By the staff of Dirt Bike, with special thanks to Erek Kudla
American off-road racing is dynamic, diverse and exciting. But, it’s also hard to define. Does it happen in the deserts of the southwest, the forests of the north or the woods of the east? Does it reward precision and balance or speed and daring? The answer, of course, is yes. The U.S. is so big that no one rider can master all its demands. We have specialists in every calling. Some riders, however, strive to break out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves against more of what America has to offer. If we had a single off-road championship, the contenders would be those riders who can cross over from one venue to another.
We don’t have such a championship, but we do have the Caselli Cup. At the beginning of each year we take a snapshot of America’s best, analyzing results from off-road races across the U.S. We also look long and hard at those riders who represent the U.S. riding abroad. From those names, we make a list of those who best represent the spirit and diversity of American riders. The name that appears at the top of the list is awarded the perpetual Caselli Cup, named for the one rider who best captured that ideal. This is the list of America’s best off-road riders at the start of 2018.
Super EnduroCross champion, ISDE gold medal, AMA West Hare Scramble winner, TKO winner, Last Dog Standing winner, Erzberg Rodeo podium
For years we’ve known that Cody Webb is the most talented rider in America, if not the world. In the past, his amazing achievements were limited to EnduroCross and extreme racing. Last year, however, he broke out of that cell. He won a West Hare Scramble and an ISDE qualifier. He went to the ISDE in France and earned a gold medal for America. He also won the Last Dog Standing and the Tennessee Knockout. He once again podiumed at the Erzberg Rodeo. Then he capped off the year by winning his third EnduroCross title. That’s a year to remember, and one worthy of the Caselli Cup
National Enduro champion, Sprint Enduro champion, GNCC #4
When you win two major championships and finish fourth in another, we would say that’s a pretty good year. Steward Baylor is a very busy man and is successful at everything he does. He was also one of few riders to finish ahead of Kailub Russell in a GNCC in 2017. That’s the one championship that’s still on his to-do list, and there’s no doubt that he will earn it before he’s through.
GNCC XC1 champion, ISDE gold
In 2017 Kailub Russell won his 47th GNCC overall, becoming the winningest rider in the history of the series. GNCC remains America’s most prestigious single off-road series, and Kailub is the best the series has ever seen. Kailub also did three rounds of the National Enduro series, then earned a gold medal in France. At 27 years of age, Kailub has already become one of America’s most accomplished off-road racers, and he’s far from done.
ISDE E3 winner, Hare & Hound #2, WORCS #4
In 2017 Taylor Robert won 75 percent of the races he entered. That included every WORCS race he did and the E3 class at the ISDE. Yet, he failed to win a championship. A severe crash at the beginning of the year put his season and his very career in jeopardy. To bounce back from that with even more speed and fitness than ever is nothing short of amazing. Taylor Robert remains the one rider who truly can do it all, and he’s still waiting for his first AMA off-road title.
Hare & Hound champion, WORCS champion
When you win two major championships in the course of a year, you enter the realm of all-time greats. Gary Sutherlin did that in 2017. His accomplishment was earned through perseverance, grit and determination rather than the weight of individual race wins. In our minds, that makes him even more deserving of his place in off-road history.
GNCC XC1 #2, National Enduro #2
Thad’s end-of-the-year results—as good as they are—don’t reflect the spectacular year he had in 2017. It was a breakthrough season for him. At one point he was leading the National Enduro series. He had all the momentum in the GNCC series and was heavily favored to repeat as an ISDE Trophy Team champion. Then, it all came unhinged on day one of the ISDE. A crash sent him home early and derailed his hopes for two championships. He will come back strong.
GNCC XC1 #5, National Enduro #3, ISDE gold
We still don’t know which Baylor brother is the fastest, but we do know that Grant can win anything he does. Last year his main focus was the GNCC series, and in true Baylor style, he chalked up a win in round nine at the John Penton. He also won the second round of the National Enduro series and earned a gold medal in France to lead the U.S. Junior Trophy team to third place.
SuperEnduro champion, EnduroCross #6, King of the Motos winner
Colton Haaker is the best in the world in a very specific discipline. He’s the FIM SuperEnduro champion, which is Europe’s version of EnduroCross. The sport is bigger and more competitive over there, and Colton has become a Euro sensation, also finishing the Erzberg Hare Scrambles. Stateside, he won the King of the Motos, but an injury forced him out of EnduroCross contention after winning round one.
Hare & Hound #6, Dakar stage winner
Ricky’s job is to represent the Monster HRC Honda team at rallies across the world, but his passion is riding near his home in the Southern California high desert. Ricky did his job for Honda, winning Stage 9 of Dakar 2017 and racking up good results throughout the FIM Rally series. He also found the time to win three rounds of the National Hare & Hound series, besting the likes of Taylor Robert and Gary Sutherlin to do it.
ISDE gold, GNCC XC1 #10, Sprint Enduro #4
European riders think that Ryan Sipes walks on water because of his incredible performances at the ISDE. This year he once again was up front in the ISDE individual results, eventually finishing fifth despite the fact that he was on a 250F. In U.S. racing, he excels in sprint formats that mimic that form of racing and will eventually put together enough consistency to earn a championship.
GNCC XC1 #3
Ricky Russell forever confuses GNCC announcers by being the other Russell in front of the pack. He won the XC1 class at the Snowshoe in 2017, ahead of Duvall and Kailub, eventually finishing third in the series. He remains off-road racing’s leading commuter, traveling back and forth from his home in Washington state but rarely competing in races out west.
GNCC XC1#9, Sprint Enduro #2
Jordan switched to Beta in 2017 and rewarded them with three wins in the Sprint Enduro series, as well as second overall in the points. He also picked up where he left off in the GNCC XC1 class, finishing as high as fourth. Jordan isn’t afraid to leave his comfort zone and was spotted at the EnduroCross finals in Ontario, California, where he got into the main event and finished 12th.
Super EnduroCross #3, ISDE gold, West Hare Scramble winner
Like Cody Webb, Ty Tremaine went across the boundaries that separate EnduroCross from outdoor racing and made a significant impact. He, too, won a round of the regional Hare Scramble championship, then went to the ISDE on a U.S. club team where he finished on gold.
GNCC XC2 champion, ISDE gold
When the “Next Big Thing” arrives, everyone knows it. Josh Toth is just that. He dominated the GNCC XC2 class, climbing as high as second overall from row two. Then he went to the ISDE in France where he helped the U.S. Junior Trophy Team earn third in the world. Josh is the product of the champion-making mill at Traveler’s Rest under the guidance of Randy Hawkins.
GNCC XC1 #7, National Enduro #4, Sprint Enduro #8
Russell isn’t done yet. After earning his fifth National Enduro title in 2016, he put more races on his schedule than ever for 2017. He hit all the GNCCs, all the National Enduros and half of the Sprint Enduros to finish top 10 in all three. We wouldn’t be surprised if he has another championship left in him yet.
West Hare Scramble champion, Super EnduroCross #11
Max Gerston has no shortage of personality, and we were delighted to see him break out of EnduroCross and go for a regional off-road championship. He was rewarded with the number-one plate in the West Hare Scramble series, which will go nicely with his cowboy hat and his EnduroCross trophy collection.
East Hare Scramble champion, Super EnduroCross #14
“Wild Wally” isn’t really an EnduroCross rider who discovered off-road racing; it’s kind of the other way around. He has an impressive history of ISDE competition to his credit. But
Wally hasn’t done an entire series in a long time, leading him to pursue and win the East Hare Scramble title in 2017. Well done!
GNCC XC2 #3, ISDE gold
Layne Michael is as solid as they come. After his outstanding fill-in ride at the 2016 ISDE where he helped America’s Trophy Team win the big prize, he returned to ride on the 2017 Junior Trophy team, which came in third. He also made some outstanding rides in the GNCC XC2 class and climbed as high as third in the overall standings from the second row.
Super EnduroCross Junior champion, West Hare Scramble winner
Canadian Trystan Hart not only captured the EnduroCross Junior championship in 2017, he finished the series in second overall to none other than Cody Webb. That’s like winning! Hart came down into the lower 49 and won two rounds of the West Hare Scramble series, where he had some familiar EnduroCross rivals.
National Enduro #8, GNCC XC1 #8
It’s been a long, tough road for 2010 GNCC XC1 champion Josh Strang. He was sidelined for much of 2016 with a shattered heel and was released to ride just three weeks before the start of the 2017 season. His form slowly returned, but not until late in the season, when he was once again contending for the lead. That’s where he’ll start for 2018.
WORCS #2, Big 6 # 3, 24 Hours of Glen Helen winner
Justin has never deviated from his goal of winning the WORCS championship, and this year he took a major step forward with his first win. He also had an excellent year in the District 37 Big 6 series and won the 24 Hours of Glen Helen and the Elsinore GP.
GNCC #14, Sprint Enduro #3, National Enduro #5
Cory concentrated primarily on the Full Gas Sprint Enduro series. He finally fought his way to a first-place finish on day one at the Rock Crusher Farm in Georgia, round eight, which helped him capture third in the series. He hit all the National Enduros, where he climbed as high as third and rode three GNCCs, always in the top 10 of the XC1 class.
GNCC XC1 #6, National Enduro #25
Trevor was reigning number one in the XC2 class but couldn’t run that number, as he was riding against the big boys in the XC1 ranks in 2017. He adjusted to the 450 well and finished just off the podium several times. The podium will come in 2018, and perhaps even his first overall win.
West Hare Scramble, #2, National Hare & Hound #5, D37 #1
The District 37 Desert Division remains the biggest and the busiest dirt bike racing organization in the U.S., with over 30 races on its calendar. Nick Burson is king. He won almost half of those and still made a good showing in the West Hare Scramble series where he was besieged by an influx of EnduroCross riders this year. Burson also won an ISDE qualifier but didn’t attend the event in France.
GNCC WXC champion
We forgive Tayla Jones for helping Australia defeat the U.S. women’s team in the ISDE. She raced in the U.S. all year and earned her place on the list by going undefeated in the WXC class at the GNCC. Once she wrapped up that title, she switched to the XC3 class and finished as high as fifth against the men.