Annual international off-road competition kicks off Monday
Story and photos by Mark Kariya
Hopes and expectations are high for the U.S ISDE team in the hours before the start of the 94th FIM International Six Days Enduro in Portimao, Portugal.
The annual international off-road competition takes place Nov. 11-16 on the grounds of the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve.
Having finished second last year in all three Trophy classes (FIM World Trophy, Junior World Trophy and Women’s World Trophy), the American Trophy teams have their sights set on the top step of the podium.
“I think we have a really strong team and a good shot at winning,” U.S. ISDE Trophy Team rider Kailub Russell said. “We just need to have luck on our side. Hopefully everybody stays healthy, the bikes stay together and we keep motivated.”
Russell and his teammates Steward Baylor, Taylor Robert and Ryan Sipes are all coming off successful individual seasons and exude a quiet confidence about competing against defending champion Australia, as well as other contending teams like France, Great Britain, Italy and Spain.
For the U.S. ISDE Junior World Trophy Team, the trio of Grant Baylor, Ben Kelley and Josh Toth remains unchanged from 2018. Kelley noted that all three riders have lots of experience in ISDE competition.
“It’s going to be my sixth ISDE,” Kelley said. “Yeah, it’s been a long time. It’s kind of a funny joke. Josh, Grant and I probably have the most experienced junior team out there. We’re all riding really good now and everyone’s healthy and feeling good. We walked the tests and it definitely doesn’t suit all our styles, but it’s kind of typical Six Days. I’m excited to get out there and I think we have a really good chance.”
The three riders on the U.S. ISDE Women’s World Trophy Team have much the same mindset as the Junior team, with the same three who competed in last year’s event (Tarah Gieger, Brandy Richards and Becca Sheets) back and ready to challenge the 2018 championship-winning Australian team.
Though a last-minute replacement for Jordan Jarvis who was injured recently, Gieger was motivated to take part. One difference this year is she’s having to rent a bike instead of being able to ride her own.
“We were kind of deflated after Chile because it wasn’t what we were promised,” Geiger said. “The terrain and the tests were supposed to be different and we ended up riding the same tests all week. Here [in Portugal], there’s good diversity and good layout and we’re really all excited about the sand [tests] at the beginning of the week, which we didn’t get in Chile.”
Seven three-man Club teams also are representing the United States at the event, with several first-time ISDE competitors in the mix. One of those first-timers is GNCC regular Ricky Russell, who’s on the XC Gear team with second-year rider Dante Oliveira and ISDE freshman Austin Walton.
“I’ve been racing GNCCs since 2013 and I know all my friends do Six Days all the time,” Russell said. “There was one year when [U.S. Team Manager] Antti [Kallonen] was talking to me about being on the Junior Trophy [team], but I was actually one month too old! I was bummed out I didn’t get to [race] and experience it with the team. We have a really good team; it’s almost like a mini-Junior Trophy team. They’re all really fast riders.”
Saturday’s final day of competition will feature a supermoto-style competition, as occurred in Brazil in 2003.