After a blistering performance at the 2019 ISDE in Portugal where he took the overall fastest individual combined time for the week, we’ve got one question: is Daniel Sanders the fastest Enduro rider in the world right?
The fact that Daniel Sanders topped the overall scratch results at the 2019 International Six Days Enduro in Portugal could stand as reason enough to declare him the fastest rider on planet earth this season, but results sheet only tells half the story.
His performance was widely praised and acknowledged by the very best of the rest at the Six Days – as Enduro21 stood catching the riders leaving the parc ferme each afternoon the most common phrases were: “hats off” and “not sure how he’s doing it”.
The early tests at ISDE 2019 suited Sanders and the big 500cc Husqvarna. They were fast and sandy which meant conditions were in his favour on that bike and as an AORC champion. While others eased their way into the event, Chucky posted fastest time after fastest time on days one and two to finish a minute clear.
But it was only after the Portuguese tests switched and the unpredictable weather played a role on riding conditions that we really got a bigger overall picture about his speed compared to his rivals.
While Team USA’s World Trophy squad set the benchmark collectively – and rightly got the reward for their considerable efforts – and even when other individual riders took their turn to shine, one name was always there at the end of the day.
Actually, that’s unfair on Josep Garcia who was surely the other standout performer at Six Days 2019 and the only other rider to take a day overall win to Sanders’ four on the bounce from Monday to Thursday. But when the dust finally settled it was Sanders who shined brightest to stand above the rest and claim the individual fastest overall time by 53 seconds from Garcia and a slightly unbelievable 3m:29s over third placed Taylor Robert.
“It’s pretty cool to come here and end up top rider overall. I’ve been working hard on my riding all year and, after my tough spell in the World series (Sanders raced EnduroGP for a season in 2017) where I wasn’t able to ride as well as I wanted to, I came back to Australia and worked on it and now I’m riding how I want to, I can do what I want on the bike and I’m really enjoying it.”
One thing you could always count on throughout the week in Portugal was a rider who genuinely did look like he was enjoying the moment. That begs the obvious question then, what has changed Chucky? “It’s a complete package really from learning how to set the bikes up better, learning how to ride the bike better to feeling better.
“Mainly it’s been a matter of getting the right people around me who want to push as hard as I do. My mechanic and my trainer have helped build me up to be a better rider, I’m in a different place to where I was in EnduroGPs”
Like 2018 in Chile, Sanders started the week with the fastest test times to set himself up well in Portugal. He continued to pull gaps of 34 seconds at the finish of day one and 36 seconds on day two. It seemed almost surreal given the quality of the field.
“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. “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.”
As the week progressed the weather conditions and test all changed dramatically, potentially it could have been time for other riders to shine. On day three when overnight rain changed the conditions from dust to mud that 500 Husky looked like a handful but Sanders still ended the day fastest overall.
“It was good coming in the first two days and getting a big margin straight up but we had all conditions this Six Days,” Daniel explains. “It wasn’t just one set of dusty dry conditions but a real mixture with rain and mud as well as the dust and different dirt across the week so it was a massive difference between days – even within some of the days.”
It was one of the more impressive aspects of Sanders’ results in Portugal that he was not just naturally fast on the open, fast or sandy tests where the big bikes could stretch their legs, but also on the tight and slick ones too.
A proper rutted enduro test near the town of Marmelete and the three main tests within site of the paddock were, in theory, smaller bike territory: “I more or less won each test in all conditions this week.” Adds Sanders. “That felt good especially on the 500 as well because that’s not the easiest bike to throw around.”
It was a fact confirmed by Team USA’s Steward Baylor who confessed midweek he’d been watching videos of Sanders to try and figure out to ride the big 500 faster. “I went back and watched some Daniel Sanders videos because I was just like, ‘how is this guy riding this bike?’” Said Baylor.
As we said at the time in our ISDE daily Notebook, it was an honest admission from Steward but a question many riders were asking: how is he making that bike work? “He just seems to be hanging off the back, sitting off the back fender.” Added Baylor. “That’s where I was struggling, the 500 has so much power off the bottom it’s instant wheel spin and that’s been the biggest thing for me, getting to grips with it.”
Sanders definitely had the big bike mastered this season in AORC as well as ISDE: “I’ve adapted well to the 500 and really enjoy riding it. We stuck with the 2019 bike here in Portugal instead of moving on to the 2020 bike just simply because we had a really good suspension set-up with it and knew it worked across different conditions so stuck with that.”
What’s next then for Chucky after a long and probably his most successful season to date? “I’m gonna have a few beers tonight (that turned out to be an understatement) and then I’m going home to relax and put my feet up for a bit. It’s been a long year and next year will no doubt be the same.” Says Daniel.
“This last month has been crazy for me but all the hard work paid off and it will be good to take time off and take check of what we did. I’m looking forward to chilling, tending to my veggie patch, my orchard and sitting on my dozer building tracks and relaxing.”
As for next season? “Nothing is signed for next year but I should be good for a ride somewhere!”
Photo Credit: Enduro21/Andrea Belluschi Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.email@example.com