Looking Back At The 2019 International Six Days Enduro

Insight on Team USA’s performance at the 2019 ISDE.

US team manager Antti Kallonen described this year’s effort as the most organized to date.
US team manager Antti Kallonen described this year’s effort as the most organized to date.Courtesy of KTM

Team USA enjoyed lots of success at the 2019 FIM International Six Days of Enduro (ISDE) in Portimão, Portugal, and US ISDE team manager Antti Kallonen described this year’s US effort as their best yet, considering the American teams won the World, Women’s, and Club Trophy divisions and finished second in the Junior Trophy class.

The US World Trophy Team of Taylor Robert, Ryan Sipes, Kailub Russell, and Steward Baylor fell behind Australia on days 1 and 2, but were able to turn it around midweek.
The US World Trophy Team of Taylor Robert, Ryan Sipes, Kailub Russell, and Steward Baylor fell behind Australia on days 1 and 2, but were able to turn it around midweek.Darrin Chapman

In the World Trophy division, Team Australia jumped out to an early lead on the first two days thanks to the brilliant riding of Daniel Sanders, who went on to win the individual overall award at this year’s event. However, by midweek, the US squad of Taylor Robert, Ryan Sipes, Kailub Russell, and Steward Baylor began to turn things around, and eventually caught and beat the Australians for the World Trophy award.

The US Junior Trophy Team of Ben Kelley, Grant Baylor, and Josh Toth went into the event as the favorites to win, but came in second behind Australia. The Women’s World Trophy Team of Tarah Gieger, Brandy Richards, and Becca Sheets took the lead from Germany on the second day and never looked back, winning the class for the first time since 2007 when Mandy Mastin, Lacy Jones, and Nicole Bradford won the first-ever Women’s trophy. Meanwhile, the team of Ricky Russell, Dante Oliveira, and Austin Walton won the Club Team class.

We spoke to Kallonen and a few of the riders to get the story behind their performance.

Kallonen recounts this year’s effort as the most organized to date. “We arrived early, so we were able to taper off the walking when it got close to race day,” Kallonen explained. “We walked the most we’ve ever walked, but yet the riders were mostly recovered by the time the race started because all of the riders, except the Baylor brothers and Taylor, arrived early, much earlier than in prior years. We were the first riders walking the tests. There was no one else [who] walked the test before us. We started walking and we started in a good pace. As the race got closer, we tapered off walking and we took the time to actually replenish our bodies and take care of our bodies to be fresh for the start. Along with that, we had some nutritional changes as well for the entire team. We were taking better care of our nutrition—our lunches and hydration. All of that was much better taken care of this year leading up to the race and during it. Those are the things that we kind of refined and did better.”

The US World Trophy Team fell behind Australia on days 1 and 2, but were able to turn it around midweek. The problem was that Australia’s Daniel Sanders was outrunning everyone by large margins and boosting the Aussie’s status in the results. “Obviously they pulled on us from the first two days,” Kallonen noted. “At the first day when we had a little recap, the guys were saying, ‘Daniel Sanders is just pulling us too much on the sand tests.’ Once we got out of the sand, the riders were all confident that we would gain back the time. Sure enough, we did. Basically, after days 1 and 2, I was telling the guys, ‘Don’t be discouraged because we have three guys in the top five.’ Usually if you have three guys in the top five, the team is leading, but it wasn’t the case because Sanders was the solo rider just so far ahead leading the overall that he was kind of carrying the whole weight of Australia. We knew as the week would wear on and we would get to the clay tests that we would be closer to him. That was really the truth. Wednesday came and we closed the gap and pulled almost a minute on day 3, so that was the turning point. Ever since then, we were always able to gain more each day, so it worked out good. Once you have that strong of a team like we had, the results will come. We had three guys in the top five, which is kind of unheard of that we weren’t leading after days 1 and 2 with such a strong rider lineup. We knew that it’ll come and it’ll turn around, and sure enough, it did.”

Taylor Robert attributed Team USA’s performance to the new Sprint Enduro races that are cropping up in America, and of course, the intense amount of walking the team does to learn the tests.
Taylor Robert attributed Team USA’s performance to the new Sprint Enduro races that are cropping up in America, and of course, the intense amount of walking the team does to learn the tests.Darrin Chapman

World Trophy Team member Taylor Robert attributed Team USA’s performance to the new Sprint Enduro races that are cropping up in America, and of course, the intense amount of walking the team does to learn the tests. “The Sprint Enduros that we have in the United States now—between the WORCS Sprint Enduros and the Full Gas Sprint Enduros and our ISDE camp—I think those are all a huge help,” Robert said. “The biggest part is just having four guys who are really dedicated to try and go over there and win. Every year it gets a little bit better with Antti and the whole KTM side just putting in so much effort into the Trophy Team. There used to be a lot of downtime and a lot of wasted time, whereas now we go there and we’re walking every spare minute we can, just trying to memorize every corner of the special tests. I feel like that’s been the biggest difference. When I went over to Europe in 2016, I learned how much those Europeans walk the special tests and how much time they spend trying to memorize the tracks. I think that’s made a big difference for us. Just being prepared; being able to come out in the beginning of the week swinging instead of trying to play catch-up the whole time.”

Kailub Russell finished second in the E2 division behind Robert after taking nearly a month off from riding due to a shoulder injury.
Kailub Russell finished second in the E2 division behind Robert after taking nearly a month off from riding due to a shoulder injury.Darrin Chapman

Kailub Russell finished second in the E2 division behind Robert. Kailub talked about his week, how he and Robert were pushing themselves and about riding with a shoulder that he injured just a few weeks before. “Taylor and I were pretty close for the most part,” Russell said. “The first few days I just had a ton of falls. I was falling two or three times the first three days. Just a little bit of lack of preparation riding-wise on the bike. I took a lot of time off there when I broke my shoulder. I had been off the bike for almost a full month. I had one day of riding with those tires and one day of riding period since I kind of hurt my shoulder, so it was a little bit tough to get going, and kind of get a feel for it. He was riding really good though. I was just happy to be where I was. I was just the fourth-best guy pretty much all six days. I wasn’t able to gain any time on those guys, but nobody else was really gaining on me. It was Sanders and Josep Garcia, and Taylor was kind of in no-man’s land. I was in another spot in no-man’s land. Then there was everybody else. I wasn’t too bummed about it. I knew it was going to be tough just from walking the tests. It wasn’t necessarily going to suit me. I didn’t feel super confident about it. I knew it’d be okay, but I just didn’t have that edge.”

Kailub Russell’s sprocket mishap was perhaps the only hiccup all week for the US World Trophy Team. It was bent enough to where the chain was skipping on it.
Kailub Russell’s sprocket mishap was perhaps the only hiccup all week for the US World Trophy Team. It was bent enough to where the chain was skipping on it.Darrin Chapman

Kailub’s sprocket mishap was perhaps the only hiccup all week for the World Trophy Team. “Kailub bent his sprocket pretty good to the point where I have no idea how it didn’t derail just riding down the transfer,” Kallonen said. “He came in and the chain was skipping on it. That was our tightest transfer all week; we only had like three minutes. At first they were like, ‘We’ve got to try to change the sprocket.’ Then everybody was like, ‘There’s no way we’re going to be able to change the sprocket in three minutes; you’re going to take a penalty.’ Luckily that was the day that Stew was doing good. They were like, ‘Stew is doing good today anyway. Kailub is just going to have to forfeit it.’ Then somebody was like, ‘No, he doesn’t have to forfeit it. Just give him all of the tools and the sprocket. He can push his bike through the checkpoint, or ride it through the checkpoint, and then he can change the sprocket on the other side by himself.’ So that’s what he ended up doing. He busted it out; he got the sprocket changed. It was all muddy and everything, so it ended up taking him a while. So he was like nine minutes down and he just had to book it through the next transfer to the next special test, and then tried to make it to the next checkpoint before his time was up.”

Grant Baylor was the top-finishing US Junior Team rider. The US squad of him, Grant Ben Kelley, and Josh Toth finished second behind Team Australia.
Grant Baylor was the top-finishing US Junior Team rider. The US squad of him, Grant Ben Kelley, and Josh Toth finished second behind Team Australia.Darrin Chapman

Grant Baylor was the top-finishing US Junior Team rider. The US squad of him, Ben Kelley, and Josh Toth finished second behind Team Australia. “With the Junior riders, we had said [that] we have the dream team,” Kallonen shared. “It’s been the same for a few years now. Sometimes you’ve just got to meet the shortcomings, and we truly just came up short. Grant and Ben were both riding well. Josh was a little bit underperforming. Ben had his own issues as well. He got stuck on one special test for like a minute, so that kind of ruined his overall and also hurt the team overall. But even with all the mistakes and issues they might have had, Australia was the team to beat, and we fell short. We got to see what we need to do next year. We need to get a better strategy going in, better practice, and better preparation for the Juniors. But it’s not lack of talent or lack of trying. It was just that sometimes in sports, you get beat. You give your best and we did; there was nothing we could do better. Individually, Grant did well. I think that was his best overall finish in all of the Six Days he’s done, so he’s always improving. The same goes for Ben. He was doing well; he just had a couple mistakes and crashes that held him back a little bit more. Then Josh was just… I don’t really blame the injury that he had. He just had a hard time getting going from the get-go. He was riding a 250F where he’s used to riding a 350, so there could be multiple things contributing to it. But nonetheless, he still did well. There were some good special test times. We were just lacking a little bit of consistency.”

Brandy Richards led the US Women’s Team—with Becca Sheets and Tarah Gieger—to its first team victory since 2007.
Brandy Richards led the US Women’s Team—with Becca Sheets and Tarah Gieger—to its first team victory since 2007.Darrin Chapman

Brandy Richards led the US Women’s Team of her, Becca Sheets, and Tarah Gieger to its first team victory since 2007 when Nicole Bradford, Lacy Jones, and Mandy Mastin won. Richards also finished second among all women, individually. “It’s incredible; I think it’s kind of like a load lifted off your shoulders to actually get it done once and just keep pushing forward for next year,” Richards noted. “I had a great week, I thought. The first couple days went really, really well. I only fell a couple times, so I was pretty consistent the first couple days. Then days 3 and 4, when we changed courses, the first test and the fourth test I really struggled on because it was raining and extremely muddy and rutty. I had a couple issues on tests 3 and 4, which really kind of messed me up on day 4. I lost a couple minutes to the personal lead, but other than that, my week went really well. I was really happy with the tests because they were a lot faster than they usually are. Usually they’re pretty tight and technical, but this year they were real fast. You had a couple good wide-open sections. I was really comfortable on that stuff, so I was pretty happy with them.”

The US Club Team—consisting of Ricky Russell, Dante Oliveira, and Austin Walton—won their division.
The US Club Team—consisting of Ricky Russell, Dante Oliveira, and Austin Walton—won their division.Darrin Chapman

The US Club Team, consisting of Ricky Russell, Dante Oliveira, and Austin Walton, won their division. This was Ricky’s first ISDE. “The tests kind of caught me off guard,” Ricky admitted. “That was one thing I wasn’t really expecting from Six Days. It was kind of like all cross tests. They call them enduro tests, but they were kind of all… Some were a little more technical I guess, but there was one test that we had a tiny bit of single-track. Other than that, it was all like twenty feet wide or fifteen feet wide, and just cross testy. So it didn’t suit my style completely, but I kind of adapted and did the best I could. There were times where there were tests that I didn’t think I would do that good on and I actually did decent. We were getting top 10 overall times. I was definitely pleased with how I rode. I just needed to minimize some of the mistakes. When I would over-ride and push harder, I would make more mistakes, and it was easy to do because you were trying to go faster because you made a mistake, and then you’d make more mistakes. [It was] a very big learning experience, that’s for sure.”