Attention turned America's way on Day Two of the 81st Maxxis International Six Days Enduro in Taupo, New Zealand.
Leaders, you see, tend to draw eyes upon themselves and for only the third time in memory, the four-man Junior World Trophy team from the U.S. took the lead, though it was the first time it had done so this early in the Olympics of off-road motorcycle racing.
Second on Day One, the Americans jumped ahead of France to lead by almost a minute and a half, unofficially, primarily on the strength of Kurt Caselli and first-year ISDE rider Ricky Dietrich. Caselli, in fact, posted the day's fastest score - a 33:02.93 - in both E2 (250cc two-strokes/450cc four-strokes) and - more impressive - overall on his KTM 250XC two-stroke.
In the FIM World Trophy division, the French found themselves displaced by Finland, while Spain holds third. Team USA moved up to 10th from its previous 14th.
Despite torrential rain overnight, Day Two's course proved to hold up better than expected, though it still developed plenty of ruts and a few mud holes over its nearly 180-mile length. Different than Day One's course in several sections, it nonetheless became rougher and more technical, especially in the forests, and the number of racers to DNF due to either crashes or mechanical woes increased several-fold. One unconfirmed report estimated up to 50 entrants as DNFs, including a couple Polish and Dutch Trophy riders, which would still leave about 540 in the race. No Americans were among them; though, a few had close calls. Lacy Jones of the Dirt Diggers Club team, for example, apparently used all of her hour but didn't hour out, thus keeping the all-women trio intact, unofficially.
Teammate Nicole Bradford damaged the left radiator on her YZ125 and had to improvise in order to route coolant into only the right-side radiator, but it got her to the finish. Since no YZ125 radiators were available, she adapted one from a WR250F.
And Mike Monroe of the Desert M.C. Club team twisted his already-injured left knee but managed to soldier on, vowing to finish the week.
But most eyes were on the performance of Caselli, whose score on the second special test of the day (enduro test one) was best in class, and said, "It helped so much, walking that stuff. We walked that test [that he thinks he won] yesterday real good, and it's just little lines here and there that you pick up. Even if you don't get to all of them, some of them, if you can find them, it helps a lot. So going into that test, I felt pretty good, like I knew my lines pretty well, and it's just kind of slowing down to make them all work. If you get too excited, you go past the inside [lines] that you're supposed to take."
Dietrich improved quite a bit from Day One on his KX250F, his 34:21.31 good for sixth behind Finland's Juha Salminen, who carded a 33:20.97 to lead E1 (125cc two-stroke/250cc four-stroke) for the day.
"Today went good," Dietrich said. "Today, I picked it up a notch quite a bit. I think the rain might've helped me out a little bit, because I'm a good mud rider. Also, I don't know, I just kind of woke up and picked up the pace, got going."
In E3 (over 250cc two-stroke/over 500cc four-stroke), Fabien Planet of the French World Trophy team posted the top score with his 33:58.17. American Junior David Pearson, who'd done so well on Day One, hit a tree and dropped off the pace for a couple sections, while he shook it off. Gofasters.com Club team rider Patrick Garrahan put in five solid tests on his KTM 300 XC that totaled 36:10.46 to earn 17th in class for the day, the best American performance.
Day Three will repeat Day Two's course, and predictions are for an even rougher circuit and more DNFs.
Caselli added, "From yesterday to today, I think the whole [Junior World Trophy] team did a lot better, and all the guys are feeling better, and we're riding good, so there's no doubt that we'll keep going that way. Even if we do have the lead, it's too early in the whole race to even think about [winning].
"It should be a good week if we keep riding the way we all know how to, it'll be good."