AMERICA’S TOP OFF-ROAD RIDERS OVER TIME: THE WRAP

Right now we are in the midst of choosing the finalists for the 2022 Caselli Cup. This award has a long history, going back to the April 2006 issue when it was billed as “America’s 100 Best Off-Road Riders.” It was never meant to be a Rider of the Year award, but rather a ranking of America’s best off-road riders for the upcoming year. That tradition is still honored today, although the award often reflects achievements from the previous season. Here’s a look at the backstory of the Caselli Cup. The 2022 list will be in the March, 2022 print edition of Dirt Bike, but you can get a sneak preview here at Dirtbikemagazine.com on January 1, 2022. For a look at the riders in the running, click here.

2006
KTM brought Juha Salminen to America to race GNCC, which he won in 2005 and 2006. We didn’t know it at the time, but Juha’s most lasting contribution to the American off-road racing scene was bringing Antti Kallonen stateside as his mechanic. Antti is now a driving force as KTM’s off-road Racing Director and as the manager of the U.S. ISDE team.

1 Juha Salminen
2 Nate Woods
3 Kurt Caselli
4 Ryan Hughes
5 Barry Hawk
Special note: that year Dirt Bike’s future Managing Editor Mark Tilley was ranked 49th that year by virtue of his performances in the District 37 Grand Prix series.

2007
In 2007 Brit David Knight came over to take Juha’s place in the GNCC series for KTM. He had already won occasionally in the U.S. As expected, he won the championship on his first try. He won again in 2008.

1 David Knight
2 Kurt Caselli
3 Barry Hawk
4 Ricky Dietrich
5 Destry Abbott

2008
Kurt Caselli finally won the 2007 WORCS championship, won GNCC Pro Lites races and won the E3 class at the ISDE.
1 Kurt Caselli
2 David Knight
3 Mike Lafferty
4 Charlie Mullins
5 Barry Hawk
Interesting riders from further in the pack:
24 Thad Duvall
49 Kailub Russell

2009
Ricky topped the list by finishing second overall as an individual in the 2008 ISDE.
1 Ricky Dietrich
2 Paul Whibley
3 Bobby Bonds
4 Destry Abbott
5 Russell Bobbitt
Another Interesting rider from further back:
34 Taylor Robert

Justin Soule was America’s choice as top rider as elected in an on-line poll.

2010
This year the theme of the award was altered somewhat; only the top 25 riders were listed.
1 Paul Whibley
2 Mike Brown
3 Ricky Dietrich
4 Russell Bobbitt
5 Josh Strang

2011
Kurt Caselli was really in the Zone at this point in his career. He won WORCS in 2010, then switched it up to win the National Hare & Hound in 2011. All this while distinguishing himself at the ISDE year after year.

1 Kurt Caselli
2 Charlie Mullins
3 Josh Strang
4 Kendall Norman
5 Ricky Dietrich

2012
1 Kurt Caselli
2 Charlie Mullins
3 Mike Brown
4 Russell Bobbitt
5 Paul Whibley

2013
1 Taylor Robert
2 Paul Whibley
3 Steward Baylor
4 Kurt Caselli
5 Kailub Russell

2014
This year, the award was renamed The Caselli Cup, in honor of Kurt Caselli, who passed away in November of 2013.

1 Charlie Mullins
2 Kailub Russell
3 Taylor Robert
4 Robbie Bell
5 Cody Webb

2015
1 Kailub Russell
2 Cody Webb
3 Taylor Robert
4 Gary Sutherlin
5 Charlie Mullins

2016
This year there was strong support for Ryan Sipes, who became the first American to win the ISDE as an individual (in 2015). That propelled him to third on the list, but the number one spot was overdue for Kailub Russell in honor of his back-to-back-to-back wins in the GNCC XC1 pro class.

1 Kailub Russell
2 Cody Webb
3 Ryan Sipes
4 Josh Strang
5 Grant Baylor

2017
The present day Caselli Cup was crafted in the FMF race shop. It is now a perpetual trophy that passes between each year’s winner, although it is often displayed by the rider’s primary sponsor. Taylor Robert won because of his individual performance in the 2016 ISDE, which contributed to America’s first-ever World Trophy win.

1 Taylor Robert
2 Kailub Russell
3 Thad Duvall
4 Josh Strang
5 Colton Haaker

2018
Cody Webb set out to expand his horizons in 2017. Beyond his normal wins in EnduroCross and Extreme Enduros, he won in hare scrambles and took a gold medal at the ISDE.

1 Cody Webb
2 Steward Baylor
3 Kailub Russell
4 Gary Sutherlin
5 Taylor Robert

2019
By this time, it became apparent that no one was going to beat Kailub Russell straight-up in a GNCC. What really impressed us in 2018 was that he went outside his comfort zone to compete in District 37 GPs, which were as far removed as possible from east coast riding. That’s courage.

1 Kailub Russell
2 Taylor Robert
3 Steward Baylor
4 Cody Webb
5 Colton Haaker

2020
In 2019, America took the World Trophy as well as the Women’s Trophy and the Club Team competition in the ISDE. In the Jr World, USA was second. It was a year to remember.

1 Team USA
2 Kailub Russell
3 Taylor Robert
4 Steward Baylor
5 Zach Bell

2021
Kailub Russell’s final year as a full-time off road racer was 2020, which we honored at the beginning of 2021.

1 Kailub Russell
2 Steward Baylor
3 Ricky Brabec
4 Grand Baylor
5 Josh Strang

See you next time!

–Ron Lawson

 

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