FMF/Makita Suzuki’s Josh Strang claimed the $5,000 top prize at this year’s Motosport.com Snowshoe GNCC by taking a narrow victory over WMR Off-road Clockwork/FMF/Planet Fitness KTM’s Nate Kanney after an exciting, race-long battle in what turned out to be an extremely difficult event.
Snowshoe GNCC is considered “America’s Toughest Race” and this year was tougher than usual after scattered showers turned the rooted and rocky mountain course into an extremely treacherous one. And due to the many mud holes and slippery climbs found along the trail, several riders held the lead at one point or another, as one rider would lead only to get stuck or fall and hand the spot over to someone else. In all, Am Pro Yamaha’s Paul Whibley, FMF/KTM Charlie Mullins, JG Racing/GEICO Powersports Honda’s Rory Mead, Am Pro Yamaha’s Thad DuVall and KTM rider Stu Baylor, along with Strang and Kanney, all held the lead somewhere during the three-hour race.
Heading into the fifth and final lap, the lead group consisted of Baylor, Mullins, Strang, and Kanney, however, Mullins and Baylor got stuck part way into the lap, leaving Kanney with the lead and Strang in second.
Near the end of the final lap, Strang got by Kanney in a mud hole and managed to stay out of trouble for the rest of the race. At the finish, Strang edged Kanney by just two seconds to take the win.
“I was just hoping to finish up front and I was happy to follow Nate, he’s had some good rides here the last few years,” said Strang. “If I could have followed him over the line I would have been happy, so to get in front of him there at the end and get the win was fantastic.”
Kanney, who was the 2010 Snowshoe winner, was hoping to capitalize on a late mistake by Strang, but the opportunity never presented itself.
“On the last lap, I knew Strang was there and I knew he was going to be strong and I didn’t really want to be leading at that point – it’s not necessarily good to be leading here on the last lap,” said Kanney. “So I thought if Strang passed me I was going to let him have it let him take all the risk. After he went around me we put the hammer down and we got through everything clean. He got really close to getting stuck in one place but he didn’t, and after that I never had a chance to catch him.”
With the win, Strang extended his lead in the 2011 Can-Am Grand National Cross Series to 11 points over Mullins, who ended the day in third.
“It was pretty challenging out there and I made a mistake on the next-to-last lap and lost a lot of time,” said Mullins. “I was able to charge back and catch Baylor, but by then Nate and Josh were gone. I’m pretty disappointed but I think this is the best I’ve ever ridden here, so I feel good about that.”
Fourth in the XC1 division went to Mead, a New Zealand native who just recently moved to the States to give the GNCC series a try. Meanwhile, fifth went to fellow Kiwi Paul Whibley, who threw his chain several times over the course of the race.
FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell ran with the lead pack early, but eventually finished sixth ahead of factory Husaberg rider Nick Fahringer.
Cory Buttrick put his FMF/KTM into eighth, ahead DuVall and KTM rider Kenny Gilbert.
Each year the Snowshoe GNCC awards a generous overall purse, which this year was courtesy of St. Lawrence Radiology Group and Friends of Coal.
After challenging for the overall win, Stu Baylor ended the day third in the overall standings and he won the XC2 division, his fourth class win of the year.
“It was crazy out there,” said Baylor. “I just kept pushing and found myself in the overall on the last lap, and about miles from the end I made a mistake in a mud hole and my glove was covered in mud and I just couldn’t hold on and I just kept dropping back. But I knew I was winning my class and I just held on.”
After nearly winning the overall last year, WP/RidePG KTM rider Jesse Robinson settled for second in the XC2 division this year.
“Just making it through this race with your bike in one piece is a plus,” said Robinson. “There was nothing pretty about my ride, I just held on to the handle bars and took it to the finish.”
Rounding out the podium was Pennsylvania KTM rider Andrew DeLong, who struggled with suspension problems for most of the day.
Stu Baylor won the XC2 class. KTM rider Zack Nolan was fourth, some 45 seconds behind DeLong, while JG Off-road/GEICO Powersports Honda’s Scotty Watkins was fifth, another 12 minutes back.
Zachery Smith was sixth on a KTM, with FAR Husqvarna’s Morgan Moss nailing down the seventh position.
Justin Williamson (KTM), AJ Stewart (Yam) and Peter Weiss (Yam) rounded out the top 10.
In the A.M. race, six-time National Hare Scrambles Champ Jason Raines (Yam) battled with Brandon Higgins for most of the race, but came on strong to take the overall and Sportsman A class wins.
Randall Riggs (Yam) topped David Fallas (KTM) and Adam Cable (Yam) to win the Masters A (50+) class, while Maria Forsberg (KTM) beat out Nina Cobb (Hon) and Dawn Silvia (KTM) to take the Women’s class win.
In the Youth race, Gary Myers (Yam) edged Anthony Stone (KTM) to win the overall and the Super Mini (14-15) division.
Austin Lee (KTM) was third overall and first in the Super Mini (12-13) class.
The 2011 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series heads to Millfield, Ohio for the Wiseco John Penton GNCC on July 9 & 10. ATV racing will take place on Saturday, followed by bike racing on Sunday. For more information, please visit www.gnccracing.com.
1. Josh Strang (Suz)
2. Nate Kanney (KTM)
3. Charlie Mullins (KTM)
4. Rory Mead (Hon)
5. Paul Whibley (Yam)
6. Kailub Russell (KTM)
7. Nick Fahringer (Hsb)
8. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
9. Thad DuVall (Yam)
10. Kenny Gilbert (KTM)
1. Steward Baylor Jr. (KTM)
2. Jesse Robinson (KTM)
3. Andrew DeLong (KTM)
4. Zack Nolan (KTM)
5. Scotty Watkins (Hon)
6. Zachery Smith (KTM)
7. Morgan Moss (Hsq)
8. Justin Williamson (KTM)
9. AJ Stewart (Yam)
10. Peter Weiss (Yam)