Enduro21 daily notebook - what the riders said and the hot topics live and direct from the International Six Days Enduro in Portimao, Portugal.
All the hype and all the build-up to the 94th International Six Days Enduro met with a damp and dark start for the first riders away at 7am from the Portimao paddock in Portugal.
As the sun rose on the first test, one hour’s ride out west to the most southern tip of Europe, the graded sandy ground looked prime as Ryan Sipes led away the traditional jumbled field – that same test did not look so prime after 1500 riders had battered it during two laps.
Three main stories ring out as the time sheets are signed off for day one: Daniel Sanders had one of those ‘on rails’ kinda rides to take the day win by over 30 seconds, World Enduro Champ Brad Freeman crashed out of the contest and Germany take a surprise win in the Women’s Trophy.
Daniel’s the man
Daniel Sanders set the pace on five of the day’s seven tests. The opening test looked glorious for the first riders arriving early doors. Starting well down the running order on day one, Sanders spent much of the day catching riders in tests but it didn’t stop him progressively pinching time all day.
The gap of 34 seconds at the finish seemed a little surreal given the quality of the field but to stand track side, particularly on the sandy test one and four, it was clear which rider was on top of his game.
“I always try and start strong, I did that last year winning the opening test and this year I feel fitter and stronger so managed the same again.” Explained Chucky at the finish.
“A lot of top names are here this year so I wanted to put the right foot forward from the off, get my bike set up straight away and build on it.
“It was a good start straight away but I didn’t expect to win so cleanly in the first test but that built a bit of a cushion I could work on and then in the second lap things got rough and it was harder for us starting further back. We had to make a couple of passes in some of the tests but managed it well.
“We made a couple of changes to the bike set-up but basically it is there and we have to just keep it upright and do more of the same tomorrow.”
Garcia goes big on the 250
Second on the timing sheets and very much back in his enduro element was a buoyant Josep Garcia. The Spaniard is racing the 250 four stroke by contrast to Sanders’ big 500 Husky and so played a trading game between the fast, sandy test where the big bikes had the advantage and the tighter rocky ones where less can be more.
Garcia was one of two riders to take a test win away from Sanders, posting fastest time on the final Cross test which was run just once at the end of the day: “Day one was a good day.” Said Garcia back in the paddock.
“I think the E1 riders struggled a little bit early on with the tests when they were fresh but it came to us as the day progressed. Sanders was very fast, especially in the sand test but in the second lap it was the same for everyone and I managed to not lose so much time and then in the last two tests it is hard packed and I felt really good. It was good to take that one.”
Team GB dealt a blow
As we said in the story we belted out earlier today, EnduroGP World Champion Bradley Freeman did not have the best of days leading Team GB. The third test of the day saw Freeman have an otherwise innocuous bounce off his Beta which resulted in a broken wrist – taking him out of the event.
Rather than be knocked by the news, Freeman’s team-mates set about having a solid start with Joe Wootton leading their charge on the 250F Husqvarna. In fact the Italian Trophy team lies third overall and any quick glance at the results sheets shows the top 20 (ish) places in any one test are super-competitive.
Behind Australia and USA (can we say this early they are fighting for the overall win?) the Brits, Italy and Finland have a hell of a fight on their hands this week.
“The first day of the Six Days is always a difficult one,” Wootton explained. “It’s always a bit of a pressure day so it was good to get a bit of a rhythm going and get that day under our belts. It is surprising how long and hard today was really and I think the tests will be rough tomorrow. I was actually surprised by my pace stepping back on a 250 – I felt like I was getting more confident as the day went on.
“Brad going out was a tough blow for him of course but it doesn’t affect my mentality – if anything it pushes me on more. We had a bit of a buffer with four riders but now every one of us has to go out there and perform.”
Team USA doing OK
Sounding a little surprised at his opening day’s performance and place third overall, Ryan Sipes leads Team USA home on day one: “My opening day was really good. The opening two tests were great and then the third one was going good but I crashed but I was still third overall there.
“Then we went back to the sand test over in the west and they were so rough second lap. I’m not a great sand rider so I was kinda being a bit careful there to keep it upright. Then the last two tests went well and we’re looking good overall I think with the Taylor and Kailub right behind me.”
Without Sanders being on fire up front, Team USA put in arguably the best team performance with three riders placed third, fourth and fifth – Sipes, Taylor Robert and Kailub Russell respectively.
Robert began his day with a ninth place in the opening test, 15 seconds down on the lead rider but his climb back up the overall rankings saw him narrowly place behind Sipes (0.32s) at the finish. Kailub Russell is also just six seconds back with a solid and consistent set of test times which bodes well for tomorrow, day two on the same rough as old badgers seven tests.
Richards having fun, Germany top of Women’s Trophy
The Women’s Trophy contest threw the surprise results of the opening day here in Portimao. You might have expected Team Australia to begin another of their title defences on top but at the finish Germany’s women who clocked the combined best time.
From the opening test Brandy Richards was sailing high for Team USA with Germany’s Maria Franke six seconds back. Franke proved quickest in the rocky and enduro test within sight of the paddock at Autodromo Algarve on the first lap to hold the lead at that stage. But Richards, competing her third ISDE, reigned supreme from the sandy test one hour’s ride away at the start of lap two and carried the run to take three tests on the bounce.
“I actually really enjoyed the day.” Explained Brandy back at the paddock. “First time around I was making a few mistakes and had a few falls but second time around it was a bit better, stayed up a little more and had a lot of fun.”
Photo Credit: Future7Media/Andrea Belluschi Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.firstname.lastname@example.org