After starting off the 2014 Kenda AMA National Enduro Series with three-straight wins, Charlie Mullins comes into round four of the series in Park Hills, Missouri on May 18th with lots of momentum and a healthy lead in the series standings.
Sitting 33 points ahead of second place in the championship chase, Mullins threatens to break away from the competition with another win. And while his commanding lead might indicate that the factory KTM rider has had a relatively easy go of it to this point in the schedule, that was certainly not the case at the previous round in Westpoint, Tennessee, where Mullins counted himself lucky to come away with the win. Riders like N-Fab/Am Pro Yamaha’s Brad Bakken, Maxxis/Klim/Dirtwise-backed Jesse Groemm and AirGroup Racing’s Nick Fahringer, who are starting to put on a surge, and are certainly looking to keep Mullins in check at the Missouri round.
A mixture of rocky gullies, hard-packed with a few sand washes, with a tricky waterfall section thrown in for good measure, the Lead Belt Enduro will test a competitor’s ability, concentration and endurance. Look for Groemm, who sits second in points, to have a good day as the terrain should play right into the New Jersey native’s wheelhouse.
FMF/KTM’s Steward Baylor, from South Carolina, is another rider who excels in sandy conditions, and the 2011 national champ is due for a breakout ride.
Fahringer, on the other hand, posted his first podium finish of the season last month in Tennessee, and his stock is certainly on the rise as well. Meanwhile, Bakken grabbed an impressive runner-up finish at the Rad Dad and will be looking to improve on that this weekend.
Other riders to look out for are eight-time national champ Mike Lafferty, who is in his final year of national competition after announcing his retirement during the off-season. Also, Factory Husqvarna Racing’s Andrew DeLong should be in the mix, not that he’s had a few rounds to adjust to his new team and new bike.
Tyler Trammell holds a 10-point lead over Martin Howell in the Rekluse Expert-AA class, 66 points to 56 points. For all you AA riders, this is a great new class set up just for you. Each round pays $100 for first, $75 for second and $50 for third. Plus, at the end of the year the Expert-AA Class Champion will earn $1000 from Rekluse, if he runs Rekluse Clutch Components. The Expert-AA Class Champion is determined by a rider’s best 8 of 10 rounds. Be sure to check out the Rekluse website for exact details.
The Expert-AA class was created to give these talented young riders a stepping-stone to achieve their goal of becoming pro riders. The NEPG is encouraging these riders to push their limits in a highly competitive class where the top five are separated by mere seconds, just like the pros. The NEPG will keep these riders grouped together for the rest of the year.
The Lead Belt National Enduro in Park Hill, MO, southwest of St. Louis, utilizes the St. Joe State Park and the retired Lead Belt mine. A few trails used within the park are fairly fast and sandy, but most of the course is classic single track and a little rocky in spots. The course usually loops around coming back to camp for gas and many spectator points are close by. There is a 17-mile paved bicycle path that goes right from the starting area and some checks are accessible by bicycle path on Sunday. Here is a link for the bicycle trails: www.mostateparks.com/trails/st-joe-state-park
On Saturday, KTM will be offering demo rides from 10:00 to 4:00 pm, followed by a Spaghetti dinner from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. There will be no test loop, however, the park area will be open for riding on Friday and Saturday.
If you’re looking for a sightseeing opportunity while you’re in the area, be sure to check out the Lead Mine Museum, which is not far from the start area.
Here’s a link to the park:
For more information on the Kenda AMA National Enduro Series please go to www.nationalenduro.com