Story and photos by Mark Kariya
At the end of the fourth day of the 93rd FIM International Six Days Enduro, all three U.S. ISDE Trophy teams remained in second place in their divisions.
The Australia World Trophy continued to lead the World Trophy standings thanks to a strong performance by team leader Daniel Milner. The former AMA Grand National Cross Country Series competitor won all five of Thursday's special tests, helping his team increase its margin over the U.S. team to 5:50.35 seconds.
Taylor Robert continued to pace the American World Trophy effort. He was second fastest overall in two tests, third in two others and fifth in another. He continues to lead the E2 class, while teammate Steward Baylor enjoyed his best day of the event. Baylor moved up second place in class despite continuing to feel the effects of his crashes earlier in the week.
After a couple big crashes on Monday left him beat up and very sore, Steward Baylor has been able to put that behind him. On Day Four, he set the second-fastest times behind only teammate Taylor Robert, which put him fourth overall for the day.
"Today was good," Baylor said. "I ended up fourth overall on the day. That's my best day yet. My goal was to come here and compete for top five overall, and I had a really bad crash the first day. I think it took the wind out of my sails.
"I was sore all week. My shoulder's still sore, but then [my brother] Grant, he's dislocated his shoulder four times and is still sending it so I'm like, 'Yeah, I can't cry about my shoulder if he's still doing it.' Today, I went in and just tried to nail my lines and not make any mistakes. We only had two crashes all day so that was a little bit costly, but I couldn't have got third [overall individual for the day] anyway."
Steward Baylor was impressed by the performance that Milner and his Australian teammates have been putting in each day of the event.
"They're riding great," he said. "We've had some mistakes. As a whole, I think we've had a lot more mistakes than they have. It's very treacherous cross tests, enduro tests-everything's been extremely rough this year. Not necessarily rough as far as the way the track broke down, but they're very technical. It's easy to get ahead of yourself and make those costly mistakes."
One mistake apparently cost Ryan Sipes a minute penalty, though that must be confirmed at Thursday night's jury meeting. With the penalty, he drops to 10th place in the E1 Class for the day and fourth place for the event.
The fourth member of the U.S. World Trophy team, Zach Bell, is working through a huge amount of new information in his first-ever enduro. He was the 10th-fastest rider in E3 Thursday, and is in 11th place in the class standings.
Josh Toth had his best day yet on Day Four with the second-best times in the E1 Class, which moved him up to fifth-fastest in E1 for the event.
In the Junior division, the Italian team added nearly a minute to its lead over the U.S. trio. The gap between the teams is now 4:24.22. American rider Grant Baylor posted subpar times in the second and fifth tests, though Josh Toth came through brilliantly with the second-fastest E1 time for the day. Toth's performance moved him up to fifth place in class for the event. American rider Ben Kelley posted Thursday's seventh-fastest times in the E2 Class, which moved him into 12th place overall in the class.
Like Toth and Baylor, Brandy Richards had her best day yet as she's finally coming to terms with the terrain. She got within eight seconds of week-long class leader Tayla Jones of Australia for the day and is less than two seconds behind second place after four days.
After what she considered a slow start to the week, U.S. Women's World Trophy team rider Brandy Richards has begun showing improvement as she adjusts to the course conditions. On Thursday, she was the second-fastest woman on the day, 7.8 seconds behind Australia's Tayla Jones.
If a country is doing particularly well, the organizers usually assign an official to watch each check and particularly the main pit to note any rule violations.
"I've been working on more consistency [in the tests]," Richards said. "I was really struggling with that [at first]. Every day I've been improving. Yesterday, I struggled in just one test and today I kind of did a little bit better. I didn't have any crazy incidents. I was pretty consistent today."
Along with teammates Tarah Gieger and Becca Sheets, Richards' strong performance Thursday helped the U.S. team maintain second place in the standings. Its gap to the Australian team is now 8:02.29.
Wednesday's Club team results showed the American RPM/Mt. Baker team of Cooper Abbott, Ryan Kudla and Dante Oliviera has been the top American at this year's ISDE. The team was in fourth place Wednesday , moving ahead of a team from the British Army in the overall Club standings. Oliveira put in the fastest U.S. Club team score on Wednesday.
Friday's course is to be a mostly new loop, with two laps totaling 273 kilometers over the course of about seven hours. Each lap will feature three enduro tests, so six test times will comprise a rider's score for the day.
Video highlights from Day Four: https://youtu.be/WCDH06AiGRg