Team USA Prepped For 92nd Edition Of ISDE In France
After spending the better part of this past week walking tests and preparing for Monday’s start of the 92nd edition of the International Six Days Enduro in Brive-la-Gaillarde, France, Team USA looks poised and as ready as it can be to defend the FIM World Trophy Team title it won at last year’s event in Spain. The US FIM Junior Trophy Team, as well as the US FIM Women’s squad and numerous club teams, are expected to compete for division titles in their respective classes, as well. In addition, Taylor Robert will be looking to repeat as the Individual overall winner, though he will be up against some pretty stiff competition for the honor from his own teammates, which include 2015 individual ISDE overall winner Ryan Sipes, Multi-time GNCC champion Kailub Russell, and perhaps the hottest rider on the US off-road circuit right now, Thad DuVall.
More than eight hundred riders entered in this year’s event, including nineteen FIM World Trophy teams, sixteen FIM Junior World Trophy teams and nine FIM Women’s World trophy teams. There are also more than five hundred riders signed up to compete in the Club team competition.
Team USA made history last year by claiming America’s first ever World Trophy class victory, thanks to the riding skills of Taylor Robert, Thad DuVall, Kailub Russell and Layne Michael (Ryan Sipes was originally on the team but a last minute injury forced the Kentucky rider out of the event and Layne Michael took his place). This year, World Trophy Team riders Taylor Robert, Kailub Russell, Ryan Sipes and Thad DuVall will be looking to grab a second-straight team victory. Meanwhile, the US Junior Trophy Team is regarded this year as one of the teams to beat thanks to the combined riding talents of Josh Toth, Grant Baylor and Lane Michael. In addition, the US Women’s team, composed of Kacy Martinez, Becca Sheets and Brandy Richards, should give defending champions Australia a run for its money.
Notable among this year’s Club Team riders are former EnduroCross and US National Trials champion Cody Webb and Team Jesters KTM Racing’s Ben Kelley, who is coming off of a wrist Injury.
Mechanics, support people, family members and friends spent Friday in the paddocks at Team USA’s “tent city” putting the finishing touches on the bikes, as well as preparing tires for later in the week, while the riders spent the day walking tests. Walking the tests and learning all of the turns and hot lines is an important task and the US squad did its homework this week. In fact, most of the team was walking tests as early as Tuesday, just a few hours after landing from nearly 12 hours worth of travel.
The riders spent Friday morning on the practice track located just across from the paddocks, where they used the time to set up suspension and to test tire combinations in the local dirt. Here, Kailub Russell sets his sag during one of his test sessions.
Fresh off of a big win at this year’s Tennessee Knockout, former EnduroCross champion and US National Trials Champ Cody Webb will be giving Six Days a try. Webb has represented the United States before at the Trial des Nations, but this will be his first time at the ISDE. “It’s crazy how much prep goes into this thing,” Webb said about all of the walking he and the different team riders did during the week. “I’ve ridden the Trial des Nations before, but it’s really an honor to be about to ride this event and to get to walk the tests with the US World Trophy Team guys. I’ve learned a lot watching guys like Ryan Sipes and Taylor Roberts walk the tests and hopefully I’ll be able to hit some flat grassy lines by the end of the week.”
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing mechanic David Hall makes final adjustments to US Junior Team rider Grant Baylor’s bike. This week is critical for the mechanics because during the race the mechanics aren’t allowed to work on the bikes, although they can assist with things like handing riders tools and fueling the bike.
Kacy Martinez will anchor a US Women’s team that also includes Becca Sheets and Brandy Richards. This year marks the first time US team manager Antti Kallonen handles the management duties of the Women’s team and his expectations for the ladies is no different than that of the Trophy Team – to win.
Thad DuVall comes into the event on a hot streak, having won four national enduro rounds in a row. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider has also won two of the last four GNCC races.
KTM factory mechanic Charles Marchant checks the spokes on one of the team bikes on Friday. Once the bikes are checked into impound, the mechanics are relegated to chores like prepping bib mousses and tires for each day’s competition.
The US Husqvarna and KTM off-road teams sent all available mechanics for this year’s event. Michael Thompson normally works as Jacob Argubright’s mechanic in the National Hare and Hound series.
For the most part, club riders depend on family members and friends as support crews. Here, Ben Kelley’s father, Mike, preps one of Ben’s tires for the event. Ben, from Connecticut, is fast becoming one of the fastest off-road riders in the northeast, though he will be riding with a sore wrist, which he injured at the recent Tennessee Knockout.
Josh Toth, center, was the fastest club rider at last year’s event in Spain, which landed him a spot on this year’s US FIM Junior Trophy Team. Josh is another rider from the northeast and shines in technical and rocky terrain. Most recently, Toth won the Tough Like RORR race in Pennsylvania.
Changing tires will be an important job for the riders during the 10-minute work period after each day. However, on Friday, the mechanics got plenty of tire-changing experience. Thad DuVall’s mechanic Tanner Tremaine demonstrates.
US World and Junior Trophy Team bikes sit under Team USA’s tent early in the morning just before the area became a beehive of activity. Friday is the last day for final adjustments before the bikes are impounded on Saturday.
Ben Kelley gets ready to head out to the practice area, where he will check his suspension and tire setup. Ben is part of the Trail Jesters KTM Racing team.
Antti Kallonen is the team manager for Team USA and he talks about how important the week before the race is. “This week is just as important as all the preparation we have done at home and the team that is the most prepared will have the best shot at winning,” said Kallonen. “The guys have been walking the tests and we have been doing final adjustments on the test track and things are looking good. The riders are confident, they’ve been walking a lot to get familiar with the tests and we feel we’ve done all we can do to be prepared for next week.”