The dust is still settling on day one in Serres, Greece, where all the riders have quickly figured out what will be the biggest challenge of the 2008 Six Day Enduro - dust! It comes as little surprise, then, that Southern California desert native Kurt Caselli is in the overall lead at the end of the first day despite bouncing off the hood of a car at the end of the day.
"I was on the way back after all the tests were over and before we got to Parc Ferme, I turned a left hand corner a little sharp and this car was coming the other way and hit me," Caselli explained. "It was my fault, I'm sure. But I'm fine, the bike's fine. Everybody in the car was fine. So it's not a big deal; I just gotta pay attention a little more."
Caselli's Red Bull KTM teammate Nathan Kanney was on the same minute, so the two kept each other going at a good pace. The day started out with a motocross test before heading up into the mountains. Riders made such an elevation change that the temperature dropped about 20 degrees.
Caselli and teammate Nathan Kanney make jetting changes due to the altitude changes on the course.
"It's crazy," Suzuki rider Jimmy Jarrett said. "You get up to the top of the mountain and it's pretty cool and then you come down here and it's pretty hot. But it's good; you get up there and you get to cool down from the heat and come back down."
Destry Abbott and Jarrett finished 12th and 18th in the highly competitive E2 class. But the dust made it really hard to gain time especially when there were slower riders in front.
"There's guys in front of me I kept catching in tests," Abbott said, "and it's frustrating because it's so dusty you can't see. You're trying to go fast but you don't want to crash, so it's kinda tough. It's kinda the luck of the draw if you have a couple fast guys starting in front of you. That's why I think we'll do better tomorrow."
The scenic Greek landscape is very similar to West Coast U.S. terrain.
Day two will be the start of a new starting procedure in which riders are seeded according to their finish from the day before. That may or may not be a good thing since the classes go in sequence.
"I'll be able to start toward the front of the E3 class," Caselli explained, "which might be a good thing, or might be a bad thing if I'm going to be able to catch the guys in the E2 class because I'll be behind the slower guys in that class."
It will definitely be an advantage for Ricky Dietrich, since the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider will be starting on the first minute of the day after finishing third in the E1 class. After his first day at his first-ever Six Days, Dietrich is off to a good start as the sole US Trophy Team rider in the E1 class. The Arizona native actually calls the hot, dusty conditions an advantage.
Ricky Dietrich, the sole U.S. Trophy Team rider in the E1 class, currently holds down third in his class.
"It's purely West Coast terrain out here," Dietrich said of the Serres, Greece course. "It's stuff that we ride at home; it's stuff that we race at home and I think that's gonna reflect [in] our results. I think it'll help out quite a bit for the guys on the team; we're all West coast and Nate (Kanney) and Jimmy (Jarrett) have ridden out West and they're good riders. So I think we got a good advantage there."
The team wasn't totally without troubles, however. After getting off to a healthy start, FMF Suzuki's Nathan Woods ran into problems on the second test of the second loop.
"I tightened my banjo bolt on my rear brake with the light switch on it and I think they were grounded and when I took off, as soon as I hit the rear brake and the bike died on me it about killed me," Woods said. "I thought it was the ignition or something crazy. I was looking at everything and everything looked fine but the only thing I messed with was that. And I heard some of the other guys had some issues with that so I ran back to the pit which was a little ways and got some snips and ended up snipping it and it started right up. So I pretty much bombed that test.
"After that I was ten minutes down and I had to catch them just to make my minute again. For the next 35 miles, I rode like a maniac and just wore myself out and then on the way back I just made some mistakes and ended up crashing. I think it was just because of brain fade; I was just tired. I pushed it too hard to ride that way. But tomorrow will be a better day."
After a difficult day, Nathan Woods does some maintenance on his FMF Suzuki RM-Z450.
The American Junior Trophy team has also already run into bad luck as one member, Ryan Powell, is out with a dislocated shoulder.
"I caught somebody in the dust and hit a hole and dislocated my shoulder," Kamo said. "I finished the test with one arm with my shoulder still out. I popped it back in but the next couple uphills it wanted to come out and it finally came out and I know if I kept riding I'd just hurt myself more just crashing. So I decided to pull back in and just support my teammates the rest of the week."
Junior Trophy Team member David Kamo said, "It makes it difficult for the junior riders because that's our one drop rider. It makes us have to be perfect the whole week. If anything happens to the other riders then our score goes down so fast."
And something almost did happen as Kamo punched a hole in his clutch case cover somewhere amidst a slew of crashes in the special tests.
"I don't know how long that was broken," Kamo said. "I came down the hill with my whole bike squealing the entire time. It sounded like an RC car. I'm like, ‘Oh, the bottom end's going to go out.' I don't know how the bike's going to do. It should hold out the rest of the week... I hope."
Jimmy Jarrett (82), Nathan Woods (83) and Destry Abbott (81) at the start of the Six Days.
Women's Trophy Team rider Maria Forsberg is glad to have the first day out of the way and shake off the day-one jitters. She finished fourth in her class without dropping any points followed by teammate Nicole Bradford who finished fifth.
Tomorrow's course runs along the same route, which will be effectively beat after already being ridden twice by nearly 500 riders. Still, the American teams are confident that tomorrow will be a better day.
Day One Results (unofficial)
Junior Trophy Team:
1. Kurt Caselli USA
2. Cristobal Guerrero ESP
3. Sebastien Guillame FRA
4. Stefan Merriman AUS
5. Alessandro Belometti ITA
6. Fabrizio Dini ITA
7. Rodrig Thain FRA
8. Ivan Cervantes ESP
9. Juha Salminen FIN
10. Julien Gaultier FRA
12. Ricky Dietrich USA
17. Nathan Kanney USA
26. Destry Abbott USA
36. Jimmy Jarrett USA
1. Ivan Cervantes ESP
2. Julien Gaultier FRA
3. Ricky Dietrich USA
4. Simone Albergoni ITA
5. Maurizio Micheluz ITA
1. Cristobal Guerrero ESP
2. Alessandro Belometti ITA
3. Fabrizio Dini ITA
4. Rodrig Thain FRA
5. Juha Salminen FIN
1. Kurt Caselli USA
2. Sebastien Guillame FRA
3. Stefan Merriman AUS
4. Christophe Nambotin FRA
5. Marko Tarkkala FIN
(results not yet official)
1. Ludivine Puy Alonso FRA
2. Alice Geneste FRA
3. Heiki Petrik DEU
4. Maria Forsberg USA
5. Nicole Bradford USA