The 90th International Six Days Enduro held in Slovakia September 7-12 started off great for Team USA then went terribly awry before Ryan Sipes became the first ever American to win the individual overall.
Crashes and bike failures thwarted Team USA's chances though the momentum loss that came with a disqualification which affected several teams on Day 3 when eight riders, including Taylor Robert on the American team, got lost and missed a punch card, probably didn't help. That dropped USA from second place to out of the Top 20 and initially ended any hopes of winning their first ever World Team Trophy halfway through the event.
USA finished Day 1 as the top team, the first time that's ever happened, but they slipped to second behind Australia on Day 2 though just eight seconds back. At the time, American Kailub Russell, one of the team's strongest riders, led everyone individually. The wheels fell of the next day.
Amid the controversy on Day 3 surrounding the disqualified riders, which appeared to be a result of poor course marking, Russell crashed which ended his week.
"I felt my knee pop on the first cross test today and knew it wasn't good. I got a pain killing injection and tried to ride on, but then I had a big crash on the next Enduro test," he said. "I hit something on a downhill and my bike cartwheeled and got pretty smashed up."
Russell returned to the United States early to get an MRI done on his knee. He currently leads the 2015 Grand National Cross Country series and is looking for his third straight Championship. As of today, his knee was still being evaluated and he expects to ride this weekend for Round 10. Under healthy conditions, Russell has an insurmountable lead and needs just 17 points to claim the title. Grant Baylor, who competed on the Junior Trophy class at the ISDE, is 104 points back from Russell in the standings with 120 points remaining over four rounds.
Russell said he tweaked his knee on Day 2 on the last test and it was a little sore for Day 3. He won the first test of Day 3 and on Test 2 fell into a ravine and heard his knee pop and felt sharp pain. He was seven minutes late to the checkpoint but soldiered on then had a big crash on Test 4 which ended his week.
On Day 4, USA lost Thad Duvall after an electronic failure leaving just three members of the team competing. On Day 5, the disqualified riders were reinstated after further review but by then the United States was out of contention to claim the World Team Trophy so all eyes turned towards Sipes who is in fifth place in the GNCC. The former Motocross/Supercross star transitioned to off-road last year and seems to have found a new career in dirt bike racing.
He led the overall position on Day 4, held on to it on Day 5, and went into Day 6 looking at tests more akin to Motocross. Sipes, who battled with Australia's Daniel Milner all week, won the final Moto on the last day taking the lead after the first turn and closing out the win.
"Well, I pulled it off," he said on his Instagram site. "Can't even explain the feeling. I think happy sums it up."
Sipes said he didn't want to talk about his lead and performance during competition though not because of jinxing it but in order to keep his focus. He said moving to off-road from Motocross has been tough and being the first American to win the individual overall is unbelievable.
"I just feel like the weight is off my shoulders and the stress is gone," he said. "We can celebrate now, we can talk about it now."
The reinstatement of the disqualified riders did little to help the United States which as a team finished 22nd. However, Australia which led the entire week after Day 2 and did not lose any riders, lost out to France which originally lost half of its riders from the disqualification. Australia was the only team in the Top 5 that day to not have any riders disqualified and walked off the podium in protest. Spain took third. It was France's fourth straight victory.
Australia did claim victory in the Junior World Trophy. USA's team had no chance of defending their Junior title losing Layne Michael on Day 1 to injury and Nick Davis on Day 5 to a mechanical failure.
The ISDE, also known as the Olympics of Motorcycling, started in 1913 as the International Six Days Trial which changed to its current name in 1981. Riders obey strict rules over the six day enduro-style race that can extend 1,250 miles. Each day consists of six "tests" riders compete in both individually and for team overalls. The worst scores of the week get dropped so if a team has a rough outing early they have to remain perfect the rest of the week which is what happened to Team USA in 2014 when they finished second. ISDE racing categories include the primary six-rider World Trophy class and the four-rider Junior Trophy class.
Written By: AndrewT