Observation Check Column

Kit Palmer | December 24, 2016

Cycle News Observation Check



I’m a sports guy. But motorcycles—more specifically motorcycle racing—is my number-one passion; that pretty much goes without saying. Ever since I threw a leg over a two-wheeled vehicle that I didn’t have to pedal, that had its own source of power, oh man. I’ve never looked back.

I love riding motorcycles so much that I was unbelievably fortunate to be able to make a career out of it. Still, I never lost interest in sports in general, even the standard ones like baseball, football, basketball and hockey. I have my teams I follow, hoping they all go on to win the “big one” at the end of the season—at least once in my lifetime. In 2012, when the L.A. Kings won the Stanley Cup for the first time, I joked afterward, “okay, I’m good now, all of my teams have won the big one—I can go to heaven now a satisfied man.”

Well, maybe not completely satisfied I later thought, because the U.S. had never won the ISDE! We’ve won the Motocross des Nations (yes, “des”) a million times but never the ISDE.

Cycle News Issue 50 Back Page
2016 U.S. ISDE Team

I covered my first Six Days in 1985 and was super anxious to go to Alp, Spain, and see the ISDE with my own eyes. Like many of us, our introduction to the Six Days was watching Malcolm Smith on the big screen in the movie “On Any Sunday” navigate the foggy, single-track trails in the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain. This really stuck with me, especially when the narrator said that riding the ISDT (which is what it was called back then) was like “six days on a bongo board.” I thought, “Man, that sounds gnarly (whatever a bongo board is).”

The ISDE is an amazing event and it’s one of those things that you have to see for yourself in order to really appreciate it. It’s only been held on U.S. soil twice in the event’s 103-year history—Massachusetts in 1973 and Oklahoma in 1994—so most Americans haven’t seen one up close and personal.

As a result, most Americans haven’t seen the blood, sweat and tears that goes into competing in the ISDE. It cost tons of money and uses up lots of valuable time, many of the riders and team volunteers sacrificing their hard-earned vacation and money to do it. It always amazes me how volunteers will burn two weeks of their vacation to stand on a dirt road in the middle of a corn field, often times in the dust, mud, heat, cold or all of the above, all day just to clean off someone’s goggles that they hardly even know and pour gas into their bikes—not to mention getting up at some ungodly hour to do so, and having to stay up late at night to attend a team meeting.

It really is gnarly stuff, and they do it all with a smile—it’s awesome. And I say that in the true meaning of the word: awe-inspiring.

That’s one of the reasons I kept “volunteering” to cover the Six Days for this publication, which I did for something like 13-15 years straight. My last Six Days was in Brazil, 2003 (the one that Stefan Everts won), and I believe it was Kurt Caselli’s first ISDE and he was top American as a junior world rider.

Ever since 1985, I’ve been pulling more than I had ever before for Team USA to win the Six Days and many have valiantly tried, but when Kurt Caselli came along and got involved with the ISDE and said it was his goal to make a victory happen, you just knew it was going to happen. And it did. He got everyone fired up and we finally got to bring the trophy home. Just wish he could’ve been here to see it happen. Maybe he was.

I guess I can say that all of my teams have won the big one now, and I totally understand how Cubs fans felt when Chicago won the World Series. I felt the same way when I got the news that the U.S. team had indeed finally finished ‘em off in Spain—way to go Taylor, Kailub, Michael and Thad, and everyone else, especially the hard-working volunteers, involved with their winning effort! Thank you! And thank you, too, Kurt.

So for me, it was a no-brainer to pick the ISDE team as my choice for the 2016 CN Rider(s) of the Year, and I wasn’t the only one, either; the entire CN staff easily went along with it too. I’m glad they did, ’cause things could’ve gotten ugly!

There were, however, other worthy considerations for ROTY. The first to come to mind was Greg Hancock, the amazing 46-year-old who captured his fourth FIM Speedway World Championship. He was our CN Rider of the Year in 2011 when he won his last title, and seriously, I wouldn’t bet against him winning another.

And then there was Cooper Webb, who overcame injuries to win both the AMA 250SX West Supercross and 250MX outdoor titles, and Colton Haaker, who became the first American to win an off-road FIM World Championship when he captured the 2015-2016 SuperEnduro crown. He followed that up with his first AMA EnduroCross Championship after an intense series-long battle with defending champ Cody Webb.

We considered Flat Track Champ Bryan Smith, who claimed his first title and the first in flat-track racing for Kawasaki, and, of course, Marc Marquez, and even Moto3 Champion Brad Binder, who came from nowhere to win that title. This guy is something special. But when it comes to rider of the year? No doubt—Team USA.

Cycle News Issue 50

As you can probably tell, this is our final—and largest—issue of the year, which, around here, we simply refer to as “issue 50.” Yes, that’s how many we’ve done this year, and pretty much how many we’ve done every year for the last 50 years. Traditionally, at least in modern times, we usually fill issue 50 with interviews with some of the year’s champions. Unfortunately, we just physically can’t get them all into one issue, but this year we feel we have a nice selection of interviews that you will enjoy reading over the holidays while we take our traditional year-end two-week break from publishing Cycle News magazine (our website, however, never rests). These interviews are all new ones from those we had last year, but we have more interviews queued up, like one with MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier, Moto3 Champion Brad Binder and AMA Hare & Hound Champion Ricky Brabec, which you will be able to read soon on our website and in near future issues.

We’ll see you again January 9 right after Anaheim I. Can’t wait to do it all over again! CN

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Kit Palmer | Editor Kit Palmer started his career at Cycle News in 1984 and he’s been testing dirt and streetbikes ever since – plus covering any event that uses some form of a knobby tire. He’s also our resident motorcycle mileage man with a commute of 120 miles a day.