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Ohio winters don’t usually provide ideal conditions or opportunities for off-road riding. That’s why 124 enduro competitors were itching to hit the trail at the opening round of ACES, even with the temperature only being 30 degrees on race day. Pennsylvania native Jake Fiola captured the Overall win at the Art Mitchell Memorial Enduro, hosted by the Chillicothe Enduro Riders Association on March 16 in Chillicothe, OH. Only in his second year riding the series, he’s managed to grab three overall wins in the two seasons.
“My experience has been awesome,” Fiola said. “I really enjoy the laid-back style of enduros. It’s all about the rider and not for show. I like the technical, fresh trails you can’t find anywhere else.”
While the weather didn’t seem to keep riders away, most admitted that keeping warm was a challenge.
“Staying warm was hard to do, but I did my best to keep my hands warm,” Fiola said. “Because of the winter we had, I thought it was going to be a mud mess and a struggle to make the hills, but it really was perfect dirt and turned out to be an awesome day.”
CERA laid out five sections of trail that totaled 90 miles. Scott Clary, a CERA club member, said the trails were in surprisingly good condition, despite all of the snow and ice for the five weeks leading up to the race. The club members spent ten weeks preparing for the race.
Fiola, who dropped 18 points, beat AA Wheelsports-backed rider Trevor Kline by three points. Josh Gaitten, reigning ACES champion and Wheelsports rider, didn’t have a good start to his season. He lost his scorecard (which resulted in a penalty), hurt his ankle, and dropped 23 points.
“I just rebuilt my YZ250, so it is nice and fresh,” Fiola said. “I had my suspension done by FCR Pittsburgh, so that really made the bike handle a lot better. I just have some fine adjustments to make. I rode my fiancé’s YZ250F at the indoors this winter, and I didn’t get the two-stroke together until the Friday before the race. I just needed more testing time. But I’m thinking Jeff at FCR hit the nail on the head with my setup.”
“I really hope to carry this momentum and confidence to round two and continue to move forward with the bike and my conditioning,” Fiola said.
He thanked his fiancé, Kristine Geyer, for supporting him. “She’s my number one pit crew at all the races,” Fiola said. “Also, a big thanks to my mom and dad for always being there for me and teaching me to excel at whatever I want to do.” Additionally, he thanked FCR Pittsburgh, as well as Ed Morra and Ed Morra Jr. at Morra Cycle. He is grateful to everyone in CERA who helped make it a great event. He also thanked God for keeping him safe throughout the years.
Turning to the A classes, it was vet class rider Mark McGrath, aboard his Extreme Action Sports KTM, who snatched the Overall A win, dropping 24 points. Vet class rider Eric Kriberney narrowly missed the Overall A, finishing one point behind McGrath. Billy Weaver and Chris Starman, 250A class riders, each dropped 26 points.
“I started riding enduros in 2005,” McGrath said. “I was looking for races with nice single track trails and enduros tend to be tight, technical trail.”
Many of the riders were pleasantly surprised by the trail conditions. “The race was what I expected, but much drier than I thought it would be,” McGrath said. “I just wish I would have dressed warmer, I was freezing on the road sections and never got warm and rode tight all day.”
McGrath was pleased with his result and said it was a great start to the season. “I have never really trained for races until this year, but I’ve been doing CrossFit 3-4 days a week at CrossFit Legacy for the last five months,” McGrath said. “My bike worked great. I just have to ride smart for the rest of the season and not make any big mistakes.”
McGrath thanked Extreme Action Sports, Pro-Action of Northeast Ohio, Clark Excavating and his family.
The Overall B position was seized by Vet class rider John Bittner dropped 27 points and beat his class competitor Christopher Knight by five points. Ed Rahn, a Senior B competitor, followed Bittner and Knight with 33 points dropped.
“I have been riding dirt bikes since I was 13,” Bittner said. “I just started racing enduros in 2012, and I like them because you are always on new trail.”
He said the enduro was easier than he expected, considering the cold temperatures, but his bike worked great for him.
“I really like the Husaberg,” Bittner said. “I enjoyed all the sections, and, even though I had a great ride, I wish I wouldn’t have punctured the clutch cover and lost all my transmission oil. It was also important to have an enduro jacket and warm gloves for this race. Also, I’d like to thank my wife, Suzi, for always supporting me.”
The next round of ACES, Lost in Lodi, will be held April 13th in Shade, Ohio. Key time is 10 a.m., with sign up closing at 9:30 a.m.