and the format,” she says. “But Six Days is so much of a mental game, that the pep talks on days three and four I think are a big help.”
Mastin is more than a racer on the team. The Six Days is a major logistical effort, and Mastin’s family is in charge of organizing the transport of bikes and parts to the event each year. It’s a huge undertaking.
“It’s something we enjoy doing, and it helps the team, so it’s satisfying as well,” Mastin says.
Admitting that she can’t compete at this level forever, Mastin says she would someday like to take on more of a team leader role in the race.
“I think that would be very gratifying, to use what I’ve learned to help the U.S. women’s team do their best each year,” she says.
That’s a long way off, however. For this year, Mastin is training as hard as ever so she can chase that elusive gold medal in Argentina.
Mandi Mastin is an AMA member from Whitehouse, Ohio, who was featured in the July 2014 dirt/competition edition of American Motorcyclist.