The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series returned from a two-month summer break with a classic off-road battle, as a five-rider pack fought for the overall win at the legendary Unadilla Valley Sports Center in upstate New York. On the last lap, the battle boiled down to two riders, and ultimately GEICO Monster Kawasaki‘s Paul Whibley, of New Zealand, emerged with the overall win ahead of New York’s own Nathan Kanney, of the Shock Doctor KTM Team. Kanney’s teammate Kurt Caselli, a Californian, mounted a come-from behind charge to take third, his first-ever GNCC podium finish.
“It was a good race, we were all just going back and forth out there,” said Whibley. “Nathan rode a great race, I was just able to put enough time between me and him on the last lap to stay comfortable and win it. It feels good to win.”
Whibley extends his points lead over FMF Suzuki teammates Charlie Mullins and Josh Strang, who were in the hunt early but ended up fourth and fifth.
Kanney, powered on by the home state fans, led plenty of laps throughout the day. “It seems like, most of the time in the GNCCs, when a guy comes up on you who is faster, you just let him get by, but today I decided to get all rambunctious and get back in front,” said Kanney. “We were all battling, Thad (DuVall) caught me at one point and was riding amazing. It was good to see all of us up there, but Whibs, he got a few lappers in between me and him on the last lap and I just couldn’t close back in.”
New York privateer Ben Bouwens garnered plenty of fans when he grabbed the holeshot on his “batman” bike.
DuVall and FMF Makita Suzuki teammates Charlie Mullins and Josh Strang were also in the hunt, joining Whibley and Kanney in the lead pack. The race started with DuVall and Mullins crashing together in the first turn, but both rode hard to catch the lead group. Meanwhile, New York privateer Ben Bouwens shocked everyone by grabbing the $250 MotorcycleUSA.com Holeshot Award while riding with an open-faced helmet and a Moose Racing enduro jacket.
Kanney soon seized the lead and the race was on. When Kanney ran into lapped traffic, Whibley and Strang got into the top two spots to resume their championship battle. Kanney moved back into the lead with some aggressive passes, then later Strang had a big crash and dropped to fourth. Strang dropped from the pack altogether when he lost his shift lever. He salvaged fifth on the day but lost of a lot of points to Whibley. Mullins made a few mistakes of his own, yielding to Casselli’s strong charge.
“I’ve had a lot of problems this year, mainly, I needed to get my head out of my you know what and just ride better,” said Caselli, who has struggled in his debut season in the GNCC Series.
Mullins took fourth. “I made a few mistakes of my own out there, I didn’t really get tired but I just lost too much time,” said the Ohio rider.
In the XC2 Lites class, Shock Doctor KTM’s Kailub Russell rallied from third to take the win. Early in the race, Russell’s teammate Cory Buttrick and Monster Energy Andrews Yamaha’s Jason Thomas put on a torrid fight for the lead with Russell watching in third. Thomas’ teammate David Snyder had taken the $100 Cometic holeshot award, but soon Thomas and Buttrick were battling hard. Thomas took on a big crash, though.
“I hit my head pretty good, but my mechanic, Joey, put ‘Dig Deep’ on the pit board, and I just kept thinking about what my dad would have said to me, which would have been even worse” said Thomas.
That left Buttrick in the lead, but then he crashed with a lapped rider. “Cory made it easy on me, he was just laying there,” said Russell. “It was a tough day. I would make a mistake, catch back up, make another mistake and go backwards.”
“We were really pushing it at the beginning,” said Buttrick. “I was going as hard as I could.”
GEICO Monster Kawasaki’s Scott Watkins and KTM rider Jake Korn took fourth and fifth in the XC2 class.
Sixth in XC1 went to Barry Hawk, with Jimmy Jarrett returning from a wrist injury to take seventh. Bouwens, Ryan Gainey and Adam Reeves rounded out the top ten.
Chris Bach won the Top Amateur Award by winning the Open A class and finishing 12th overall. Open C class rider Michael Lawlor took the $100 Coppersmith Suspension holeshot award.
Husqvarna’s Glenn Kearney was up front early until a broken throttle took him out, and Husaberg’s Jesse Robinson had to pull off while riding through the pain of a broken hand.
The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series continues in two weeks with the Moose Yadkin Valley Stomp in Yadkinville, NC. The Can-Am Unadilla ATV GNCC will air on Versus on October 10 at 4:00 p.m. with a re-air October 13 at 2:30 p.m.
Can-Am Unadilla GNCC Results
New Berlin, NY
September 13, 2009
1. Paul Whibley (Kaw)
2. Nathan Kanney (KTM)
3. Kurt Caselli (KTM)
4. Charlie Mullins (Suz)
5. Joshua Strang (Suz)
6. Barry Hawk (Yam)
7. Jimmy Jarrett (Kaw)
8. Ben Bouwens (Yam)
9. Ryan Gainey (Hon)
10. Adam Reeves (Yam)
1. Kailub Russell (KTM)
2. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
3. Jason Thomas (Yam)
4. Scott Watkins (Kaw)
5. Jake Korn (KTM)