The Caselli Cup was never meant to be a Rider of the Year Award. We think of it as so much more than a rehash of the year that was. This is our annual State of the Sport address, an acknowledgment of the people who make the world of off-road motorcycle racing great right now, at the opening of the 2020 season. It’s our tip of the hat to the men and women of American off-road racing, meaning those who compete across the United States and those who represent America abroad. The Caselli Cup is named for Kurt Caselli, who was the ideal ambassador for our sport, just like the riders whose names were chosen this year. We congratulate all of them.
1 TEAM USA
This year the Caselli Cup goes to the combined 2019 U.S. ISDE team. There has never been a group of Americans who collectively represented our country so well. In almost every case, the riders stepped up to a new personal high to meet the challenge. The highlight was the team of Taylor Robert, Kailub Russell, Ryan Sipes and Steward Baylor, who won the World Trophy for only the second time in the history of the event. Just as impressive was the U.S. Woman’s Trophy team of Brandy Richards, Tarah Gieger and Rebecca Sheets, who also won that competition for the second time. There’s also the standout performance of America’s Junior Trophy team of Grant Baylor, Ben Kelley and Josh Toth, who finished second. Finally, there are the rank-and-file Club riders led by Dante Oliveira, Ricky Russell and Austin Walton, who won that competition. Beyond that, America was represented by 18 more club riders, most of whom had outstanding performances of their own. They were:
JT Baker, Gold, 2nd C3
Nathan Ferderer, Gold, 7th C1
Tyler Vore, Gold, 5th C3
Austin Serpa, Gold, 19th C2
Anson Maloney, Gold, 20th C2
Tanner Whipple, Gold, 12th C3
P. Trent Whisenant, Gold, 13th C3
Joshua Knight, Gold, 18th C2
Nic Garvin, Silver, 30th C2
Nathan Rector, Silver, 31st C2
James King, Silver, 39th C2
Jayson Densley, Silver, 49th C2
Brian Storrie, Silver, 58th C2
Paul Krause, Bronze, 107th C2
Kevin DeJongh ,134th C2
Photos by Brandon Krause, Mark Kariya, Ron Lawson, Darrin Chapman, Ken Hill
2 KAILUB RUSSELL
GNCC XC1 Champion, Full Gas Sprint Enduro Champion
Kailub technically finishes in first and second this year. Even without the ISDE, where he finished second in the E2 (450) class and was essential to the U.S. victory, his status as America’s top off-road rider is beyond dispute. He won the two most competitive championships in the U.S. in 2019, dominating them both. In GNCC, he has long since graduated to legend status with an unmatched total of 60 XC1 wins. At age 29, he only seems to be improving as his 10 wins in the Full Gas Sprint Enduro series demonstrate.
3 TAYLOR ROBERT
WORCS Champion, Sprint Hero Champion
Taylor Robert completed the 2019 season without injury, which is an accomplishment in itself. Along the way, he achieved his three main goals for 2019. He finally won his first WORCS Pro Championship. Despite being the most dominant rider on the West Coast for years, that title had somehow eluded him until now. He also won the Sprint Hero Championship, then topped it all off by leading the U.S. ISDE team to victory, winning the E2 class in the process. It was his best year in a career defined by excellence.
4 STEWARD BAYLOR
AMA National Enduro Champion, GNCC XC1 #3
Steward has a reputation for being the fastest man on the course—sometimes. Only he can say when those times will be. He typically starts the season strong, then suffers injury or distraction. In 2019, though, he started and finished on top of his game, winning the first GNCC of the season, dominating the AMA National Enduro Championship, then teaming up to give America its win in Portugal. That earned him a new factory ride for 2020.
5 ZACH BELL
WORCS #3, Sprint Hero #2, AMA NGPC #2
Even though Zach Bell didn’t win a championship in 2019, he stands out as one of the fastest men in the west. He won in NGPS, WORCS and Sprint Hero, and led the Precision Concepts team to first place in the 24 Hours of Glen Helen. Bell is no longer a motocross racer trying to adapt to off-road. He’s now a full-blooded off-road star who has even more wins awaiting him in the coming year.
6 THAD DUVALL
GNCC XC1 #2, Full Gas Sprint Enduro #2
If just a few things had gone differently in Thad Duvall’s career, he might well have been the man with 60 career wins. Like many riders, he had the misfortune of being a contemporary of Kailub Russell. Unlike many of them, however, he wins anyway. On any given weekend, he’s the man that Kailub fears most. Will 2020 be the year that Thad finally gets the better of his career-long rival? His time might have come.
7 TREVOR STEWART
AMA NGPC Champion*
What Trevor Stewart has accomplished is nothing short of amazing. He doesn’t have the deep factory support of any of the riders who finished in the top 10 of this list, only limited support from the JCR team. Yet once again he has finished on top of the biggest off-road racing series in the west, if not the world. Trevor is a blue-collar champion who makes it happen, race after race.
8 BEN KELLEY
GNCC XC2 Champion
Every so often a rider arrives with the air of a champion, and you just know that great things are coming. Ben Kelley is one of those riders. For two years he has dominated the GNCC XC2 class. After wrapping up that title, he moved up to race with the big boys of the XC1 class and promptly won there. Then he joined the U.S. Junior Trophy team and contributed to their success with a 9th in the E2 class.
9 DANTE OLIVEIRA
WORCS #2, Sprint Hero #4
Dante is another young rider showing the unmistakable signs of a future champion. He won the WORCS Pro 2 class in 2017, and now in his second Pro season, he finished second to Taylor Robert. Then he led the U.S. to its Club team victory at the ISDE in Portugal with a second in the C2 class. Dante Oliveira’s time is coming, and it almost certainly will arrive sooner rather than later.
10 RYAN SIPES
Sprint Enduro Winner, AMAZING Dirt Resume
Ryan Sipes is the most restless rider in the motorcycle racing world. His 2019 season consisted of flat track, hill-climbing, motocross, the Red Bull Straight Rhythm and ultimately the ISDE. You would think that would be a recipe for mediocrity, but Sipes runs up front in everything he does, and without him, the U.S. victory in Portugal would not have been attainable.
11 GRANT BAYLOR
GNCC XC1 #10, AMA National Enduro #2
There are times when the two fastest riders in the off-road racing world are both named Baylor. The tough part is figuring out which of them is faster. In 2019, Grant was the winningest rider in the National Enduro series but had to settle for second in the points to brother Steward after missing the first round. For now, the question remains unanswerable.
12 JACOB ARGUBRIGHT
AMA National Hare & Hound Champion
Never has a championship been so well-deserved and so long overdue. In 2019, Jacob Argubright finally won the AMA National Hare & Hound title after years of interruptions and injuries. He won in style, too, with five overall wins in the nine-race series. It’s a crown that fits him well.
13 COLTON HAAKER
Super Enduro Champion, AMA EnduroCross Champion
Colton won the FIM World SuperEnduro Championship against the best riders in the world, helping propel the U.S. to a position of leadership in that sport. He came home to win an abbreviated EnduroCross schedule. He’s clearly the best in the world in a sport that’s so specialized; the only real problem is finding places to race and riders to beat.
14 JOSH STRANG
GNCC GXC1 #5, FG Sprint Enduro #3
Josh Strang has graduated to become the senior member of the GNCC elite, now battling in the American woods for over a decade. It remains to be seen if the Australian has another XC1 Championship in his future, but he’s moving in the right direction. His 2019 season with the Babbitt/Monster Energy Kawasaki team saw him win a Full Gas Sprint Enduro and reach the podium of the XC1 class.
15 TREVOR BOLLINGER
GNCC XC1 #4
Trevor Bollinger clearly settled into his new role as Thad Duvall’s teammate on the Rockstar Husqvarna Factory team in 2019, finishing second several times in the GNCC XC1 class. His fourth-place finish in the series equaled his performance in 2018 on the JCR Honda team. The overall win eluded him in 2019, but he’s still young and improving each year.
16 RICKY RUSSELL
GNCC XC1 #6
As a Yamaha rider competing in a sea of Austrian machines, Ricky Russell stands out in the GNCC XC1 class. He finished second several times in 2019, and in fact made it a Russell-versus-Russell battle at the Black Sky, where he followed KR himself across the line. His performance at the 2019 ISDE was outstanding, and he helped earn the Club victory with a third place in the E2 class.
17 JOSH TOTH
Full Gas Sprint Enduro #6, 8th GNCC XC1
It was a rocky year for Josh. Last spring he was running in sixth place in his rookie XC1 season while simultaneously sitting third in the Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series, then he suffered a broken leg. After recovering from that, he salvaged his year with an excellent performance at the ISDE in Portugal, helping put the U.S. Junior Trophy team in second place.
18 CRAIG DELONG
XC2 #2 FG Sprint Enduro #5
Finishing in second place to Ben Kelley in the GNCC XC2 class would be like winning in any other situation, but Craig Delong has finished second twice before and is more than ready to win. At the end of the 2019 season, he won his class at the Ironman, demonstrating that he’s next in line to inherit the top position in the XC2 ranks.
19 RICKY BRABEC
Dakar stage winner, AMA National Hare & Hound #14
Ricky Brabec should have won the Dakar Rally in 2019. A motor failure in the last few days of the race stole the victory that seemed to be rightfully his. He will bounce back from that to ride once more for the Monster Energy HRC team at Dakar 2020.
20 ANDREW SHORT
Rally winner, WORCS #5
When Andrew Short won the 2019 Rally Du Moroc, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone. He has several seasons of Rally under his belt, and we all know he’s one of the most talented riders on earth. But, many assumed he was competing at a post-retirement pace, going just fast enough to make his presence known. Andrew apparently can’t do that. When he rides a motorcycle, he can’t just mail it in. Now we all know he’s serious.
21 JORDAN ASHBURN
GNCC XC1 #9
Jordan Ashburn is one of the hardest workers in the GNCC XC-1 class. Year after year he battles it out in the top five and often even leads overall, as he did at the Mason-Dixon this year. His season on the new Babbitt/Monster Energy Kawasaki team was solid, and he will undoubtedly be back in the trenches in 2020.
22 EVAN SMITH
National Enduro #3, FG Sprint Enduro #19
Evan Smith’s main focus was the AMA National Enduro series in 2019, where he finished third in the points and finished within the top five in every single round. He made trips to other venues as well, scoring some points in the Full Gas Sprint Enduro series.
23 CORY BUTTRICK
XC1 #12, FG Sprint Enduro #12
Cory is another veteran of the GNCC series with experience that goes far beyond that of the typical 26-year-old. His track record is littered with outstanding performances, as well as injuries. This year he came back as a fill-in rider on the XC Gear/Enduro Engineering Husqvarna team and had success in GNCC, Sprint Enduro and National Enduro. We hope he’s back to stay.
24 JOE WASSON
AMA National Hare & Hound #2, AMA Hare Scramble East/West Shootout winner
Joe Wasson had a spectacular year, running in contention for two different championships. In the end, he settled for second in both the Hare & Hound series and the Hare Scramble West series, but he topped it off by winning the East/West Shootout in Stillwater, Oklahoma. There’s more to come from Joe.
25 MAX GERSTON
AMA Hare Scramble West Champion
Max is an EnduroCross specialist who had to look around for something else to do as that series shrunk. He found a home in the AMA Hare Scramble West Regional series, where he just won his second first place. Max is also a contender in any hard enduro and had a standout performance in the Last Dog Standing in 2019.
Cody Webb was injured for most of 2019, but still managed to chalk up a win at the Rev Limiter Hard Enduro. We can’t go into 2020 without a tip of the hat to Cody and his new home on the FactoryONE Sherco team. We’re expecting great things.
MotoTrials normally sits outside the scope of our coverage, but we have to pay homage to Pat Smage after he won his 11th National Championship. Pat broke what we assumed was an unbreakable record of 10 titles, achieved by Geoff Aaron. Pat rides for the FactoryONE Sherco team as well, where his boss is six-time trials champion Ryan Young. We will point out that Ryan’s titles are consecutive, which is still a record of sorts. With Smage still going strong, however, even that might be in jeopardy.