Reigning champ and Wheelsports-backed rider Josh Gaitten certainly didn’t get “Lost in Lodi,” as he came out on top, grabbing the Overall win at the Lost in Lodi Enduro held in Shade, OH. Gaitten has won the championship four times since 2008.
“I enjoy enduros, because you can ride with your buddies and have fun, but still in a race setting,” Gaitten said. “New-comer Andy Brannon and my cousin, Jake Walters, have been riding the enduros with me this year, and it’s fun to bench race between sections. However, I busted up my ankle pretty good at the first enduro, and it’s still in rough shape. So I didn’t get to do any riding between the races. The season is still very early, but this win is definitely the direction I wanted to head in.”Over 180 riders competed in the second round of ACES on April 13th. The weather made for great riding conditions, being in the high 70s.“Lost in Lodi isn’t your typical enduro,” said Kevin Brown, ACES volunteer and one of the event organizers for the enduro. “It started as a vision from Greg Meeks, another event organizer, who’s a an enduro hot shot from back in the day. The event really has an enormous amount of backing by the local community – more than I have ever seen with an enduro. All of the event proceeds go to the Richland Area Volunteer Fire Department.”Volunteers laid out nearly 100 miles for the event, with approximately 65 miles being pure trail riding. The “Lodi Crew” worked on laying out the trails since February, when the weather was frigid. “We had an awful winter and wet weather leading up to the event, so the course was laid out to be easier,” Brown said. “We still had some tough sections due to the wet ground, but I think we had as good of a balance as possible. The later numbers and less experienced riders had a tough day, but finishing what I call a ‘real Southern Ohio spring enduro’ should feel like an accomplishment.”Gaitten dropped nine points to beat AA rider Jeff Melik who dropped 10 points. Trevor Kline was close behind, dropping 11 points. Rounding out fourth place overall was Zach Klamfoth, who dropped 12 points.
Gaitten said the trail for Lost in Lodi was a bit deceiving. “It appeared to be nice, tacky dirt, but it was actually quite slick,” he said. “Even though the conditions were slick, the Lodi crew did a fantastic job laying out the course. Quality trail, great arrowing, and good check placement all made for a challenging but very fun course. Plus, my bike was as good, if not better, than ever. The top and bottom end of my bike were destroyed after the first enduro, but thanks to fresh new engine parts, adjusted suspension, and some other fine tuning by Wheelsports’ mechanic Marty Kehlmeier, the 300 was in top form for Lodi.”
Gaitten said he had a lot on his mind during the race. “Being my first race back after my close friend Rory Mead’s accident, I felt I was missing a lot of patience,” Gaitten said. “I visited him the weekend after his accident. And after spending time with him and seeing what he’s going through, it hit close to home for me. Like the champion he is though, he’s working hard every day and has been making improvements on a daily basis. With that in mind, I did my best to ride for Rory and use just an ounce of the determination he’s shown in this experience to push me through the day.”
Gaitten said he has so many people to thank. “My parents are vital to my racing and always do what they can to help,” Gaitten said. “Wheelsports has been huge in keeping my bike ready and prepped with everything I need. Rekluse has come onboard this year and the Core EXP 2 has been a game changer for me. I’d also like to thank FMF, Renthal, Acerbis, Scott Goggles, Leatt, Enduro Engineering, and Whirlygig Ink.”
Nearly the same outcomes were seen A and B Overalls as the first race of the season. In the A classes, it was Vet A rider Mark McGrath, aboard his Extreme Action Sports KTM, who consecutively won Overall A win, dropping 14 points. Vet A rider Eric Kriberney once again narrowly missed the Overall A, finishing one point behind McGrath, and Chris Starman, 250A class rider, followed with 16 points dropped.
The Overall B position was grabbed for the second time this season by Vet B rider John Bittner, who dropped 20 points. Bittner once more beat his class competitor Christopher Knight who dropped 29 points.
When asked what his key to winning is, Bittner said, “Being consistent and keeping it on two wheels.” And unlike the first race of the season when everyone was fighting to stay warm, Bitter said the key to this particular race was vented gear to stay cool.
He said the trail was “deceivingly slippery in some areas” but that his ride was great… until he got a flat front tire in the second to the last section.
“I am excited to race the rest of the season,” Bittner said. “Also, I’d like to thank the Lost in Lodi crew for having such a great event and cutting some great trails.”
The next round of ACES, the Grass Man Enduro, will be held May 4th in Norwich, Ohio. The event is hosted by the Ohio Woods Riders. Key time is 10 a.m., with sign up from 7-9:15 a.m. on race day or 6-7 p.m. the night before the event, should competitors choose to camp at the enduro location.