The tests have been walked. The bikes have been tested, teched and impounded (after they finally got here due to shipping delays). The opening ceremonies have been enjoyed by all, and the 97th FIM International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in San Juan, Argentina, is ready to get racing underway in hours.
Story and Photos by Mark Kariya
In the run-up to what promises to be a tough week in an inhospitable desert with rising temperatures, the U.S. ISDE team is, as a whole, ready and anxious to roll wheels, quietly confident of success.
A field of 321 riders is officially entered in the oldest-running off-road race on the FIM calendar, and the U.S. squad potentially figures to be among the front-runners in all categories.
They’ll need to be to best the challenge of France, whose World Trophy (WT) team won here in 2014, as well as Great Britain, the defending WT champ.
But the U.S. WT quartet of Johnny Girroir, Cole Martinez, Dante Oliveira and Taylor Robert have proven speed individually as well as championship-winning experience, and the last three are especially familiar with the desert, being based in the Southwest of the U.S.
Argentina, however, will be the final Six Days for Robert as a professional rider, having announced his retirement a few days ago.
As he said in a KTM press release, “This will be my 11th ISDE alongside [U.S. Trophy Team Manager] Antti [Kallonen]. Last year was the only one that I’ve missed—due to injury—and it’s been my favorite race of the year since Kurt Caselli took me under his wing in 2010.
“I really had no knowledge coming into it, but it turned out to be a very important part of my career. It took me a few years to get there, and 2016 was when I won my first individual overall and class as well, which I won the next three years in a row.
“To look back and see where we started with Antti, everything has been taken to a whole new level, and I feel like this was a fitting way to cap off my career. I feel really good on the bike right now, the terrain here is really similar to [where I live and train] in Arizona, and this is a good opportunity to finish on a good note, something I can look back on and be proud of.”
As a veteran Six Days rider who’s last one was here in 2014, Jeff Fredette has seen an army of riders participate. Asked how he expected Robert’s retirement to affect the team, Fredette replied, “It shouldn’t affect anything. I think [the riders] come over to do the job, and it shouldn’t change the way they ride, with it being his last one. There was a team before he came along, and there’ll be a team after he’s gone—everything goes in cycles.
“As far as it affecting how hard they’ll push or whatever, I think it’ll be the same [effort]—it should be the same; they should give it 100 percent [all the time].”
Of the U.S. Junior World Trophy (JWT) team of three, Mateo Oliveira is the sole returnee from last year, joined in Argentina by AMA NGPC Pro II standout Kai Aiello and GNCC XC2 star Grant Davis, who is the only one without previous Six Days experience.
While Italy has won the last two JWT competitions, the American trio of riders under 23 years old has a good chance to win for the first time since 2014, the last time the U.S. hoisted the trophy.
In the Women’s World Trophy (WWT), Great Britain is the current champ, but they’ll be tested by America’s Rachel Gutish, Brandy Richards and Korie Steede. Australia also figures to be a strong contender with a proven lineup including GNCC and Sprint Enduro star Tayla Jones, its team aiming to add to its record of six triumphs in a row.
Among the Club teams, the U.S. has seven teams, so 21 individual riders—the second most behind host Argentina with 33 teams plus three riders who are part of two Latin America teams.
In numerical order, they are XC Gear (Austin Serpa, Ryan Surratt, Josh Toth), GTBN (Jaden Dahners, Thorn Devlin, Nate Ferderer), Missouri Mudders (Cade Henderson, Trevor Maley, Jhak Walker), Braaptastic.com (Preston Campbell, Axel Pearson, Zachary Toth), Steve Hatch Racing POTM (Chase Bright, Jackson Davis, Hunter Smith), Eric Cleveland Memorial (Nolan Cate, Ava Silvestri, Kyle Tichenor) and Elizabeth Scott Community (John Beal, Rick Emerson, Jeremy Shoning).
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